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DTHOmnibusThursday, March 23, 19897
6DTHOmnibusThursday, March 23, 1989
Holy 50th anniversary !
Fighting crime through the years; new Batman movie
to show at a new Bat-time in a Bat-theater near you
"The Batman comic has been published continually
for 50 years. Millions have become acquainted with
the Batman legend. "
Almost natural enemies, Batman (top) and the Joker (above) will
the wide screen this summer.
( , ,.., '
. x 1 v .v. :.
take their comic-book battles to
By ANDREW LAWLER
Pow! zap! Biff! Holy Blockbuster,
Caped Crusader! Batman is cele
brating his 50th birthday with a
$40 million movie from Warner
Brothers. The comic book hero,
one of the century's most endur
ing and well-known fictional char
acters, has become the hottest
thing in comics just as comic books
are shedding the kids-only label
and attracting multitudes of older
The movie stars Michael Keaton
as BatmanBruce Wayne, Jack
Nicholson as the Joker, Kim Basin
ger as reporter Vicki Vale and Billy
Dee Williams as district attorney.
Jack Palance and Jerry Hall are also
featured. Tim Burton of "Beetle
juice" and "Pee-Wee's Big Adven
ture" will direct. Prince is writing
several songs for the soundtrack
of the movie.
Warner Brothers has already
spent more than $30 million on the
film, part of which was spent
creating a five-block section of
Gotham City that will be saved for
possible sequels. The film is
expected to open in June.
The Batman character was
created in 1939. The creation of
Superman one year earlier had
spawned a whole slew of cos
tumed imitations to satisfy the
public's craze for superheroes. Yet
most disappeared and none (save
perhaps Wonder Woman) ever
came close to equaling the pop
ularity of Batman.
Batman was created by Bob
Kane and Bill Finger. Batman owed
more to the darker visions of
Dashell Hammett and Phillip
Chandler than to the almost boy-scout-pure
Superman, whose primary moti
vation was to fight for 'truth,
justice and the American Way,"
Batman, who was only 7 when he
saw his parents murdered in an
apparent stick-up attempt, had
sworn vengeance on all criminals.
He trained his body and mind to
its peak, becoming a master of
disguise, as well as a detective,
criminologist and scientist. He
became a superb athlete and
But Wayne was at a loss on how
best to fight crime until a fateful
night by a window in Wayne
"Criminals are a superstitious,
cowardly lot," Wayne said. "So I
must wear a disguise that will
strike terror into their hearts. I
must be a creature of the night,
black, terrible, a. . ." As if in answer,
a winged creature flew in through
the open window. "A bat! It's an
omen! I shall become a bat!"
Thus he became Batman,
embarking on a crimefighting
career that has lasted five
decades. A year later Wayne met
Dick Grayson,' a circus performer
whose parents had also been killed
by criminals. Grayson became
Wayne's sidekick and, more impor
tantly, Robin. The Dynamic Duo
The Batman comic has been
published continually for 50 years.
Along the way, millions have
become acquainted with the Bat
man legend. The Batcave, the
Batmobile, Batboat, Batplane and
even a Bathound have become
part of the story. Batman's ene
mies are suitably colorful and well
known, with names like the
Riddler, Two-Face, the Penguin,
Catwoman and the Dark Knight's
arch-nemesis - the Joker.
Batman and Robin have
appeared in mediums other than
comics. The '40s saw two fairly
unsuccessful movie serials starring
the Dynamic Duo. Animated ver
sions of the Caped Crusaders were
first produced in the '60s and have
appeared ever since. But what is
probably the most famous and
popular (although not with comic
readers) was the late '60s "Bat
man" television series.
"Batman" began production In
1966 and became the hit of the
television season almost imme
diately. The show starred Adam
West and Burt Ward as the heroes,
along with a bevy of Hollywood's
biggest stars as the duo's foes.
Over its three seasons, such stars
as Vincent Price, Art Carney, Bruce
Lee, Shelly Winters, Uberace and Eli
Wallach appeared in the show. It
became a fad to be on the show.
Familiar faces would pop up on the
show all the time (usually as the
Dynamic Duo was climbing up the
sides of buildings).
"Batman" was campy anfl
played strictly for laughs. The
show was distinctive because it
ran two nights a week in its first
two seasons. The first part would
end with either Batman or Robin
(or both) being put in some incred
ibly elaborate death trap. The
second part showed how they
escaped (and they always escaped)
and brought the bad guys to
in its television show form,
"Batman" was and is very popular.
Everyone has their favorite "bit"
from the show. Remember the
Batpoles? The fights with POW,
ZAP and BAM superimposed? And,
of course, Robin's "Holy . . ." excla
mations, like "Holy stratosphere!",
"Holy hole in a doughnut!", "Holy
one track Batcomputer mind!" and
the immortal "Holy priceless col
lection of Etruscan snoods!"
As popular as "Batman" was to
the general public, it was a great
disappointment to comic readers,
both past and present. These fans
were often disgusted by the
series' absurdity and its frequent
portrayal of Batman as a bumbling
hero. Even though the series had
all the trappings of the Batman
myths (the characters, equipment,
etc.), it lacked the real spirit of the
comics - the harder edge that
was Batman's trademark.
The next 15 years were rather
slow times for the Caped Crusader,
in spite of excellent work by such
noted comic authors and artists
like Neal Adams and Dick Giordano,
the comic became less and less
popular, as did comics In general.
However, the late 70s and '80s saw
a marked change in his fortunes.
in the late 70s and early "SOs,
a comics renaissance began. Sales
began to increase among the
(typically) young readers as well as
among older readers. This was
coupled with a style of comic
writing that was both more dar
ing and more adult than ever
before. Writers like Alan Moore,
Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin
breathed new life into what had
become the cliche of the super
hero. These bold, often dark visions
of the superhero began to attract
both critical and popular adult
This reached its height in 1986,
when two groundbreaking comic
works were produced by the same
company, DC Comics.
One was an often film noir look
at what superheroes might really
be like called "Watchmen." The
other was "The Dark Knight
"The Dark Knight" series por
trayed a 50-year-old Bruce Wayne
In a Gotham City at the mercy of
roving sociopathic gangs. Bruce
Wayne had abandoned the Bat
man guise years earlier when the
government outlawed superhe
roes. But faced with an almost
psychotic frustration at a world
gone mad, Wayne becomes the
Batman one final time.
Apart from the artistic quality
of the series, "Dark Knight" was
noted for its reinterpretation of
Batman. This was a Batman who
had returned to his roots, a savage
vigilante punishing the entire
criminal world for the death of his
parents (an image frequently
repeated in the series). Batman
had gone full circle he was as
concerned with vengeance as he
once was with justice.
The scope of the series was
impressive and garnered praise
from media which had shown little
interest in comics before then.
Articles praising "Dark Knight" and
other more adult comics appeared
in Newsweek, Rolling Stone and
Playboy, as well as the New York
Times. More adults began to read
comics and treat them as a form
of literature. The comic had finally
achieved respectability as a
The popularity of "The Dark
Knight" convinced the entertain
ment world that a "Batman"
movie was a real possibility. Ideas .
and possible casting began to float
around. The outline that began to
form was similar to the "Super
man" movies - that is, cast a
relative unknown as Batman, and
surround him with stars in the
Many of the comic's fans were
wary of the movie at first Most
still remembered the series and
feared history would repeat itself.
Hope began to grow when the
probable story line was revealed
it would be in the spirit of the
"Dark Knight" stories, the stories
many considered closer to the real
idea of Batman.
But fans were devastasted
when the actor to play the Caped
Crusader was announced . . .
Michael Keaton. Mr. Mom.
The response from fans was
almost totally negative, although
the casting of Jack Nicholson as
the Joker was met with applause.
Articles ran in Newsweek and the
Wall Street Journal detailing fans'
anger at the decision to cast
Keaton in the Batman role. Kevin
Maroney, who works at Second
Foundation, the main comic store
in Chapel Hill, described the campus
reaction as similar.
"Lamentation, wailing and
gnashing of teeth," Maroney said.
"Most people were worried about
two things: that Keaton would not
physically look the part (Keaton is
a slight 5'10") as well as being
worried it would be a comedy.
Very few fans want to see the
return of the TV show."
Warner Brothers, which needs
the audience of Batman comic
readers in order to have a hit,
quickly attempted to reassure
fans that the movie would not be
a joke. Bob Kane, Batman's creator,
appeared at conventions and gave
interviews in which he said the
movie would be serious. Many fans
have adopted a wait-and-see
Although plot details are scant
at this point, it is definite that the
boy wonder will not appear in the
film. This has nothing to do with
the fact that Robin has been killed
in the comic but rather he is being
saved for possible sequels.
Warner Brothers is optimistic
about the film's chances, accord
ing to a spokesman, partly because
they have had "a tremendous
response from the media. There's
a great interest in the film."
The company hopes to repeat
its earlier success with superhero
movies (Warner Brothers pro
duced the Superman movie series),
and has invested heavily in the
film. However, it faces tough
competition from the new Indiana
Jones movie, the Ghostbusters
sequel, "Lethal Weapon n," the new
James Bond movie and "Star Trek
v." All cater to the same audience.
. .fans were devastated when the actor to play
the Caped Crusader was announced. . . Michael
Keaton. Mr. Mom. Beetlejuice-"
Michael Keaton (top) and Jack
released this June.
y . -
" ,-.v ..w.v.-.
s s. ;
Nicholson (above) will star In the new "Batman" movie, to be.