The Legacy of the Batman: Part 4 – Comic Book references in Batman: The Movie

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Like the TV Series, this movie not only draws from Golden Age and Silver Age comics; it is also in line with what would be done in those comics.

For instance the opening scene in the movie is true to the comics, as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson would often travel around in roadsters.

The Batmobile hotline which Robin is seen using when he and Batman were on their way to the airport had been incorporated into the comics around the same time that the hotline phone in the Batcave was introduced.

The evolution of the Batcopter that Batman and Robin board at the airport can be seen in the following vehicles from the comics.

• The Batgyro, which first appeared in ‘Batman Versus the Vampire’ (Detective Comics #31, September 1939)
• The “New Look” Batcopter, which first appeared in ‘The Outsider Strikes Again!’ (Detective Comics #340, June 1965)

As they take off in the Batcopter Batman and Robin pass by some Gotham Citizens, who are clearly happy to have them around. This isn’t unusual as the existence of their counterparts in the comics was also greatly appreciated.

Similar to how Robin controls the Batcopter in the movie, Robin in the comics was also capable of piloting the Batcopter when similar situations arose.

Long before the existence of this movie Batman had tangled with a shark in “Blackbeard’s Crew and the Yacht Society” (Batman #4, Winter 1940).

And while people have always believed that the shark repellent originated from this movie, it was actually used in the comics eight years before the existence of the TV Series and Movie, in a story called “Manhunt in Outer Space” (Batman #117, August 1958) written by Arnold Drake.

In another example that displays Robin’s knowledge of piloting the Batcopter, he sets the Batcopter on autopilot as he descends the ladder with the can of shark repellent in hand.

The press conference that happens hours after the shark attack is held in Commissioner Gordon’s office much like they were also done in the comics.

The globe and the gotham city times which are represented at the press conference are newspapers that were taken from the comics.

Also at the press conference is Catwoman who is passing herself off as Miss Kitka, a Russian reporter from the Moscow Bugle. In comparison to this Catwoman in the comics had also used aliases that allowed her to do things that she wouldn’t be able to do as Catwoman.

At the same press conference Commissioner Gordon in response to Kitka’s remark about Batman and Robin being masked vigilantes who are able to do what they want, responds with the claim that this is not true as Batman and Robin are fully deputized officers of the law.

This is a reference to Golden Age (c. 1938 — c. 1950) and Silver Age comics (1956 — c. 1970) in which Batman was written as a deputized officer of the law. This characterization of Batman began with the story “The People vs. the Batman” (Batman #7, November 1941).

And although he did temporarily lose this status in “Commissioner Gordon Walks a Beat” (Detective Comics #121 March, 1947).

Batman didn’t actually lose his deputized status until the Modern Age of comics ( c.1985-Present), because while writers in the Bronze Age of comics (c.1970 — c.1985) were no longer writing him as a deputized officer of the law. His status as a deputized officer of the law wasn’t completely retconned from continuity until DC Comics reality altering event Crisis on Infinite Earths. Nowadays though Batman is presented as a vigilante who works with Commissioner Gordon, despite not having the support from the rest of the Gotham City Police Department.

After the press conference when Commissioner Gordon, Chief O’Hara, Batman and Robin are trying to work out what happened. Chief O ‘Hara long after everybody else works out that whoever hijacked Commodore Schmidlapp’s real yacht, had led Batman and Robin on a wild goose chase when they went after what they thought was the real yacht at the start of the movie.

Now considering how much Penguin was calling the shots in this movie, it wouldn’t surprise me if the idea of hijacking Commodore Schidlapp’s yacht was his, which would make this a reference to The Blackbird of Banditry!’ (Batman #43, October 1947) in which the idea of penguin hijacking a ship is also used.

Back at the villains hideout Joker uses his Joker Joy Buzzer to settle an argument between Penguin and Riddler. Joker’s Joy Buzzer was used numerous times throughout the series. Its previous appearances in the series were in the episodes “The Joker is Wild”\“Batman is Riled” which were based on “Joker’s Utility Belt” (Batman #73, October, 1952). And it was also used in “The Joker Goes to School”\ “He Meets His Match The Grisly Ghoul.”

The cat that Catwoman mockingly sicced on them to show that despite calling themselves the united underworld they were not very united at all, is a nod to Catwoman’s cat in the comics, because Catwoman’s cat in this movie much like her cat in the comics is called Hecate.

The idea of Penguin having goons that dress according to the Jolly Roger pirate motif is an idea that was taken from ‘The Blackbird of Banditry!’ (Batman #43, October 1947).

Back in the batcave Batman and Robin discover that it was a buoy that projected the illusion of Commodore Schmidlapp’s yacht earlier in the movie. They head out to sea to look for it; the Batboat in the comics went through several redesigns until it became more streamlined like the Batboat in the movie.

Unfortunately for them though is the fact Penguin is also out at sea in his Penguin Submarine. The Penguin’s submarine is visually similar to Penguin’s blimp which first appeared in ‘The Blackbird of Banditry!’ (Batman #43, October 1947), and was then used on several other occasions in Golden Age and Silver Age comics.

The Penguin’s P-Magnet which traps Batman and Robin to the buoy was first seen in Batman #169, “Partners in Plunder,” and it was previously used in the episodes “Fine Feathered Finks” and “The Penguin’s a Jinx” which were based on Batman #169, “Partners in Plunder.”

Riddler in his first few appearances relayed his latest puzzles in highly visible locations, so this particular scene is true to the comics.

Some people point out that it’s Robin who usually solves Riddler’s Riddles, but this was something that actually happened in the comics as well.

The Bruce Wayne and Miss Kitka date is similar to a date that Bruce Wayne and Elva Barr had in ‘Your Face is Your Fortune’ (Batman #15, February 1943). Though a major difference is that Elva Barr was genuinely smitten with Bruce Wayne whereas Miss Kitka was just trying to lure Bruce Wayne into a trap.

Alfred in 40′s comics would disguise himself when he was out with Batman and Robin so that he wouldn’t be recognized as Bruce Wayne’s butler. This is reflected by Alfred’s disguise in this movie.

While the hotline phone and the bat-signal are both used in this movie and in the series. The hotline phone in the comics and in the series was the preferred means of communication between Batman and Commissioner Gordon. As it was supposed to mimic a similar hotline that connected the president of the United States to the premier of U.S.S.R.

Robin hilariously turning off the micro-bat scanner when Bruce Wayne and Miss Kitka are engaging in facial inspections is very much in line with how Robin would’ve reacted in the comics, as Robin or Dick Grayson in the comics would turn away whenever Batman or Bruce Wayne was kissing a girl.

In the initial script the united underworld used back mounted jet-pack umbrellas to kidnap Bruce Wayne and Miss Kitka. This idea may have been inspired by the cover of “The Menace of the Giant Birds” (Detective Comics #171, May 1951) which Penguin is seen using a back mounted jet-pack umbrella on.

But in the movie the united underworld kidnaps Bruce Wayne and Miss Kitka. Whilst riding on jet umbrellas which originated from Batman #169 “Partners in Plunder.”

During Bruce Wayne’s fight with the villains in which he escapes from their hideout, one of Penguin’s henchmen is launched into the waiting arms of Penguin’s exploding octopus. After being knocked onto Joker’s Jack in the Box which was one of the Joker’s trademark gadgets from the comics.

But Penguin’s exploding octopus wasn’t actually included in the initial script, because the initial script called for a giant exploding umbrella. The giant umbrella that would’ve been used for this scene had been destroyed after the episodes “Fine Feathered Finks” and “Penguin A Jinx.” Which as I mentioned earlier were based on Batman #169 “Partners in Plunder.”

So William Dozier and Co decided to go with Penguin’s exploding octopus which saved money as it was never shown on screen, but it wouldn’t be the first time that Batman and Robin had been thrown into a deathtrap with an octopus. Although the one in ‘The Island of 1,000 Traps’ (Batman #139, April 1961) wasn’t an explodable one like the one in this movie is.

Since the references in this blog focuses on things that were in the comics prior to this movie, or things that were in line with what would be done in the comics, this example falls in the latter category. Because I wasn’t able to find any examples of villains dehydrating people in Batman or Detective Comics, but the movies’ screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. believes that the idea of dehydrating people was in the style of the comics.

The dehydration effect is incredibly primitive by todays standards, because it was before morphing on a cgi computer, so you just have a silly light and you cut to a pile of stuff on the floor. It’s funny for that reason alone I can assure you I wasn’t in on this production stuff, but I’m sure that if people could’ve thought of something more elaborate, and they could’ve done it they would’ve. But it is in the style of the comic book. (Lorenzo Semple, Jnr’s., Batman: The Movie Special Edition Blu-ray Commentary Track)

Now as goofy as it may have looked the Bat-climb was true to the comics, as the grapnel hook that Batman uses in later interpretations hadn’t been incorporated into the comics yet. Therefore Batman would get around by hooking his silken rope onto a surface and would then climb onto\or up a building.

Because we are more used to seeing Batman as a serious crime-fighter, the idea of seeing him running around with a bomb will seem rather silly to some people. But even in the comics during the “New Look” era, Batman was still being written in stories that included fantastical elements. For example in Detective Comics #339, May 1965, Batman had to hold a man that had been turned into a gorilla over his head for as long as possible, just so that he could deactivate a bomb that was strapped to the body of this man that had been turned into a gorilla.

The idea of a villain being taken to the Batcave wasn’t a new idea, because Bruce Wayne had taken Brainy Barrows to the Batcave in “The Mental Giant of Gotham City” (Detective Comics #217, March 1955), but it was out of reluctance. However, in the movie Batman willingly takes Penguin dressed as Commodore Schmidlapp to the Batcave, in hope that he would lead him to the location of the villains new hideout.

What Batman and Robin didn’t know though is that Penguin wasn’t coming alone, as he managed to smuggle his dehydrated henchmen into the Batcave with him. This wouldn’t be the first time that a villain had gotten into the Batcave through unauthorized means; a villain called Dr. Doom in “The Thousand and one trophies of Batman” (Detective Comics 158, April 1950) unbeknownst to Batman and Robin had hidden in a sarcophagus that was taken back to the Batcave.

But after being hit by Batman, Robin, each other, and even Penguin himself. Penguin’s henchmen de-materialize as Penguin had rehydrated his henchmen with the water used to power the atomic pile reactor. But he had accidentally flicked the switch on the heavy water setting. When his henchmen were rehydrated they were left in an unstable condition, this resulted in some of the only deaths that we would see in the series.

The idea of a villain not only dying but dying in the batcave was used in the comics on a few occasions.

Penguin’s gas umbrella that was used on Batman and Robin, prior to Penguin’s theft of the Batmobile, was just one of the many trick umbrellas from the comics that he would use over the course of the series.

With Batman’s plan working like a charm he and Robin follow Penguin on the Batcycle. The original Batcycle in the comics came with a sidecar, just like the Batcylce’s that were used in the TV Series and movie do.

But after transferring over to the Batcopter at the airport, Riddler manages to knock them out of the sky with his one of his sky-writer missiles, which leaves them with no choice but to follow the united underworld on foot in the middle of rush hour. The idea of Batman running through the streets of Gotham City during rush hour, maybe a tongue in cheek reference to the absurdity of Batman of appearing in broad daylight. Because even during the “New Look” era Batman at times was still appearing in broad daylight.

Meanwhile the villains arrive at the united world building as they begin to carry out their plan of dehydrating the world leaders, but it’s often pointed out that the Joker and Penguin in the comics are never seen wearing domino masks. So people have often been critical of the fact that they decide to wear domino masks in this movie, while this isn’t a reference to either Joker or Penguin. Some Batman villains in the comics also wore domino masks despite not being a well known character trait of theirs.

But although Batman and Robin arrive just as they’re leaving, the villains manage to get away yet again. The Dynamic Duo continues their relentless pursuit of the United Underworld, which culminates in a battle on the deck of a submarine, like the battle that their comic counterparts had with Tiger Shark in ‘Tiger Shark’ (Detective Comics #147, May 1949).

In Season 1 and in this movie the comic book sound effects are superimposed over or next to the action, which is similar to how they were presented in the comics. In the second and third seasons they were created on different colored backgrounds and edited into the film instead. The reason for this is that it was cheaper to edit them into the film instead.

Batman and Robin would sometimes perform tag team moves in the comics, much like they do in both the TV series and movie.

Nowadays Joker would use any underhanded tactic that he could to gain the upper hand in a fight, but back in the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s, he was nothing special in hand to hand combat.

This unorthodox duel between Penguin and Batman is yet another element taken from “The Blackbird of Banditry!” (Batman #43 October, 1947).

Finding out that one of her aliases was Catwoman all along is a situation that Batman or Bruce Wayne had also faced in the comics on several occasions over the years.

After taking a few seconds to get over the disappointment of learning that Catwoman was actually Miss Kitka, Batman tells Robin to slap the batcuffs on her. Originally Batman would tie up criminals with some rope, but after he was deputized by Commissioner Gordon he would leave criminals in bat shaped handcuffs until the GCPD came to collect them.

The scene where Batman and Robin are seen separating the dehydrated world leaders is one of the few scenes over the course of the series that actually makes use of laboratory section of the Batcave.

Despite his refusal to go along with Robin’s idea of mixing up the dehydrated world leaders, the dehydrated world leaders still somehow get mixed up anyway. At the end of the movie the credits first say “The End,” and then says “The Living End…..?.” Which indicates that the story is not quite finished, so the ending to this movie is equivalent to comic stories that end with a cliffhanger.

DISCUSS

SourcesSilver Nemesis from Batman-Online.com, theMan-Bat from SuperHeroHype.com, dc.wikia.com, batmancompletion.blogspot.co.uk, batmanytb.com, Michael Uslan’s introduction for Batman: The Dynamic Duo Archives 2, Adam West and Burt Ward’s Batman: The Movie Commentary Track, Joel Eisner’s Official Batbook: The Revised Edition, Lorenzo Semple, Jnr’s. Batman: The Movie Special Edition Blu-ray Commentary Track, Andy Fish from The 1966 Message Boards, The tvtropes.org pages for Batman: The Movie, The End… Or Is It?, Freaky Friday Flip, and Ironic Echo.

 


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