Holy shit Batman!

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1) When I first watched the 1960′s Batman TV show it was with the intense seriousness only a 6 year old can muster. Whilst it’s generally regarded as a benchmark in high camp pop-art, for me it was high drama. Of course later,  once the (giant) penny dropped, I could appreciate the show in an entirely new way. I could revel in the glorious straight-faced performance of Adam West and the gee-whizz mock innocenece of Burt Ward, and soak up the joyous technicolour props and sets. Yet this new take didn’t diminish my previous viewing. Rather it added to it, making it that much richer. The show could be both camp and serious, could homage the 4-colour world of it’s inspiration as well as gently lampooning it. The vibrancy and energy of the comics panel was here in spades, and in its own silly way the Batman TV show was pretty post-modern experimental stuff. It was my prime Batman experience, and established the key elements of the bat-mythos that would stick with me for life: Comissioner Gordon, faithful Alfred, the Bat Signal, the Bat-mobile, the twisted colourful Villains…and of course Batman & Robin.

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2) Frank started it. In 1986 he took Batman back to his roots, and reworked him for a modern, cynical audience. He infused his Bat-verse with Cold War paranoia and fears and reminded us that what we needed now were legends.

In 2001 he did it again. It’s just that no-one really noticed.  DK2 is a work of twisted genius – a fizzing neon Batman who absolutely loves his job. Miller seeks to strip down superheroes again, removing swathes of continuity baggage and relationship angst. He wants to make them fun, immediate and ridiculous. He saw the future…and the future had colours that went outside the lines.

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Fast forward to ASSBats (Best. Acronym. Ever.) which was ven more nuts – a ludicrously overblown hardboiled Batman in a candy coloured Jim Lee world. A Robin who was cocky, bratty and rebellious. This was a Batman to enrage the purists and those who enjoy linear, coherent stories. It was shit loads lot of fun too. Bright, wild and crazy and packed full of strange gadgets and lunatic Bat-science. Say ‘lemonade’ and the true believers will know what I’m talking about. A brave, strange Batman for the new millenium.

3) When I was very small my big brother and I had Batman & Robin outfits. Well, that’s not quite true. We had matching Batman capes that my Mum made us. It didn’t matter though – we knew that there couldn’t be two Batmen. There had to be Batman and Robin. They were a team, they went together. Without one there wasn’t the other. Being the younger brother, I naturally was deferred  to the role of  Robin. I hoped one day though to wear the cowl myself.

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4) 1989 was the Year of The Bat. Tim Burton’s movie was about to be released, and the Bat-symbol was everywhere. Billboards,  T-shirts, temporary tattoos. Sweets, books, comics and the top of the charts. I’d never been as excited. For a small town comics kid lost in a 4-colour universe I couldn’t believe that my dreary world was being invaded by superheroes.

When I saw that film I was at the exact right age. Pointing feverishly at the screen every time a part of the mythos appeared, until a punch on the arm from my brother stopped that.  I enjoyed every sweet second of that movie. Critical faculties be damned, Burton’s vision of Gotham was a monstrous urban fairytale. This was a world where drug dealers and prostitutes could co-exist with giant typewriters. It embraced the absurd and the grotesque and celebrated the ridculous. The Joker and his merry band of psychos embodied carnivalesque anarchy – quite literally at the climax of the film.  Plus it had a killer Batmobile. You’ve always got to have a better Batmobile.

5) Neil Hefti’s theme tune to the 1960′s Batman TV show is one of the greatest pieces of music ever written. The simple repetitious twang of it’s surf guitar riff, it’s sense of frantic urgency and of course the unforgettable ‘BATMAN!’ refrain make it a proto-New Wave masterpiece of infectious simplicity. It was the soundtrack of the playground, and it still rings in my ears whenever I’m in a hurry. Running for the bus… ‘Dinnaninnainnannina…‘ Racing round the supermarket…‘BATMAN!‘ The Jam once covered it, and for that I can almost forgive them for Paul Weller’s later career.

In 1989 Prince graced the world with ‘Batdance’. Lazy-assed, phoned-in obligation to Warner Bros? Perhaps. But to my ears it sounded like the future – a weird, bleepy, sample heavy jam. To a provincial kid just awakening to electronic music it seemed absolutely modern, cutting edge and cool. ‘Stop the Press!‘ It wasn’t no ‘Controversy’ or ‘I would Die For U’ but it was pretty fucking cool.

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The brilliant Batman: the Animated series featured an absolutely boss reworking of Danny Elfman’s sweeping soundtrack for the Burton movie. Elfman specialises in breathlessly kinetic, rollercoaster scores. His theme to The Simpsons is fantastic – a high speed mash up of every conceivable TV theme ever. It makes Kid 606 look like…well, a kid. The Animated series took the movie theme and compacted it into a thrilling minute and a half. It suited the sweep and verve of the show to a T.

Fact is Batman needs a soundtrack. A good Batman story has rhythm and beats. And a hook, always a hook. Possibly even a virtuoso solo or two.

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So then: What about Morrison and Quitely’s Batman & Robin #1?

Simple. It’s the Batman comic I’ve waited for all my life.

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Read the rest of the mindless get stuck into batrob:
Botswana Beast
Amy Poodle

14 Responses to “5 thoughts on Batman & Robin #1”

  1. bobsy Says:

    The Who covered it first, so of course what seems like a rare moment of cheeky insouciance, not to say popart genius from Messrs. Foxton, Buckler et al., is really just them, again, being boring and retro, slavishly honmouring their heroes, music for dad’s etc.

    (Being a Dad myself I’ve begun to think that Dadrock is no bad thing at all and not a label that should be spat with such bile as is common. I prefer now to call that cold, lumpy muesli-music ‘Manpop’, which covers not just the mid-late nineties revival of wicketkeeper hats etc., but also all those weird, vanished ‘what were they thinking?’ early-70s pre-Pub Clarksonite bands that you see whenever they show an old, grey Old Grey Whistle Test on telly.)

    Sorry, sidetrack. Great post. It occurs to me that the Batsymbol is the only brand of quality I truly trust. Despite the youngbobs’ misguided loathing of the Alan Grant run, and early-20s ‘I’m well grownup me’ dislike of the Burton and Schumacher movies, while I sit here thinking of ways to justify buying the entire Knightfall saga, I have realised that I love absolutely everything to do with Batman, that it is in fact impossible for anything remotely related to him not to be one million percent brilliant.

    Who among you is man enough to prove me wrong?

  2. Neon Snake Says:

    Tony Daniel is man enough to prove you wrong.

    Mind you, Judd Winick’s first issue is pretty bloody good. Hilariously, and possibly with gleeful and knowing intent, he’s even gone for the “Nightwing stares into the row of batcostumes so that the reflection makes it look like he’s wearing it” panel.

    But, if you pretend that Fight For The Tights never happened (and this isn’t the umpteenth time we’ve seen Nightie angsting over the decision), Batman 687 does a perfectly servicable, and quite enjoyable, job of setting up the new status quo.

    And the Schumacher movies were pretty good. The first one was a great “comic-book” (cough) film, and the second was quite obviously intentionally laugh-out-loud funny. Not darkity-dark-dark, and suffered (of course) from a lack of ninjers, but still. Entertainment.

  3. amypoodle Says:

    that danny elfman, simpson’s theme stuff is so on the money.

  4. Sean Witzke Says:

    My favorite version – The Revengers – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbQfNdx7b10

  5. Botswana Beast Says:

    while I sit here thinking of ways to justify buying the entire Knightfall saga, I have realised that I love absolutely everything to do with Batman, that it is in fact impossible for anything remotely related to him not to be one million percent brilliant.

    LOL, but also… possibly, agreeing head-nod. TFO buys Batman like the X-Axis buys X-Men – I think an important distinction is that Gotham things are not necessarily good and in fact often quite bad because Batman is not contained therein.

  6. d knights Says:

    To celebrate Batman’s 70th anniversary, Charles Fazzino created a piece of Batman contemporary pop art. It’s pretty cool. Check it out.

  7. Zebtron A. Rama Says:

    That Revengers Bat theme is perfect for Morrison and Quitely’s Batman and Robin!

  8. amypoodle Says:

    Sean, that version is the fucking A. not sure if i like it more than the original, but it’s definitely not jokesz.

    and my lodger, rockabilly roy polloi, gives it the two thumbs too.

    now get out of my living room, roy.

  9. Sean Witzke Says:

    That Revengers album is amazing – I found it when I was looking for as many spy records as I could find last year. They do a mean Man From UNCLE theme as well.

  10. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » June 12, 2009: Shorter Journalista 23 Says:

    [...] [Commentary] Five thoughts on Batman and Robin #1 Link: Mindless Ones [...]

  11. Thrills Says:

    ‘Holy shit Batman!’ as an article header makes me quite happy.

    I am also happy to see Dark Knight Strikes Again being praised. It makes a nice change, as it’s a pretty excellent comic.

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  14. Frances Yozawitz Says:

    Im a fan of Robin & Batman.

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