Wednesday 4 January 2012


Hello. You probably know already that I draw pictures that may well be termed as cartoons. Well here's a thing about being a cartoonist: I have generally found that if people know you are a cartoonist it presupposes an extensive and actively growing knowledge of every single comic and animation ever made. I hate to disabuse people of their frankly absurd notions but in this case I have to. I know very little about either.

I would occasionally read comics in my youth - Buster and Whizzer and Chips were my favourites because the Beano and Dandy were a bit staid and old fashioned then. And I have always loved animated cartoons but not for their own sake. They had to be funny, or have good characters and stories, or preferably all three. I'm more interested in the writing than the art.

All of this cannot adequately explain the argument I am about to make. Indeed, it essentially flies in the face of it. But here I go anyway.

There is only one Batman film that I will watch, or that I consider worthy of anyone's time. It is Batman, the schlocky, campy, absurdist 1966 film version of the impending and rightfully legendary TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. All other Batmans are simply a waste of time.

Comic books - without wishing to completely explode anyone's world view, Batman is a character from one of these - have supervillains set up deadly scenarios for superheroes, only for the protagonists to make a series of audacious and unlikely escapes. Often using handy and never-before-mentioned means, such as Shark Repellent Spray or Bat Gas. Everything is clearly labelled for the avoidance of doubt. It's daft, fun, throwaway (why do you think early issues are so valuable?) entertainment. It's silly and diverting and so clearly fantastical that it provides escapism from the humdrum.

Every single Batman film that has followed has been dark, sinister and deadly serious. Batman is real, walks among us and has Issues. I hate them for that. The 1989 Tim Burton version starring Michael Keaton wasn't bad, to be fair. It still retained a certain sense of humour, not least in casting Jack Nicholson as a suitably mental Joker. The 1992 follow-up Batman Returns isn't without merit either, with Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer well cast in their supervillan roles. However, that's as far as it goes.

I reserve particular ire for the Christian Bale Batman films. Batman Begins is a piece of shit, one of the worst films I have ever sat through. Where's the escapism or the sense of humour? And why does every big summer blockbuster film these days need a thirty-minute expositional kung-fu training sequence tacked on to the bleeding thing? What makes the original Batman so beautiful for me is that it stars Adam West, then 38-years old and a bit podgy round the middle like so many 38-year old men are. He was a gentleman crime-fighter of the Old Etonian tradition. He fought according to the Queensbury Rules. As soon as the bloody Kevlar body armour and kung fu and emotional pain and people dabbing iodine on open wounds whilst looking meaningfully at each other, I'm out.

I hope that this post doesn't cause Christian Bale to give me an earful of abuse. But even if it did it would prove my point. Comic book films need to stop taking themselves so seriously.


@LordManley said...

Hear, hear.

Too many fools forget that Batman started life as a parody and a parody it should remain.

Neil Maceman said...

I am outraged.

NobbyNobody said...

Hurrah! I couldn't agree more about everything in this post.
I don't mind Batman Begins but it is a bit too po-faced for my taste. Then everyone kept telling me I must see The Dark Knight, it's the best movie EVAR!!11!!. So I saw it and was bored. It was too long and it was boring. Sure it looked great but it was still boring. And it was not Batman.


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