The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture

Title: The Caped Crusade (2016) 
Author: Glen Weldon  
Publisher: Simon & Schuster  

Book jacket: Since his debut in Detective Comics #27, 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 ninja of the urban night. Yet, despite these endless transformations, he remains one of our most revered cultural icons.     

Joe says:  This is the ultimate pop-culture look at all things Batman. The Caped Crusade is a fun book made for Bat-Nerds and "normals" alike.

An opening along the lines of “Holy book reviews, Batman!” or even “Pow! Zap! A Batman book!” would do this title a disservice, especially seeing as how author and NPR comic-book critic Glen Weldon tirelessly points out how the legion of Bat-Nerds have desperately tried to bury any references to the full-color, high-gloss Batman of the late sixties in favor of the Denny O’Neil comics of darkness and night, and Christopher Nolan’s growling films. Weldon covers this and a whole lot more in his meticulously researched, thesis-in-the-making, The Caped Crusade, which provides the ultimate pop-culture look at all things Batman.

Weldon’s book, to stay within a theme, hangs between a historical look at the character’s comic book origins, a healthy discourse on the Adam West series from 1966, and a deep cut insider-look at the Burton-Schumacher-Nolan films. All of these insights are heavily intertwined with nerd backlash and fandom praise. Weldon shows the fine balance of acceptance between how Batman plays into pop culture, and how outside events, shaped by various creator control, influence the stories of the Caped Crusader.

Batman: The Caped Crusade book review

Loaded with interviews, quotes, and plenty of subjected barbs at fandom foolishness, The Caped Crusade is a fun, quick read. Weldon maintains his nerd credentials throughout, but also provides an impartial take on the character to satisfy the reading pleasure for the occasional “normal” who might only be familiar with all things Christian Bale. Or Adam West.

What Weldon fails to properly show, or doesn’t focus nearly enough on, is the primary reason that most of the silent majority of Batman fans, that is those not taking to the cons or the internet with their scornful posts and rants, are simply Batman fans… because it’s fun. Many fans might understand, or probably just blatantly ignore, the editorial mandate in the comics to replace Batman with an armor-wearing psychotic, or to isolate the brooding tactician from the rest of the DC Universe, or a filmmaker’s decision to give the character a rubber suit complete with nipples. Fans want to be entertained with stories and the legend – both the fantastical and the grounded – of Batman, regardless if Dr. Hugo Strange is ridiculous or Poison Ivy’s just plain silly. Or if the animated series of the nineties kicks ass in just about every imaginable way.

photo by Glen Weldon
photo by Glen Weldon

A great deal of fans already understands some of the inherent foolishness at the idea of a man who mourns the loss of his parents by dressing as a bat – and ignores such dogma. They want metaphor, or fisticuffs, or over-the-top action, or a long-running opera. Batman has survived this long in the public eye and public consciousness because, as Weldon does point out, everyone has their favorite version of the character. And there are plenty to choose from. So enjoy. Dive into the book and perhaps be inspired to revisit, or just plain discover, some of those great, and maybe not-too-great, Bat stories available everywhere.

Same Bat-time. Same Bat-channel.

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