The Translation of Batman: From Kane to West

Which is superior in your opinion: Adam West’s portrayal of Batman in the 60s TV show, or Bob Kane’s comics from the 1930s? I personally believe that each adaptation has its own strengths and weaknesses, although I have always had a lot more fun with the kitschy quality of the television show. Because Bob Kane’s comics came first, I think that they had a significant influence on the TV series. The creators of the Batman show ended up taking on many of Kane’s qualities and making fun of them. They saw the ‘ridiculous’ aspects of the comic and chose to emphasize them on screen to make the show entertaining and funny. I think that what seems plausible in a comic appears corny in television or film because when we read, we can imagine anything and see it as realistic in our own minds. However, when we watch a comic that was translated into a television series, such as Batman, the ridiculous aspects shine through and suddenly seem extremely unbelievable.

Adam West Batman

Adam West as Batman

One of the key elements from the comics that I thought seemed corny on screen was Batman’s costume. Technically, the actual appearance of Kane’s Batman and West’s portrayal of the same character are fairly similar; they both have the Batman logo, a cape, and a hood and mask with points for ears. However, the TV show makes the costume look extremely ridiculous and as though it was made out of plastic. When I saw the outfit in the comic, I personally did not think it was as corny simply because it appeared in a comic book. Somehow, that provided an excuse for the costume. Anything that appears in a book seems more realistic to me because I can imagine it all in my head. When I saw Adam West’s outfit, on the other hand, I thought it looked absolutely ridiculous. Is this due to the fact that people normally look to television for a glimpse into reality? Regardless of this idea, it seems to me as though the creators of the Batman series purposefully brought out the humorous side of the costume to capture people’s attention.

Bob Kane Batman Comics

Bob Kane’s Batman Comic

Another aspect within the comic that appeared kitschy on screen was the appearance of sound effects as actual words. In a comic, the writer has no choice but to draw out a bubble saying, “BAM!”, because it demonstrates to the reader that a loud sound has taken place. I find it interesting that the creators of the show would choose to continue this tradition, despite the fact television can easily make a loud noise to place emphasis on an action. This implies, once again, that the show’s creators wanted to bring out the corny aspect of the comic. Perhaps they thought that if they made Batman seem too realistic on television, the show would lose its ‘fun’ quality. In a way, I agree with this. A lot of the fun associated with reading comics and watching them on screen is seeing how unrealistic and ridiculous the various scenarios appear. If this was to disappear, I do not think I, or many other individuals within society, would find the show nearly as entertaining.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoy the translation of Batman from the comic to the TV show. I think it allows audiences of all ages to enjoy the character and see the many extremely entertaining aspects of the plot. Many people may not agree with me on this point; perhaps they think the TV show is a poor translation of the comic. I suppose the question to ask in reply to that is, do you appreciate the dark side of Batman or the humorous side more?

-Julie Degner

Images Obtained From:

http://www.thebeigeroom.com/2012/05/why-did-the-adam-west-batman-come-to-be/

http://bigother.com/2010/02/08/reading-frank-miller%E2%80%99s-batman-the-dark-knight-returns-part-2/

 

 

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3 Responses to The Translation of Batman: From Kane to West

  1. jaselby says:

    Fortunately Batman’s humorous side has a habit of resurfacing. After Burton left his impressionistic interpretation of Batman, the director to take over the series was none other than the now infamous Joel Schumacher. His movies are, to put it euphemistically, hated, especially the second one (and final Batman film pre-Nolan) “Batman & Robin.”

    But, this is only because people expected a serious Batman. Look at these movies, especially “Batman & Robin” again, and you’ll realize it’s a comedy in the same nature of Adam West’s version, just modern. What I think is even more shocking than how hated these two films are is that literally millions of people managed to watch these films without ever realizing that they were comedies. You can’t honestly expect me to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Mr. Freeze like he’s being paid per Ice/Cold pun, and think they’re anything else.

    If you like Adam West’s Batman, then you should like the two (especially the second one) directed by Schumacher, because after all, it’s the spiritual continuation. Don’t be a hater; be like jcdegner, and sit back and enjoy watching a guy who dresses up like a bat to fight crime. It’s hilarious.

  2. kedegner says:

    Julie, I love your post! I am not ashamed to confess that I am also a fan of the Batman TV show, simply because I think that it’s one of the most consistently hilarious things I’ve seen on television. To answer your question regarding my preference for either “dark Batman” or “funny Batman”, upon consideration I don’t think I could choose just one of them! Although I certainly don’t claim to be any great connoisseur of superheroes, Batman is probably my favourite superhero for exactly this reason – there are so many different ways to interpret his character, and they all work. I love the idea of Batman being a tortured vigilante with a sometimes grey morality, because I think that it makes him raw, and believable, and dangerous. Bruce Wayne as we saw him in Batman: Year One is a conflicted character with clear flaws, and that gave him an intriguing depth that Adam West’s Batman just doesn’t have. However, I also think that there are times when it’s good to take a step back and have a little fun, and realize that the concept of Batman is a bit silly, really. The television show from the sixties does a fantastic job at pointing out not just the ridiculous side of Batman, but also of poking fun at the concept of the superhero in general. It’s refreshing to watch a show that doesn’t take itself so seriously. Laugh a little, people. Embrace the campy goodness of Adam West.

    Kathleen Degner

  3. baileypowell says:

    This post resonated with me because when I was reading our original ‘Batman’ readings, I was literally laughing out loud at many ridiculous moments – funniest to me were those when Bruce Wayne suddenly had to ‘take off’ whenever a problem arose, and Gordon didn’t think anything of it. I really enjoy this kitschy kind of classical comic, and the few snippets I’ve seen of West’s performance exemplify this very well. I don’t know if I would say this is better than Nolan’s ‘dark’ Batman, who is a multi-faceted, constantly conflicted and tortured hero – something intriguing for sure. What Nolan has done is made Batman ‘smart’, something which is more appealing to most than the laughs provided by West. Either way, it’s interesting to look at Batman from his beginnings through to what we recently saw in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and recognize the value in both incarnations of the hero.

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