From Hannah: How have we gone over two hundred episodes without dedicating an episode to talking about Batman? (Indeed, the Eternals of all superheroes got their own episode before we decided to focus on Batman.)
From Mav: I mean, we didn’t. Episode 54 was totally all talking about Batman! Just none of you were on it with me.
From Hannah: Okay, fine, I did forget about that (it’s been over 200 episodes, be nice!). But to be fair, I meant a regular episode — that was a special. So how have we gone 148 episodes without dedicating a regular episode to Batman? But with the release of The Batman nigh (and I guess The Flash later this year), it seems like it’s time for VoxPopcast to analyze the history of the World’s Greatest Detective. Making his comic debut in 1939, Batman/Bruce Wayne has gone through a lot of iterations. In fact, as someone whose initial introduction to Batman was the campy Adam West TV series, the more dark-gritty versions of Batman came as a bit of a surprise. But I suspect Batman for listeners might automatically think about comics like The Long Halloween or The Dark Knight Returns or The Killing Joke. And the Christopher Nolan movies certainly cannot be denied their impact on Batman lore and popular culture.
When I pitched this show to the co-hosts, I said I was interested in us thinking about the different portrayals of Batman and the stories you can tell with those portrayals. For instance, you might not think The Dark Knight Rises is a particularly good movie. You might think it has the worst politics. But you cannot deny it is saying something, particularly as it integrates Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities (I’ll save that analysis for the show.)*
(Yeah, I couldn’t help myself.)
Also, and most importantly: Catwoman forever.
So we’re certainly interested in your thoughts on the new film if you see it. But we also want to know why Batman (or stories being told with Batman) are appealing to you. How do you see this character evolving over time? Why is he so important to superhero lore? What piece of Batman history should we be sure to discuss?
*I bet you every single one of my co-hosts knew I was going to reference Dickens as fast as possible.
From Mav: Okay, so I MAY have to make Hannah read Gotham by Gaslight before this episode. And by make, I actually mean recommend… because frankly, the fact that I never thought to mentioned it to her before this very moment kinda makes me a bad friend.
From Hannah: Yeah, but I have read Batman: Noël, so you know I’m focusing on what’s important (to me).
From Mav: Anyway, as a lifelong comic book geek, of course I love Batman… well sort of. An odd thing about my love of Batman is that I … really don’t much care for Batman. Or rather, more specifically, that is to say that I really love the idea of Batman… I just sort of think Bruce Wayne is the least interesting part of the whole Batman mythos. Yes, he’s the prototypical vigilante superhero… world’s greatest detective and all that. But the essence of Batman to me is this paranoid genius with a perfect contingency plan for everything, but a lack of realpersoness. His perfection makes him boring. At least the mainstream default universe Batman. Sure, I’m interested in 19th century Batman trying to catch Jack the Ripper. Or what about a Batman who is also a priest? Or what’s it like to toss him as a freedom fighter in a world ruled by a Soviet Superman? But in regular DC Gotham, I don’t really care about Bruce himself. I don’t find him much more engaging than Frank Miller’s “The Goddamn Batman” that everyone hated.
And I don’t much care for stories where other people become the new Batman, etiher. I don’t want to see Dick Grayson being Batman. I sure as hell don’t want to see Jean-Paul Valley being Batman. Honestly, what fascinates me when talking about Batman is the story of what it’s like for others to live in the shadow of the bat. Everyone around Batman is more interesting than he is. What’s it like to be Batman’s illegitimate son… or his adopted son… or his other adopted son… or the kid next door who discovers Batman’s secret identity, thus getting the kid’s parents killed, so Batman has to adopt him? What about the black kid from the wrong side of the tracks who discovers Bruce’s secret and then is like… “nah!” What about the two girls who desperately WANT Batman to adopt them but he’s like “no! because girls have cooties!” Robins are far more interesting being Robins (or Batgirls) than they are being Batman. That’s what I’m interested in. Dealing with the world that Batman drags you into. What’s it like to be Batman’s butler or mechanic or accountant. What’s it like to be his girlfriend?
Hannah hinted at it a bit, but seeing Bruce Wayne interact with Selina Kyle is maybe the most fascinating thing about him. I devoted a whole segment of my dissertation to talking about Catwoman’s relationship to Batman as the prototypical superhero femme fatale seductress. I love Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal in Batman Returns and Anne Hathaway’s version in The Dark Knight Rises (note from Hannah: She saves that movie I swear), and my absolute favorite Batman story ever is Batman vol. 3 #36-37 wherein Bruce and Selina go on a double date with Clark Kent and Lois Lane. So I am absolutely looking forward to seeing what Zoe Kravitz does with the role opposite Robert Pattinson in The Batman.
And yeah, of course we need to talk about the whole super wealthy, capitalist vigilante thing… A multi-billionaire who loves LITERALLY punching down at poor people.
From Hannah: And what’s so interesting about Batman/Catwoman to me (my first ship, btw) in our current moment, is how how their class politics seem to be pitted against one another … and maybe, just maybe Catwoman wins?
From Mav: Yes! But that’s what I’m interested in. It’s why Batman fascinates me. So for our next episode, we’re talking about Batman. What makes him such a fascinating and enduring pop culture character? What do you like or hate about him? What stories should we discuss? What other issues should we bring up? Let us know so we can talk about it.