I got to talk to Kevin Smith, who has used his considerable comics cred to become the preeminent Batman podcaster today, about all thinks Dark Knight. We’ve covered a lot of ground already, including a preview of his ever-forthcoming Batman: Bellicosity.
Here, now, the finale, where Kevin tackles more of the big Batquestions.
Who was the best Robin?
Dick hands down. Dick Grayson will always be the best Robin. I find, well, Jason was the Robin that should have never have been. Tim is insanely earnest and I also never like that in ‘A Lonely Place of Dying’ storyline that Tim figured out, deduced Dick and Bruce’s identities. ‘Cause, you know, if a kid can figure it out then why can’t f—ing villains and stuff? But Tim’s a good character. I particularly like how they did him in the Animated Series. I like Dick Grayson the most. I was never a big fan of Damian, but I think they got me in the end with his death issue. I really wish they would have let Jason Todd stay dead.
Adam West, Michael Keaton or Christian Bale?
My friend Ralph Garman, who I do my “Hollywood Babble-On” podcast with, he’s a massive Batman fan. His mom made him a Batman costume, Adam West version. His friend is Adam West in real life now. So I know I’m supposed to say Adam West. But I got to be honest with you, man: It will always be Michael Keaton to me because that 1989 Batman was so massive. It came around at a time when folks were like, “We are never going to see anything close to what we read in the comic books.”
And it’s weird to think of what we think now, that when you look at it compared to the Nolan trilogy, it looks almost as bright and garish as the Bill Dozier stuff, the Adam West TV version. But the 1989 Batman was the first time we felt like, “Oh my God, they got him. The Dark Knight.” … It was far closer to it than the campy version had ever been and they talk about the death of his parents, you see it, and they did this weird sacrilegious thing tying the Joker into the his parents’ death. But what the hell it kind of worked and we all believed it was going to be “Mr. Mom” playing the role, but they all forgot that he was in “Clean and Sober.” Michael Keaton had always been a really great actor. But the moment we saw him with the sculpted suit and it look like he had ripped abs we all were like, “Ahhh anyone can wear the Batsuit.”
He’s my favorite Bruce Wayne. Like … it’s not really the Bruce Wayne from the comics. I don’t think it’s the true Bruce Wayne to the source material. But I always like Keaton’s Bruce Wayne because he’s so detached, like at that party scene at the beginning of Tim Burton’s “Batman” where everyone’s kind of, you know, all the swells are dressed up and he’s being followed around by Alfred, like grabbing a glass, grabbing a pen and whatnot. He’s just constantly distracted as Bruce Wayne. He just can’t wait to get to work fighting crime. I like Keaton’s Bruce Wayne the best. In terms of Batman I mean for sentimentality purposes, maybe because he was my first Batman, I’ll give it up to Adam West as Batman. But that’s a cheat because I’m doing it for sentimentality.
Like if I was thinking hardcore, just Batman, who’s worn the cowl the best, Kevin Conroy hands down, in the Animated Series. Best Batman that ever lived.
Kevin was like a lot of people of our generation, myself included. As kids, we loved Adam West because he was our first Batman. But as we grew into adolescence, we were embarrassed by him, like a teenager might be embarrassed by his parents. Batman in the comics was all dark and gritty, especially after O’Neil/Adams, Englehart/Rogers and Frank Miller got their hands on him. So if you told someone who wasn’t a comics reader that you were a Batman fan, you’d have to steel yourself for the reaction. Everyone thought Batman was goofy kids stuff. So collectively, we turned on him.
“That’s not the REAL Batman,” we’d proclaim. “He’s a joke! Batman’s not like that!” It was a very immature, defensive posture but it made sense at the time.
When Keaton, best known as a comic actor, was announced, fandom exploded with rage — or as much rage as fandom could muster in those pre-Internet days. The anger didn’t start to subside until the first pic of Keaton in the Batsuit was released to USA Today:
Now, years later, of course, I’ve embraced Adam West beyond all reason. Time and perspective will change all that, especially since the rest of the world has caught up to what we knew all along about the Dark Knight. That doesn’t mean that, like that proverbial grown-up teenager, I feel so great about slagging on such a helpful father figure.
I mentioned that to Kevin.
“Me too,” he responded. “I felt so savage for it because I sat down with him at one point for the podcast.” And he said the guy who first defended the Adam West Batman to him was a guy best known for some gritty tales.
“It was Matt Wagner. Matt Wagner had done this amazing Batman-Grendel crossover series. He did it twice actually, once with Hunter Rose and once with Grendel-Prime. He was in the second miniseries, there was a Robin appearance and he wanted Batman to call Robin “old chum.” But DC kicked it back and I was like, ‘Rightfully so, dude. Like, come on, nobody wants to talk about the campy version.’ Wagner was like … ‘You know, that was our Batman. That was before Batman was cool. You can’t turn your back on that. Like, that’s why you fell in love with the character, because of the Adam West Batman. Don’t be a sell-out and be like everybody else and be like ‘I want him dark.’ Batman is many things and he can be light and he can be dark.’ So I remember, because he was the first guy who wasn’t that dude that was like, ‘the Adam West Batman is the abortion of Batman. …’
From the Batcomputer: Batman: The Dark Knight #25 comes out tomorrow. This is that extra-title-that’s-just-kinda-there Batman title that always seems to be around to fatten DC’s coffers. It’s in continuity but pretty much exists on its own plane, for good or bad. I find Gregg Hurwitz’s work on Batman to be a hot or miss proposition, but this latest go-around, with Alex Maleev on art, has been a little gem. Good story, excellent art. It’s nice having a Batbook that, at least temporarily, has that Gotham Central look (at least inside). Other Bathighlights: Catwoman #25, a Zero Year tie-in by John Layman and Aaron Lopresti; the weird Damian: Son of Batman #2 by Andy Kubert; and the overt Zero Year cash-in, The Flash #25. On the trade front, there’s the Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 hardcover — I’m blurbed on it in my New York Post secret identity! — and a softcover collection of The Joker‘s short-lived ongoing from the ’70s! Yep, you heard me right, you two-bit baddies.