Glen Weldon repeatedly writes, in his new book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, that Batman is “an inkblot.” He writes, “There is Batman the character and Batman the idea.” How true is that? Well ask yourself the following questions. What Batman do you like best and what does that Batman say about you? Which Jim’s Batman do you most identify with?
Aparo or Lee?
Which real life Batman is “your Batman?”
Keaton, Bale or West?
Why? Are you willing to have a long heated argument about your answer? Are you willing to end a friendship based on how someone answers those questions? Why do you feel that way? Why do you have a right to care so much about a character you did not create, nor do you own? Weldon explains it exceptionally well in his book. You feel this way because, most likely, you are a “nerd,” not a “normal.”
The beauty of Batman, as Mr. Weldon explains it, is that everyone is right and everyone is wrong. In chapter three, he details a young Chuck Dixon’s reaction to Adam West’s Batman. Young Chuck gets in a fight, not because he wants to emulate Batman and “Pow” and “Biff” his way through the halls at school, but because he is angry that someone could possibly think Adam West’s campy, silly, out of shape Batman could really be the Dark Knight he loved so much.
Weldon writes, “You do not appreciate this thing you profess to love in precisely the same way, to precisely the same extent, and for precisely the same reasons I do.” Or more simply, “You’re doing it wrong.”
Weldon, who clearly loves Batman, presents an honest love letter to the character that means so much to everyone. He takes his reader through the history of the Dark Knight decade by decade. He is honest about his love for Bill Finger, for whom the book is dedicated, and his dislike for the way Bob Kane handled things from the jump. He gives Denny O’Neil his props and makes us try to understand why Shumacher did what he did (Bat-nipples and all). He gives the nerds their due.
On the flip side, of that was the fascinating look at Batman as cultural thermometer. Was/is Batman too gay?Is he patriotic? Is a sexist? Is he a psycho? Each iteration of Batman reflected and currently reflects the national temperature for what was “acceptable” behavior for a guy who wears tights and beats up bad guys.
If you listen to Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour, you can hear his voice come off the pages. If you have never heard him speak, don’t worry, this book comes across loud and clear. It is honest. It is funny. It is touching.
It is fitting that this book comes out just as DC launches Rebirth. If you read it, you will have essentially everything you need to be ready to take Batman (and family) into the next generation. If you do not read it, you are missing out. Nerds and normal alike will be entertained.