Monday, August 1, 2011

Comic book references in movies Part II: 'Batman Returns'

Every writer of the Batman movies had either an extensive prior knowledge of the Batman comic books or did an extensive research before writing the script. Each and every one of the theatrical Batman movies has numerous subtle and not so subtle nods and references to the comic books and reveals an impressive knowledge of the comic book back catalog.
One of the last posts focused on differences and deviations from the comic books from each movie, listing the number of things which were changed to fit the story more and serve it better (http://gothamalleys.blogspot.com/2011/03/list-of-changes-in-movies.html). This time we'll focus on all the references and similarities to showcase the writers' knowledge of the Batman stories and to point out what was taken from the comics

BATMAN RETURNS

Batman Returns carries over the tradition of its predecessor and continues the world based on the early portrayal of Batman mythos, focusing most on the Golden Age. Just like during the production of the first movie, Bob Kane was on the set and served as creative consultant, since it was his version of Batman world that Tim Burton's movies were reflecting.

1. The Gotham Park, or, as named in the 80's comic books, Robinson Park, (obviously based on New York City's Central Park) makes its first and only silver screen appearance. (Panel from 1990's Detective Comics #612)


2. The Golden Age Batman comics often began with a paperboy 


3. The giant gift trap comes from 1943's Batman #17 where Penguin used the same trick to set up a trap, packed as a big Christmas gift


4. Bruce often sits alone in the dark, contemplating, hurting. 

 

5. Catwoman in 1943's Batman #15 is shown as a sympathetic, middle class woman struggling in everyday life. She is also shown to live alone in a small apartment with her cat


6. Selina has been a blond few times during the Golden Age, noticeably in Batman #35 and #39


7.  Catwoman's origins in Batman Returns hark back to her original Golden Age origin from Batman #62 (December 1949/January 1950) in which she was introverted, then survived a crash, but suffered from amnesia. There after she became Catwoman by releasing her formerly repressed inner-self, and all her inhibitions. The version of Catwoman's origin involving a crash (a death and resurrection motif) and amnesia has the most depth psychologically. This origin suggests that Selina Kyle had a dual personality, and that her amnesia released her dark side, leading her not only to turn criminal, but liberate her formerly inhibited sexuality.


8. The scene were the cats "examin" the unconscious Selina is a homage to the identical scene in the comics when Selina the prostitute was beat up to unconsciousness and thrown out to the alley in the winter.


9.  Catwoman's costume is very reminiscent of her costume in the comic books at the time


She is also welcoming and surrounded by cats at home


10. Penguin isn't completely different from his comic book counterpart. Not only the comic book Penguin resembles the animal with his weight and long nose, but he also eats raw fish and makes penguin sounds (panels from 1974's Batman #257 and 1989's Detective Comics #610). Also, in his very first appearance in 1941's Detective Comics #58 he tried to frame Batman. He also uses same umbrellas, such as the flame thrower and the flying umbrella that made their appearances in the comic books.



11. On her first outing Selina slashes thug's face (panels from 1989's Catwoman: Her Sister's Keeper)


12. In the late 80's and early 90s Batman was very often portrayed driving alone in his Batmobile deeply immersed in his thoughts, being in touch with Alfred via wireless connection


Also, take a note of that particular panel below from 1990's Batman #456. Not only does it take place during Christmas time, but in the same issue Batman refers to Bruce Wayne as a separate identity while trying to find Vicky Vale. The Tim Burton Batman is said to really have clinically dual personality, which is more emphasized in Batman Returns. "I mistook me for someone else"


The very same issue begins with addressing the dual identity motif - again, a focus of Batman Returns


13. Often during the Golden Age Catwoman was portrayed making plans while lying on the bed with a cat on her side 


14. Catwoman's dialogue in Penguin's office is very reminiscent of Joker's speech in 1943's Detective Comics #71



15. The relationship between Batman and Catwoman. Catwoman uses her sexuality for distraction and surprise attack


 16. Another scene from the same story. Catwoman takes Batman down but then leaves/tries to leave him


17. When Batman was talking on the phone in the early issues he held the receiver upside down. That's the way it was meant to be in the movie at first but after seeing it Tim Burton discarded the idea


18. Penguin and Catwoman met before and the relationship was very much the same. Catwoman was disgusted but tolerable of Penguin, Penguin had an appetite for the Catwoman and wanted to marry her (panel from 1966's story 'The Catwoman's Black Magic')


19. Batman appears on the roof of the car/train. His menacing shadow reveals his presence (panel from Detective Comics #439 which was cited as an influence)


20.  Penguin used giant cages to entrap his prisoners in 1948's Batman # 43


21. The army of penguins armed with rockets comes from 1946's Batman # 38


22. Batman used notes signed marked with his logo throughout his entire history. (Panels below from Detective Comics #28 and Batman # 368). Bob Kane wrote the note himself


23.  Batman offers Catwoman his help, but after some hesitation she refuses and  attacks him. (Panel from 1980's Batman # 323)


24. The ambiguity about Catwoman's nine lives comes from 1946's Batman #35


 25. It's also worth noting that some of other Batman villains had close calls like Catwoman had (panels below from Batman #11 and Batman #297)



26. The ending is very reminiscent of the ending to 1988's Detective Comics #591. The issue ends with a mysterious Aborigine called Umbaluru, who claimed to have been protected by Mother Nature, falling from the skyscraper along with his rich oppressor Kerry Rollo to a certain death onto the pavement. But after Batman rushes downstairs he can only find the body of Rollo. At the end he is hinted that the Aborigine is still alive. The audience/reader gets a visual hint, Batman hears a noise but finds nothing. This is very much what happened with Catwoman and Max Shreck in the movie

 
  

27. While not a comic book reference, the movie tips a hat to the 1966 show's episode "Hizzoner the Penguin", in which Penguin also run for Mayor and tried to show Batman as a criminal



Special acknowledgment for fellow Batman historians BatmAngelus, thecolorsblend, greggbray, zuperzero, Silver Nemesis and BatmanMovieOnline 

29 comments:

  1. Understated in terms of comic accuracy but consistent with the first film.

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  2. Its actually underrated because the movie never gets its due, its always compared o superhero and comic book movies. The general perception on the movie is that its good but its not a Batman movie. It sure is and the article proves it. It just focuses completely on characters' pathos with plot and action being completely in the background. Its just one, grim Gothic tale and not what people would expect from a comic book superhero movie. The word was always that its too dark and too depressing. Theres not even a sun in the movie. There are few days scenes and its a murky, depressing day. Heck I love it, its a unique Christmas movie

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  3. As a side note, Empire magazine and RottenTomatoes has it listed as one of the best/top Christmas movies, Its interesting that the poster above mentioned the movie focusing on pathos only, since the Featured Review of the movie on RT says "the film's predominant motif is that of wounded individuals". Pretty spot on

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  4. Its a fantasy movie so how can people complain about brush with supernaturality and mutants in the sewers. Its like complaining about aliens and chewbacca in Star Wars or the beast in Beauty and the Beast

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  5. Great article,

    Batman Returns isn't very good, but I definitely respect its faithfulness to the source material.

    Its not for everybody, but Tim Burton manage to create an ambitious film, whether you like it or not its a Bat film. A terrible Bat-film, but a good Tim Burton film.

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  6. "14. Penguin and Catwoman met before and the relationship was very much the same. Catwoman was disgusted but tolerable of Penguin, Penguin had an appetite for the Catwoman and wanted to marry her (panel from 1966's story 'The Catwoman's Black Magic')"
    While that's still technically Catwoman, this is actually a brainwashed Lois Lane in the Catwoman costume in that issue. (Comics, everybody!)
    Doesn't change the similarity much, but just thought I'd point that out. :)

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  7. Returns is great dont get me wrong but it feels more like the Addams Family movie

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  8. Returns isn't great by my standards, Burton totally shot himself in the foot with its stupidity. I respect it as a Tim Burton movie, but it isn't a good Batman film.

    Penquin: ''Now that's the pussy I've been looking for!''
    And lol on Burton thinking Penquin is the # 2 Bat-villain after the Joker instead of Riddler, or Two Face, shows his actual level of bat-knowledge.

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  9. To the poster above: Its a Tom Burton movie, if you look at the anthology, Burton was skeptical to come back and direct but studio allowed him more creative freedom, and posed to him the idea ''What if the next film was a ''Tim Burton film?" so Burton was immediately attached to direct.

    For for me, the ambiance of the film is engaging and the Bruce and Selina dynamic was fun to watch, but this film has no real plot, or any real substance. I admire it, but I don't care for the film as whole.

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  10. Burton's is great, but the film felt campy as hell I never found it somber, dark but funny and silly.

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  11. I dont know what you guys are talking about. Doesnt this article show that BR isnt any less Batman move than others? So Penguin was a horny mutant from the sewers, but at the same time Ras wasnt Batman's trainer and guidance, Scarecrow had nothing to do with the comic book scarecrow and wasnt an old college professor with revenge on his mind, Two Face didnt act like Joker and on and on. BR is as much a Batman movie as the others but admitedly feels much more surreal and Expressionist than any of the others. One of the posters had a very accurate description saying it felt like The Addams Family world

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  12. Ra's Al Ghul not being the trainer of Bruce Wayne in the comics is vastly different from the Penquin not being a horny mutant that pukes out black mucas that says stuff like this.

    "That's the pussy I've been looking for!"
    Just think about your logic a bit.

    ''BR is as much a Batman movie as the others but admittedly feels much more surreal and Expressionist than any of the others''.

    Batman Returns to you is a Batman film like the others. Opinions will differ all the time.
    I'm sorry the it isn't Batman to me

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  13. Batman Returns certainly did its share of research and infusing comic book influences from the Golden Age era, no doubt about it and the terrific article shows it. However, lack of roots in comic books isn't what makes people think it doesn't feel like a Batman movie. In general, the view on Batman is that of a superhero with a dark past who saves thew day in Gotham and fights petty alley crimes at night. This is what Batman, Batman Forever (although Kilmer was too relaxed and overly depressed) Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were, and even Batman & Robin to an extent, although without any darkness to the character.

    While Tim's Batman movies are impressive and thorough adaptations of the Golden Age, one thing Batman was not is a Phantom of the Opera character OUTSIDE of the costume. As great as the idea is, it does not come from comic books, and Batman Returns focuses entirely on that aspect of the character, an aspect of a lone social outsider with inner torment, in the vein of The Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback from Notre Damme and the original Dracula.

    This is why the movie is and works as a Gothic theater play, but not as a Batman superhero movie

    -Dizzer

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  14. Scarecrow had nothing to do with Scarecrow from the movie. In BB Scarecrow was a young criminal psychologist and an owner of Arkham who experimented on inmates. In comics it was a very old, skinny professor who wanted revenge on the college that cut his funds and was scared of birds and had a god complex. I didnt mind it at all because if he was the villain from the comics he would take the spotlight and focus away from the core villain and story. Change is not bad. A bad change is bad. Dini changed Freeze into character with pathos and tragic past and will for personal revenge, and its the same that happened to Penguin. Freeze from BTAS was much more interesting than one dimensional Freeze from comics and same goes fro Penguin from BR

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  15. Dizzer, great post

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  16. To the guy that posted before the guy on top I agree that Dini made Mr. Freeze better but I strongly disagree that the same can be said about Burton's take on Penquin. He turned him from a shrewed clever mobster into a dumb, campy mutant that puked out black mucas, with a tacked on sob story thrown in the middle.
    Batman returns will forever continue to be a source of debate amongst fans of the Batman I'm fine if people like this film but to me this film isn't and never will be Batman. This film is a Tim Burton film, no matter the small visual homage to the comics.

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  17. We're just gonna have to agree to disagree and that we have different tastes, but I just want to address Penguin's dumbness. I think it added to the character because I felt sorry for him that he was this little ugly failure who was rejected and on top of that wasnt very intelligent and was being coined and used by everyone

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  18. Those arent "small visual homages" as one of the posters said. The dynamics between Batman and Catwoman and straight from the comics, the angle with Catwoman's ambiguity of supernatural and becoming Catwoman through trauma is from comics, the plot about Penguin trying to frame Batman and going after Catwoman is from the comics and all that. Those are major plot points

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  19. I guess we will have. to agree to disagree, but I found it hard sympathize to with Burton's Penquin when he suddenly wanted to kill to kids for amusement, that and his puns were hilariously stupid and oh the bitting off the guy's nose. With Mr Freeze you can at least see he was a decent guy before he turned to wrong, and you could actually emotionally attach yourself to the character.

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  20. He didnt want to "suddenly" kill the kids, its the plan he had since childhood. He wanted to kill them because he was jealous that they had parents and life that was denied him, so he was actually made and pushed to be this way by what happened to him

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  21. ''Those arent "small visual homages" as one of the posters said. The dynamics between Batman and Catwoman and straight from the comics, the angle with Catwoman's ambiguity of supernatural and becoming Catwoman through trauma is from comics, the plot about Penguin trying to frame Batman and going after Catwoman is from the comics and all that. Those are major plot points''

    Hmm, well whatever from most of the comics I've read she does not have that supernatural aspect. And Batman and Ctawoman's relationship is more sophisticated in the comics(at least to me). But meh I'll concede loosely.
    ''He didnt want to "suddenly" kill the kids, its the plan he had since childhood. He wanted to kill them because he was jealous that they had parents and life that was denied him, so he was actually made and pushed to be this way by what happened to him''

    Wow thanks that's even more hilarious than I remember, especially since ol' danny's over the top performance,cheesy and vulgar dialogue and mucus spewing kinda really hurt any chance for me to feel sorry for the fella.

    Dini's Mr. Freeze is made me shed tears, because his character was so sad, Burton's Penquin made me laugh in tears because his character was so bad.

    Look folks, I totally get why folks like this film, its a nice stylistically ambient film, with a nice expressionistic atmosphere. ...
    It isn't for me, its convoluted, hackneyed in its story and it doesn't really have much substance for me, its a strongly darkly symbolic film and I admire it for that.

    It still isn't Batman to me.

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  22. Exactly. He was this little frog who was so dumb it was cute and was pushed around and f***ed by everyone since his birth (even before it actually, he was even F'd by life) and continued to be his entire life accomplishing nothing and failing all the time. Even his circus people leave him at the end. No wonder the guy was so angry. Thats why you feel for him

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  23. ''Exactly. He was this little frog who was so dumb it was cute and was pushed around and f***ed by everyone since his birth (even before it actually, he was even F'd by life) and continued to be his entire life accomplishing nothing and failing all the time. Even his circus people leave him at the end. No wonder the guy was so angry. Thats why you feel for him''

    I still don''t feel for Penquin in this movie, when you have guy spewing out black mucas and making sexual jokes, or biting folks noses off it... becomes very difficult for a normal person to sympathize with that character...no? I mean the guy came off as essentially a dark mutant version of the 60's Penquin, only he wasn't really funny, just vulgar.

    He's like an adult cartoon version of the Penquin if they did a spoof of the character, like in a show like Venture Bros.

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  24. Batman Returns isn't a perfect film, but all in all I enjoyed it. Its not Batman to me, but I like it, not really like it(like the previous film and Nolan films) just like it.

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  25. The guy was not sympathetic, true. But what makes you feel for him is that this guy and his life is one major F up time after time. Its like you see a guy who just gets screwed over and over again since his inception and you just think "damn, this guy has it bad, its a bit too much for anyone"

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  26. "Dizzer" poster nailed it

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  27. Outstanding stuff.

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  28. Another bestial comic villain who may have influenced Burton's interpretation of the Penguin is the Mutant Leader from The Dark Knight Returns. Like Cobblepot, the Mutant Leader sported freakish pointy teeth and was in command of the most feared street gang in Gotham. Both he and Cobblepot use television interviews to issue challenges to Batman and the city officials.

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  29. Based on the comments, it was the black mucus that turned some of the people away from the movie. With all the blood and gore from the slasher films of the 70's to the present, fake blood (which is really what that was, being he was dying) I'd think it was pretty tame. I was turned off by him, but I was young, the film was too dark for me when it came out, as was the first one. However, as I matured, I was able to start appreciating both films. I always understood how important they were, but needed to learn to get past the 'darkness' of the films, to truly appreciate them.
    The problem that I find is that there are so many willing to say 'it doesn't follow the comics', but when it's proven that they do, the people against the movies (either TB's or CN's versions), the other person is quick to come back, 'well not the ones I read'. That's really not a valid 'come back', though, is it? If it was me, it would intrigue me to want to read those that I have not read. It's like when learning a movie you loved is actually a remake of another movie. What it should do is intrigue you to try to find the original, and if there are multiple versions of it, find those as well, to see if those may have been as interesting or more fleshed out, etc. I have found some of my favorite movies of all time, were originally made as silent films, and lo and behold, after luckily finding some of them and viewing them, finding they blew their remakes out of the water.
    Another example is like finding out something you thought about history is not truly accurate. You shouldn't just disregard this new knowledge, you should try to find out as much about it as possible, something that may help you rethink some things about society as a whole.
    All this article was trying to point out is that there is a lot in this movie that was influenced by the comics. The proof has been supplied, thus, proving it to be an actual Batman film. It may not be 'your' preferred take, but it doesn't make it any less of a Batman film, just because it's not your preference.

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