I apologize in advance for referring to Batman ’89 as “Burt-Man.”

§ October 2nd, 2017 § Filed under batman § 5 Comments

Okay, before I return to Bat-Talk, let me inform you, my two remaining readers, that due to a somewhat hectic week I am way behind on everything, and that includes the new End of Civilization post. I didn’t get a chance even to look in the new Previews ’til Sunday morning, so EoC will be later this week, most likely.

Now…WHAT HAS COME BEFORE: 1 2 3 4 5 6

And here’s what’s coming now:

philip wrenches over the following:

“I walked out of the Burton Batman movie ANGRY that Alfred let Vickie Vale into the Bat Cave. Alfred is a paragon of loyalty and would never reveal Batman’s true identity to anyone. I was legitimately ANGRY. My girlfriend was embarrassed. She dumped me not long after. She was probably right to do it.

“Liked Keaton. Didn’t like Nicholson. Have only seen the movie that one time.”

I was…sort of okay with that particular plot twist, even though I totally see your point as well. Since then, the “secret identity” trope has pretty much gone through the wringer in media adaptations (and in the source material, too, for that matter), and it’s become much less of an issue that it’s used to be. It probably has something to do with the lead character looking like kind of a jerk by keeping his/her secret from friends, and by giving the superhero a “support team” who are all in the action and making things more exciting, I guess. It really came to a head in the Flash TV show where it seemed like everyone knew he was secretly Barry Allen, except for Iris, and that made everyone watching just a little uncomfortable. Even Superman’s not free of this, since in Supergirl everyone in the Secret Government Alien-Awareness Patrol (SGAAP for short, since I can’t be bothered to Google up the actual name) seems like they’re in the whole Clark Kent deal.

Granted, that’s slightly different from Bruce’s trusted associate Alfred totally exposing the secret without any warning, but as a one-off plot point in one movie, in that Alfred is trying to do the right thing to help the man he’s protected his whole life…I can live with it. Anyway, she mysteriously “slips” and “falls” into an “unreachable” part of the Batcave between films, so the point is essentially moot.

To your final point, like I’ve said I do want to revisit the movie. I remember liking both Keaton and Nicholson, but I felt at the time Nicholson was maybe…too known a face to disappear into the role? Of course ol’ Jack was a big selling point of the film and may have got some fence-sitting butts into seats, so what do I know? Again, a rewatch is in order.

• • •

Thom H reveals

“I don’t remember where I saw the first Batman movie, but I do recall thinking it was kind of cheesy and watered down. I had really liked The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke, and I remember thinking that everyone seeing the movie didn’t really ‘get it’ the way I did. I was ‘deep’ in high school, though, so most experiences were beneath me at the time.

“I did really like the soundtrack by Prince, especially the single Batdance, which has not aged well. And talk about cheesy. Yikes.

“I do remember seeing Batman Returns at the drive-in with my boyfriend. That’s when it hit me how big a deal the Bat-phenomenon was and how it probably wasn’t going away anytime soon.”

I’m assuming you saw that first Batman during its initial theatrical release? I suspect, since the release of newer Batman films, young folks encountering that first film in recent years may indeed find it kind of hokey (or, dare I say, “campy?”). But I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if you caught onto the goofier aspects of the film, since they’re definitely present…the argument can be made that this is more a Tim Burton film that happens to have Batman in it, versus a Batman film directed by Tim Burton. I think by and large folks who were worried about this sort of thing were happy that the film at least seemed dark and moody, versus the then wrongly-maligned 1960s Batman TV show they were all afraid the film was going to be. But then again, Dark Knight Returns was goofy as all get-out in parts, too, so, y’know, maybe Burt-Man wasn’t too far off the mark. Just needed more Mutant Gang Members!

I have to be honest and say I haven’t heard “Batdance” in a while, so let me have that play in the background as I tackle your next comment.

Batman Returns is as a good indicator as any of the pop culture staying-power of Batman, in that while the faddish aspects of Batmania had mostly died down, the film could still attract a general audience. Even the third film got people into theaters, and it wasn’t ’til the fourth film that people stayed away in droves, and that was clearly more from the fact the film was seen as a stinker, and not because people suddenly didn’t like Batman. Though like I said about the audience reaction to the Batman Begins trailer several years later (groans, and lots of them) everyone was still willing to give a new Batman film a chance. And of course through all this were the various animated incarnations of the character. Batman ’89 wasn’t just a one-time fluke, but rather it opened up whole new audiences for something that had mostly been over and done with as far as the “real” world was concerned.

Okay, back to “Batdance,” which reminded me that, aside from Dio’s “The Last in Line,” which is amazing, all music videos are stupid. Yeah, even as someone who appreciates Prince’s extensive catalog of fine recordings, “Batdance” is just, um…well, I certainly hope Prince put whatever money he made on that to good use. Frankly, I’m surprised the ’60s TV show-style “BATMAN!” call-outs were allowed, since I seem to recall an effort to avoid such references as to not impugn the dignity of this serious cinematic endeavor. And okay, that half-Batman/half-Joker look of Prince’s is iconic. Iconic of what exactly, I don’t know.

• • •

GE charges in with

“What always comes to mind for me was something you mentioned previously: popular doubts (at the time) that Mr. Mom could play Batman. Which is strange, to say the least, since the only live-action Batman most of us knew before then was Adam West, who certainly didn’t get all dark and grim and gritty. It was probably the influence of The Dark Knight Returns (et al) that put that doubt into the zeitgeist.”

That’s…a good point, actually. Dark, Gritty Batman was a relatively new-ish development in the comics, after decades of Swashbuckling Batman, or Time-Travel Crimes on Venus Batman, or Just Plain Ol’ Superhero Batman. I mean, the ’60s TV show wasn’t that far off from the source material, when you get right down to it. I suppose the case could be made that Golden Age Batman stories were a lot more grim than in following years, but that’s probably not what those fans were thinking about when they insisted this new Bat-film accurately reflect the Dark Avenger of the Night that they all knew and loved. The immense popularity of Dark Knight from just a couple of years prior was, as you say, likely the prime mover for that response, despite Dark Knight itself having strongly satirical/parodic overtones.

“Those doubts about Keaton culminated in a parody of Escape Club’s “Wild West” that kept playing on a morning radio show (probably Scott and Todd on 95.5 WPLJ in the NY/NJ market – don’t know if it was theirs, or they just played it…?), titled ‘Adam West’ and poking fun at the idea of Keaton taking over the cowl and cape. Big Bro even taped it off the radio (y’know, the way we used to have to do that, with a boom box and all!), and I’ve got the MP3 of that recording right here – we spent the last few years scanning/transferring everything we had (video, audio, drawing, writing…) to modern digital formats.”

As an avid Dr. Demento listener in my youth, I knew that particular song sounded familiar, and sure enough, here it is. Someone decided to add visuals to the song, but in this case it’s okay, because it’s Best Batman. So I guess that’s two music videos that aren’t stupid.

• • •

MrJM has this to say for himself

“Although many of our friends were worrying about whether the titular ‘Mr. Mom’ could pull it off, my brother and I weren’t worried — the previous year, we went to a screening of ‘Clean and Sober’ specifically to vet Michael Keaton as a grim actor.

“What a pair of nerds.”

Okay, nothing to do with the Batman movies, but I did something a little similar, in that in the mid-1980s I heard Shawn McManus was going to illustrate a forthcoming issue of Saga of the Swamp Thing (this one, in fact) and I wanted to know just what that was going to look like, since I wasn’t familiar with his art. I ended up buying something current with art at the time…don’t remember what it was, but it was a title I didn’t regularly read…and looked it over to reassure myself that he’d be at least okay at drawing my favorite character.

And of course McManus ended up being one of my favorite comic book artists, what with his run on Omega Men starting about a year later, and his Dr. Fate, and Sandman and so on. See what my approval can do for you!

5 Responses to “I apologize in advance for referring to Batman ’89 as “Burt-Man.””

  • Jason says:

    I had started reading DC Comics when Millennium came out* (So 1987 or so). So I was aware of Dark Knight and had been reading Batman for about 2 years. I was extremely excited about the movie. As a Junior in high school at the time, of course I had been aware of Batman through the usual means (The Adam West show, Superfriends, Scooby Doo), but the comics were the only real serious take on the character at the time.
    I was a little apprehensive about Michael Keaton as well, since my only experiences with his movies were Mr Mom and Gung Ho.
    I wasn’t a fan of Jack Nicholson at the time either (can’t really say that I am now, either), and felt like his Joker was a little too Jack Nicholson-y. My favorite on-screen Joker to date is the Mark Hamill Joker from the Arkham games.

    *Let it not be said that 80’s crossover events were not good jumping on points (at least for me). I started seriously reading Marvel when Secret Wars II started, and started reading DC when Millennium started. I remember Millennium being extremely confusing for a new DC reader, but it was a good introduction to a lot of DC books and characters that I had never heard of.

    Of course after a couple of years, I went from obsessively buying every book from both publishers (and a lot of other publishers too) to buying no comics whatsoever, but that’s a different story.

  • Thom H. says:

    Thanks for addressing my comment! And YES, Prince as half-Batman, half-Joker was the best part of that video by far. Gives me the same thrill as seeing the Composite Superman, best ridiculous Superman villain of the 60s.

  • philip says:

    I will likely have to revisit it, a well. Of course, I was 21 when it came out and KNEW EVERYTHING which certainly colored my experience. Nowadays I’d probably just shrug. And my negative reaction from nigh 30 years ago did not stop me from buying up a load of Batman action figures. You win again, entertainment industry.

  • Chris Wuchte says:

    I think a lot of the doubts about Keaton stemmed from the perception that he lacked the physicality needed for the role. Adam West may not have been viewed as a heavy, serious actor, but he also looked like a male model. People were accustomed to screen heroes looking like straight laced businessmen in tights, not sarcastic smartasses already starting to lose their hair.

  • GE says:

    Thanks for that link, Mike. Big Bro would’ve dug it a bunch.

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