Thursday, January 31, 2008

Will the Real Batman Please Stand Up?

Perhaps you have heard of this:
That's right, Lego Star Wars has been such a huge hit as a video game, that Lego is branching out to make a Lego Batman game. In theory, I'm fairly excited about this development. After all, Batman still ranks as one of my favorite iconic American characters, the Lego Star Wars game has addictive game play and is fun to watch, and I have visions of long conversations about Batman with my nephew similar to the ones we already have about Star Wars.

My one hesitation is that I'm not sure which Batman the video game will go for. There are as many versions of Batman out there in popular culture as there are years he's been an icon.
Will Lego Batman go for the original Bob Kane Batman? You can see his version there on the left in the premiere of Batman in Detective Comics in 1939. That Batman was literally like a giant bat, all in black and gray, and existed to scare criminals, mainly because he didn't have any fun toys. That's right, early Batman relied on ropes to tie up criminals, not super fast drying polymers to freeze criminals in their tracks. It could be interesting, but most people would grow tired of that Batman.

To inject a completely different spirit, but one that is certainly in the public's memory, they could go for Adam West's Batman of the 1960s TV series. You can tell he isn't as dark and foreboding as the original Batman because he's in dark blue, an oh-so-pleasant light purple, and is sucking in his gut to look lean and mean. This is the Batman that would provide plenty of "BIFFS!!" and "POWS!!!!" in colorful pop-up balloons for the game, which would be a nice visual. There are also plenty of fun toys and even the possibility of Batman going surfing!

But the 1960s Batman is distant enough in memory that I figure the powers that be Lego will go for one of the more recent incarnations. Batman from the 1989 movie or the 2005 one - a Batman that works in shadows but still has fun toys.

And yet, there is always Frank Miller's most recent version of the Batman. The man who put the dark back in Dark Knight has been plugging away at All-Star Batman and Robin, pouring all the over-the-top excess you've seen in Sin City and 300 into a redefining of Batman's team-up with young Robin. But even with the success of those movies, I really can't see Lego getting into Miller's version of the Batman - it isn't quite suitable for those under the age of Frank Miller.

Overall, I'm sure Lego Batman will go for a mash-up, bringing together styles from throughout Batman's changing nature (though they will have to make a call on short ears or long). But as they are making that call, I'd like to submit one treasure out of Batman's past they shouldn't overlook:A video game featuring Superman and Batman playing H-O-R-S-E? That's a game I'd buy.

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