Narrator: Glen Weldon
on 22 March 2016
Length: 9 hrs and 25 mins
Genres: Media Tie-In, Non-Fiction, Superheroes
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A witty, intelligent cultural history from NPR book critic Glen Weldon explains Batman's rises and falls throughout the ages - and what his story tells us about ourselves.
Since his creation, Batman has been many things: a two-fisted detective; a planet-hopping gadabout; a campy pop-art sensation; a pointy-eared master spy; and a grim and gritty ninja of the urban night. For more than three-quarters of a century, he has cycled from a figure of darkness to one of lightness and back again; he's a bat-shaped Rorschach inkblot who takes on the various meanings our changing culture projects onto him. How we perceive Batman's character, whether he's delivering dire threats in a raspy Christian Bale growl or trading blithely homoerotic double entendres with partner Robin on the comics page, speaks to who we are and how we wish to be seen by the world. It's this endlessly mutable quality that has made him so enduring.
And it's Batman's fundamental nerdiness - his gadgets, his obsession, his oath, even his lack of superpowers - that uniquely resonates with his fans who feel a fiercely protective love for the character. Today, fueled by the Internet, that breed of passion for elements of popular culture is everywhere. Which is what makes Batman the perfect lens through which to understand geek culture, its current popularity, and its social significance.
In The Caped Crusade, with humor and insight, Glen Weldon, book critic for NPR and author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, lays out Batman's 78-year cultural history and shows how he has helped make us who we are today and why his legacy remains so strong.
©2016 Glen Weldon (P)2016 Simon & Schuster
Batman has been around for a long time, longer than I was aware of before giving this book a listen. I knew he had been a comic book hero before the Adam West Batman series, but I hadn’t realized how many versions of him had graced the comic book scene. Now I do. This book is a treasure trove of Batman info that entertained this Batman fan.
The book is laid out in a mostly linear timeline, though once the movies come on scene the author did focus on a movie at a time (including production time and stuff that leaked to the internet) interspersed with what was going on elsewhere in Batmania world (cartoons, comics, etc.). I didn’t know the original Batman started off toting a gun and several of his earliest comic escapades were lightly veneered copies of Dick Tracy or The Shadow storylines. I think this might have irritated The Shadow fans of the time, just as knock offs of Tolkien’s works irritate Tolkienheads today. So I’m glad that Batman eventually grew into his own.
I found it very interesting that Batman cycled throughout the decades from dark crime fighting vigilante, without a side kick, to a kind of campy, more kid friendly version and back again….. and again….. and again. For me, I have always gravitated more towards the darker versions. I am surprised that Batman did not start off with an origin story, but leaped on to the pages of a comic strip doing what he does as a full grown man with his own objectives. Later, he ditches the gun and gains a cape, a sidekick, and an origin story. I’m a bit undecided as to whether or not the trade actually assisted Batman in solving crime.
So let’s talk about the underlying gayness (or not) of Batman and Robin. My first thought is, who cares? Whether or not Batman and Robin have had an intimate friendship doesn’t stop them from fighting crime, having torn up psyches, or looking buff in tights. I hadn’t realized this was such a big point for Batman fans until I read this book. If Robin and Batman came out of the closet, I would still be a fan. Their sexual orientations don’t detract from them being interesting characters. Batman has had many, many adventures, in the future and the past, in other worlds, magic and science fiction colliding, being a good guy and a bad guy, so I don’t see why there isn’t some alternate universe out there where Batman is gay. Anyway, it was interesting to see all the fan comments on the movies, cartoons, and comics concerning Batman’s personal relationship with Robin.
This audiobook comes with a downloadable PDF that features examples of Batman art & comics throughout the ages. Each image has the related text from the book making it a great addition to the audiobook. I had fun reading through it and seeing how Batman changed throughout the ages. Over all, this was a very entertaining and enlightening book and now I’m inspired to go out there and track down some Batman goodness that I haven’t seen or read before.
I received a copy at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Narration: Glen Weldon does a great job narrating his own book. He’s a true nerd with a passion for this topic and that comes through clearly in his narration. I really appreciate him using silly voices for quotes by other Batman fans, fanatics, and experts throughout his book. His humor is on display, though I like that he delivers it succinctly without laughing at his own jokes.
This review first appeared on Dab of Darkness.