I don’t usually review books here (although I personally am going through the life dilemma of books vs films and have been a book lover for longer than I am a film lover), however, this one is something so special and so relevant that I could not resist the opportunity (and later it became even more tempting when the author himself, Gary Collinson agreed to be interviewed about it).
What makes it so special? You guessed it right, it is a Batman book, but don’t be mislead…this book is nothing like anything else you have on your bookshelf.
Holy Franchise, Batman! (with the title that I love screaming in surprised Robin voice) is a companion to everything the humanity knows about the screen Batman, whom I do not have to introduce (I hope). From tv series through animations to film, Gary Collinson solicitously analyses every step of Batmmaking, describing the whole process from the forming of ideas until the consequences of their releases. Holy Franchise, Batman! takes its reader through the struggles of the first Batman adaptations and the success of the 60s tv series and the animated series, through the beginnings of Batman films to the complete failure of Batman and Robin and Catwoman- the Warner Bros.’s unforgettable sins in order to finally reach the Christopher Nolan era reminding us why we wait so impatiently for the Dark Knight Rises.
Collinson describes every project in depth, analysing the pre- and post-production processes, the atmosphere on set, the collaboration within the cast and the crew and the marketing which went with it. He also adds ‘Bat-facts’ that are just amazingly interesting and which I encourage you read personally.
The only thing that I think would make Holy Franchise, Batman! a more involving book is adding more photos. Although it contains some pictures, it seems like this huge amount of knowledge could be portrayed more visually from time to time.
Although Holy Franchise, Batman! is definitely directed in Batman fans (and actually, true Batman geeks), I personally enjoyed reading it more than I had suspected I would. It is interesting, well written and even in its objectiveness, you can feel the heart and soul of the author who wrote it. A must have for every Batman fan.
The Interview with Gary Collinson, the author of Holy Franchise! Batman
Midnight Review:What makes Batman unique as a superhero? What does he have that nobody else has? In your book you often emphasise the struggle the filmmakers and producers where going through when trying to adapt Batman comics on screen, often because of quickly falling interest from its audience, and yet, at the end of the day, whenever the series was renewed, it would always find the fans – what do you think makes Batman so phenomenal?
Gary Collinson: I think what makes Batman unique as a superhero is that he’s managed to become such an iconic character without possessing any super powers. If you take Spider-Man as an example, he’s been granted these amazing gifts, and it comes down to the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” thing, whereas Bruce Wayne has chosen to take himself down this path; aside from his extraordinary wealth, he’s just a normal guy who’s pushed himself to the absolute limit both physically and mentally in order to gain the skills neccessary to wage his war on crime. He’s suffered such a great tragedy at such a young age, but rather than wallowing in self-pity or jetting around the globe wasting away the Wayne family fortune, he’s opted to devote his entire life to protecting the people of Gotham City.
As for the difficulties in bringing Batman to the screen, I guess initially the character was a victim of his own success, especially with regards to the 60s TV series. Back in the 80s studios were convinced that public perception of the Caped Crusader remained synonymous with Adam West’s portrayal, and that audiences weren’t ready to accept a ‘darker’ take on the character. Of course this was disproved when Batman finally opened in 1989 and became such a huge success, but by the time that Batman & Robin was released in 1997 the series had clearly lost its way, and anyone who’s seen that film will understand why it took Warner Bros. so long to get their franchise back on track. But as you say, every screen incarnation – be it live-action or animation – has managed to find an audience, and I think that’s due to the fact that not only is Batman such a great character, but he’s also surrounded by strong supporting characters, and – most importanly – a fantastic selection of villains. I don’t think any comic book property can match Batman in terms of his Rogues Gallery… the only one that really comes anywhere close is Spider-Man.
M.R.: Holy Franchise is lacking personal stories and emotional analysis of the subject, instead, you have chosen to present an objective companion to the whole franchise. Why this choice?
G.C.: The idea for the book was to present a companion piece for the entire Batman franchise, rather than my own feelings on the character and the various projects it covers. I suppose the main reason for that – aside from the fact that I didn’t think anyone would be interested in my thoughts – is that everyone has their own favourites; for example, I’m a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series, whereas I’m not so keen on The Batman, but there are a lot of people out there who enjoyed The Batman, so I doubt they’d take too kindly to me putting it down. Still, at times it was tough to avoid adding personal opinion, but who knows, maybe even Batman & Robin and Catwoman have fans out there somewhere.
M.R.: Do you think that Nolan’s interpretation of the Dark Knight (a dark, realistic image) is a response to our changing society? Do we want more realistic than less cartoonish image nowadays? Why?
G.C.: I’m not so sure it’s a response to a changing society as such, but rather an evolution of the superhero genre. Aside from Burton’s Batman, I guess it wasn’t really until the arrival of Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man that we started to see a shift away from ‘cartoonish’ tongue-in-cheek superhero movies. Obviously Batman Begins was a huge step forward in terms of moving towards a more realistic approach, but despite all of the acclaim it received it wasn’t a massive hit with audiences when it was first released. However, it did show that you could tell a serious, mature story within the genre, and then of course The Dark Knight came along, raised the bar even further and kind of legitimised the superhero movie. And now, it’s really become the norm that you don’t need a neon-soaked city or pantomime villains, you can take these extraordinary characters and place them in a real-world context (or at least as ‘real’ as a world with superpowered individuals can be), which I think Marvel Studios has done very well with their releases. I guess the problem really comes with the ‘dark and gritty’ approach – Batman lends itself well to this, but that’s certainly not the case for every superhero property – The Avengers has shown that superhero films don’t need to go down that road to be successful, and I doubt anyone would want to see a darker take on the Fantastic Four for example. Still, for Batmanit’s worked perfectly, and I imagine there would be an outcry if Warner Bros. decided to lighten things up for the reboot.
M.R.: What are your top 3 Batman facts?
G.C.: Tough question, there’s so many to choose from! As a big Clint Eastwood fan, I think it’s interesting that he came close to playing Two-Face in the 1960s TV series and that’s something I’d have liked to see, although I’m glad the rumours of him playing Batman in an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns never came to anything. Secondly, I’d say the fact that Smallville was originally envisioned as Bruce Wayne, centring on the formative years of the Caped Crusader as opposed to Clark Kent, although who knows what would have happened with Batman Begins if this had become a reality. And lastly, that Hulk Hogan was one of Joel Schumacher’s favoured candidates for the role of Mr. Freeze inBatman & Robin… so, as bad as Arnold Schwarzenegger was, it could have been a whole lot worse, brother!
Holy Franchise, Batman! is released 30th June 2012