Through the ages: Caped Crusader, Dark Knight, Defender of Gotham, The Bat

Pattinson, 2022, Warner Bros


Pattinson, 2022, Warner Bros

Dylan Budd, Staff Reporter

Beginning in the Detective Comics series on March 30, 1939, Batman makes countless appearances throughout pop culture. When Bruce Wayne’s alter ego moved from the page to live action, it has been done with varying degrees of success.  Though Batman first appeared on the big screen in 1943, it was not until the 1966 television show starring Adam West (“Family Guy”) brought the character into mainstream America.  West, a famous goofball, provided some idea of the character, but missed the mark on certain mannerisms. 

 West set the tone for future Batman actors as a likable, funny and determined hero. The original show was cheesy with its iconic POW and KABOOM graphics and gave West the chance to improvise and give some famous one-liners, including, “always inspect a jukebox; those machines can be deadly,” and “some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” However, his take on  Bruce Wayne wasn’t superb, giving Wayne the appearance of a dull businessman.

In 1989, Tim Burton completely reimagined the character by creating a dark and violent backstory.  Michael Keaton (“Beetlejuice”) donned the cape for two films in “Batman” and “Batman Returns.”

Many fans argue that Keaton was the best actor to play Batman because of his masterful interpretation of the character. He rarely spoke, letting his actions speak for himself, and die-hard DC fans loved it. As Wayne, Keaton was also impressive portraying a classy millionaire, while keeping the Batman character under wraps; Keaton used the dark, angry idea of the character both inside and outside of the mask to launch the gothic setting of the Batman franchise.

After unimpressive turns by Val Kilmer and George Clooney, the franchise was revived by “The Dark Knight Trilogy” starring Christian Bale (“American Psycho”). 

Critics say Bale’s Wayne was masterful but a pale comparison to Keaton’s Batman. He used Keaton’s classiness to create a new personality, giving Wayne an intuitive, posh style, with every line sounding eloquent and sophisticated. His portrayal of Batman, however, gave the impression of a depressed, old man with a short fuse and outbursts. In “The Dark Knight”, he is heavily outshined by Heath Ledger’s Academy Award winning performance as the Joker.

Ben Affleck (“Argo”) took over the role in 2016 with “Batman v Superman; Dawn of Justice” Fans describe Affleck as a poor man’s Keaton. As the longest running version, Affleck did much of the same that Keaton did, being rather quiet under the suit, but a classy, witty millionaire throughout his six turns as the Caped Crusader. 

Although Affleck wasn’t horrible, he didn’t fit the cape, as “Bat-fleck” used his own mannerisms to develop the character of Bruce Wayne, portraying him as pretentious and arrogant instead of the reserved, observant character.

1966-1968, 20th Century Fox
Keaton, 1989-1992, Warner Bros.

Bale, 2005-2012, Warner Bros

Affleck, 2016-2022, Warner Bros