I miss the days of Batman. You might be wondering what that means, because there's plenty of new Batman content. However, I'm not talking about the dark, violent, anti-social vigilante who fights a clown that was disturbingly violent. I'm talking about the bright, heroic, fun superhero who fought a clown that was delightfully goofy. When I see people talk about who Batman is and what he's about, they usually describe the darker Batman from recent decades. It's sad to hear that, because that's not the Batman that Bill Finger created.
In Batman's first year, 1939, he was a dark vigilante. However, this was before the Batman character had been properly figured out. In the 1940's, Bill Finger brought a lot of strong changes to the Batman character. Batman was given an origin story, a sidekick and a new set of morals. In 1939, Batman did carry a gun. However, after the origin was thought up, Batman was re-invented as a more noble hero who would never shoot any of his enemies. Batman was disgusted by the evil actions of his enemies. He wanted to be a symbol of hope for his city. He was strong, thoughtful, compassionate and inspiring. This lighter take of Batman lasted throughout the 1940's and 50's.
In the 1960's, Bill Finger stopped being a writer on the comics. His departure, combined with comics being allowed to get away with more, led to a lot of changes. Batman comics were starting to get more serious. The colorful campiness was being toned down. However, Batman was still characterized as a noble hero, so a lot of the important elements were still there. The 1966 TV show helped make the colorful, upbeat Batman more popular than ever before. It helped Batman become known for being a wholesome, sweet superhero who battled an entertaining group of gimmick-themed supervillains.
In the late 60's, Batman comics were becoming darker. The stories were complex, the villains were more threatening and Batman wasn't as upbeat as he used to be. This continued into the 70's. The stories were well done and still had a sense of adventure and fun. However, without Bill Finger and his vision, it wasn't the same.
A lot of Batman fans think that the definitive Batman came from the 1980's. However, I believe that the 80's was the decade that led to Batman's downfall. The Dark Knight Returns is often considered to be the greatest Batman story of all time. Frankly, I don't really like it. The Dark Knight Returns helped make the darker version of Batman more popular. The colorful, campy charm of classic Batman was replaced with a gritty atmosphere. The action became more intense. Batman started feeling more like an action hero from an R-rated film than the family-friendly hero he used to be.
I believe the 1980's was also the downfall for Batman's biggest rival, the Joker. The Joker, who was created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, was one of the most entertaining villains in all of fiction. He was wild, bizarre and had a unique style of humor. However, The Dark Knight Returns took the charm out of the Joker. He was turned into a violent murderer who had a creepy obsession with Batman. Things got even worse with the graphic novel known as The Killing Joke. In that story, Joker paralyzed Barbara Gordon! That story even shows Joker shooting her in the stomach. That's not all he does, but frankly, I don't want to go into further detail. I've spent enough time of my life being depressed and disturbed by that story. To summarize, The Killing Joke is creepy, disturbing, depressing and it could be considered offensive. Yvonne Craig, the original Batgirl actress, was upset by the story, and I completely relate to her reaction. It's true that Joker was a murderer in his first comics appearance. However, there was no blood or gore. Also, for a majority of the 40's and 50's, Joker was more entertaining than creepy. He was eccentric and goofy, not violent and sick.
The 80's also gave us a popular story called Year One. While Year One did introduce some interesting antagonists, like Carmine Falcone and Commissioner Loeb, it has some problems. One of them is that they made Catwoman an ex-prostitute. Also, Commissioner Gordon cheats on his pregnant wife. This makes me wonder why comics writers are so obsessed with taking Bill Finger's innocent ideas and objecting them to such dark material.
The 90's was more of the same, but was an okay decade. It certainly wasn't as problematic as the 2000's. The 2000's led to such stories as The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All-Star Batman and Robin. Those stories are filled with cynical heroes, objectifying women, extreme forms of violence, Batman being abusive towards Robin, Batman referring to himself as "the Goddamn Batman" and Superman being treated like a fool. In other words, those stories are offensive dribble that barely have anything in common with the classic Batman that Bill Finger created. I'm sure that even Bob Kane would have some problems with those stories.
The Batman franchise has done so much for me. There's been a countless amount of times where Batman has given me entertainment, happiness and enjoyment during my darker moments. Batman has been a hero that I look up to and get inspired by. There's been times where just hearing Batman's name makes me feel sentimental. The classic Batman is a timeless treat to the world. Bill Finger's creations don't deserve to be turned into as many dark and twisted things as modern writers can think of. Bill Finger's creations deserve to be treated like the colorful, fun and wonderful characters that they were always meant to be. Gotham needs their hero back. Bring back the classic Batman and have him fight the Joker. We've had enough cynical, violent stories. Let's have some good-natured fun.
In one of Adam West's last interviews, his advice to future Batman actors was to bring a sense of fun to the role. I believe the same should apply to the people who write Batman. Batman might be called the dark knight, but if you ask me, Batman's the symbol of hope that the world of comics needs.