by Patrick Emmel
Batman will return to us soon in The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final movie of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed trilogy depicting the life of the Caped Crusader. While it may be easy to think that this Batman was arguably the greatest of all screen representations, one must delve into history to see how truly epic this evolution was. How did his vision of Batman stack up against other film versions? Glad you asked, as we have compiled a history of Batman in film to say farewell to this latest version, and ponder the direction the next Batman will take.
1) Lewis Wilson
Appearances: Batman (1943 serial)
Only the most loyal fanatics of Batman may know that The Caped Crusader hit the silver screen well before Adam West. During the height of World War II, Columbia Pictures put out a 15-part serial in theaters, because that’s how you watched television shows back then: in a theater.
Lewis Wilson portrayed Batman as a swinging playboy by day, moonlighting as a bat-eared detective who could throw down with criminals, so long as he was able to get back to his lady-friend Vicki Vale.
The plot, however, was a little less tongue-in-cheek. Batman was actually a government agent hired to track down and neutralize Dr. Daka, a Japanese scientist plotting to turn the world into mindless zombies who looked strangely like Cesar Romero’s Joker. With plenty of anti-Japanese sentiment and other racial stereotypes, the serial has been labeled as war propaganda like other films of its decade.
In terms of gadgetry, the only thing Batman had was The Batcave, his hidden sanctum deep below his remote estate . Like Bob Kane’s preceding strips, Batman’s gadgetry was minimal, using the utility belt as a pretty way to hold up his tights and driving an old limousine around as he searched for clues. Nothing is more hilarious, however, than how Batman and Robin change into their alter egos: they just get changed in the backseat of their car. At least Bob Kane’s Batman had the foresight to drive around in his costume.