Danny Tyree: The Dark Knight has turned 75
According to DC Comics, March 30 marked the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman (in “Detective Comics” #27).
With Batman and Robin available in 12-cent comic books on the spinner rack at Sharp’s Drive-In Market, via the syndicated newspaper strip in the evening Nashville Banner and on TV in the campy, tongue-in-cheek version starring Adam West and Burt Ward, my routine in first grade was preordained. Each day at recess, Jeff McClendon and I would choose teams and fight in imitation of the choreographed chaos on the boob tube. This went on until a playground monitor went all “Commissioner Gordon” on us and put a stop to our disturbance of the peace.
I decided then and there that playground monitors were a cowardly, superstitious lot and vowed to dedicate my energies to striking terror in their hearts. That, or throw up in the cafeteria after all the horseplay. I was flexible.
When I was 12, I shoveled snow for an elderly lady so I could afford a subscription to “Justice League of America,” featuring Batman and his super-powered buddies. When I was a teenager, the Powers That Be were distancing themselves from the TV silliness and returning the comic-book character to his “creature of the night” roots. In arguments with my brother, I made a big deal out of celebrating the retro push to re-label plain ol’ Batman as “the Batman.” Looking back, maybe that preoccupation had something to do with my being dubbed “the dateless man.”
In 1986, I joined the throngs who sang the praises of “The Dark Knight Returns,” Frank Miller’s “grim and gritty” graphic novel about a crotchety Batman pulled out of retirement. In retrospect, it would probably have been more realistic if the “POW! SOCK! BAM!” sound effects had been applied to Bruce Wayne’s middle-aged gastrointestinal tract. And if Batman told the police to ditch the high-tech Bat Signal in favor of snail mail.
As a columnist for “Comics Buyer’s Guide” (1983-2000), I received two postcards from Alex Toth (designer of the “Super Friends” characters), wrote a controversial column called “Why Doesn’t Batman Go To Church?” and supplied a 50th anniversary piece, finding validity in all the myriad interpretations of Batman — as long as someone somewhere derived pleasure and inspiration to fight injustice from a particular interpretation. Granted, people have broad views of injustice. (“My parents waved at me! At the mall! In front of my friends! There’s no justice!”)
My wife and I watched the 1989 Michael Keaton version of Batman while dating, and FOX’s “Batman: The Animated Series” brightened the afternoons of two geeky newlyweds. While Batman collected clues to solve mysteries involving The Riddler or The Penguin, we tackled even more perplexing mysteries, such as “Holy HazMat! Who left the toilet seat up?”
“That’s one of mine,” beamed Jerry Robinson (former Kane assistant and creator of The Joker), before he graciously autographed my wife’s T-shirt (featuring a 1940s Batman cover) at the 1992 Chicago ComiCon.
Now our 10-year-old son Gideon is experiencing Batman via digital comic books, “The LEGO Movie,” Scooby-Doo DVDs and other means.
I hope his generation will keep the Gotham Goliath relevant for the NEXT 75 years.
I’ll be watching. Same Bat Time...
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.