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Wayne’s World Batman — from the comic to the chthonic _BY NICK J OHN STON AND P ETER K EO U GH

THE SERIALS 1943 Director: Lambert Hillyer Gotham: Standard cheap sets.

THE SERIALS 1949 Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet Gotham: Standard cheap sets.

Lewis Wilson

Robert Lowry

BATMAN (1989) Director: Tim Burton Gotham: Adam Furst’s city is Lang’s Metropolis by way of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

BATMAN RETURNS (1992) Director: Tim Burton Gotham: The same as the first, but in winter

BATMAN FOREVER (1995) Director: Joel Schumacher Gotham: Still Burtonish, but more primary colors.

BATMAN & ROBIN (1997) Director: Joel Schumacher Gotham: Times Square, but more tacky.


Director: Christopher Nolan Gotham: Chicago, the first realistic modern setting. Also, Nepal, where Bruce is trained by the League of Shadows.


Director: Christopher Nolan Gotham: Chicago, again: the Nolan films are all about a struggle for the soul of the city.

Robin played by Douglas Croft

Robin, Johnny Duncan Vicki Vale (Jane Adams), a tabloid reporter who wants to discover the Dark Knight’s identity.

BATMAN (1966) Director: Leslie H. Martinson (PT-109) Gotham:The Swingin’ Sixties, with a “Cary Grant on acid” vibe.

sidekick/ love interest

Burt Ward as Robin of “Holy [whatever] Batman!”

Villains Dr. Daka ( J. Carrol Naish), a Japanese caricature

The Wizard (Leonard Penn), has mind control over machinery.

The Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman dehydrate members of the UN Security Council.

Adam Fucking West. ’nuff said.

Michael Keaton, of Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom fame, plays it somewhere between those two..

Michael Keaton again, who this time kills people!

Val Kilmer — great as Batman; sucks as Wayne.

George Clooney, who called the film “a waste of money.”

Christian Bale, who looks great in the suit and is a fantastic Bruce Wayne, but sounds like Clint with a laryngectomy.

Bale again, more tortured, still growling.


Real World Events

Comic World Events

Cowl rating/ Phoenix

What nick says

In 1943 superheroes sell bonds, punch out Hitler

“That’s the kind of answer that fits the color of your skin.”

“Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

World War II; Cold War; Roosevelt, Truman. HUAC hearings start. Ronald Reagan in This is the Army and The Hasty Heart.

Unintentionally funny, inspired the ’60s TV show and movie. The last days of the Golden Age, as the 1954 screed Seduction of the Innocent condemns comic books. Batman and Robin never share a bed again.

US bombs Hanoi. Medicare. Miranda rights. The Sound of Music wins Best Picture. Star Trek debuts. Reagan becomes governor of California.

The Batman titles succumb to the kitsch of the TV show. Marvel triumphs. R. Crumb awaits.

Fall of the Wall. Bush I succeeds Reagan. Seinfeld premieres. “Just say no.’

The grim Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns take over. Jason Todd, the new Robin, is killed by popular request.

“A triumph of style over substance”

Too campy to be serious, and too serious to be campy.

Ross Perot. The Los Angeles riots. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Bill Clinton blows on Arsenio, wins election. The Reagan Library opens.

Superman dies; the height of the dark age.

“A menagerie of superficial and contrived characters.”

More schizophrenic and tonally inconsistent than the first. It looks great, but Burton really never understood the character.

Oklahoma City. NATO bombs Bosnia. The Unabomber. The glove didn’t fit. The Federal Government shuts down. The last Calvin and Hobbes.

Back in action, Bruce Wayne beats the shit out of Azeral, reclaims the Batman identity.

“When the biggest cheer of the night comes as Chris O’Donnell hangs up his laundry, you know the narrative lacks punch.”

The performances aren’t there, the style’s odd — Schumacher’s still too tethered to the aesthetic of the Burton films to make any real impact

A camp classic, but it made it impossible to take the property seriously for more than 20 years.

Reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger). Alfred (Michael Gough) tells her the playboy she’s dating is Batman. Good way to keep a secret — inform the press.

As the Joker, Jack Nicholson made a sum of money that can only be written on a cocktail napkin that is folded and passed.

Selina Kyle, the Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer). (Marlon Wayans’s Robin got cut).

The Penguin (Danny Devito), an S&M Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), and neo-Nosferatu Max Shreck (Christopher Walken).

Robin (Chris O’Donnell), a hothead angered by the death of his parents. Sound familiar? He gets little competition from Nicole Kidman.

Jim Carrey’s Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones’s Two Face tap into everyone’s brainwaves, learn Batman’s identity, and make him amnesiac. A precursor of Facebook?

TWO sidekicks! Chris O’Donnell’s Robin returns, now into x-treme sports, corny one-liners. And still boring. A career ending turn by Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl.

Mr. Freeze (Ah-nuld), Poison Ivy (Oohmuh), and Bane (Jeep Swenson), in one of the most bizarre team-ups since the Axis.

“What killed the dinosaurs? THE ICE AGE!”

Timothy McVeigh is convicted. Tony Blair. Titanic. Biggie is shot. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. McLibel.

Gotham City (and Wayne Manor) destroyed by a gigantic earthquake, resulting in the “No Man’s Land” storyline.

“A step down from the mediocre Batman Returns, it’s a fitfully diverting waste of time.

This is the most entertaining Batman movie since 1966, The next time you’re drunk and making fun of it, just remember, it’s drunk and making fun of you.

Rachael Dawes (Katie Holmes). Everyone thought her marriage to Tom Cruise would have improved the grosses. HA!

The devil himself, Ra’s Al-Ghul, played by Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe; the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy). They spread terror via a toxin in the air. Kind of like Fox News.

“Do I look like a cop?”

Second term of Bush II. Iraq. Ronald Reagan still dead. The Pope dies, Emperor Palpatine replaces him. North Korea has nukes. London terror attacks. Tomkat.

The DC Universe is rocked after the discovery that a supervillain raped the Elongated Man’s wife, Batman was mind-wiped to cover it up, and the fabric of reality unravels… The usual.

“[T]he ultimate adversary is terror: illusory, ubiquitous, irrational.

Great start to the new trilogy; the design, performances; and spectacle overwhelm plot holes and implausibility.

Rachel again, though better as played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

A career-defining performance by the late Heath Ledger as the anarchic, insane Joker; Aaron Eckhart as the tragic Two-Face.

“I’m not wearing hockey pads.”

Global recession. Hope and Change. Michael Phelps. The Sichuan earthquake kills 80,000. Breaking Bad debuts. Bernie Madoff.

The DC Universe is still falling apart, thanks to Grant Morrison’s mind-bending epic Final Crisis. Bruce Wayne dies at the end of the series; Dick Grayson takes up the mantle.

“[A] relentlessly paced crime thriller.”

The best live-action Batman movie to date, it’s a propulsive and intelligent mediation on the nature of anarchy and freedom.

“This town needs an enema!”

“Just the pussy I’ve been looking for.”

“Caffeine will kill ya!”

graph ic by ch rist ina briggs


behind the cowl

Batman — from the comic to the chthonic  
Batman — from the comic to the chthonic  

Wayne's World