Ranking the Batmen

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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34 Responses

  1. I’m not enough of a connoisseur to vote, but I do remember that commercial.Report

  2. Sir Arcane says:

    Where’s Kevin Conroy?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Sir Arcane says:

      I did not include voice actors.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        This is more of a comment than a question but I had Sir Arcane’s question.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

          “I also made a decision not to include voice actors, since the part they play is so removed from visual performers. Besides, it’s no fun if everybody knows the answer is Kevin Conroy before we get started.”Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

            Yeah, I know. That’s the problem with Kevin Conroy.

            In our defense, we had Batman: Mask of the Phantasm come out in 1993 and it was 12 years until Batman Begins came out.

            Not that Batman Begins was a better Batman movie, mind, but it was the first one that might have had enough ground to stand upon that it was better. It wasn’t, of course. But at least arguing that it was was not absurd.

            And so, for a dozen years, a bunch of us had nothing better to do than to say that Kevin Conroy had the best Batman. When The Dark Knight came out, we *FINALLY* had the opportunity to argue on behalf of Kevin Conroy all over again!

            And, much like meetings where they still unironically call themselves “The Brights”, we’re stuck repeating the same arguments we’ve made for a while even as the conversation has turned elsewhere.

            A funny Kevin Conroy as Batman story. Kevin Smith had a podcast called Fatman on Batman (I think it was called that at first, anyway, now it’s called “Fatman Beyond”) and he had Kevin Conroy on it in an early episode. Kevin Smith is talking about one of the JLA episodes where the Royal Flush Gang shows up and, dude, he’s pouring his heart out. Kevin Conroy is gracious and comes across as an awesome, righteous dude… but he isn’t a Bat-Fan. It was a job. Of course he’s a professional… but it was just a job.

            See? He’s awesome. He’s a professional.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    As a serious answer, anybody can play Batman. You put on a cowl, you say “I’m Batman” in a growl, and go on to avenge murder most foul. Batman is so easily done, we can look at a guy in a candy commercial and say “that’s a good Batman”.

    The problem with Bruce Wayne is that we have to believe that he’s Batman but that nobody in his universe would.

    I think that Keaton gave the best Bruce Wayne out of everybody. Not necessarily the best Batman…, as you say, others have done better and Keaton’s costume messed up his ability to so much as turn his head. But Bruce Wayne was the mask and Keaton wore him as one.

    As for Adam West, I think that he gave the quintessential Batman/Bruce Wayne scene here and nailed it. He did such a good job, I think it’d be a good job to ask any and all of the above to give a shot at this same scene and see how they do:

    See? It’s subtle. But I think he does a good job with both. I’d put him higher on the list. We here, in 2020, have been poisoned by the last few decades.

    Adam West did a great job not only for ’66 but it held up for decades until Tim Burton decided to make a “dark” Batman… that inspired Tim Nolan to say “DARKER!”

    Leading us to Matt Reeves who seems to have said “We can go darker than that. Easy.”Report

  4. I’m at a huge disadvantage here because despite loving The Bat, I personally loathe George Clooney, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck. So I was never able to separate them from the character as well as I should have (but in my defense I think that has more to do with their acting style and not my hangups). So I have to go with Michael Keaton, as weird as it sounds, even though physically he wasn’t right for the superhero stuff, I did think he made the best Bruce Wayne. I don’t think they’ve ever gotten the right guy to play Batman because they always relied on star power and not having the right energy for the part.

    Fun piece!Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Kristin Devine says:

      One of the interesting things about Keaton is seeing how it’s possible to make him seem like a goofy, happy friendly kinda guy when he’s…really not. One of the more effective bits in the MCU movies is his turn in Spider-Man where he’s the Vulture, and there’s a bit where he just turns it on, and I feel like he genuinely intimidated not just Peter Parker but Tom Holland there…Report

      • Brent F in reply to DensityDuck says:

        The nerd nitpick of that scene was how Spider-man could have torn him apart if he wanted to so how was he intimidated.

        To which I say, did you watch the scene? Of course the 16 year old is paralysed with fear during that, regardless of how much he benches.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    Christian Bale was pretty good. I think Keaton and Kilmer were pretty good too. I expect Robert Pattinson might be a dark horse because his post-Twilight work has proven that he can be a very interesting actor. Then again, Hayden Christensen was horrible in Star Wars but really good in Shattered Glass.Report

  6. Saul Degraw says:

    I actually do not like the 1960s Batman very much but everyone seems to love the camp of it compared to the grimdark. One thing I’ve noticed about DC Comics people is that they either love the grimdark movies or really hate them. There seem to be a substantial number of DC fans that like the old DC when it was squeaky clean and dorky compared to what Marvel was doing in the 1960s.

    Also DC characters generally have stupider names than Marvel characters. What kind of brain storming went into “I know! We will call him Reverse Flash!!”?Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Somebody once made an argument that going camp was the only way 1960s TV Batman got made.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Camp gave the adults something to enjoy while the kids were taking it seriously.Report

      • Brent F in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The producer (who also provided that wonderful voice for narration) made that argument. It was incredibly astute of him. He also came up with the notion that Batman should approach everything in the ridiculous world of Gotham with the seriousness of bombing Hiroshima (his words).

        Adam West was cast because of the guys who looked the part, he was the only one who could say the lines completely straight without ever cracking up.Report

  7. Stillwater says:

    I’d have to go with Christian Bale and Adam West at the top, then Keaton, Clooney, Kilmer. Affleck was simply the worse. He had no spark, no life, brought nothing interesting to the character. He also looked silly in his Batman suit. 🙂Report

  8. rexknobus says:

    So, the mascara question…is this preview with Pattinson the first time that the black mascara under the mask is actually acknowledged? And, if so, do we actually see him apply it in the rush to don the cowl? (Probably in the camp 60s, sans-mascara era, Mr. West would have quickly stuck his head in the “Bat-Mask-Ara” device on the way to the Bat Cave. “Holy Helena Rubinstein, Batman, your eyes look great!” “Thank you, Faithful Ward, but no time for chit-chat. To the Batmobile!”)

    My choice? Mr. Bale in “The Dark Knight,” largely because the movie is just so darned good and the voice never really bugged me. “Begins” was slow. “Rises” was flat-out idiotic. Keaton was pleasant surprise.

    But Mr. Afffleck easily has the best “bat-line” in my opinion: Asked by the Flash “What is your super-power?” with Oscar-winning timing he replies…”I’m rich.” A two-word analysis of Batman delivered perfectly.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to rexknobus says:

      Mr. West would have quickly stuck his head in the “Bat-Mask-Ara” device on the way to the Bat Cave. “Holy Helena Rubinstein, Batman, your eyes look great!” “Thank you, Faithful Ward, but no time for chit-chat. To the Batmobile!”

      I would break quarantine and GO TO A THEATER to see this Adam West remake!Report

    • rexknobus in reply to rexknobus says:

      An addition to the “Mascara issue:” I loves me some Batman, and obviously I have taken note of the mascara, but the one thing that has lately actually distracted me while watching is the “three-day stubble” issue. I accept the car, the rope-shooters, the fighting skills, etc., etc. Yay! Comic book fun! But there is no possible way, in any possible universe, that anyone would ever wear that tight-fitting, head and jaw covering, kevlar chin and neck armor, no matter how flexible, and not shave. Can you imagine the constant rustle of those whiskers inside there? The distraction. The discomfort. Nope, can’t go there. /bat-rash rantReport

      • Jaybird in reply to rexknobus says:

        In the Original Batman, Arkham Asylum game, the game begins by showing a perfectly put together Batman taking Joker to the eponymous asylum. His suit looks great, his chin looks even better.

        At the end of the game, there’s a short scene where Batman is talking to Commissioner Gordon and his suit has holes and scratches and tears, he’s got a bunch of nicks and cuts, and, yes, some pretty heavy 5 O’clock shadow. Seriously. He looks tore up.

        This isn’t to make the point that he *WOULD* do that despite the constant rustle of those whiskers.

        It’s that he *DOES* do that.Report

  9. Kazzy says:

    You mention Affleck’s age a few times. How old is Batman supposed to be? Affleck was 44 when his movie was released and 42/43 when it was filmed. That feels about right for Batman but maybe I just always felt Batman was older because I was first introduced to him as a child so he was always older than me (I’m 36 now).Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      I always had him at age mid-30’s, mentally. “Peak Physical Perfection, But Not Stupid Anymore”.

      Batman: Year One is fine to show him physically amazing but making mistakes, getting punched, that sort of thing.

      By Established Batman, he’s beyond making mistakes anymore.

      There are two templates for Old And Grizzled Batman. The first is Dark Knight Returns Batman. He’s old, but he can still take on the gangs in Gotham. Hell, he can go toe to toe with Superman, given prep-time. (And, yeah, he’ll probably die of a heart attack at the end of it.)

      The other is Bruce as Alfred in Batman Beyond. Training the new kid. Remembering Robin. Remembering multiple Robins. Remembering all of his failures and mistakes. Determined to not make them again. Failing.

      Batfleck tries to be an amalgam of both. I’m not crazy how he pulls it off but… heck, it’s better than Changing Lanes.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yea, I think that makes sense. I couldn’t imagine trying to start being Batman NOW. But I reckon if I started 10ish years ago, I’d probably be peaking in terms of balancing physical and mental abilities.

        Forties-Batman could probably still hang but is definitely complaining about it and probably won’t be out there EVERY night.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      Well, Batman can be any age. Well, from 19 on up, though CW could do a Gotham High version I’m sure.

      But usually when a hero is introduced it’s at the beginning of the career. Affleck’s character being introduced late-career is unusual (and rectified age concerns).

      I don’t know what age they are portraying him now in the comics, but he was assumed to be low-thirties when i was collecting.Report

  10. Brent F says:

    Adam West sold Bruce Wayne as the squarest man who ever lived, which was his motivation to dress up in a colourful outfit and fight crime in all its manifestations from jaywalking to grand larceny.

    I feel like that was an acting job beyond any of the rest, not so much due to skill but from how unusual an ask it is, and its the emotional foundation of the entire show.Report

  11. You left out Danny Pudi.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    From Marchmaine on the Twitters:


  13. Kazzy says:

    Shouldn’t this be titled “Batmen, Ranked”?Report