Saturday, 15 March 2014

Batman's 75th Anniversary: The Top Five Batmen

The 75th Anniversary of our favorite Dark Knight is coming up, and as a way to begin the celebration of this momentous occasion, we take a look at the top five Batmen throughout the DC multi-verse. We take a look at the comics, the cartoons and the many, many films about our favorite caped crusader. Batman has become a pop culture icon, rivalling that of Superman. 

5. Batman: The Brave and the Bold
The Brave and The Bold indeed.

A lot of you may be wondering what is this cartoon series doing in the hallowed list of favorite Batmans. This series was a true homage to every aspect of the Batman you'll ever find, namely from the Golden and Silver ages. Was it childish? It's a kids' show, you be the judge. Did it always hit the mark with jokes and story-lines? Again, it's a kids' show, there are usually spectacular hits and misses. The animation was top notch for what it was, the humor was, for the most part, brilliant, and the wide cast of characters was diverse enough to keep things interesting. The series knew how to balance every aspect of Batman's long career, from all the silly story-lines along to some of the deepest and darkest ones. Diedrich Bader brought the dry humour to the otherwise brooding vigilante, which was surprisingly fantastic. If you ever watch one episode watch "Chill Of The Night," you will be hooked.

4. Batman: Earth One
More man than bat.

DC Comics' Earth One graphic novel series is populated by a scant amount of superhuman beings. Superman has only made himself known for a few months, and...that's pretty much it. So far, there is no Wonder Woman, no Green Lantern, and no Green Arrow in Star City. Yet. Like Clark, this was a younger Bruce; however, this version was incredibly naive and filled with even more anger than any of Frank Miller's versions. That's kind of saying something... Either way, it was incredibly refreshing. This was a Bruce who made mistakes, who miscalculated and grew right in front of our eyes. This is also the first Batman in recent memory where you can see his pupils under the cowl. You wouldn't think so, but this actually makes a difference. We see the man behind the bat and it makes him so much more accessible. And what's Batman without his superb partner in crime, Alfred? Bruce's guardian and butler is a no nonsense ex-Royal Marine who trains Bruce so that he can be better at combating the villainy of Gotham. Then there are James Gordon and Harvey Bullock who both make for an interesting odd couple dynamic. Gary Frank's art on every page is a visual wonder, a great accompaniment to Geoff Johns. This is definitely a recommended read for any Batman fan.

3. Batman Beyond (Terry McGinnis)
A new Bat for a new generation.

Set several decades later in the DC Animated Universe, Batman Beyond features a retired and very aged Bruce Wayne. He is way past his prime, and has long hung up the cape and cowl. Batman was no more. That is, until Terry McGinnis loses his father, finds out Bruce is Batman, and then steals the high tech Batsuit for justice. After showing Bruce that he has potential to be Gotham's next Batman, Terry takes his place as Bruce's prot├ęge. The dynamic between the two is one of the more compelling reasons why we stayed on for as long as the network allowed. It was very reluctant teacher mentoring reluctant student. They bicker, they fight, they reconcile, and they become closer for it.

Terry's career as Batman had two notable events that secured him a place on our list. The first was when the Joker returned to exact his revenge on the world in Return of the Joker. The second was when we found out Terry's true parentage in Justice League Unlimited, "Epilogue."

2. Batman and Robin (Dick Grayson)
Grayson and Wayne.

Dick Grayson has had the most natural and fascinating development of any superhero in all of comic book history. His journey from wide eyed sidekick to taking up the mantle of Batman has not been an easy one, but when Bruce "died," the most natural and obvious choice to be the new Batman was Grayson. With a new Robin by his side, the brash and arrogant little tyke, Damian Wayne, Grayson took to Gotham and he was fantastic. His tenure as the Dark Knight was a memorable one. He had his own incredible roster of villains that included Professor Pyg and Mister Toad, two wonderfully twisted characters.

1. Batman: The Animated Series
A genre defining cartoon.

Of course we have to mention Bruce Timm's Batman The Animated Series. It's a 90s gem almost all of us grew up loving. Every aspect of it was seamless, every voice was chosen with care and love. Kevin Conroy could play the vulnerable Bruce Wayne who could charm all the ladies, and then switch to the denizen of the dark recesses of every nightmare of every criminal with a flip of the switch. He didn't need a gravel infused voice (we're looking at you Christian Bale) to make you believe he was two different men.

So there you have it. The top five Batmen. Do you have any favorites? Let us know in the comments section below!