This last week we mourned the passing of the great Adam West, a man who has been synonymous with Batman since some of his earliest screen appearances. The usual image we get of the Dark Knight Detective is a brooding, demonic figure, perched above a gothic city skyline.
Adam West’s Batman couldn’t possibly be any farther from this, coming from a time before Batman ever earned his dark visage. Keeping that in mind, for this week’s Back Issues we’ll be looking at some Batman books that buck the brooding trend and focus on the Dark Knight’s lighter side.
Supersons – The Batdad
Batman isn’t at the core of Supersons, but as the father of Damian Wayne, he and Superman make plenty of appearances. Since most of the supering is left to Robin and Superboy, Bruce and Clark get the opportunity to take a break for a while and focus on just being dads. It’s nice side to see, and although most people think of Batman as Batman, with Bruce Wayne being a facade, watching the character evolve when he has a family of his own is something special.
For decades, Batman has had a Robin by his side, and there have been plenty of times where we saw how deeply he cared for Robin the boy. How much he didn’t want each of the Robin’s to end up like him. Ultimately though, there were never many chances for Robin to just be a boy with a healthy father figure. In Supersons, for maybe the first time, we’re seeing that part of the relationship come to the forefront and it’s really pleasant to read, especially after years of reading arc upon arc of Batman just being miserable.
Batman Rebirth – The Button
Tom King’s current run on Batman is one of the high points of Batman’s history. It has just the right blend of everything we expect from Batman, with fantastic art by David Finch, among others, to go along with it. What really sets it apart from, say, Scott Snyder’s Batman, is that Rebirth isn’t afraid to crack a smile every so often, or show The Batman’s softer side. It’s not a laugh riot by any means, and each arc has as much brooding and action as any Batman fan could want, but King manages to offset it just enough with some small moments of joy.
It could be something as simple as a single panel in a large page (Kite-Man! Hell yeah!), or an entire interlude issue between arcs, but King always manages to use small moments of happiness to accentuate Batman’s darkness. It all works really well to sell these stories as more than Batman just seeming constantly whiny, and can make the storylines emotionally gripping without delving into Game of Thrones levels of wanton misery. If you’re looking to jump in, last month’s The Button special is a great point to latch on, revisiting the events of Flashpoint while also pushing forward DC Rebirth’s event storyline.
I couldn’t talk about Adam West’s Batman without mentioning the comic series based on his TV series, Batman ’66. Unfortunately, Batman ’66 came to an end a few years ago, now making only occasional appearances in short run specials, but what little of it does exist, is printed gold. It epitomizes the Batman TV series, delivering the best of its tongue-in-cheek humour with every issue, complete with Cesar Romero’s painted ‘tache.
The term ‘kitsch’ may well have been invented to describe the 1966 Batman TV Series, but Batman ’66 is more of a tribute to that kitschness than a recreation of it. The cartoony art and goofy dialogue are beyond lovable, while the page design is up there with some of the finest modern examples of the craft. If you’re living in the greater Dublin area, you can even collect it from your local Bat-Library. If that isn’t exactly how Adam West’s incarnation of Batman would want you to acquire it, then I don’t know what is.
Batman Meets Elmer Fudd
This little beauty isn’t out yet, but it’s for sure going to be one to watch out for if you want a humourous Batman story. Created by the same artistic team as the core Batman comic, there’s plenty of reference for the quality to expect. It’s out on June 28th, so mark that date in your Bat-Calendar if you plan on picking it up.
We’ll see you again for Comicphiles in a couple of weeks. Same Bat-Time! Same Bat-Channel!