Monday, July 2, 2012

How Batman Changed from Dumb to Badass?

If you ask a child or teenager if Batman is cool, they will look surprised at your apparently retarded question and ask if you are dumb, because it is the goddamn Batman we are talking about and of course he is awesome. He kickass, is rich, have some cool toys and is Batman. Of course he is cool. Except that there was a time that Batman was one of the most dumb heroes ever.

See, when Batman started, he was pretty close to what we have now. A millionaire in costume fighting crime and working as detective, solving murders and other awful crimes. But as comics become more popular, specially with children, they decided the character needed to be more family friendly. And that is what we got:

Depending on how old you are, you are wondering who are the guys doing a bad cosplay of Batman and Robin. They are Adam West and Burt Ward, two actors who did a pretty popular Batman TV show in the 60s to 70s. If you go to You Tube, you probably will laugh hard seeing this TV show, the show who basically defined what campy is.

And it was not just the TV show. Batman was pretty much like that in the comics of the time. His arch-nemesis were not the dangerous psychopaths they are today. They were really dumb themed criminals. The Joker was not the scary clown, but just a clown with a penchant for stealing banks in outrageous ways. And Batman was not the depressive orphan avenging their parents deaths by fighting crimes. He was in fact a happy millionaire having fun with his sidekick. So, what changed? Well, for once, the 80s happened.

The Dark Knight by Frank Miller showed a darker Batman, and people loved it. In the 80s, Marvel Comics was already full of anti-heroes and violent stories. DC decided to make the same with many of their heroes, and Batman fitted very well. He is a not a super powered man, and his enemies were not aliens bent to world conquest, but deranged people. And a man who dress up in costume to fight crime is not really the paradigm of mental wealth. This dark view on the character was very fitting, but not enough to make Batman the badass character we know. Comics was already falling in the realm of niche. It needed a more mainstream outlet to change peoples view of him.

Enter Tim Burton.

Burton showed a main stream audience who basically only remembered the 60s TV show Batman a new Dark Knight, a new Gotham and more importantly, a new type of villain. Jack Nicholson's Joker wasn't a hilarious  clown who made funny crimes. He was a dangerous killer, even more dangerous by being really crazy. It was a dark story, and make most people forgot about fat Batman from the TV show. And them...

Batman: The Animated Series happened. It was a children's show, but it have such great stories and characters, that it become a hit with both the young and older audience. Not only that, it defined Batman not as a billionaire who happens to have a crime fighting hobby, but as a devastated person who lost his parents in a violent crime, and use his fortune to finance his efforts to fight crime, while using the playboy facade to hid his true self, the dark and sad Batman.

Not only that, it redefined the villains. They weren't (most of the times) funny guys doing crimes following a motif, but either deadly sociopaths or sad people like Batman, who happen to have the somewhat similar past of losing loved ones, but decided to delve onto crime.

The animated series basically was the first time many people met Batman, but also id the show who defined his enemies, allies and Batman himself in future adaptations. It left behind the campy, and brought to us a tormented hero, who fight equally tormented villains. All while everyone dress weird costumes.

Without Miller, people would never think of Batman as a dark character. Without Burton, this dark view on the character would probably be just niche. And without the animated series, we would not met with a brand revamped mythos, who drastically deviate of what people expect from Batman. And we would never have a character who become on of the most complex ever created.

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