Green Brain Comics to celebrate National Batman Day on Saturday

The Metro Detroit area is celebrating the 10th annual National Batman Day in style on Sept. 16.

For starters, Green Brain Comics in Dearborn is giving away special “Batman” comics and other cool swag, as well as holding sales on “Batman”-related comics and graphic novels – while supplies last, of course.

Andy Smith (left) with
Andy Smith (left) with “Batman” executive producer Michael Uslan. Smith has been involved in building the Batmobiles seen on the big screen. (Photo courtesy of Michael Uslan)

Troy-based Emagine Entertainment is showing “The Dark Knight Trilogy” starring Christian Bale as Batman and directed by Christopher Nolan – 2005’s “Batman Begins,” 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” and 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises” – at its theaters in Canton, Novi, Rochester Hills, Birch Run, Woodhaven, and Farmington Hills. The times are as follows: “Batman Begins” at 4 p.m., “The Dark Knight” at 7 p.m., and “The Dark Knight Rises” at 10:15 p.m.

For $5, you can attend one film. For $15, you can see all three films. Any guest who purchases the trilogy of film tickets is eligible for the “Batman Day Package,” which is only $25. The package includes tickets to all three films, an 85-oz. refillable popcorn tub, and a small drink cup that can be refilled for no additional cost throughout the day. Tickets will only be sold at the box office. There will be no online ticket sales. All three movie tickets for the “Batman Day Package” must be purchased together.

“I like Bale. He is a quieter actor and blends so well into the role,” said Ferndale native Bill Messner-Loebs, who wrote the syndicated “Batman” daily newspaper strip in the early 1990s. “Other ‘Batman’ actors had very strong personae and the movies tended to be about them. ‘Batman Begins’ was more a real movie and more collaborative.”

Award-winning author Adam Mitzner, of New York City, agreed with Messner-Loebs. Mitzner has penned nine legal thrillers. In the majority of his novels, Mitzner has made a reference to Batman.

“I liked (Bale’s) portrayal, and his movies are the best,” said Mitzner. “I think what’s underrated in playing Batman is the ability to play Bruce Wayne (Batman’s alter-ego) too and treat them like different characters but without either being a caricature,” said Mitzner. “I like Bale’s take on Bruce Wayne more than his Batman, truth be told. It’s a cocky attitude that I think a millionaire playboy would have to adopt in order to disguise that he’s actually a crazed vigilante.”

Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi holds some Batman toys while a young girl looks on. (Kirsten Nordstrom - For MediaNews Group)
Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi holds some Batman toys while a young girl looks on. (Kirsten Nordstrom – For MediaNews Group)

Created by the late Bob Kane and the late Bill Finger (who finally received a co-creator credit in 2015), Batman debuted in 1939’s “Detective Comics” No. 27, published by DC Comics. His origin is pretty common knowledge: As a child, Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents, Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne, being gunned down in cold blood before his eyes.

In that moment, he vowed to rid his native Gotham City of crime and trained his entire life, finally becoming the Batman when he became an adult. Batman has no super-powers except he is one of the world’s greatest fighters, the world’s greatest detective, has a vast array of cool gadgets – including the Batmobile – and is a billionaire. He is aided by his loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth, and eventually brought a sidekick named Robin (there have been several incarnations of Robin throughout the decades, starting with Dick Grayson) into the fold, as well as others. He and Superman are close allies and aware of each other’s secret identities.

Although he’s been portrayed as a brooding, dark character, Batman went through a well-known campy phase. The 1966-68 “Batman” series featured the late Adam West as the eponymous character and Burt Ward as Robin with a campy style, upbeat theme song, and silly fight scenes with “POW!” super-imposed across the screen.

“My favorite version of Batman is still Adam West in the 1960s TV show,” said Wayne State University film professor Steven Shaviro.

In the 1970s, comic creators tried distancing Batman from his campy trappings and return him to his dark roots originated by Kane and Finger.

“I focused on Batman as a pulp character and Bruce Wayne as an adult — that darkened him up,” said Steve Englehart, of California, who wrote a celebrated “Batman” run in the mid-1970s.

In 1986, writer/artist Frank Miler revolutionized the character further with “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” Miller’s take on Batman introduced an era of “grim and gritty” comics, demonstrating that it’s not just a children’s medium. It received mainstream media attention, which was unheard of at the time. Miller followed up with 1987’s “Batman: Year One,” which was the basis for “Batman Begins.”

Miller also paved the way for 1989’s “Batman,” starring Michael Keaton and directed by Tim Burton. They reunited for 1992’s “Batman Returns.” Despite its success (it grossed $266.8 million) and its legacy (its Gothic look inspired 1992-99’s “Batman: The Animated Series” and 1993 movie spinoff “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”), Warner Bros. executives deemed “Batman Returns” too dark for children and named the late Joel Schumacher director of 1995’s more family-friendly “Batman Forever.”

Since Burton was no longer directing, Keaton bowed out and was replaced by Val Kilmer. However, Kilmer felt his Batman was overshadowed by the villains and didn’t return for 1997’s “Batman and Robin.” Instead, George Clooney replaced Kilmer in a film that received negative reviews across the spectrum. It was criticized for being too campy, too commercialized and even for having homosexual innuendo. It won a Worst Picture Razzie Award and is considered one of the worst superhero movies ever made. Box office revenue dropped 63% its second week of release.

Nolan gave the franchise a much-needed shot in the arm with his trilogy, co-written by Ann Arbor native David Goyer. Oscar-winning actor/director Ben Affleck replaced Bale as Batman with 2016’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (filmed in Michigan) and, most recently, this summer’s “The Flash” (with Keaton and Clooney making cameos as their respective versions of Batman). “Twilight” actor Robert Pattinson portrayed Batman in 2022’s “The Batman” and is slated to reprise it in 2025.

“I grew up watching the West TV show in reruns, but the best live-action portrayal is Affleck in my humble opinion,” said Mitzner. “I like the fact that he’s the most physically imposing of the actors who have donned the cowl. Maybe it’s my own old age, but I also like the older version of the character, who now understands the mission is futile – erasing crime altogether – and yet perseveres. (The late) Kevin Conroy’s version in the animated version is top-rate too. But full disclosure: I like them all – even Clooney’s!”

Mitzner and Shaviro gave their insight into what gives Batman such staying power after nearly 85 years.

“We all want to push ourselves to the extreme limits of our ability, and Batman is the personification of that,” said Mitzner. “There’s a part of us that also wants to be fearless and maybe beat up some bad guys too. For people my age, there’s the evolution from wanting to be Batman when we were growing up to realizing as adults that nobody really wants to be Batman, but still wanting there to be a Batman. Oh, and the Batmobile.”

“I think Batman’s continued popularity is due to the inherent ambiguity of the character,” said Shaviro. “The very fact that he could be incarnated both by West and by Bale shows what a wide range of interpretations is possible. If you think West is just too ridiculous to count, then consider the difference between Clooney and Bale. The basic core of the story – billionaire, traumatized by the murder of his parents, able to indulge in extremes to the point of megalomania – leaves a lot of room for going in different directions. The themes of revenge, of taking things personally, are very relatable, even for those of us who might prefer a more upbeat character like Superman or the more familiar neuroses of the Marvel super-heroes.”

Green Brain Comics will celebrate National Batman Day 2023 at its store, located at 3936 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn, from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16. For more information, call 313-582-9444.

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