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Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon…
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Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon (2000)

by Will Brooker

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A work of scholarship and a labor of love. This is the definitive history of the Batman in all media: comics, film, television and the internet. The bookÆs combination of rigorous historical research and a witty, fluid writing style make it both vastly instructive and vastly entertaining.--Roberta Pearson, editor of The Many Lives of the Batman Will appeal to avid students of pop culture and comics, and a gay cult audience...BrookerÆs impressive overview of BatmanÆs history reflects on the masked oneÆs origins, early arch rivals and the introduction of Robin, and concentrates on four periods: WWII, the mid 1950s, the Æ60s and the Æ90s. In 1954, child psychologist Fredric Wertham attacked the comic book industryànoting homoerotic undercurrents between Batman and Robin; BrookerÆs lengthy and fascinating Ægay readingÆ supports WerthamÆs claim, albeit with a positive, postmodern twist. After recalling the campy image of Batman spawned by ABCÆs 1960s TV show, the author takes a look at Batman writers, fans, fanzines and the Net, concluding with a hilarious chapter on how his research was ridiculed by the British media. -Publishers Weekly ôàBrookerÆs account is bolstered by his fan expertise. This book usefully expands uponàThe Many Lives of Batman. Recommendedàö--Library JournalA historical, detailed, deep analysis of Batman as a cultural icon in America. This isn't a simple polemic or surface-shallow analysis. This is deep stuff-analyzing art styles, histories, individual panels, cultural concepts, and historical documentsà. plenty of startling revelations and analysesàThis is a stunningly well-done, intelligent book. It's proof that comics are not throwaway ephemera, but real, vital, analyzable parts of our culture. It's also a must-have for the hardcore Batman fan and comics fan-who doesn't mind some ideas being challenged.--www.super-heroes.netôBrooker cuts through the mumbo jumbo to deliver incisive analysis and very sharp reporting, particularly on the comic book's homoerotic subtext and on the 60's TV show's knowing self-mockery, as well as on how the 'official' 21st Century Batman nods to both.ö--Entertainment WeeklyOver the sixty years of his existence, Batman has encountered an impressive array of cultural icons and has gradually become one himself. This fascinating book examines what Batman means and has meant to the various audiences, groups and communities who have tried to control and interpret him over the decades. Brooker reveals the struggles over Batman's meaning by shining a light on the cultural issues of the day that impacted on the development of the character. They include: patriotic propaganda of the Second World War; the accusation that Batman was corrupting the youth of America by appearing to promote a homosexual lifestyle to the fans of his comics; Batman becoming a camp, pop culture icon through the ABC TV series of the sixties; fans' interpretation of Batman in response to the comics and the Warner Bros. franchise of films.

**
  GalenWiley | Apr 13, 2015 |
This book is a good examination of Batman's impact on society, but more than that it takes a good look at the impact of all comics. The author addresses issues of Batman's creation and his creators, war, propaganda, camp, homosexuality/homophobia and more.

He's very knowledgable and it's an interesting read, but after finishing it, you can't help but feel like Brooker had an agenda.

He seems to strongly defend the two most embattled topics of the Dark Knight - the 1960s TV series, and the question of his sexuality. It's one thing to be objective and fair in reporting these issues, but Brooker easily spends more than half his time explaining why the 1960s series wasn't as bad as we collectively remember it, and why Batman could be gay.

More than that, not only does he suggest that it's possible that Batman is gay, he suggests it might add more dimension to the character by opening him up to more situations. He quotes message board posts (a questionable form of research) and attacks any poster as "homophobic" if they try to assert that Batman is not gay.

Booker can spend all day examining the fictional life of Bruce Wayne off the page/screen, but that doesn't change the fact that Bruce Wayne HAS NO LIFE off the page/screen. We can only take him on what we have seen released from official sources (ie: DC Comics and WB). He reads a lot into subtext, which is fun, but that doesn't always mean it's the intended reading. I can apply political, religious and feminist readings to FRANKENSTEIN, but that doesn't mean it was Shelley's intention.

Regardless, Brooker is very knowledgable and informed, but the time he spends defending the two most embarrasing moments of Batman's history leads one to question his entire thesis -- especially when you take into account Brooker's own sexuality.

You'll feel like he had an agenda to promote.
  rsottney | Mar 19, 2008 |
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Epigraph
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat How I Wonder what You're at

(Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)
Gloria Hunniford: Do you regard yourself as a cultural icon... Adam? Adam West:         ... it... doesn't matter.

(Adam West with Will Brooker and Gloria Hunniford, Open House with Gloria Hunniford, Channel 5, 14 April 2000)
What are now called 'Departments of English' will be renamed departments of 'Cultural Studies' where Batman comics, Mormon theme parks, television movies and rock will replace Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth and Wallace Stevens (Harold Bloom, The Western Canon, London: Macmillan (1994, p. 519)
Dedication
Thanks to: Denny O'Neil and Alan Asherman at DC Comics, who generously shared their time, their archives and their memories. Roberta Pearson for her support, her encouragement and her example. Deborah Jermyn for buying me Roberta's The Many Lives of the Batman second-hand in 1995. John Hartley for inspiring background presence and for always finding the money. David Barker at Continuum for his unflagging faith and enthusiasm. Fiona Graham for the index. Justine Davis, who loyally assisted with the New York research. Liz Brooker, who proofread my first Batman story in 1978. Pete Brooker, who brought home The Dark Knight Returns in 1985. Joe Brooker, boy wonder.

Will Brooker
Cardiff - New York - London
May 1999
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I have kept a diary consistently since I was very young - since the age of seven, but more of that below - and on 29 July 1992 I pasted in two photographs, one from the Guardian and one from the Greenwich and Woolwich Mercury.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Over the sixty years of his existence, Batman has encountered an impressive array of cultural icons and has gradually become one himself. This acclaimed book examines what Batman means and has meant to the various audiences, groups and communities who have tried to control and interpret him over the decades. Brooker reveals the struggles over Batman's meaning by shining a light on the cultural issues of the day that impacted on the development of the character. They include: patriotic propaganda of the Second World War; the accusation that Batman was corrupting the youth of America by appearing to promote a homosexual lifestyle to the fans of his comics; Batman becoming a camp, pop culture icon through the ABC TV series of the sixties; fans' interpretation of Batman in response to the comics and the Warner Bros. franchise of films.

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