Okay, so my PART 1 was kind of like AntManDoom: Year One. My exposure and initial reaction to the big moments and Legends of Batman...This one is more about how I'd eventually grow into a Bat-Fanatic.
At a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain, I caught a glimpse at this teaser poster. Due to my occasional early and disastrous dabbles into the Batman Animated Series, I kind of had a passing knowledge about who The Riddler was, and what his gimmick entailed. Aside from my pretty solid guess that Batman would be fighting The Riddler, I knew nothing about this new and mysterious Batman flick. I was in line at the grocery store when I saw a new Disney Adventures Magazine showcasing a first look at the new costume,the new Batmobile, and the first picture of ROBIN!
A new Batman film was on the horizon, and in the article they all but confirmed Jim Carrey would play The Riddler!
What kid back then didn't worship Jim Carrey? He was the funniest person who ever talked out of his butt. My playground posse adored him in Ace Ventura, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber...Even if Batman Forever was only two minutes long, Jim Carrey would steal the show...well, upon viewing it for the first time I think Jim Carrey stole the show, chewed up the scenery, hammed up the dialogue, ran with the character straight into a wall, tried to give the show back but left his receipt in his other leotard, and turned Batman Forever into a mostly unpleasant theater experience for me.
Now I didn't hate EVERYTHING about Batman Forever. I actually enjoyed it for the most part, and still kind of do in some ways. I thought Val Kilmer was a great Bruce Wayne, but as Batman he looked a bit cross-eyed. Two-Face reminded me a bit of The Joker, and as a kid his horrible lines weren't cringe inducing. It had action, gadgets, and now Batman finally had his Robin. Back then I just felt Batman without his famous Boy Wonder Sidekick was odd. It would be like Han Solo ditching Chewbacca.
I liked it the least out of the three that had come out thus far, but I definitely didn't hate it. Aside from Jim Carrey being obnoxious (well, more so than usual) I rather enjoyed it. I watched it for the first time in years a few nights ago on one of the Turner channels, and I have to say it was all a bit too much. Chris O'Donnell was whiny and annoying, and I ended up being more annoyed at Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face than The Riddler.
Around the time Batman Forever was making it's rounds in the local theaters, a lot of channels were showing the 60's BATMAN TV show. I know, my sheltered self never knew an old school Batman show existed until the early to mid-90's. I don't remember having any opinion on it aside from complete rage of hatred of their annoying habit of having every episode be a Cliffhanger. I HATED CLIFFHANGERS! I wanted the entire story, not half of it! Other than that I didn't pay it much mind.
I won a contest at school where I was awarded with a $70 gift certificate to a small and local bookstore. Back then I didn't read anything that wasn't about Star Wars, so I found myself with $45 of that gift certificate being wasted. I noticed some Batman books, and figured that if I didn't like them I could always give them away or sell them in a yard sale, so I picked up all of them. Included in this collection were some books from the Knightfall story arc, and The Dark Knight Returns. I found out that the original Robin had become a different character called Nightwing, and I returned with my remaining $26 on some Nightwing comics.
The first Nightwing comic I read was a story where Dick Grayson gets gassed by Scarecrow and envisions himself with a normal life, a beautiful wife who just so happened to be banging Bruce Wayne. In the end of the issue, Nighwing goes crazy, snaps out of it, and fights the Scarecrow. I told myself that if Robin becomes Nightwing in the next Batman movie, it'd be the best movie ever!
Then this happened...
My gripe wasn't with the batnipples. I didn't care or even notice the questionably homosexual content. My biggest irk about this movie was what they did to Bane and Mr. Freeze.
Around this time I started collecting more Batman comics, and I eventually came around to BTAS...So when MR. FREEZE was played by The Terminator, I cried fowl. What terrible casting! What was once a very creepy and cold (pun alert!) character had now become a Body Building jewel thief who makes his cronies sing Christmas songs! And as I previously noted in Part 1, I adored Bane. Sure, some of you will say Bane cheated during the Knightfall back breaking fight, but I say Pssh, and you're just jealous your favorite Villain didn't plan anything like that out.
Here's a little fun fact; before Batman and Robin came out, I was a commercial advertising the chance to win a walk-on role in the new Batman movie. It showed footage
from the terrible scene were Bats and Boy Wonder tap there shoes and instantly become Ice Skating agents of Vengeance...I thought they were advertising a BATMAN ON ICE show coming to the local ice rink.
Now here's something weird... At that age I had a niche. I was a Star Wars uber-fan, and I collected everything that had to do with that Galaxy a long time ago and so very far away, but my Step-Brother was kind of aimless. They didn't make action figures for Pippi Longstocking. Instead, he went on to collect Batman action figures from Batman and Robin. He didn't like the comics, and he didn't care for any of the other movies; his intro to fanboy-ism was a really strong love for all things involving Joel Shoemaker's 1997 disaster Batman and Robin. Thankfully, he went on to grow out of it.
Years later a friend and I were going through some of my old boxes, and I found my copy of The Dark Knight Returns and other various comic books. After getting over the shock of me actually owning comics, my friend decided to look through them. He ended up borrowing some of them, and upon returning them he simply stated "You know, Batman's pretty awesome."
My reply? "Keep them, I hate Batman."
Wow, I totally regret saying/thinking that. I also very much regret giving away a large majority of my remaining comic books because of my unfounded hatred for all things Batman. For years I just trashed Batman. You know the guy who will search the internet for old issues of Batman featuring questionably homo content? That was me. Every person who professed their love for Batman around me would be scorned. Perhaps some recognized the dark and gritty character from the comic pages, but most were talking about the campy-yet-endearing 60's show with it's iconic Bat-theme, or the rubber suited films. I was so over all that.
Batman Beyond came out, and I only caught the episode where they were giving a nod to the Fantastic Four. That drove me up the wall! In my mindset it was either Marvel or DC: Choose your Universe and defend it from opposing Fanboys. I didn't really grasp the concept that Marvel and DC are respectful (for the most part) to each other, and it wasn't a jab at Marvel, it was more of an homage.
I know I'm venturing into "non-retro" territory, but this story really can't be concluded without mentioning Batman Begins. I first saw it a few days after it opened, and honestly I hated it. I hated it because of stupid reasons like Batman's deep and gruff voice, the whole summoning the Bats with his boot (even though something similar had happened in BATMAN Year One if I recall correctly) Ra's Al Ghul having nothing to do with the Lazarus Pit, and the way the new Batmobile looked. Everyone who loved it tossed the explanation that in this one they were going for realism. I didn't care about realism! I wanted a fantasy realm that was dark, gritty, and untainted by Bat nipples. I wished to see such villains as Clayface and Mr. Freeze (done right), and if realism fit into the future plans for Batman, I was not on board!
After my first viewing of Batman Begins, I refused to watch it a second time. I blasted it for all it's shortcomings, and failed to recognize it's over-hyped brilliance. It was a couple of years after Batman Begins where I began seriously collecting comic books again. Batman was never on my pull list, but for some reason I ended up picking up the Batman and Son during Grant Morrison's run. I fell in absolute love with Batman's comic book universe, and jumped in head first, furiously seeking every back issue I could grasp with my grubby born again Batman hands. I even gave Batman Begins another chance...this time I was totally sold. It was as if all at once I finally understood his appeal. It was like I was almost one of the last people on the planet to "get it".
It wasn't that Batman and Son was a great series; it was just that I was so blinded by my own sense of self-righteousness. Being a kid and finally reaching the teen years gives you this idea of separation; you find what you like and everything else sucks. There was no harmony, and no middle ground. It's like back in the day where you were either a skateboarder or a rollerblader; god forbid you try and enjoy both or you'd be labeled a "poser". I always hated that word. Who's right is it to judge whether or not you fall into a predetermined category? I used to run with a group who enjoyed punk music, and we called those sanctimonious a-holes who'd go around telling kids they were posers the "Punker than thou" group. We did what we liked, and it wasn't a contest.
I got sidetracked, anyway Batman will never be my top superhero, but I respect the character and love reading about his adventures. Sure, there are some embarrassing moments within his history, but characters that have been around for as long as Batman has are sure to evolve in unexpected ways. I think after the late 70's to 80's Batman found his definitive place within the annals of comic book history, and The Dark Knight's success is proof that Batman still appeals to an extremely wide audience around the world. You can't hate on that kind of universal appeal, and why would you want to?