Although the Dark Knight has always maintained a well-earned and deserved place as one of pop culture’s most beloved characters, looking back on Batman’s long history reveals one thing: it hasn’t always been easy for the caped crusader. Having started life in an issue of Detective Comics in 1939, Batman got his first solo issue in the Spring of 1940 where he was first joined by boy wonder Robin, his best-known sidekick. And though there’s certainly a fair degree of vigilante bravado to be associated with Batman, the simple fact remains: he’s a guy who dresses up like a bat and fights crime.
When Batman’s popularity increased somewhat amongst the general population, Bob Kane’s masked superhero was granted his own TV show – one that believed frolic and hi-jinks would better appeal to mass audiences than, say, solving crimes like a broody nightcrawler. The first episode aired in 1960 and Adam West – who has now gone on to play a nutty version of himself in Family Guy – embodied the character with about as much manliness as an episode of The Love Boat. Luckily for Batman fans, this wouldn’t always be the way the caped crusader was portrayed.
After a number of writers and artists injected their own gritty slants into the Batman comics throughout the eighties, director Tim Burton got his hands on the Dark Knight and gave us (at that time) the best screen representation of the character yet. Though certainly aligned with the source material’s comic book stylings, this was no campy affair – it looked as if the character might escape the goofy sensibilities of the 60s show after all. Alas, it wasn’t mean to be. Director Joel Schumacher’s take on the character undid the grittier work of Burton’s first two movies: he camped-up proceedings with both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin and removed the edgier aspects, marking the caped crusade for ridicule once more.
Though things were looking pretty grim at this point, Batman was far from defeated. In 2005, English-American director Christopher Nolan took up the Dark Knight for Batman Begins and transformed the character into a billion dollar franchise – a franchise that built its major selling point on a more realistically-grounded superhero. Nolan dared to ask: “What if Batman lived in our world? How would that work?” And in a decade where people seemed ready and primed to actually find out the answer, Batman became more popular than ever before.
With so many Batman movies out there now, though, everybody is sure to have their favourite flick. Do you prefer Tim Burton’s original take on the character? Do you think Joel Schumacher did a good job sucking all the seriousness out of the franchise? Has Nolan come to define Batman in all the ways he was supposed to be defined? The big question, of course: what does your favourite Batman movie say about you? Let’s take a look.
This article was first posted on January 13, 2013