from the Foreward to "The Crimson Wraith: Legacy of the Hood"
Updated: Jan 28, 2021
An hour can be a very long time when you’re eleven-years-old. I know we waited at least an hour outside the movie theater in June of 1989, but probably it was more. Maybe two or three hours? It might even have been long enough that we went away and came back to join the line while my friend Justin’s mom held our place.
I don’t remember the time being unbearable, though. I fixated on the promotional flyer we received as part of our movie pass for this special sneak preview right before the movie’s premiere. “Bat-Mania” had not yet struck, but looking through the flyer, I could see it coming, like watching an ocean wave rising, rising, and still rising, the tsunami force building its power.
The marketing flyer showed all the merchandise coming soon, a bounty of Dark Knight-related products for all tastes. Of course, I focused on the action figures, photographed in their stiff-jointed poses. I imagined them in my hands, how they would feel, how I would make them move and talk, and what they would look like on my shelf. But there were products for adults as well. Lithographs--What’s a lithograph? I knew that litho means “stone,” and graph means “picture.” Were the pictures etched in stone somehow? Well, that explained how expensive they were. And of course, there were the Batman logo shirts and hats, including a set of work-out clothes worn by a female model. So, not only are adults going to buy these but women too? Amazing…
Before teaching me lithograph, Batman had taught me other vocabulary words like cowl, crusader and dynamic. From the 1966 television show with Adam West and Burt Ward, I learned that a “cowl” was the thing Batman wore over his head. Before I ever knew about medieval Christians traveling from Europe to go to war in the Holy Land, I learned that Batman was the “Caped Crusader.” And the “Dynamic Duo,” that was what they called Batman and Robin.
Suave, ascot-wearing Adam West was my Batman for many years, even when he wasn’t. You see, whether portrayed in the campy live-action television show, in the Superfriends cartoon, or making a guest appearance in an episode of Scooby-Doo! Where are You?, Batman’s appearance and character remained consistent. He had the same blue cape and cowl, gloves and boots, the same gray tights, and the same symbol on his chest. He always appeared with Robin, who always expressed surprise by saying, “Holy _____, Batman!”
I knew no other versions of Batman. I did not know there existed other versions to know. I had no idea about the black-and-white Batman serials of the 1940s. And since I did not yet collect the comics, I knew nothing about Dick Grayson, the first Robin, leaving Batman’s side, going solo and renaming himself Nightwing. I was equally unaware of both Batman’s appearance in Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s first comics and how Frank Miller imagined a future Batman coming out of retirement in The Dark Knight Returns.
So, when Justin, his mother, his mother’s new boyfriend, and I were finally admitted into the theater along with the rest of the crowd, and the lights lowered and the first chords of Danny Elfman’s score began, I had no idea how my world was about to be rocked. Not only could I not conceive of the drippingly dark world of Tim Burton’s Gotham City--where the sun never shines without a heavy haze of gray--not only had I never imagined seeing the Joker actually kill someone--several someones--instead of committing strange, prank-filled robberies with over-sized props, I never imagined that Batman could be something different than what I had known--black rubber instead of gray spandex, grim instead of ironic, socially awkward instead of debonair--and still be Batman...