(Image of WB Batman)

Interpreting Batman: The following is a list of sources that are available either online or at the library.

Bacon-Smith, Camille and Tyrone Yarbrough. "Batman: the Ethnography." The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and his Media. Roberta Pearson and William Uricchio, eds. New York: Routledge Press, 1991.

Bacon-Smith and Yabrough analyze the response to Tim Burton's Batman movie among both general audiences and comic book fans, detailing the composition and interpretive processes of the two groups, and in particular the importance that the character of Batman holds for them. Through ethnographic observation and interviews at a theater, a comics shop, and a comics convention, this article explains the contrasting responses of comics fans and non-fans through their different interpretive contexts. Many comic book fans were disappointed by the movie's failure to continue the narrative world they already knew. Yet they also wanted to like the film, both because Batman was already important to them and because they felt that the acceptance of Batman by mainstream audiences reflected, to some extent, acceptance of comic book fans (Summary from "Geek Culture").

"Batman and Joker -- Different Sides of the Same Coin?" Student Essay: http://www.essaypage.com/categories/143-026.html

This 7 page report discusses the 1989 blockbuster movie ³Batman² starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. However, this report compares the actual characters of Batman and the Joker and considers the ways in which they are actually very similar, even though one is evil and the other is good. What should also be considered are the many ways in which Batman and The Joker are similar in terms of their own attitudes regarding autonomy and their personal motivations involving retribution and justice. The audience sees numerous circumstances in which it is possible to see what each character thinks regarding wealth, culture, art, and the rest of society, in general. No secondary sources. Filename: BWbatman.wps (Summary from "Student Essays.")

Brooker, Will. Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon. Continuum Publishing. September 2001.

That's right . . . the meaning of Batman. Brooker suggests that over the sixty years of his existence, Batman has encountered an impressive array of cultural icons and gradually become one himself. Pinpointing four key moments in Batman's history, he examines the struggles over Batman's meaning by shining a light on the cultural issues of the day. During the Second World War, Batman refused to adapt to the patriotic propaganda of the Second World War. In the mid-1950s, he was accused of corrupting the youth of America by appearing to promote a homosexual lifestyle to his fans. The sixties ABC TV series transformed him into a camp pop culture icon. And, in recent years, Batman has been, once again, re-interpreted by his fans in response to the comics and the Warner Brothers franchise of films. Brooker's research has led him to challenge many of the accepted notions of Batman's development as a character. (Summary from Front List).

". . . will appeal to avid students of pop culture and comics, and a gay cult audience . . . . Brooker's impressive overview of Batman's history reflects on the masked one's origins, early arch rivals and the introduction of Robin, and concentrates on four periods: WWII, the mid 1950s, the '60s and the '90s. In 1954, child psychologist Fredric Wertham attacked the comic book industry . . . noting homoerotic undercurrents between Batman and Robin; Brooker's lengthy and fascinating gay reading . . . supports Wertham's claim, albeit with a positive, postmodern twist. After recalling the campy image of Batman spawned by ABC's 1960s TV show, the author takes a look at Batman writers, fans, fanzines and the Net, concluding with a hilarious chapter on how his research was ridiculed by the British media."--Publishers Weekly

Johnson, Freya. "Holy Homosexuality, Batman! Camp and Corporate Capitalism in Batman Forever."

No summary available.


By Koscianski , Leonard. WHAT IS CRITICAL POSTMODERN ART? (2002)

The adult comic book artist Charles Burns illustrates a very weird postmodern world of deformed individuals in a dark urban landscape.(fig. 3) In a world where media corporations expose us to a ceaseless avalanche of consumer products and entertainment, Burns shows how this will effect who we are. These are the human products of a consumer capitalist culture. As our senses are constantly bombarded by pop commercial media...postmodern people become strange creatures who begin to resemble the characters that they watch everyday. Professional wrestlers like ³Hulk² Hogan and ³Mankind², Barney the dinosaur, Bugs Bunny, and Batman, are the cultural figures that shape our sensibilities, our very selves. Burns has created a frightening world of postmodern people. His images are the Goyaesque depictions of the deformed inhabitants of a runaway consumer culture.

Kling, Bernt. "On SF Comics: Some Notes for a Future Encyclopedia." Science Fiction Studies #13 = Volume 4, Part 3. November 1977.

This essay surveys the development of popular comics heroes from Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon during the 1920s and 1930s to such contemporary superheroes as Superman and his legion of imitators. While Superman is superior and stronger in every respect, most of his colleagues are only specialists with extreme, specialized gifts. Flash is the fastest man in the world; Plastic Man can shape his body in any way. The Human Torch can transform himself into a living flame; The Green Lantern draws his energy from the energy of green light. A few heroes have in addition a mythological background--The Mighty Thor, for instance. With many heroes we see the totemistic use of an animal symbol: Spiderman, Batman, Hawkman. With a few exceptions--notably, Denny OıNeilıs Green Lantern (particularly between Nos.76-84), super-hero comics mainly dramatize violence against stereotyped enemies. (Abstract from Science Fiction Studies).

Leeper & Leeper. "Nanotechnology and Clarke's Law." Michael A. Burstein, Catherine Asaro, Glenn Grant (M), Daniel Hatch, Daniel P. Dern [written by Mark R. Leeper]

"When Arthur C. Clarke wrote that 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,' he anticipated by thirty or forty years the explosion of stories using nanotechnology. To what extent has nanotechnology become a catch-all explanation for devices that border on the magical? What techniques can be used to maintain a hard-SF feel in a story with such miraculous gizmos?"... "What happens if there is some failure in the design of nano-machines? Dern suggested that there also would deliberate tinkering. He said that nanotechnology in fiction has the same problem as the Batman utility belt problem. It simply does too much. There is no problem it will not solve and no problem in the design that you cannot get around. " (From Readercon 9 -- July 13, 1997 -- Part #3 A convention report by Evelyn C. Leeper and Mark R. Leeper Copyright 1997 Evelyn C. Leeper and Mark R. Leeper).

Leverenz, David. (1991). "The Last Real Man in America: From Natty Bumppo to Batman." American Literary Review, 3.

No summary available.

Medhurst, Andy. (1991). Batman, Deviance, and Camp. In Pearson, Roberta E. and Uricchio, William. (eds). The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. New York: Routledge.

No summary available.

Parsons, Patrick. "Batman and his Audience: The Dialectic of Culture." The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and his Media. Roberta Pearson and William Uricchio, eds. New York: Routledge Press, 1991.

By the early 1990's, Batman texts were quite diverse, ranging from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns - a relatively sophisticated, grim story of psychosis and cultural deterioration - to the popular Tim Burton movie, to merchandise including children's pajamas and lunch boxes. Parsons finds in this diversity a "distributed curve of meanings", and explores the nature of the audience for Batman and for super-heroes in general. The exploration begins with a statistically detailed historical overview. Parsons traces a slow, steady decline in the size of comic book heroes' audience, along with an increasing sophistication among those readers. Initially popular, especially among children and soldiers in the 1940's, comic book heroes aroused public suspicion in the 1950's, best represented by Dr. Frederic Wertham. The advent of television cut directly into comics readership, observes Parsons, citing a 1960 study of two Canadian towns, one with television and one without. In the 1960's, the fan movement brought new interest in super-heroes along with an older readership. The establishment of the direct distribution system of comics shops furthered this tendency. Finally, Parsons profiles the comics readership of the early 1990's: a smaller group than in past decades, considerably older (with a mean age of 18), often college-educated, overwhelmingly male, and frequently with an academic or professional interest in math, engineering, or science and an accompanying interest in non-comic science fiction and fantasy literature. Nevertheless, Batman and similar icons continue to hold the interest of children and the broader culture, primarily through licensed merchandise and other media; these forms offer meanings that contrast drastically with the characters as portrayed in the comic books. Parsons describes this process as one of interaction between two curves of cultural meaning, one embedded in the audience and one embedded in the narrative (Summary from "Geek Culture").

Pearson, Roberta and Uricchio, William, Eds. The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and his Media.eds. New York: Routledge Press, 1991. Essays include:

"Holy Shifting Signifiers"

"Batman: Commodity as Myth"

"`Holy Commodity Fetish, Batman!': The Political Economy of a Commercial Interest"

"Batman and His Audience: The Dialectic of Culture"

"Batman: The Ethnography"

"Same Bat Channel, Different Bat Times: Mass Culture and Popular Memory"

"Batman, Deviance and Camp" and "Batman: The Movie Narrative: The Hyperconscious"

Thomas, Calvin. (1999). Last Laughs: Batman, Masculinity, and the Technology of Abjection. Men and Masculinities, 2(1), July. (1999).

No summary available.

Sasha Torres. "The Caped Crusader of Camp: Pop, Camp, and the Batman Television Series." Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject. Fabio Cleto, Ed. University of Michigan Press. 1999.

No summary available.

Wertham, Frederic. Seduction of the Innocent. New York: Rinehart Press, 1954.

Notorious among comic book fans, this book was part of psychiatrist Frederic Wertham's long campaign against comic books as a cause of juvenile delinquency. This work attacks comics on virtually every ground imaginable, declaring them to cause violence, immorality, and illiteracy. More often than not, Wertham's attacks seem like rationalization of an irrational hatred of the medium. Much of his argument is anecdotal, citing juvenile delinquents who read comic books as proof that comic books cause delinquency. The work consistently ignores contextual distinctions between villains and heroes, and between realistic and fantastic genres, citing every violent action, no matter what its resolution, as a crime that children will emulate. In recent years, some academics have come to Wertham's partial defense as textual theories have increased recognition of the subtle effects of text on an audience. This work's objections to racist stereotypes are particularly sympathetic, and his objections to violence in the media are not unlike the controversy that continues today over video games, film, and television. In any event, this book is worth consideration as a significant part of the history of comic book culture, and as one of the first studies of comic book readers as a group (Summary from "Geek Culture").

The Many Incarnations of Batman:

Batman Comic, Bob Kane 1939

Dark Knight, Frank Miller 1980s

TV Show with Adam West, 1960s

TV Cartoon (Superfriends), late 1970s

(Image of Batman & Robin in SUPERFRIENDS, taken from:http://www.yesterdayland.com/popopedia/memories/show_mem.php?ID=SA1012)


WB TV Cartoon (Same bat time, same bat channel) 1990s

Movies (x4), with Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney, see the following link:



Batman's History:





Characters and Villains in Batman's World:




The Riddler


Image of Catwoman, taken from: http://www.aboutcatwoman.com/cat1.html


Batman in Other Cultures:

(Image of Batman Movie Poster in Spanish. Taken from: http://www.batmanguiavisual.com/autores/entrevistas/carlos_luis.htm)


(Image taken from a French Batman website:



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