The Batmania of 1989 affected all of commercial entertainment, but perhaps nowhere was the impact felt more than in comic shops and bookstores. The wild success of Tim Burton's movie drove fans to seek out anything Bat-related, and DC Comics was prepared. The publisher had tasked two of its finest creators with producing a comic book adaptation of the film, and Jerry Ordway and Dennis O'Neill's comic became a sensation in its own right. The book was released in two editions (a 'floppy' for newsstands, and a squarebound edition for the book and comic shop market), and both became instant best-sellers.
For reasons explained below, the project was not altogether successful in creative terms, but Batman '89 is nevertheless one of if not the most proliferated comics of its type, occupying space in the collections of a whole generation of readers and fondly remembered as featuring some of Ordway's most exquisite artwork in an already very distinguished career. As part of ComicsAlliance's exhaustive remembrance of of all things Batman '89, we spoke with Ordway about his fascinating and uniquely challenging experience adapting the silver-screen superhero epic back into uncommonly beautiful book form.
Michael Uslan's name might not be known to most comic book fans, but he is probably one of the most important figures in the cinematic history of superheroes. He obtained the film rights to Batman in the late 1970s, spent ten years fighting to bring a project to fruition, and since the completion of Batman '89 twenty-five years ago has been credited as producer or executive producer on every major cinematic Bat-project since (including Batman: The Animated Series, Mask Of The Phantasm, the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Dark Knight blockbusters, and the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice film). He's a life-long comic fan, a pop-cultural historian, a conversationalist, and an author (his memoir, The Boy Who Loved Batman, is an essential read for anyone interested in comics and comic-influenced media).
As the man largely responsible for Batman '89 existing at all, there's no person better suited to tell not just the story of the film's production, but the long and winding path the project had taken over the preceding decade on its way to success. But besides the unusual story behind Uslan's relationship with the Dark Knight on film, the producer told us about his broader goals for Batman and comic books in general, which went far beyond simply making a successful motion picture.
On the occasion of the film’s 25th anniversary, ComicsAlliance represents our in-depth commentary and review of Tim Burton’s Batman ’89, the father of modern superhero cinema. Originally published in 2011 as part of our exhaustive Cinematic Batmanology series (which also included a massive five-part analysis of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), this piece by Chris Sims and David Uzumeri strips the fan favorite Batman ’89 down to the bone to get at what works, what doesn’t work, and what’s just plain crazy about Burton’s enduringly influential film.
There have been five men to portray Batman in the character's eight live-action feature-length films, from Adam West in Batman '66 to Christain Bale in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises. All five actors came with their strengths and weaknesses, but the best was Michael Keaton, who played the DC Comics superhero in 1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns.
In the first major scene of Batman '89, Keaton famously grabs a terrified mugger by the collar, holds him off the side of a building, pulls him close to his face, and hisses, "I'm Batman." As a 12-year old watching that moment on a VHS tape in my living room, I believed Michael Keaton. And I still believe him as a grown man watching it on DVD in my office 25 years later, even after having seen a half-dozen different Batman movies since.
I realize declaring Michael Keaton's performance as Batman to be not only my favorite Batman but the best Batman is a somewhat controversial statement, even (especially?) among my fellow writers at ComicsAlliance, but allow me to make my case.
On the occasion of the film's 25th anniversary, ComicsAlliance represents our in-depth commentary and review of Tim Burton's Batman '89, the father of modern superhero cinema. Originally published in 2011 as part of our exhaustive Cinematic Batmanology series (which also included a massive five-part analysis of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight), this piece by Chris Sims and David Uzumeri strips the fan favorite Batman '89 down to the bone to get at what works, what doesn't work, and what's just plain crazy about Burton's enduringly influential film.
There may be no better proof of just how much pop culture can shift in a quarter century than the above, 20-minute video Warner Bros. produced in 1988 to show ancient movie distributors who were not so sure a film about a dark, intense Batman would be something anybody would want to watch -- which is pretty funny considering just how massive and influential the film turned out to be.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton's Batman movie, The Arkham Sessions takes a break from analyzing the psychology of Batman: The Animated Series to pay special tribute to the legendary film that influenced the style, music, and dark themes of the animated show. Consistent with her measured, analytical approach to the characters and stories of BTAS, Dr. Andrea Letamendi offers psychological conceptualizations of Burton's Batman and Joker with the help of co-host Brian Ward.
Is the film, as Burton once described, a story about the intertwined paths of Batman and the Joker, culminating in a "fight between two disturbed people?" Furthermore, how does Keaton's Bruce Wayne compare to Kevin Conroy's version when it comes to the maintenance -- or fusion -- of multiple identities? How is Nicholson's Joker more destructive and dangerous than Hamill's? Listen to this special edition of the The Arkham Sessions and reminisce about Batman '89 in a whole new way.
I'm not a big fan of Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week, but there's definitely one thing that I think it did right. Burton's Gotham City, redesigned for the screen by Anton Furst, is absolutely beautiful. The Academy Award-winning production art direction is stylish, terrifying, visually engaging and arresting on a level that the rest of the movie has a hard time living up to, creating a world that looks like Batman could exist there.
It's also one of the movie's lasting influences on the world of the comics. Ever since Furst and Burton unveiled their version as a backdrop for the Joker blasting Prince from a boombox while trashing an art museum and Batman blowing up a chemical plant with his remote-control car, Gotham has adhered to their vision of the city, transforming from the bustling stand-in for New York that it was before and becoming its own unmistakable entity. And in true comic book fashion, the comics accomplished this by blowing everything up and starting over.
Launched in late 1988 by the B.D. Fox agency -– who had also handled the campaigns for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the one true Robocop movie, and mankind’s crowning cinematic achievement, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – with a poster designed by the film’s production designer Anton Furst, the Batman campaign is a classic example of doing more with less. It’s sexy, sleek, mysterious and new. It’s regarded as one of the best movie campaigns ever, and for good reason. On the occasion of the film's 25th anniversary, let’s talk about why the campaign was so good.
ComicsAlliance's official position on Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie may be a littlemore harsh than other people's, but even I can't deny its importance in bringing superheroes to life in movies. To this day, it remains a pretty fascinating film, and one of the biggest touchstones that comic books have to mass media, even when we're seeing movies like The Dark Knight and Avengers make a billion dollars at the box office.
So if you're holed up avoiding the snow -- or just looking for a way to kill time on your lunch break -- you could do a lot worse than to take 25 minutes and check out The Making of a Hero. Originally produced in the UK during the filming of Batman '89, it's a behind-the-scenes look at how the movie was made, featuring crew members like Tim Burton himself and designer Anton Furst, along with Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger and Robert Wuhl. Give it a watch below, but be warned: That jerk Bob Kane shows up to ruin everything.
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