He made his debut back in 1939.
A year later, he added a junior partner. The young boy, who like his mentor lost his parents when they were murdered by criminals, became the ward to the mysterious billionaire who lived just outside Gotham City.
The masked duo became the scourge of criminals in their native city and around the world. Thus began the fabled origin of arguably the most famous crime-fighting duo in fiction of the 20th century (and beyond): Batman and Robin.
This weekend, director Christopher Nolan unveiled his latest (and his last) Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Anticipation was running high everywhere, especially in the local region. Much of the film was shot in Pittsburgh, doubling for the fictitious Gotham City. Several Pittsburgh figures (including former Steeler Hines Ward and teammates) are making their film debut.
The Oakland section of Pittsburgh, as well as the city proper (including Heinz Field) show up in the film.
The film marks the latest in a long line of Batman movies.
Originally there were two 15-part black-and-white serials: “Batman” (1943) and “Batman and Robin” (1949). Batman made his color debut in “Batman,” a 1966 movie version of the popular television program starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the Dynamic Duo.
The campy tone of the film (and television show) almost spoofed the serious source material of the comic books into oblivion. The movie franchise lay dormant until “Batman” (1989), when director Tim Burton brought back the serious Batman with the unlikely choice of Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker.
The mega-success of that movie spawned three more sequels starring Keaton, then Val Kilmer (the best) and George Clooney (the worst) as Batman. Clooney bragged about killing the franchise, which was true, until Nolan took over the helm with “Batman Begins” (2005) and its sequel “The Dark Knight” (2008), both starring Christian Bale as Batman. He reprises the title role in the new film.
Of course, the films, like many others based on fictional characters (both from DC with Batman, Superman, etc. and Marvel with Spider-Man, the Avengers, etc.) rarely stay true to the original source material, the comic books.
For example, the original Robin is now a young man called Nightwing. There have been three other Robins as his successors.
The first successor to the original Robin was killed off (the verdict voted on by readers) by the Joker but subsequently revived as a rogue vigilante. Robin No. 3 is a teenager called Red Robin and sports a pair of functional wings. The most recent Robin is the 10-year-old son of Batman and the daughter of his arch-enemy Ra’s al Ghul.
Two other institutions of the Bat-mythos have also undergone changes over the past 73 years.
The Batmobile has undergone several changes in size and style (none have included the ugly Tumbler in the Nolan movies).
Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler/confidant/
surrogate father, has likewise been “modified” over the ensuing decades, now having a past life as a young man that included stints as an actor/spy/military medic. Alfred also now sports a very dry sense of humor.
The enduring popularity of Batman can be attributed to the character’s costume, rogues’ gallery and quest for justice, all the while changing a bit with the times.
My dad read Batman comics as a kid, as did I and my nephew Timmy. Timmy and I plan to see the new Batman movie this weekend, and relive those “... thrilling days of yesteryear.”
Bill Eggert is a Johnstown native. You can read his blog at http://thebillvilleblog.wordpress.com.
He made his debut back in 1939.
- Bill Eggert
Presidential parallels between Lincoln, Kennedy intriguing
I was hoping to attend the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address but was unable to do so. However, given there was another historic anniversary in November – John F. Kennedy’s assassination – I thought it might be interesting to compare both presidents from a long-standing parallel that originated after Kennedy was assassinated.
Western Pa.’s close encounter
A NASA study recently estimated that there are at least 40 billion inhabitable planets in our galaxy. The odds that Earth is not the only one with life on it are, well, astronomical.
BILL EGGERT | 75 years later, reaction to radio prank still scrutinized
1938 was a seminal year for aliens in this country’s popular culture; aliens of the variety that were out of this world, literally.
BILL EGGERT | Underdog Pirates prevailed in their last 3 Series
As we inch closer to the season’s end, we think of young fans who have never seen a World Champion Pirate team. Twenty losing seasons, and 34 since the last championship team.
BILL EGGERT | Pirates no strangers to World Series history
Fall is almost here and the world somehow seems different, and brighter. After 21 years, our beloved Bucs are back in the pennant chase, and hopefully, the World Series.
BILL EGGERT | Johnstown’s geography of cinema
While we are familiar with the subject of geography, many are no doubt unfamiliar with the concept of it within the confines of movies. Yet we are on some level, if only subconsciously. The “geography of cinema” comes into play when movies are shot on pre-existing locations. The issue of “representation” is the most obvious issue in this context.
BILL EGGERT | A star-studded celestial shower
It was for my 14th birthday that I asked my parents for a telescope, which I received that March 4. It was a 60-power refractor, not really that powerful, but for a teenage novice astronomer just starting it was perfect. You could see the rings of Saturn (just a small white line circling the planet), the phases of Venus (just like our moon) and the four largest moons orbiting Jupiter (four white dots neatly lined in a row). Best of all was our moon, with its beautifully desolate landscape of craters and “seas.”
BILL EGGERT | Fireflies’ flashing fascinates faithful following
Most folks generally despise insects. They can be annoying (houseflies), germ-laden (roaches) or even deadly (black widow and brown recluse spiders).
Gettysburg: 150 years of hallowed ground
Mention the town of Gettysburg and we think of possibly its pastoral beauty or the residence of the late U.S. president and five-star general, Dwight D. Eisenhower. But for most people, Gettysburg calls to mind the pivotal battle of the Civil War.
BILL EGGERT | The Lone Ranger rides again
“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a ‘Hi-Yo Silver!’ The Lone Ranger! With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider led the fight for law and order in the early Western United States. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past come the thundering hoof beats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”
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