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Saturday, October 26, 2013



EDITORIAL: Why Burton's Batman is Important to Batman History


When most people think of Batman Returns, they think of the one Batman movie that most Batman fans fight about. Over-all, Bat-fans can agree that Batman (1989) is a classic and that the film was brilliant. On that note, most can also agree that Batman & Robin was terrible, while Batman Forever wasn't all that bad, but nowhere near as good as Batman. Batman Returns seems to be the one Batman movie (maybe now rivaled by The Dark Knight Rises) that there is some legitimate debate over, both on the positive and negative side.

But this article is not on Batman Returns itself mind you, but rather Burton's interpretation of the Dark Knight.

A few months ago, I decided I wanted to watch Batman Returns once again for the first time in probably 5 years, but I never followed through with it. Recently, in the wake of the return of Arrow on the television screen, I have been re-watching some of Batman's greatest animated features. From Batman: Year One and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm to the Batman: The Animated Series episodes "Heart of Ice", "Mad Love", and Christmas with the Joker", I've been watching what I can, even to the point if rewatching all of Batman Beyond via Netflix and buying Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - Deluxe Edition on Blu-Ray (which I STILL have yet to watch in it's entirety)! Needless to say, I'm a Bat-freak myself!


So where does Burton's Batman fall into this other than the name? Well, it's pretty simple actually. Since I've mainly been  watching episodes of the famed Batman: The Animated Series (or "The Adventures of Batman & Robin" or "The New Batman Adventures", whatever you want to call it), I have been reminded of just how big an impact Batman and Batman Returns had on Batman history in general and on The Animated Series itself!


When Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett originally wanted to do Batman: The Animated Series after the success of Tim Burton's Batman flick, Warner Bros. was happy to do it! With another Batman film coming out in June of 1992, WB thought it would be great for kids (as well as adults) to also be involved with the character of Batman, though this time through animation. In September of that same year, just three months after the released of the film, Batman: The Animated Series first aired on television and children everywhere fell in love with the character, most being introduced to him for the first time!

The Animated Series has been considered the "end-all-be-all" version of Batman. Everything from the Nolan films to The Batman and Beware the Batman animated series' to animated films like Batman: Under the Red Hood and even comics such as Scott Snyder's Batman has been compared and contrasted to Batman: The Animated Series. Even the films that spawned this great piece of storytelling have been!

Batman and Batman Returns not only inspired The Animated Series, but in a sense they also birthed it. Everything from the Gothic, classical look of Gotham city, to Commissioner Gordon's age, to the physical appearance of the Penguin and the Joker, Danny Elfman writing the opening and closing themes, all was determined by Batman and Batman Returns. Now sure, Bruce Timm and co. definitely had final say and were for sure the architects of the DC Animated Universe, no question about that, but it's interesting to note how important Burton's versions of these characters were to The Animated Series and what ended up trademarking the series forever.


Oddly enough if you can imagine, Batman had actually lost some steam before 1989. After the 1960's Batman TV Series (along with Batman: The Movie), Batman was somewhat swept under the rug. He was of course a part of the Super Friends, but he was still the same version (give-or-take) that we had seen being played by Adam West on the television screen. In the comics, Batman had become a bit darker though still child friendly. That is until the 1980's.

In the 80's, Frank Miller arrived on the scene, and just as Alan Moore would come to do with Watchmen and Mike Grell with Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, Frank Miller created, or really brought back, the Batman that we know today through both The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. But unfortunately, those books only reached young boys and older fans who had read Batman since their childhood. No, not the general public.

It wasn't until 1989 when Batman really returned with Tim Burton's Batman. Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Batman. It was huge. So in 1992, Batman Returns came out, bringing everyone back to the theaters. The same year, Batman was once again a household name as every kid who was any kid watched Batman: The Animated Series every day after school. Not to mention, Batman comics got huge, just like Superman did during "The Death of Superman", Batman's world changed forever with the "Knightfall" story-line. Hell, they even launched the Legends of the Dark Knight book because of these films! Batman had really returned.

So why is Burton's Batman so important? What is your point, Michael? Well, my point is this. I hear more and more people every day praise Batman: The Animated Series, as they should, as I do. But I also hear more and more people bash the Batman Anthology films (especially the last two, but the first two as well) without even considering how they made Batman a cultural icon for today's world!

Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy is without a doubt one of the best film series' I have ever watched AND one of the best comic book franchises out there, but people need to stop continuing to praise Nolan so much and start to recognize Burton's role in all of this!

Without Batman & Batman Returns, Batman: The Animated Series would not have been what it is now. It would not have been the same. I won't go so far as to say it would have never existed, but I would bet that it would not have been as popular as it still continues to be. Many would call it the "greatest (or 2nd greatest next to The Simpsons) animated series of all time", and quite frankly we owe part of that to Burton and co. for his Batman films.
Now, I'm not saying ALL the credit and praise should go to Tim Burton and company (because MOST of it should go to Bruce Timm and company...), but I AM saying that I want people to stop hounding on the Burton films so much. Stop thinking that they don't matter anymore because of Nolan's films. Well, guess what, Nolan's Batman is done and in 2015 we'll be seeing a new on played by Ben Affleck. That just is how it is. It doesn't mean you can respect or love what came before, it just means that you need to be realistic about time and the fact that it goes on. 

Does that contradict what I said? No, I honestly don't think it does. We need to look at the past to see why things are in the present, that's History 101 for you. Burton's Batman, Timm's Animated Series, and Nolan's Dark Knight are all important to Batman and have made him who he is today. That is a FACT. So why is Tim Burton's Batman so important to Batman history? Because it gave Batman new life, it brought back a character that was almost lost to pop culture after the 60's, it gave the Dark Knight to the next generation, and since then the torch has not dimmed, it had not gone out, not like before, but it has continued. Through various films, various animated series', various animated movies, and of course video games and comic books. So again I ask why is Burton's Batman so important to the Batman mythos? Because without Batman, Batman would have quite possibly died like his parents did all those years ago, and he vowed on their graves that that would never happen again. 

So let's keep the Bat-signal going.

Michael J. Petty

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Senior Editorial Editor on SMN, I also work as an Administrator on Across the Airwaves Productions and as a Staff Writer on the Superman Homepage. I enjoy movies, comics, television, music, and long walks on the beach. Just because he's on the side of the angels, don't think for one second that he's one of them.