Episode #18 of the Close Encounters podcast saw the team (and long time broadcasting buddy) Denis-Jose Francois delve into the many on screen iterations of Batman.
And there sure have been a lot. Like, considerably more than I initially thought.
By my count - and at the time of this writing - Batman has amassed over 14 live action castings (excluding the upcoming Robert Pattinson depiction) with a further seven actors who have portrayed the role through various animated series/movies, TV shows as well as video game roles. And while Adam West may very well be the go-to answer to the question of 'who played the first live action Batman?'... well, as I recently found out, that answer would be very wrong.
Lewis Wilson actually played the first live action iteration of Batman as far back as 1943 for a 15 episode series entitled 'Batman'. This version of Batman pit the Caped Crusader, not against revered enemies like Joker, Penguin or Riddler, but against the "treacherous" Dr Daka who attempted to take over America for Japanese control. Actor Robert Lowery would replace Wilson in the sequel series ('Batman and Robin') which followed in 1949.
Looking back at the YouTube clip here, there really are frightening similarities between this version and the subsequent Adam West depiction which followed fifteen years later. The only difference is that Adam West & co seemed to be completely aware of the show's absurdity while this version perhaps wasn't. "Step up to him... slap his face... hehehe... step back".
That's always been the brilliance of Batman though. The multitude of these intrinsic layers attached to the character that enable storytellers to take Batman in completely new directions: the mildly camp hero, The Dark Knight, the World's Greatest Detective, local billionaire, traumatised youth, etc. Each of these facets have absolutely served as varying inspirations for different filmmakers when bringing to life their vision of Batman over the years and will undoubtedly continue to do so for years to come. Christopher Nolan's 'The Dark Knight' (2008) practically reinvented the superhero movie, proving a comic book movie could be included in the same conversation alongside some of the best intelligent and thought-provoking thrillers.
Following the release of Tim Burton's 1989 'Batman', the phenomenal success of the movie spawned a now notorious quote, "Batman wasn't a film, it was a franchise".
I think the word 'franchise' has now evolved since then to refer to the movie series as a whole but back then it was intended to refer to the wave of commercialism attached to the product - toys, clothing, lunch boxes, posters, etc, etc. It was a comment certainly true for Batman and certainly true for the wave of superhero movies that came afterwards.
The 4Ever team...
Welcome to 4ever in Electric Dreams which is the virtual HQ and home to our burgeoning podcast network spearheaded by our flagship series, Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind (C.E.N.K.).
Our podcasts are available on the following platforms: