A previous blog discussed boys and body image, but what is the perception of Batman and body image?
Batman originated as a comic book detective and crime-fighting superhero in May 1939. Cartoonist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger created the Batman comic strip, which DC Comics published. Batman is the alter ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne. Wayne dons a bat costume – headwear and cape – drives a batmobile and has a number of bat gadgets in order to fight crime (as the caped crusader) in Gotham City. His partner is Boy Robin, and he is supported by butler Alfred Pennyworth. Unlike other superheroes, such as Superman, Batman does not have super powers – he relies on wit and genius, detective skills, technology, wealth, martial arts, and muscles.
A television series recreated the comic book hero from 1966-1968, with actor Adam West. In the 1980s writer-artist produced a miniseries, and Tim Burton took Batman to the movies in 1989. Batman has remained an iconic fictional hero, emulated by young boys.
Over the years a number of actors have portrayed Batman:
Lewis Wilson: 1943, Batman serial
Robert Lowery: 1949, Batman and Robin serial
Adam West: 1966-1968, Batman serial and Batman: The Movie (1966)
Michael Keaton: Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992)
Val Kilmer: Batman Forever (1995)
George Clooney: Batman and Robin (1997)
Bruce Thomas: Birds of Prey (2002)
Christian Bale: Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Ben Affleck: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The Economist (28 March 2016) documented the measurements of the six main movie actors who portrayed Batman over 50 years – West, Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, Bale, and Affleck – noting changes in the character’s physique. But does size matter? Is bigger better?
Data collected from Moviepilot, and the size test, show that Adam West, the first Batman, was closest in measurements specified in the comic books. The first Batman comic in 1939 stated that Batman’s physique was 6’2’’ (1.88m) and 210 pounds (95kg). Adam West played Batman in the television series from 1966-1968 and was identical in height to the comic book hero at 6’2’’ (1.88m) and close in weight at 200 pounds (90kg).
Val Kilmer, Batman in 1995, was 6’ (1.83m) and 205 pounds (92kg) and Christian Bale (Batman from 2005-20012) was 6’ (1.83m) and 181 pounds (82kg) – both a reasonable closeness.
George Clooney, Batman in 1997, was 5’11’’ (1.80m) and 172 pounds (78kg).
The most variance comes in the shape of Michael Keaton, who portrayed Batman from 1989-1992, at 5’10’’ (1.78m) and 159 pounds (72 kg) – the shortest and lightest actor playing Batman.
The largest Batman is the current actor Ben Affleck (2016) at 6’4’’ (1.93m) and 216 pounds (97kg), towering over the rest.
So which actor was the best Batman? Is it appearance, intellect, technology, eyes, height, muscles, or acting that determine the ‘best’ Batman? And do young boys imitate the actor currently playing Batman, or do they have a favourite and why? How important is body image to Batman?
In the original comic book, physique was only one factor in Batman’s crime-fighting arsenal – he did want to intimidate the villains and he was characterized as strong, but he certainly was a genius and rich too. Over the years, in the movies, Batman and his body image has changed – showing size probably doesn’t matter!
Photographs: Batman from mtv.com (top); six Batmen from zimbio.com; Batman in the rain by moviepilot.com; Batman and Robin from edition.cnn.com; Adam West as Batman from willmckinley.wordpress.com