The Many Faces of Batman

by December Lambeth on July 17, 2008

in Essays , Theme Week

Many men have played the Caped Crusader.  How many can you name?  We’ve got a list of those who donned the black mask and cape in the name of justice, check out the variety. Who was your favorite?

Lewis Wilson

Based on the comic book character created by Bob Kane, this vigilante of Gotham City makes his film debut in Batman 1943. In 15 BW episodes Batman and his side-kick Robin (Douglas Croft) take on a evil Japanese mastermind and try to save Gotham from mechanical zombies. Later, in 1965, this series was turned into a four hour feature. If you look hard enough the DVD can be purchased online.

Robert Lowery

Born in Kansas City, MO October 17, 1913 Robert had a career of over 178 projects. Interesting enough he shared the same bloodline as Abraham Lincoln. His best known film was The Mummy’s Ghost 1966. He played Batman in the 1949 version of Batman and Robin where the dynamic duo go after the Wizard and try to get the remote control device that can control planes and cars from a distance. Let’s not leave out the rescuing of Vicki Vale (Jane Adams).

Adam West

In 160 TV episodes Batman 1966-68 had Batman and Robin duking it out with The Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) in all their Bat-Toy glory. In a campy attempt this series has Batman and Robin battling it out in a Batboat and uses Batcharge missiles and Robin (Burt Ward) really brings on the “Holy rusted metal, Batman” persona.

Adam West and Burt Ward continued on in the 16 episodes from 1977’s animated series, The New Adventures of Batman. In the animated TV series Batman not only gets the help of Robin, but also Batgirl and a little troublesome Batmite.
In 1979 Batman teams up with Legends of Superheroes a made for TV movie. Then came voice over work in 1984’s SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show. Let’s be honest I could keep adding Adam West’s contributions to Batman, but they don’t ever seem to end. He is casted to play in Super Capers as a cab driver in 2008 and as recently as 2006 played Mayor Grange in The Batman animated TV series. I think it is safe to say that Adam West may actually live in a cave and secretly sneaks out fighting evil in a black mask and cape.

Michael Keaton

Now we get into the modern day battle of who is the better Batman…

Is it Michael Keaton in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) where it gives the Cape Crusader a charming and very handsome wit and strong attraction to the ladies? He was the first to show up in the body fitting rubber suit and sleek Batmobile.

Val Kilmer

Or was it 1995 Batman Forever’s Val Kilmer and all his bullshit antics and the trouble he caused for the cast and crew? Don’t forget Batman no longer works alone, nope now he has his circus sidekick Robin (BChris O’Donnell) to help battle Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and The Riddler (Jim Carrey). I think that old Val was the worst of the bunch, once he showed up with circus acts and Jim Carrey in a leotard the series went straight downhill.

George Clooney

1997’s Batman & Robin is the big stinker of the group, but George certainly revived a little charisma and pizazz in Batman’s character where as Kilmer practically killed the character. When the film became the equivalent of a carnival side show the producers finally gave up and let it be. Why they brought on characters in such garb and a complete crapfest for a storyline is beyond me. Sure Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone) were most entertaining, but overall a complete mess. However, no one can dispute that Clooney wears nipples well.

Christian Bale

Finally 8-years later someone gets up enough gumption to bring out the best of the best in Batman Begins followed up by The Dark Knight which might actually gain itself an Oscar with the an outstanding performance of The Joker by Heath Ledger. The Dark Knight has been quoted by some film critics as the best Batman movie ever; interesting how they don’t remember saying the same thing about Batman Begins.

Christian Bale embodies everything that is physical about Batman and Bruce Wayne, where he comes up short on instant charisma in the character he makes up for in his actions and abilities. If there was a complaint about his role in Batman it would be from the directors point of view, why do they mess with the voice. The voice change, which must be electronic, on Bale between Bruce and Batman is horrible…too much. The films are much darker than the early to mid-90’s attempts and certainly puts the 60’s and 70’s to shame, but I don’t think they can replace the old black and whites from back in the day.

I know that I have not covered every human being who has played Batman in either person or voice over, but there are so many that one must finally find a stopping point. I hope that these comparisons are as interesting to you as they were to me in looking them up. Enjoy!

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