DC Comics publisher Jim Lee explained the “new mission” by stating that it “better reflects the storylines that we’re telling across DC and honors Superman’s incredible legacy.” (DC and Warner Bros. are part of Warner Media, as is CNN.)
Yet the at best myopic and at worst bad-faith takes ignore that reinvention and reconstruction of the characters’ mythology — sometimes in “what if,” alternate-history form, others more enduring — has consistently been a part of these heroes, and indeed has helped account for their durability.
Along the way, there has been the lighter Batman that became the source of the campy TV show starring Adam West in the 1960s, giving way to the darker version that Tim Burton advanced with “Batman” in 1989. Camp returned under director Joel Schumacher, before Christopher Nolan’s trilogy starring Christian Bale.
Comic-book visions of Batman, already adapted as animated movies, have also ranged from young and learning the ropes (“Batman: Year One”) to older, gnarled and bitter (“The Dark Knight Returns”). That latter strain clearly informed Ben Affleck’s take, and it’s worth remembering his casting triggered a “Batlash” that nearly broke Twitter.
Still, whenever DC strays from what’s perceived to be the square-jawed vision of these characters on the cover of World’s Finest comics in the 1950s (back when they were largely stripped of such gradations), everyone is suddenly an expert, and such perspective inevitably goes flying out the window faster than a speeding bullet.
Built on a foundation of characters introduced in the 1960s, Marvel had to play catch up during the early stages of its cinematic plans, but its success since “Iron Man” has yielded a similar sense of ownership among fans, in a “More money, more problems” manner.
Still, the unique place that Superman and Batman occupy in pop culture creates a distinct set challenges, as well as opportunities. While it’s hard to tell whether “The Batman” can live up to the hype and expectations, it’s a safe prediction that when the Batmobile hits the road again in March, it won’t suffer for a lack of backseat drivers.