Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My Favorite Batmans (or should it be my favorite Batmen)?

Years ago, as I have explained before, I went through a brief phase in which I was embarrassed by the attention the 1966 Adam West Batman got and how that vision of the character crowded out all others in the eyes of the general public. Eventually, it hit me: So what?

There are many different versions of Batman, and I enjoy just about all of them! I was Batman for Halloween last month--sort of--and while my costuming was more reminiscent of Licensing Batman (McDonald's mask) plus 1966 Batman (t-shirt) plus Zorro (cape--hey, it worked in a pinch), my characterization was mostly the Adam West persona. Why? Well, it was more fun, people responded to it, and it's kind of a pain to talk like Christian Bale all day.

What, then, are my favorite versions of Batman? Here is my ranking. If I leave any off, it's probably because they don't stand enough out to me or I just don't enough about them. For example, I don't read New 52 Batman, so there is no current comics Batman here. I revisit this ranking every few years, so I do reserve the right to change my mind:

1) 1970s/1980s Comic Book Batman: I grew up reading the adventures of a Batman who was cool, with  it, dark when he needed to be, but basically a pretty good dude. Oh, he struggled with the sociopathic tendencies instilled by seeing his parents murdered in front of his eyes as a child...but they didn't define him.

I generally think of this Batman--MY comic book  Batman--as the Jim Aparo version. Nothing against Neal Adams Batman, but I loved Aparo's rendering, and Brave and the Bold was one of my favorite comic books (Bats AND another superhero each issue!).

2) Licensing Batman: Very similar to 1970s/1980s Comic Book Batman in my mind because Batman was everywhere when I was growing up, and that Batman looked very much like my comic version. I still find this one everywhere, on t-shirts, magnets, and even on stuff like cups. In fact, I am still bummed that I burned the bottom off my kick-ass tall Licensing Batman plastic cup I bought at Wal-mart a few years ago.

3) DC Animated Universe Batman: The Paul Dini version, more or less, right? This is like the version we wanted to see on screen. He's maybe a little darker than the one I grew up in, but it works. Voice actor Kevin Conroy's characterization over the years has been an outstanding asset. In short, this Batman rules.

4) 1966 Adam West Batman: But so does this one! Yes, he's silly, but you know what? He's also morally sound and dedicated to the cause of justice--a perfect role model. If this were the ONLY Batman around, we might have a beef, but why fret over a funny Bats?

5) Super Friends and other 1970s/1980s Animated Batman: Pretty bland, truth be told, but as a kid, that only made it easier for me to project my vision of Batman on him. Even the Filmation incarnation voiced by Adam West fit right in to this world. Slightly less charismatic than 1) and 2)

6) Brave and the Bold Animated Series Batman: Deidrich Bader surprised me with this one. The only reason it's not higher is the show's relative lack of broader impact and longevity.

7) 1950s/1960s Comic Book Batman: Just like the era he represents: Stolid, blocky, prone to bizarre fantasies involving monsters and space aliens.  Uh...I think I was going for something there that didn't quite come together.

8) Post-Frank Miller's Dark Knight (sometimes kind of a jerk) Comic Book Batman: I haven't read enough Batman comics over the last 10 years to make a judgment, and even in the 1990s on, my comic reading was spotty, but I am combining those Batmans with the post-Crisis one who did stuff like punch out Guy Gardner in Justice League. He wasn't always a total butthead, but he could be kind of a pill, especially as the years went on.

9) Golden Age Batman: Sure, he looks crude by modern standards, but we have to show love for this primitive Caped Crusader. He was offing hoods long before it was trendy.

I have an affinity for the comic books, and the movie guys just don't compare. Hence their placement at the bottom of my list:

10) Christian Bale Batman: The best movie Batman, IMO, though the voice thing still gets to me sometimes.

11) Michael Keaton Batman: He had the advantage of low expectations but did a tremendous job all things considered. I think he could go up on my list next time I see the Tim Burton films.

12) Dark Knight Batman: Frank Miller's version of the character set a template for years of stories to come, and the original miniseries is still a fascinating product of its time. However, it just doesn't "feel" like Batman to me...

13) George Clooney Batman: ...but at least it's not the Clooney Batman. I don't necessarily think Clooney is terrible, but, jeez, would you want to see it again?

14) Old Movie Serials Batman: Often laughable, but they tried. I can't for the life of me remember the difference between Lewis Wilson (the first serial) and Robert Lowery (from the second), and I can't say that I want to expend a whole  lot of effort to do so.

(Note: If it's not on this list, I didn't see it and/or it didn't make enough of an impression. I haven't yet seen Ben Affleck Batman, for example, and something like Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier Batman might have placed had he appeared more often)

No comments: