Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: 'The Caped Crusade' by Glen Weldon

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of the Nerd Culture - Written by Glen Weldon; Published by Simon & Schuster

By Kenny Howell

Just a few weeks ago, I asked my wife, why do I like Batman so much?

Her response was something to the tune of how would I know, what a weird question, and I never could really put my finger on it myself.

He is obviously a normal guy, in the sense that a billionaire that plays dress up to fight crime is normal. But he doesn't have any superpowers other than his mind and physical combat ability.

But I don't know if that is it either. The only thing I could come up with was, well, Batman is cool.

There is a bit of nostalgia in it because I was nine when Tim Burton's Batman came out, and I was sucked into his whole world. Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face, Ridddler, and can't get enough of any of those guys. But does nostalgia really last almost 30 years? I don't think so, so there has to be something else.

Luckily, NPR's Glen Weldon wrote a book called The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, which is basically the history and cultural impact of Batman. He obviously has had an effect on pop culture for years, but part of that reason is because he can adapt so well to the time. His character traits are laid out, but they are done so in a way that different creators can manipulate it to keep the story fresh while holding true to the spirit of the Caped Crusader. He has been a dark vengeance filled fighter in the war years, the campy hero of the 1960s, once again dark in the 1970s and 1980s, and blockbuster film draw later that decade and even to present day (though he is regressing with stuff like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice). The internet age had a huge impact because the Batman purists could get on message boards and argue what the "real" Batman is, and how it does or doesn't live up to what Batman is for them. Sometimes that turned ugly, like when film critics got death threats for not liking The Dark Knight Rises, a film that hadn't even been seen at the time by mass audiences. The Batman titles at DC are still some of the strongest out, like Detective Comics right now.

Weldon tells the complete story, very thoroughly, while also injecting his own humor and opinions on The Dark Knight. It's light fun, but very informative at the same time, and it really is a must for anyone who can't get enough of that weirdo Bruce Wayne.

Rating: ***1/2

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