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The Dark Knight in Film Pt 1

PCU gets you ready for Batman v. Superman with a primer on the Dark Knight’s movies and TV shows


As you might imagine the history of the Dark Knight on film is a long one. Truly a star of both the silver screen and television, multiple generations have enjoyed Batman’s never ending crusade to save Gotham. While those of us not fortunate enough to have already seen Batman v. Superman wait to see if Ben Affleck is successful with his version of an older more world weary version of the Caped Crusader we here at PCU thought we’d review the film and television history of our favorite vigilante (sorry Daredevil).

Batman made his first appearance in film in 1943 just four years after his first appearance in the legendary Detective Comics #27. Played by Lewis Wilson, Batman appeared in a 15 part serial that may not exactly stand up well against Christopher Nolan’s depiction of the character, it was successful enough for a sequel, Batman and Robin, another serial which was released in 1949. Here Robert Lowery, played the Dark Knight but unfortunately for Batman fans it would be 17 years before we would see the character again on the screen.


When Batman returned to the screen in 1966 it was to television as opposed to the silver screen. Adam West’s version of Batman along with Burt Ward as Robin might be the most recognized version of the Dynamic Duo in any medium. While not every Batman fan enjoyed the camp and light hearted take on the character no one can debate its popularity. While the show itself only lasted two years, two episodes a week,  it lived on in syndication for decades and continues to popular enough to have justified its own series Batman 66. I should mention that there was also a Batman film starting the cast from the tv show, but the Bat Shark Repellant scene has continued to scar my inner child for decades. (

After 30 years of no appearances outside of reruns Timothy Burton unleashed his version of Batman on an unsuspecting world on June 23, 1989. Burton’s Batman put the “Dark” back into the Dark Night removing the camp from the Adam West version of the character. Prior to the internet explosion that occurred when Ben Affleck was cast in Batman v. Superman, the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman  set the cowls of fans on fire. Prior to seeing the film no one believed that he could play a convincing version of the character. Keaton exceeded all expectations in his performance and was surpassed only by the brilliance of Jack Nicholson in playing the Joker.  Before Nicholson’s performance, Cesar Romero who amazing in his own right in playing the Joker on the 1960’s television show, was the definitive Joker. After the film it was hard to see how any actor could bring the mixture of menace, comedy, and chaos that Nicholson did almost effortlessly.


The 1989 Batman film spawned a series of films which varied in quality. Michelle Pfeiffer carried Batman Returns, released in 1992, which suffered from a weak plot and an uninteresting villain played by Danny DeVito. Despite resurrecting the character Batman Returns would be Tim Burton’s last Batman film. Joel Schumacher directed the 1995 film Batman Forever, staring Val Kilmer as Batman and Chris O’Donnell as Robin. Jim Carry, and Tommy Lee Jones rounded out the cast as the Ridder and Two-Face. I continue to feel that Batman Forever was truly one of the better Batman films but unfortunately it lives in the shadow of Batman and Robin. And that shadow is truly one of epic, giant penny in the middle of the batcave epic.



It’s hard to say anything redeemable about 1997’s Batman and Robin. I as always felt robbed because George Clooney should have been an amazing Batman, but he had absolutely nothing to work with. From the plot, to Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, the nipples on the Bat suit, nothing works. This is the film that killed the franchise, after Batman and Robin the character would not return to movie screens until the Christopher Nolan decided to take on the origins of the Dark Knight.

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While our Caped Crusader may not have successful in all of his outings on the silver screen, there is one place where he reigned supreme, as an animated character. It’s hard to understate the effect of Batman the Animated Adventures which ran from 1992 to 1995. I’ve been told by many of my fellow Batman fans that this is their definitive Batman, voiced by Kevin Conroy. The animated series incorporated the best of the Tim Burton films while adding their own aesthetic. There is an art deco sensibility to the show which gave it its own look. During its run I can’t remember having any friend of any background who didn’t watch the show (fully disclosure I’m a nerd so guess who my friends are). The success of Batman the Animated Adventures spawned the Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Superman, Batman Beyond, and countless other shows and films. Oh and no one saw Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker as the voice of the Joker coming, but he was perfect.  Lastly I should note that a certain character, Harley Quinn, made her first appearance on the animated series. She’s been pretty popular since then.

Join us tomorrow for The Dark Knight in Film Pt 2, where we discuss the Christopher Nolan Films!

About Armand (1273 Articles)
Armand is a husband, father, and life long comics fan. A devoted fan of Batman and the Valiant Universe he loves writing for PCU, when he's not running his mouth on the PCU podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @armandmhill

1 Comment on The Dark Knight in Film Pt 1

  1. Reading this post reminded me that there’s a chance my dad’s going to want to see Batman vs. Superman at some point.

    He knows a lot about Batman, it seems. I just never think to ask him. Maybe I should show him this post later and see what he thinks. 🙂


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