Gotham City reborn…
In celebration of Detective Comics #1000 and Batman’s 80th anniversary this month, we’re counting down the 13 GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER — from all media — as selected by a panel of 16 experts, including such luminaries as former DC publisher Paul Levitz, legendary Batman artist Neal Adams and Batman: The Brave and the Bold producer James Tucker. For a complete rundown of how the vote was conducted and the full list of panelists, click here. The countdown will run daily across 13 days and culminate in THE ULTIMATE BATMAN READING AND VIEWING GUIDE, which will feature every single Batman story cited by our panel.
Next up on the countdown:
9. BATMAN (1989)
Written by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren. Directed by Tim Burton
One of the things we’re trying to convey in the TOP 13 BATMAN COUNTDOWN — beyond just how great these stories are — is how much the selections influenced Batman’s larger universe.
With Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, the impact has been immeasurable even if the movie itself doesn’t quite hold up as well as other screen adaptations. (It’s fun to watch, sure, but the film’s not exactly the most tightly plotted narrative.)
Most importantly, Burton and screenwriters Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren — not to mention stars Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson — proved that a darker version of Batman could work on the big screen and that audiences would eat it up.
“One of the most stunning achievements in the history of the Batman character,” wrote panelist Mark Reinhart, author of The Batman Filmography. “Batman’s release will forever stand as the first time a worldwide audience appreciated Batman in the way Kane and Finger had intended him to be appreciated. For the first time, millions upon millions of people around the world saw Batman as the dark hero we serious fans loved.”
Fellow panelist Christy Blanch, added: “Michael Keaton is my favorite live-action Batman. Simple enough. It was, and is, a wonderful movie,”
Yet there’s something else that stands tall amid the wonderful toys, great Danny Elfman score and dramatic climax – Gotham City itself.
Before Burton and production designer Anton Furst got their hands on Batman’s hometown, Gotham City was consistently shown to be a New York City analogue – a familiar-looking East Coast metropolis.
But Burton and Furst famously envisioned what New York might look like without a planning commission and the result is a mirror-cracked version of the Big Apple — a gothic monstrosity of sky-piercing spires and twisted pipes that’s always covered in steam and grime.
It didn’t take long for the comics to follow suit and while some versions remain rooted in the real world – see Christopher Nolan’s patchwork of New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh – Gotham is now almost always shown to be what Burton and Furst showed us in 1989 — a horrible, beautiful mess.
No wonder the film won an Oscar for art direction.
NEXT: The #8 PICK is…