Every time I see that they’ve made a new Batman movie, and that it is getting taken very seriously, by serious people, it strikes me as just one more sign that we are living in a deeply unserious age.
I don’t have much of a comment except to say I was very impressed by this essay. It’s so nuanced and clever and is as much social commentary as it is about superheroes.
How much research went into this one essay about the history of a comic strip and its movie spin-offs? A ton I would guess, and that shows in the quality of the final essay.
Inevitably I find one point of disagreement with the author (“Holy cow, Batman!” I can hear you say). I really enjoyed the 1960s TV series. Sure it was pure kitsch but that’s what I like. It was fun and silliness, much like the ’60s. Perhaps I’m just hankering after simpler times.
Anyway, well done Dorian Lynskey.
Dorian is one of our very best (pop) culture writers and I am always glad to see one of his essays up on here, from everything from beat 60s groups to Batman. I would recommend his book, 33 Revolutions, too.
I expect that many Americans are wondering why Biden has not dispatched Captain America to smite Putin
I love the old fashioned word ‘smite’ and use it often!
It’s telling that so many people can’t really imagine what an alternate take on Batman would even look or feel like right now. I’m good with the oldies though (“SWEAR TO ME!”), and never had much of a problem with Affleck’s cross-fit Batman (especially as he was fleshed out better in the Zach Snyder Extended Edition). I think retreating to a smaller stage than Justice League suites the character and stories well. There will doubtless be many more opportunities to explore the character. I’ll let this one stand, and if it avoids all of the woke pitfalls that turn everything modern into absolute garbage, it might not be that bad.
An excellent essay. I would have liked perhaps a brief glimpse of how “using kids’ adventure heroes to make hackneyed observations about typical human behaviour” had essentially destroyed the wider comic book industry in the past decade as it desperately latched onto progressive ideological posturing instead of making interesting stories.
I grew up with the kitsch sixties Batman and absolutely loved it. Commissioner Gordon’s glowing red bat phone. Buster Meredith as the Penguin. So much so I can’t really take any of the rest of it seriously. Pass me the anti- shark spray Robin! Kapow!
Agree, that’s probably why I was so arch with my first comment (sorry for that Dorian). I came along at just the right time for the 60s show. The “window cameos” were such dry camp, as were the 37 villains (good coverage of both on YT and the web). Judging from all the, ahem, serious celebrities that were involved, “doing Batman” must have been pretty “in” back then.
I agree 100%. If I want inner strougle I can read war and peaceor crime and punishment. Which I did. I would like to see a carefree Bruce Wayne, confortable with his wealth and behaving like a cad and a violent Batman a guy that takes pleasure of beating dangerous criminals.
This peculiar obsession with pretending that his world is ours hits a wall with The Batman.
IMO, the is nothing peculiar about it. It is deliberately contrived – and political. Lurking together with the characters is a terrain-scape that holds the political subtext – Gotham as The City, the symbol of structural oppression etc. So too the protagonists, for every male there is a female with an equal brute physical power. One cannot exist on screen without the other.
This pretence used to be called agitprop.
I was struck by headline – yes, they are a poor substitute for what we are supposed to be. I’m for the grand Eastern and Western Mystery Traditions and not the hollywood fantasy realms which can only show just how irresponsible and ignoble such depictions have become. Technology is only a partial reality. Human potential adds the rest but that’s only at the personal level. Seeing in this instance is really not believing nor Knowing.
It is interesting that the recitation of the Batman canon in the article skips the first thing to de-kitschify Batman after the 1960’s series, the anime-influenced Batman: the Animated Series of the early to mid 1980’s. It seems to me to have established the pattern for the movies that followed: Gotham City as New York in an alternate world where it never, not even for a decade, got cleaned up, and where art-deco remained the dominant style even at technology advanced to late-20th and 21st century levels.
You left out the great Andrew Vachss’ Batman entry.