My Dark Past with The Dark Knight

There’s been a ton of big news coming down the DC pipe about Batman recently. First, Bane took the big screen to break the Bat. Then, Joker returned and threatened to destroy everything Batman holds dear. Most recently, well… there was that whole Damian Wayne thing

Buck up, chaps. Onward and upward.

So, like any good smart writer, I’ve decided that now is the time to cash in on the success of recent Batman posts by writing another Batman post! Makes sense, right?

Over the years, I’ve heard multiple people who have written Batman stories say that they stepped up to the plate, wrote the stories that they wanted to write, and moved on to something else when they told all the stories they could tell. No sense in squeezing out something that’s not genuine, fresh or personal.

But I think I can offer all three in one.

This is the account of my tumultuous history with the Caped Crusader over the course of my life.

My story with Batman starts when I was very young. I can’t pinpoint the age I was, but I remember watching Batman: The Animated Series whenever I could. Probably sandwiched between Power Rangers and reruns of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I can’t be completely sure though.

I loved Batman just as much as any young boy would. He would beat up the Joker or Two-Face, drop them into Arkham Asylum, and bust ass back to the Batcave to chat with Alfred about his adventures… but mainly to brood. He was the coolest guy ever! Batman kept the streets of Gotham safe and protected all the innocent people from the bad guys! What’s better than that?

As I grew older, I became more interested in Star Wars and other sci-fi exploits. I grew to be “not a big superhero fan” (my exact words on hundreds of occasions over the years), but always reserved the fact that Batman was my favorite. Of course, when asked why, I never pulled out the fact that Batman had real (albeit exaggerated) human problems that can help the viewer/reader relate on multiple levels. I never cited the quality of writing over the years or the epic storylines that had been presented by some of the greatest writers known to man.

I never even cited my awkward life-long attraction to Catwoman.

My answer: “He has the best villains…”

Sooner or later, I talked my parents into renting the Batman films from over the years. Both of my parents grew up on the campy ABC exploits of Adam West and Burt Ward, and I guess they had assumed they’d be getting something similar when they brought Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney into our house.

As you know, they were wrong. Batman was dark and brooding, just like my favorite cartoon! What an absolute delight for my prepubescent soul. Over the course of months or years, I remember seeing all the films in order.

Batman was a triumph of filmmaking!

Batman Returns continued the dark feel of the first!

Batman Forever had some good stuff, I guess… plus, Jim Carrey was there! All kids love Jim Carrey, right? He’s basically like a cartoon character anyway.

Batman and Robin was… well, it was a movie, and…. wait. What? Rubber lips? “Ice to meet you”? BAT NIPPLES?!

Oh, man. How quickly they went downhill…

People recently have asked me why I have such an intense hatred for Batman and Robin, and I can officially say why right now. Batman and Robin made me HATE Batman. What DC and Warner Bros. had been working to create inside of me for years, Joel Schumacher completely unraveled in 125 minutes.

Yes, it was that bad. (Keep in mind that I have since put my hatred for that movie to rest. It is what it is, but those Bat Nipples are still inexcusable, Joel.)

I’m not sure exactly what year it was, but it’s safe to say it was a rough year. And from that day, I remained not a Batman fan for years. I would talk about how stupid it was that he dressed like a bat and how the Joker was a bad villain. I uttered a phrase that I have heard from so many others since then:

“He doesn’t even have powers! He’s just a normal guy!”

And that continued until well after Christopher Nolan’s first Batfilm was released in cinemas. And then onto DVD. And then television.

I remember passing up the chance to see Batman Begins in the theaters because “Batman was stupid. Why should I give a shit?” I refused to rent it, and when my dad tried to get me to watch it with him on TV, I just found something else to do.

“What’s up, Greg? You loved Batman so much when you were younger,” he’d say, and I’d roll on, mumbling about Bat Nipples or how he didn’t even have powers. He’d just shake his head and enjoy the first good Batfilm in years.

In 2007, The Dark Knight was announced, and I didn’t care at all. Then, Nolan said Heath Ledger would be playing the Joker. I knew him from a few movies (including the gay cowboy one), and what I saw of him left me less than impressed. I chuckled about how dismal it would be and how I wouldn’t be wasting my time.

But something inexplicable happened. I’m not exactly sure when it was, but somewhere along the line, I must have seen a teaser or theatrical trailer that instantly changed my mind. I saw a road-weary Bruce Wayne, one who wore the burden of a failing city’s protector heavy in his eyes; one who took his vow to protect the patrons of Gotham to the end (regardless of what that meant); one who would don the cowl and cape every night not out of respect for the law, but out of an ardent responsibility to a young boy years in the past who had lost his parents in a brutal murder after an evening movie.

I saw two madmen – one a brooding bat clad in black pads and stacked with gadgets, the other a mad clown drowned in color and crowded with renowned upside-down frown – fighting for the sanity and safety of a thousand sad humans trapped in a once-blooming boom town that now runs rampant with villains and organized crime of all sorts.

I saw one man against impossible odds in a setting of massive proportions.

I immediately negated every bad word I had said about Gotham’s Dark Detective over the years and bought into the hype. There was no way I could wait for the months to pass.

I even attended the midnight premiere in costume, something I hadn’t done before and don’t recall having done since.

Proof.

Proof.

I don’t think I need to continue much past that. The rest is pretty well documented. The Dark Knight was hailed worldwide as one of the greatest films in recent history. The Dark Knight Rises couldn’t quite match it, but was still an absolutely dazzling film of such grand scale.

Somewhere along the way, I got hooked on the comics. I started with seminal works (Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth) and I haven’t looked back since. You readers have seen that over the past six months: all the writing promises I make and wild hairs I get up my ass, the one constant is the monthly Batman review.

And I take pride in it.

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have taken Batman in an astounding direction, one that toes the ever-diminishing line at every turn. Simply put: it’s dark. Very dark. It’s like this perfect blend of the gritty, almost real life feel of the Nolanverse with the over-the-top weird “giant typewriter” bits from the ancient continuity.

I mean, Scott and Greg threw the Joker fish in there, for God’s sake. AND they made the fish awesome, not in the cartoon-goofy way. The Joker fish are almost plausible now. Never thought I’d say that.

This is technically where this story ends, at least this portion of it. I’m at my computer, a DC Direct: Knightfall: Bane figure nearby overlooking a growing stack of comics that need to be organized and filed, my TV stand stacked with Nolanverse Blu-Rays and discount DVDs (the Burton/Schumacher films, plus Justice League: Doom and a few others), and the idea in the back of my mind that getting a few panels of Capullo artwork (or even that amazing panel in The Killing Joke where Batman drops into the funhouse and the laughing Joker portraits are psychedelically swirling around him) drilled into my skin for eternity by a hot needle would be worth the time and discomfort.

Flea market. $2. THIS is why I urge you people to rag-and-bone on the weekends.

Flea market. $2. THIS is why I urge you people to rag-and-bone on the weekends.

At this point in my life, I have unwittingly surrounded myself with tons of Batfans, so it’s pretty safe to say that Batman with be a part of my daily life for a long time. But, with the unswerving moral barometer, the absolute tenacity, and the complete sublimation of unwavering emotion into concrete yet almost completely justified (NOTE: Frank Millar’s over-the-top “Goddamn Batman” notwithstanding) violence, Batman always is and always will be someone you might be weary about having on your side, but absolutely never want to stand up against. And at the end of the day, while his techniques may be seen by some as excessive, he’s always fighting for the right side.

He is in the frey, protecting the innocent from the filth of Gotham. He is out in the trenches, getting his hands dirty to keep the good ones clean.

He is the Dark Detective, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight.

He is Vengeance. He is the Night.

HE IS BATMAN!

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2 thoughts on “My Dark Past with The Dark Knight

  1. Pingback: Escape From The Longbox Shortbox | Longbox Graveyard

  2. Great article! I have some friends doing a Batman fan webseries. They asked me to review it, but since I’m not that big a Batman fan, I think it might be more appropriate on your blog and you’d probably have a much more informed opinion. My email is p.gabe.rodriguez@gmail.com; let me know if you’d like to check it out!

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