Dr, Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor
This week, DC Comics is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Caped Crusader’s debut in Detective Comics #27. To honor the Dark Knight’s eighth decade, Nerd Factor presents the best of the Bat.
The Best Comics Run: Obviously, the Dark Knight has appeared in countless stories over the past eighty years. When recommending Batman in comic book form, many fans will point to some of the most legendary comic stories out there. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Batman: Year One (1987), and Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) are amazing examples of graphic storytelling, but they are special events and limited editions. There is something to be said about the monthly work of producing a serial narrative. The story now collectively known as “Strange Apparitions” (Detective Comics #469-476, 478-479) by writer Steve Englehart and artist Marshall Rogers in 1977-1978 re-established everything amazing about Batman. This also includes “The Laughing Fish,” one of the best Joker stories ever written.
The Best Gadget: The Batmobile is a legendary pop culture vehicle, but it’s too big to be a gadget. Therefore the honor goes to Batman’s most versatile tool, the batarang. A distance weapon that is also a sharp knife and that returns if the shot is missed? Yes, nothing is cooler than that.
The Single Coolest Move Batman Ever Made: Batman can do anything an Olympic-level athlete can, all while billowing a huge cape behind him. In the epic, cross-company Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk (1981), when Marvel’s enraged jade giant whips a whole car at Batman, our hero jumps through the sedan’s closed windows. Cars were bigger then, but still, that was something.
The Best Substitute: From time to time, for various reasons, Batman has to stop being Batman. When that is necessary, the best stand-in is none other than Dick Grayson, the original Robin. It only stands to reason. Grayson is the guy Batman trained his whole life. The runner-up though is Superman, who takes an amusing, out-of-his-element turn pretending to be the Bat in “Knight Time,” a 1998 episode of Superman: The Animated Series.
The Best Book About Batman: Unsurprisingly, Batman has generated a lot of academic interest over the years. While many great books are out there, I strongly recommend Glen Weldon’s The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture (2nd ed., 2016).
The Best Adam West Moment: West’s campy comedy skills are on full display in the 1966 Batman movie. Search for “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” You’ll see.
The Best Movie: Batman is lucky. Most of his movies have been pretty good. Batman: The Dark Knight (2005) rises to the top with its grim assessment of the hero’s order versus chaos struggle against the Joker. Second place goes to the amazing Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993).
The Batman Actor: All that said, I go with old school favorite Michael Keaton. The definitive, serious movie Batman set the standard that all others must follow.
The Best Lego Batman: Lego Batman
The Consistently Best Batman You Will Ever Get: We are lucky to live in a world that has Batman: The Animated Series (1993-1994) in it. There will probably never be a more accurate and entertaining version of the legendary hero than what this series and its sequels gave us. Most episodes are perfection.