Bang the Drum!: Batman This, Batman That

Bang the DrumThis is normally the kind of thing I would post on my own blog, but I gotta fill some column inches here today, so here goes.

There are a lot of reasons why I don’t read superhero comics with the same intensity or appetite as I did five years ago (2006 was the last good year for superhero comics, by the way), and one of them is Comics Alliance. Okay, that’s neither true nor fair. I like a lot of what Comics Alliance has done. They’ve taken some worthwhile principled stands and generally elevated the tone of mainstream comics coverage. Unfortunately, in doing so they’ve also kinda sorta legitimized the vapid echo chamber mainstream superhero comics have become (see how furious I am? “kinda sorta”) where “awesome” is all a comic has to be (awesome should be the starting point for a superhero comic, not the end result).

What’s really stuck a crowbar in my spokes is this He Said/He Said (is there any other dialogue in comics coverage?) bit on the 1989 Batman movie by Chris Sims and David Uzumeri. I pretty much knew this was going to go wrong when both reviewers copped to being under 10 when the movie was in theaters (Sims “was about to turn 7” and Uzumeri was “around…8 or so”). So whatever historical sense they have of the film has probably been gleaned from Wikipedia pages and Ain’t It Cool News posts. Very early in the review Uzumeri compares it to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while Sims’ closest cultural touchstone is Super Mario 3. As someone who turned 12 a mere 15 days before Batman‘s North American theatrical release, I quickly realized that these two kids had Batman totally wrong.

“Michael Keaton is not exactly believable as Batman,” says Sims. “Like, go watch the opening to Batman: The Animated Series. There’s a fluidity to movement that — while exaggerated for the cartoon — is just completely impossible for Keaton here.”

I almost stopped reading there. The guy is comparing a human being in at least 50 lbs. of foam rubber who can’t move his neck to a piece of animation. But if I had stopped, I would have missed (the usually very readable) Uzumeri say “Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face is just a hilarious idea to me.” And then he doesn’t say why. I would really love to hear why that’s a hilarious idea to him.
Instead we’re treated to a lengthy debate on the merits of Ace Chemicals vs Axis Chemicals, cheap shots at Bob Kane, and whinging about how Burton failed to capture the subtle essence of Batman. Like Batman’s a single malt scotch or something.

Tasseomancy – The Darkest Of Things by killbeatmusic

Batman’s not a single malt scotch. Batman is cola. Sometimes he comes in a red bottle, sometimes he comes in a blue can. I hear that in Mexico they still use cane sugar to make Batman, but around here it’s just high-fructose corn syrup.
mp3: “Far Away” by John Millard & Happy Day

Emmet Matheson is a cowardly, superstitious lot who blogs intermittently at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom

Author: Emmet Matheson

Saskatchewan Diaspora

7 thoughts on “Bang the Drum!: Batman This, Batman That”

  1. Meanwhile, a few hours previously and many miles away from Matheson’s Vancouver hideout/sanctum, Tim Burton’s Batman was coincidentally discussed by an editor and designer over a quick bite at a pub.

    The editor says it doesn’t stand up that well 22 years later but still thinks Michael Keaton was great.

    We’re all damned nerds.

  2. Yeah, yeah, I should point out that I think that by almost any standard Tim Burton’s Batman films miss their marks, and even as an awe-struck 12-yr-old I was let down the first dozen times I saw Batman. But what does work, and what’s reached for is pretty effing great. Slamming a Tim Burton film over plot points is like slamming Bob Kane for not drawing very many Batman comics. I would watch either of Tim Burton’s Batmans over Batman Begins any day.
    I should also add that I am in general a great fan of Comics Alliance and specifically a fan of Uzumeri’s various Batman annotations and y’know, Chris Sims is pretty good at being Chris Sims.
    Plus, I can’t believe they gushed over Robert Wuhl’s character and not once drew the parallel between Albert Brooks in Taxi Driver.

  3. Because Billy Dee Williams is Lando Calrissian and Lando Calrissian was two-faced. See: funny.

  4. yeah that’s basically what i was gonna say. can’t not picture billy dee williams playing two-face while wearing the lando cape.

    keaton is good as bruce wayne but i think they’re kind of right in that the burton batman is kind of a lumbering, inelegant creature. technology and costuming of the time or no, dude winds up like an action figure without movable joints. still a fun movie but the nolan batman can at least bend his elbows and knees

  5. But is that really what we want a Batman movie to aspire to? Oh, he can bend his knees, that’s great, that’s awesome. Finally! Take that, Adam West. No one will ever laugh at us again!
    Meawhile, peep this: http://youtu.be/gA6hZ4f34II or this http://youtu.be/zn0ecHHHUGo and tell me that Tim Burton didn’t succeed, at some level, at instilling a true sense of anarchy into a big corporate money grab with dozens of hands at dozens of switches (which is a kind of anarchy of its own, I guess) (which is probably the biggest reason the film is such a narrative mess, yet Sims & Uzumeri never really address).

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