On the day that the final Christopher Nolan Batman film – The Dark Knight Rises – hits cinemas, we talk to Holy Franchise Batman! author Gary Collinson about his love of all things Batman, the weirdest thing he found out during all his research and where the Caped Crusader could go next…
What is it about Batman that made you such a fan?
I guess, like a lot of people, my real introduction to the Caped Crusader would have been through reruns of the old Adam West TV show. As I got a bit older I discovered some of the great Batman stories like Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, A Death in the Family etc., and that pretty much confirmed his status as my favourite comic book character. It definitely helped that the late 80s / early 90s were such a great time for the character, with the Tim Burton movies, the animated series, KnightFall and so on. As for the appeal of Batman, it just comes down to the character and his story. Unlike most comic book heroes, Batman possesses no super powers, he’s just a normal guy who’s pushed himself to the very limits after suffering a huge tragedy, in order to become a paragon of justice for the people of Gotham City. As Bruce Wayne, he could have anything he wanted, but he’s chosen to devote his entire life to this crusade, to the point where he’s completely consumed by the Batman persona. Plus it helps that he’s got such a good range of supporting characters, along with a rosta of villains that’s second to none.
There’s a lot of comprehensive information in Holy Franchise Batman!. How long did it take you to do your research?
Holy Franchise, Batman! originally started out as an article for Flickering Myth back in 2010, so I had already done some research before starting the book. I’ve been following the development of the Batman franchise pretty closely online for around a decade now, so with that – not to mention the countless viewing hours I’d already accumulated – I was working from a decent starting point. But of course there’s a huge amount of history to cover and once I began digging through the research I started uncovering more and more information. I’d say I spent around three months solely on research, not including all the time I spent revisiting the movies and shows, which was definitely the best part.
What was the weirdest fact you found out during your research?
I uncovered quite a few odd facts, but one that sticks out is that Bill Murray had been considered for the role of Batman in the 80s. I’m not sure how that would have turned out. Hit or not, we might not have seen another serious take on the character, so maybe its a good thing it never came to anything.
Who’s been your favourite Batman to date? And your worst…?
In terms of live-action, I’d have to say Christian Bale, but as good as he is I’m not sure we’ve seen a truly definitive screen Batman yet. Overall though, I think Kevin Conroy does a fantastic job of embodying both Batman and Bruce Wayne with his animated voice work, so I’m going to opt for him. As for the worst – Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and even George Clooney have some merits, so it’s a toss up between Lewis Wilson and Robert Lowery, both of whom played Batman in the 1940s movie serials. They’re both pretty bad, but Robert Lowery looks a little lost at times, and his atrocious Batsuit doesn’t help matters either.
There’s a lot of love for Christopher Nolan’s Batman films – Batman Begins and The Dark Knight – and expectations are high for the final film in the trilogy – The Dark Knight Rises – which is out today. Is he your favourite director to bring Batman to the screen?
Without a shadow of a doubt. I don’t think anyone could make a case for Joel Schumacher, and while Tim Burton’s films have their fans, for me they just don’t hold up next to Christopher Nolan’s. Nolan has given us three exceptional comic book movies with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, and as a trilogy I’d have to put it right up there with Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. However, I’d also give special praise to Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Erik Radomski and particularly Bruce Timm, who were the producing team behind Batman: The Animated Series. At its best, it’s right up there among the greatest animated shows ever made, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is about as close to a perfect Batman movie as you can get.
The Dark Knight Rises will bring a close to the Nolan Batman films. What would you love to see happen next for the Caped Crusader?
Given Batman’s enormous popularity, there’s always going to be new interpretations of the character, but I think the feature film series now finds itself in a very difficult position. It’s going to be very hard to anyone to top what Christopher Nolan has done, and considering how much of a fan favourite Nolan has been, any change in direction is likely to encounter its share of hostility. Ideally, they’d give Batman a rest for a few years before rebooting the series, but with a billion-dollar franchise, that’s unlikely to happen. If they are to reboot the character, then the logical step seems to be a Justice League movie, which may soften the blow of a new Batman by having him team-up with his fellow DC heroes.