Recent Columns
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The Many Faces Of... Lionel Luthor
by Russ Dimino - April Fool's Day 2005

The Many Faces Of... Lucy Lane
by Russ Dimino - March 2005

The Many Faces Of... Mxyzptlk
by Russ Dimino - November 3, 2004

The Many Faces Of... Jor-El and Lara
by Russ Dimino - October 31, 2004

Smallville Spin-Off Showcase
by Craig Byrne - October 9, 2004

"Gone" Technical Review & Recap
by Tigress35 - October 4, 2004

"Covenant" Technical Review & Recap
by Tigress35 - September 24, 2004

The Many Faces Of... Lois Lane
by Russ Dimino - September 24, 2004

The Many Faces Of... The Kents
by Russ Dimino - May 5, 2004

The Many Faces Of... Lex Luthor
by Russ Dimino - April 28, 2004

The Many Faces Of... Lana Lang
by Russ Dimino - February 23, 2004

Batman: Cover To Cover
Features the best covers in Batman's 60+ year history! Features the greats - Frank Miller, Bob Kane, Jim Lee, Alex Ross, Neal Adams, and many, many more. Highly recommended!

Smallville and its characters are copyright ©2005 Warner Bros. & DC Comics. This is a fan site and not authorized by the WB or DC. Page copyright ©2005 KryptonSite, unless the material is noted as coming from someplace else or being by an individual author. Smallville stars Tom Welling, Kristin Kreuk, Michael Rosenbaum, John Glover, John Schneider, Annette O'Toole, Jensen Ackles, Erica Durance, and Allison Mack.


The Many Faces Of... Batman
Written by Russ Dimino

As a young boy, Bruce Wayne watched as his parents were gunned down in front of his very eyes. He then made a vow to rid the word of the evil that took their lives, and protect the innocent people of Gotham City so that there would never again be another tragedy like the one that he suffered through. Because criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot, Wayne knew that he could play upon their fears, and took on the guise of The Batman.

In this edition of "The Many Faces of...", we'll take a look at the men who have put on the cape and cowl and brought Batman to life in the serials, TV, cartoons and movies.

Batman made his first appearance in "Detective Comics #27" in May of 1939. The character that Bob Kane initially created was a bit different from the Batman that fans know today. In the first few stories, Batman actually used a gun and killed off the enemies that he fought. It wasn't long, though, before the character evolved, swore off guns and vowed never to take a life. Batman got his own series a year later, in April of 1940.

The first man to bring Batman to life was Lewis Wilson, who played the caped crusader in the 15 part movie serial "The Batman" in 1943. While his costume was laughable, Wilson made a solid effort to distinguish the Bruce Wayne "playboy" persona from the dark and brooding Batman. The serial was later
released to VHS, but it is rarely seen in its original form. Filmed during World War II, the original version featured dialogue that would be considered politically incorrect by today's standards, and an abundance of Japanese villains.

Batman returned to the serial screen in 1949 with the sequel "Batman and Robin," which featured an entirely different cast. This time out, Robert Lowery assumed the droopy-eared cowl for another 15 episodes, in which the dynamic duo fought a mysterious villain called The Wizard. This serial also introduced Vicki Vale, Bruce Wayne's girl-reporter love interest (what is it with superheroes falling for reporters?), who later appeared in the comics and the 1989 "Batman" movie.

The character was redefined for an entire generation of fans when Adam West took on the role in 1966, with the premiere of the "Batman" TV show. This campy, tongue-in-cheek series featured weekly cliffhangers, big-name guest stars as villains, and made "Bam!", "Biff!" and "Pow!" household words. West has since found himself forever tied to the role (or, in his own words, "married to the cape"), reprising the character in live-action "Legends of the Superheroes" TV specials, and providing the voice of Batman during the 1984-86 seasons of the "SuperFriends" cartoon. He also lent his voice to the character of The Gray Ghost in an episode of "Batman The Animated Series" in 1992, and currently voices Mayor Grange on the WB's "The Batman" series. He also guest starred in an episode of "Lois & Clark," not as Batman, but as host of a sleazy TV tabloid show.

In 1968, Batman got animated in "The Adventures of Batman" and "The Batman/Superman Hour." In both series, his voice was provided by Olan Soule (it was not uncommon for actors to voice more than one character... in this case, Soule also supplied the voice of Alfred the butler!). Soule continued to reign as Batman for many years afterward, lending his voice to hero throughout the 1970's seasons of "SuperFriends," as well as Batman's famous guest appearance on "The New Scooby Doo Movies"!

With the vision of a campy crusader still ingrained in people's minds years later, Tim Burton sought to bring the public's perception of Batman back to his dark and gothic roots. In 1989, Michael Keaton took on the role in Burton's first "Batman" movie. Inspired by Frank Miller's "Year One" and "The Dark Knight Returns" comic book series, the film showed a grittier, more vengeful Batman who was seeking justice after the murder of his parents. Keaton played the contrast between the bumbling Bruce Wayne and the driven Batman to perfection, battling Jack Nicholson's Joker and smashing box office records. Keaton reprised the role in 1992's "Batman Returns," taking on Danny DeVito's Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman.

In the same year that "Batman Returns" came out, another version of Batman appeared on the small screen. "Batman The Animated Series," which would go on to spawn multiple spin-offs and win six Emmy Awards, brought the dark world of the Dark Knight to Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons. Kevin Conroy gave Batman his unmistakable gruff voice, sending chills down the spines of the production crew from the moment he auditioned for the role. Mr. Conroy holds the title for the longest streak portraying the character, voicing Batman/Bruce Wayne throughout "Batman The Animated Series," "The Adventures of Batman and Robin," "The New Batman/Superman Adventures," "Batman Beyond," "Justice League" and "Justice League Unlimited" (as well as several animated Batman movies and crossovers with other shows like "Static Shock" and "The Zeta Project"), putting him at 13 years as the caped crusader and still counting. (Super Trivia: Conroy attended Julliard with future "Superman" star Christopher Reeve!)

In 1995, Tim Burton handed the directorial reins of the live-action franchise over to Joel Schumacher, and Val Kilmer stepped in for Keaton in "Batman Forever." This time, Batman had to contend with Jim Carrey's Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones's Two-Face, as well as a new sidekick (Chris O'Donnell as Robin) and love interest (Nicole Kidman). Reports were rampant of Schumacher and Kilmer clashing repeatedly on the set (to the point of a "shoving match"), and even of Kilmer accusing Carrey of stealing the movie out from under him. Like "Superman II," many fans are interested in seeing a Director's Cut of this film, since a considerable amount of footage was cut before it ever made it into theaters.

For 1997's "Batman and Robin," Schumacher recruited George Clooney to fill the cowl after seeing the "ER" star's face in a magazine, drawing the Batman mask over it and liking what he saw. This time, it wasn't Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze or Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy that did our hero in, but universal panning from fanboys and critics alike over too much camp, neon and Bat-Nipples. The live-action Bat film franchise ground to a halt for years after this one.

In a 1998 episode of "The New Batman/Superman Adventures" called "Legends of the Dark Knight," the producers paid tribute to other versions of the character. In the episode, which revolved around a group of kids discussing what they think Batman is really like, Gary Owens supplied the voice of a "1950's Batman" (heavy on the "old chum" one-liners), and Michael Ironside voiced the "Dark Knight Returns Batman" (older, grizzled, and straight out of Frank Miller's comic book series of the same name). Owens actually narrated the original 1943 serial starring Lewis Wilson, and "Smallville" fans will recognize Ironside as having played General Sam Lane, Lois's father.

In 1999, Kids WB tried a bold new experiment with the Batman legacy. Set some 50-odd years into the future, the animated "Batman Beyond" was the story of a long since retired Bruce Wayne (still voiced by Kevin Conroy, natch) training a new, younger Batman named Terry McGinnis. Will Friedle, popular for playing Eric Matthews on "Boy Meets World," provided the voice of Terry. "Boy Meets World" even made an in-joke reference to Friedle's animated counterpart, when Eric revealed his biggest secret to his confused girlfriend: "I'm Batman!"

In 2002, the producers of "Smallville" tried their hand at another live-action comic book series. "Birds of Prey" centered around three female crimefighters in New Gotham (Helena Kyle/The Huntress, Barbara Gordon/Oracle, and Dinah Lance), who protected the innocent in the wake of Batman's apparent disappearance. Batman only appeared in a very brief flashback in the pilot episode, where he was played by Bruce Thomas. Thomas had previously played Batman in a series of OnStar commercials, which featured Batman using OnStar in the Batmobile to track down criminals. Unfortunately, "Birds" was canceled after only 13 episodes, meaning the plot about Batman's disappearance would be left unresolved.

Ever since the first season of "Smallville," fans of the show clamored for a crossover between the pre-Superman Clark Kent and a young Bruce Wayne. Sadly, due to a "Year One" type Batman movie being in the works for years, Warner Brothers nixed the idea (in fact, a "Young Bruce Wayne" TV series was planned long before Smallville ever came about, but never got off the ground for the same reason). However, many fans believed that Adam Knight, a character who appeared during Smallville's third season, was going to turn out to be Bruce Wayne. Between the character's name (rumored to be a derivation of "Adam West" and "The Dark Knight"), his mysterious past, his fighting skills and moody demeanor, internet rumor sites were abuzz for months, trying to figure out if this new character really was the future Batman. In the end, the plot ended up taking a different direction, but series creators Al Gough and Miles Millar have since admitted that Adam Knight was originally intended to be their take on Bruce Wayne. Knight was played by "Lost" star Ian Somerhalder. (Interestingly enough, a gag headline in KryptonSite's 2003 "April Fool's" edition reported that Somerhalder would be playing Bruce Wayne on Smallville!)

In 2004, Kids WB debuted a new animated take on the hero, called simply "The Batman." The series centers around a younger Bruce Wayne, and has a strong focus on the technology that he uses to hunt down the criminals of Gotham City. The series features Rino Romano as Bruce Wayne/Batman. No stranger to heroes who don masks and tights, Romano also voiced a certain Web-Head in the cartoon "Spider-Man Unlimited," and in several video games that featured Spider-Man.

This summer, Batman will make a leap back to the big screen in Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins," a film that will explore Bruce Wayne's training and evolution into the Dark Knight. Christian Bale, whose credits include "American Psycho," "Equilibrium" and the Samuel L. Jackson "Shaft" remake, takes on the mantle of the Bat as he tries to reclaim Gotham City from the clutches of criminals like The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), and Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). The film also stars Gary Oldman as Lt. Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard, and Katie Holmes as Bruce's love interest, Rachel. (Smallville fans, take note: Rutger Hauer, who played Morgan Edge in "Exile" and "Phoenix," also has a role in the film.)
The WB will be showing a 10 minute preview of the film during the 90 minute Smallville season finale on May 18th.

Though the way that Batman has been portrayed ranges from a campy, tongue-in-cheek do-gooder to a dark, brooding and violent vigilante, there is one thing about him that has never changed. Beneath the tights and the cape, he is just a man. He can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. Bullets don't bounce off him. He's not from another planet. He is a man who pushes himself to his limits to protect the innocent, and punish those who prey on them. That theme has captivated audiences for years, and surely will continue to for a long time to come.

Note: The views of Russ Dimino don't necessarily represent the thoughts and feelings of everyone at KryptonSite.

Read some of Russ's other columns! Many Faces Of...: Lana Lang - Lucy Lane - The Kents - Lex Luthor - Lois Lane - The Flash - Jor-El and Lara - Mxyzptlk - The Other Women Of Clark Kent

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