I believe as far as I can recall the earliest superhero I ever followed was Batman. I watched the repeated 1960s TV series with an increasing awareness with how silly it actually was, and courtesy of my friend Derek got to read the odd issue - Seventies Batman was different from the one on TV, but not too different sometimes.
Nevertheless, I was the Batman fan after that, while Derek was the Superman aficionado, knowing about all the different Kryptonites, the Earth Twos and whatnot, and even the bottle city of Kandor (see? I had to Google that one.) In time The Phantom and Marvel superheroes would arrive - Spiderman and Ghost Rider, but Batman was my first superhero. I had a Batman t-shirt (sadly not Googleable) with a cityscape, the hero and his floodlit signal behind him, and every time I wore it I thought I could be Batman. And one day at a school fair, I was him, complete with my Batbike! Oh, hey look - there's my t-shirt:
And yet, by my late teens the pendulum was swinging back. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns was one of the crucial Three/Four graphic novels of the decade, and Tim Burton's first Batman movie expunged the 60s cringe factor and remade batman as a moody, brooding hero of darkness. Of course, in another ten years the Batman movie franchise would be d.e.a.d after Joel Schumaker either followed through on one of the worst-calculated franchise installments of modern history, or in a broader sense the public's love affair with Batman was over again. It happens.
Still, in that time my interest was piqued again. I saw all four Batman movies at the theatre (one I even saw twice), I read Miller's opus, as well as The Killing Joke and, er, the Dredd crossover Judgment on Gotham (terrible). And I did the drawing at the top of this article. Coming back to it now, it's a look for Batman I like again.
Christopher Nolan's trilogy is now over. I didn't see any of his Batman movies in the cinema, and I won't be seeing The Dark Knight Rises there either, because I'm busy, really. The massacre in Aurora may be forgotten sooner than we think, and with luck it won't overshadow the Batman movies, because although Nolan's movies are violent and nihilistic and increasingly challenging to their heroes on a moral level, all of that is tangential to the unfolding story behind a lot of real world tragedy. Having said all of that I feel like I have to be careful saying anything more about a fictional superhero, but that's what I chose to write this blog about, so here goes. Will there be a future for Batman movies after Nolan's trilogy? Yes, there will. After Aurora? I can't see otherwise, although with a new production team and with an eye to recent world events I wouldn't be surprised or (even in my very very peripheral childhood enthusiasm for the character) offended if the next iteration of the Caped Crusader is closer to Clooney than Bale.
In the days leading up to TDKR's premiere I reacquainted myself with the last hiatus of Batmania at the movies, Schumaker's Batman and Robin. It's still awful, but it's a movie that has been re-cut for die-hard fans and reassessed by less than die-hard fans, with surprising and intriguing effect. I think we could agree that the Joker as a character is even less likely to make an appearance in the next movie than he was post-Heath Ledger's death, and if the idea of a loner dispensing vigilante justice from the shadows is still a troubling image, then Batman might not be alone. As a Doctor Who fan I learned over many years that the ridiculous can exist alongside the serious; Star Trek and Star Wars fans have each learned this bittersweet lesson as well with hiccups in their franchises, and so Batman fans may take note that what sustains a cult hero in lean times can be adaptation for public tastes. I see change in the next Batman movie - maybe a dramatic reboot. And it might not be a bad thing.