Keaton returns to the Batcave! 5 Suits Keaton May Wear

by Drew Kiess

In 1992, Tim Burton’ts Batman Returns hit theaters. It may have upset parent groups and McDonald’s who hoped the superhero film would be more family and Happy Meal friendly, but it has become something of a classic since. It is also the last time we saw Michael Keaton as Batman. Keaton would exit the role as Warner Brothers would move on from Burton’s world for a lighter take with the late Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, and Val Kilmer would take over the role in a less than memorable performance.

Kilmer would only star in the one film before being replaced by George Clooney to disastrous effects in Batman and Robin, followed by Christian Bale in the beloved Batman trilogy from Christopher Nolan. The character would be rebooted again by Zack Snyder in Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and the upcoming Zack Snyder’s Justice League next year. Robert Pattinson is also preparing to resume filming on Matt Reeves’ film currently titled The Batman, which appears set to be more of a Black Label film like Joker that won’t influence the main film continuity, also set for release next year. The fact that we are getting two Batman movies next year is due to Affleck’s struggles during the filming of Justice League– an infamously troubled production following the departure of director Zack Snyder due to a family tragedy which was almost entirely reworked and reshot by Joss Whedon mere months before release. That experience during a time when the actor was dealing with a host f his own personal demons, led Affleck to drop out of Reeves’ film, which then evolved into being something entirely different from the already established DCEU. While Affleck will get to have his original performance seen for the first time next year, his time as Bruce Wayne on the bigscreen is over.

With a continuity in crisis, DC and Warner Brothers, now under the steady leadership of Walter Hamada, are taking a page out of a comic book editor’s playbook- reset the timeline, keep what works and discard the rest. Enter Flashpoint. The 2022 film, directed by It director Andy Muschietti, and seemingly starring Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash, will introduced the concept of the multiverse to the DC films. This concept is not new to fans of DC, and was also explored to great success in Sony/Marvel’s Into the Spiderverse. In a world where there are beloved movies, serials, and television shows in different continuities spanning nearly 80 years, this is an amazing way of officially saying that everything matters.

To prove that point, Flashpoint is bringing back Michael Keaton. Reports are even suggesting that Keaton will not only appear in Flashpoint as a touchstone to a previous movie universe, but will somehow be included into the DCEU going forward as the new Bruce Wayne, effectively replacing the void left behind by Ben Affleck.

This is all exciting news, and as a Batman nerd, I immediately begin thinking about seeing and older Bruce Wayne kicking thugs around. After some rumblings that Keaton would only be playing old man Wayne, The Hollywood Reporter seemingly put that to rest by confirming that the plan is for him to indeed don a batsuit. The question remains, however, what will that suit look like? To celebrate this momentous Batman news, here’s five suits that I think would make sense for the return of Keaton’s Batman:

5. A version of Batman Beyond

tv1agbe

 








With rumors of the potential for a Batman Beyond-like film on the horizon, be it with Terry McGinnis or Barbara Gordon as the mentee, an homage to Bruce’s suit in Batman Beyond would make sense. It could be as simple as the black and red suit, or it could be his later armored suit.

 

4. Kingdom Come

batman-kingdom-come-dc-comics

In the classic novel Kingdom Come, an aged Dark Knight dons a suit of armor that allows him to move with his previous grace and power. A take on this would look great standing next to Ezra Miller’s Flash suit.

3. Arkham Knight suit

vgtneqs83j511

Sticking with the mechanical suit theme, the suit from Arkham Knight self-assembled and could believably allow Batman to move in ways that his body would no longer be accustomed to moving.

2. The Hellbat

maxresdefault (1)

This is obviously wishful thinking, but the Hellbat as seen in Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls would be highly welcomed by this fan. 

1. The 89 suit

56f5768bdd089569678b45d4

Honestly, this is the one I want most of all. Yes, it’s a dated look, but it would be incredible to see again. Just make the damn neck move. 

Remembering Denny O’Neil: 10 Accomplishments of the Legend

by Drew Kiess

3682831-denny

In 1969, Dennis “Denny” O’Neil took over writing Detective Comics, who’s leading character was a fledgling relic from a comic book era that was on its last legs. That character, of course, was none other than Batman. Following the cancellation of the television series two years earlier, comics featuring Batman were not in high demand and the books were, as they were before the TV series, on the verge of going the way of the dodo. O’Neil, with artist Neal Adams, changed that. Detective Comics #395 was published in November of ’69 and the groundwork was laid for the birth of the Bronze Age of comics, an era in which O’Neil left a lasting mark on not just one, but both of the major publishing houses.

As both editor and writer, O’Neil has made an indelible mark on characters such as Professor Xavier, Daredevil, Green Arrow, and Superman, as well as the Caped Crusader. There would be no way to fully appreciate how O’Neil defined the Silver Age, but below you will find 10 highlights in no particular order that merely scratch the surface.

10. Hiring Frank Miller to write Daredevil

daredevil-169-124666

O’Neil took over as editor for Marvel in 1980. One of the books he oversaw was another fledgling comic, Daredevil, which was being written by Roger McKenzie and drawn by Frank Miller. O’Neil fired McKenzie and made Miller the sole role of writer, after having worked with Miller during a brief stint on The Amazing Spider-Man. During Miller’s hiatus from Daredevil, where he wrote, among other projects, The Dark Knight Returns, O’Neil took over and created Lady Deathstrike.

9. Creation of the League of Assassins

Batman_vs_Ra's_al_Ghul_01

Wanting to add a more cerebral villain, perhaps in part to combat the colorfulness of the still fresh TV series, editor Julius Schwartz developed a concept for a villain and named him Ra’s al Ghul. From his rough concept, O’Neil expanded the world and created a DC Comics staple in The League of Assassins, which has played a multimedia role in the Batman legacy. From Grant Morrison to Christopher Nolan, this organization has become fodder from some of Batman’s greatest stories.

8. Snowbirds Don’t Fly

220px-Green_lantern_85

With the neutering of the Comics Code Authority in 1971 following a Stan Lee story with a subtle anti-drug message, O’Neil and Adams decided to take it a step further. Snowbirds Don’t Fly featured Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy struggling with a heroin addiction, which as even displayed on the cover. It was a major step forward in ending the heavy censorship of comic books.

7. No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!

a82c856592e318ee4619bbec3a83863511-lantern-3.w710

One year earlier in the same book, O’Neil had the hard travelling heroes take a road trip in which Green Arrow taught Green Lantern about racial unrest and disparity in American culture. The themes discussed in this book in 1970 seem disappointingly familiar today.

6. Azrael

71myHvSqQuL._AC_SY500_

Denny O’Neil created Azrael in 1992 as part of the lead-up to Knightfall. O’Neil oversaw the Knightfall event as editor, which saw Azrael take over as Batman for the broken Bruce Wayne.

5. John Stewart Green Lantern

JohnStewart15

In 1972, O’Neil created John Stewart, who became the third Green Lantern of Earth and DC’s first black superhero. Stewart would later go on to become most well known as Green Lantern through the Justice League animated series, and is still widely considered the fan favorite Green Lantern. O’Neil also fought back against Schwartz’s attempts to give him a more “black sounding” name.

4. Transformers

maxresdefault

In the early 80’s, O’Neil was brought in by Hasbro as part of a team to create a new line of transforming toys. His most notable contribution to this venture was the naming of Optimus Prime.

3. Teaching

O’Neil taught in the late 90s at the School of Visuals Arts. Gerard Way (yes, that Gerard Way), who would later run Young Animal DC, was among the many alumni of that era. O’Neil however was an all-time great mentor, ushering in talents such as Frank Miller, Dan Jurgens, and Chuck Dixon.

2. Superman vs Muhammed Ali

480884

Perhaps it’s simply a time capsule of a lost era, but this 1978 issue written by O’Neil is easily one of the most recognizable events in the Man of Steel’s history. For the record, Ali won, but threw Clark a bone anyways by telling him in the closing panel “WE are the greatest!”

1. Death in the Family

Zz1mYjkxNTdiZjkxYjY5NmNiZWZiYTEyYjc1ODU2N2M2MQ==

As Batman editor, O’Neil came up for the concept behind Jim Starlin’s A Death in the Family. Inspired by an SNL segment featuring Eddie Murphy asking viewers to call in to determine the fate of a lobster, O’Neil allowed readers to call in to determine whether or not Jason Todd would survive an attack from the Joker. Todd was far from a fan favorite, but the vote came down to the wire. By a margin of only 72, it was determined that Todd would not survive, a decision which still has implications on Batman’s stories to this day.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War Review

by Drew Kiess

justice-league-dark-apokolips-war

In 2013, DC animation took on a new style and tone when they released Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. From there, they built a continuity with 15 more films starring several characters from the four corners of the DC Universe. It’s sequel, Justice League: War saw Darkseid launch an invasion of Earth, and established the tone and design of this new continuity as steeped in the New 52.

For the most part, with a few bumps and bruises along the way, this universe provided quality films and has been a major part of this writer’s anticipated films lists yearly. With the ending of Reign of the Supermen promising that the Justice League would take the war to Darkseid, fans of this series were eagerly anticipating the announcement of the next film.

What follows may be considered spoilers, but with the major twist of the movie occurring in the first five minutes, what else can I do?

Surprisingly, it wasn’t another Justice League sequel, but the sequel to 2017’s Justice League Dark that would take us to Apokolips. Turns out, for the story they wanted to tell, it was the right call. Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, directed by Matt Peters and Christina Sotta and written by Mairghread Scott and Ernie Altbacker, focuses on John Constantine, who is battling his demons regarding the failed mission to overtake Darkseid. War survivors Clark Kent and Raven seek him out to launch a desperate mission to free Earth from the oppression of Apokolips.

And that’s just the set up.

I truly cannot say much more about the film without fully going into spoilers, but what this creative team managed to accomplish with Apokolips War is something that should be experienced. The script manages to tie up loose threads from 15 films and brings finality to a universe in a way that a big budget universe feature never could. By the time the credits roll, there is no doubt of the finality of the events.

The bleakness may prevent this from being in regular rotation for me, but it is one of the best efforts from this universe. The film captures everything I love about “end of continuity” stories, because there’s no such thing as an unbreakable toy. The whole box is smashed without hesitation, and it is done in a way that reminds you that these films are love letters to comic books. But just like the comics, continuity wears thin and needs an update from time to time. It’s time for something new from these DC animated movies. I hope this isn’t the last time we see DC construct an animated movie continuity (Superman: Man of Tomorrow releases in August, but there’s no word on if it is a launchpad for a new continuity or if it is a standalone picture), but I will undoubtedly be looking forward to the next story.

 

Final Grade: A

Batman 66: Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack In the Middle

by Drew Kiess

batman_s01e01-hi_diddle_riddle-040

“Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle” is the first two-parter of the Bill Dozier Batman series staring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Frank Gorshin guest stars as Riddler. The episodes were directed by Robert Butler and written by Lorezon Semple, Jr., and premiered on January 12th and 13th, 1966.

 

When Gotham’s police force is intimidated by the return of the joyful devil Riddler, they realize they have only one choice: the Caped Crusader, deputy of the law, Batman and his faithful ward Robin must be called into action! Batman and Robin track down their arch enemy, and wrongfully accuse him of a crime. Riddler sues Batman, which threatens Batman’s secret identity- millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. 

 

Frank Gorshin steals this first double-header. We know that Adam West’s earnest performance as Batman is legendary, but Gorshin sets the tone for all the villains in this show with an over-the-top, manic performance. His movements are like a cartoon character and are surprisingly more controlled than Jim Carey’s turn as the Riddler in Batman Forever. Through all the mania, you can see the intelligence on Gorshin’s face. In this world, he is the smartest man in the room. This madness improves the comedy of West’s earnest performance. The whole thing is gloriously ridiculous. In one corner, a deadly serious, deputized crime fighter in a cape and cowl who labels his utility belt so he doesn’t have to memorize the contents, and in the other, the most intelligent, maniacal cartoon character to ever wear flesh. 

 

But Riddler has one weakness- he must prove that he’s the smartest man in the room, and that room must also include the Dynamic Duo. “Crime is no fun unless he’s outwitting us,” Robin observes. Batman and Robin fall into the Riddler’s trap at the “What a Way to Go-Go” discotheque (but not before giving the world the Bat-tutsi dance). Batman manages to escape, but Robin is not so lucky.

 

Here we have the staple trope of the Dozier Batman series- the dramatic cliff-hanger! Will Robin escape? Tune in tomorrow, same time same channel. Riddler enlists “Molly”, played by Bond-girl Jill St John to impersonate Robin using a rubber mold of his face. When Molly wears the mask, Burt Ward replaces her, meaning Ward is playing St John playing Molly. Ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that a rubber mask can take someone shaped like Jill St John and turn them into someone shaped like Burt Ward. But the less said about that, the better.

 

Batman is never fooled, and when Molly realizes her plan was foiled, she attempts to escape by climbing on an atomic pile. Batman attempts to save her, but she falls to her death to the line, “What a terrible way to go-go.” Batman rescues Robin and puts an end to Riddler’s plot for good.

 

Bizarrely, Batman appears perfectly fine with the potential that Riddler was killed at the end of the episode, and perhaps even disappointed that he didn’t know for sure. That aside, what we see in this episode is an incredibly faithful representation of the Batman character from the 1950s. The 50s were a bad decade for comics, having been put under the Comics Code Authority after Seduction of the Innocent through mud on the industry. What resulted was a nerfed version of the medium that gained popularity during the second world war. That nerfing is what Bill Dozier’s series was satirizing. Understanding the show in that context and recognizing that, yes, it is supposed to be funny, can bring back the enjoyment of a series that many fans of the character’s more dark and brooding tone look sideways at. 

 

Yes, this Gotham looks more like the kind of big city Sheriff Andy Taylor would visit rather than the hell breaking through concrete vision of Tim Burton or the dirty Chicago vibe of the Nolan series. But for viewers of Batman in 1966 who were familiar with the book, this was Batman. Serious enough for kids to be enthralled by, and funny enough for adults to be entertained by. Campiness as serious art.

 

“Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle” is a strong start. It introduces a classic, core villain, and sets the tone for all the major characters in the series. The pieces are in place for Batmania to begin.

 

Final Grade: A