"...In Our darkest hour comes our greatest hope...."
In the original version, Batman (or Bruce Wayne - millionaire, playboy, industrialist and philanthropist) assumes his secret identity after witnessing his parents' murder as a child. andvows revenge on all criminals. He trains himself physically and intellectually for this life's mission, and while he has no super powers, he uses his wealth and ingenuity to develop strength and awesome crime-fighting gadgets.
Batman was created in 1939 by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. He first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" and is still appearing in graphic form in DC Comics. Batman was so popular that by 1940 he gained his own comic book title and line. In this line Batman fights the likes of the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. He is joined and aided by his cohort Robin, his butler Alfred Pennyworth, police commissioner Jim Gordon and occasionally by Batgirl.
In the mid-late 1960's Adam West portrayed Batman in a television series (and 1966 film) that in my humble opinion is still wonderfully entertaining and 'campy' (although many comic fans were put-off by its campiness). In 1989 Batman turned darker and more life-like in a film starring Michael Keaton, (directed by Tum Burton was produced by Warner Bros). with a sequel in 1992. In 1995, Batman was portrayed by Val Kilmer in Batman Forever and in 1997 George Clooney played Batman in Batman and Robin. The latest Dark Knight movies (first film appearing in 2005 and the last (third) movie opened up this weekend), directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale- produced by Warner Bros. - portraying an even darker Batman.
Here is the first TV episode. It's 25 min. but even watching just a few minutes is fun. Dig the styles, the music, the separate "Bruce" and "Dick" poles leading to the Batcave, the computers in the Batcave, the Bat-scope in the Batmobile, the Bat-Boomerang /grapple hook used to reach an apartment many floors up that folds for future use... and how after cutting window guards to enter the Riddler's apartment Batman advises Robin to "watch out for pedestrian safety" and hangs the grating on a Bat-hook he takes out of his pocket. And there are the riddles they find by literally 'reading between the lines' of a document they receive from the Riddler.
This TV show is much like the comic book format in that each panel or frame has visual and verbal JEWELS waiting to be noticed - in addition to the story itself - or better - ENHANCING the story itself. Furthermore, these shows are pure tongue-in-cheek entertainment - fun for the whole family and there are numerous ways to turn this into an educational project (at home or at school):
- have the kids read the "ZONKs" "POWs" and ZOKs" with you;
- discuss the use of similes "The Riddler contrives his plots like artichokes, you have to strip off spiny leaves to reach the heart..." and tons of puns!!!
- talk about the gadgets which were timely then but so out of date now
- and, try to solve the Riddler's riddles, and make up some of your own..Here are three (of many) from this episode (CAUTION: the first is TERRIBLY corny and a pure pun]:
As Batman's character in the comic, TV and movies has been tweaked from simple detective/crime-fighter to campy entertaining crime-fighter to dark crime-fighter, so too have his gadgets. Batman's most awesome asset/gadget (in my opinion) is the Batmobile. There was an exhibit 2012 San Diego Comic-con sponsored by Warner Bros. displaying the various Bat-mobiles and it was a BLAST to see how these vehicles have morphed and grown over the years keeping pace with modern fantasy and technology. Here are some SUPER photos of the BATMOBILES and their specs. That said, here is a brief, albeit incomplete, view of its transition ---- The first vehicle (not at the exhibit) from the 1939 comic looked like this:
- "Before you trip over your cape, Batman, riddle me this: There are are three men in a boat with four cigarettes but no matches, how do they manage to smoke?"
- "What is it that no man wants to have yet no man wants to lose?"
- "When is the time of a clock like a whistle of a train?"
***Relating this post to my last one, Batman is a modern antihero who has no special superpowers, and instead fights crime and avenges the death of those close to him using gadgets developed by Wayne Enterprises. The power of Batman, is that even without superpowers, smart enterprising 'regular' guys can fight back injustice. And, while the Dark Knight movies are dark and not for all kids, the Batman figure and story (in addition to its life lessons) can provide wonderful learning opportunities:
- The TV series has wonderful play on words- watch for puns and similes which abound, and solve the Riddler's wacky clues (all of which are play on words);
- The comics provide great visual and verbal literacy sources for readers of all ages be they reluctant or gifted;
- The "ZAPS" "POWS" and "ZOWIE"s provide wonderful reading opportunities and kids/students can create their own sound effects and onomatopoeia words for additional fun;
- The comics, TV and movie gadgets can be wonderful springboards for your kids creating communicators and defensive or offensive gadgets of their own.
*****One final point worth mentioning - especially in the wake the the Aurora Colorado tragedy - Batman started out with a gun and got rid of it! The New Yorker Magazine has an online article "Batman's Gun" (posted by Jill Lepore) in which Ms. Lepore notes that:
In a story published in October of 1939, Batman used a handgun to shoot a vampire...He used a gun again in the next episode to fire some shots at two evil henchmen...At the time, Detective Comics just hired a new editorial director...named Whiney Wllsworth...When Kane submitted his next story..."Ellsworth said to take the gun out," Kane remembered..Superheroes weren't soldiers or policemen. They were private citizens. Villains carried guns.Maybe it's time to disarm Batman again, and most of Americans. Guns for hunting are one thing - while I don't hunt and never will, I understand why others want to. I am not sure why everyone needs assault weapons and Kevlar vests.... Maybe its time for politicians to rethink gun control laws.
***** What do you think? What does Batman mean to you? Please share you loves and insights in the comments. Have a great week and thank you for your visit.
*****Answer to the Riddler's riddle:
- "How did they manage to smoke? They threw one cigarette overboard and made the boat a cigarette lighter"....again, wonderful puns.
- "A law suit"
- "When it's two to two" (Robin toots this and sounds like a train)