Batman Unmasked (Will Brooker, 2000)

I recently finished Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon, by Will Brooker. The last thing I expected when I picked it up was an academic treatise on Batman's impact on culture.

Brooker starts and ends his book with discussions of readings and authorship - discussing ownership and fandom, interpretation and critique. Who owns Batman? Who determines who Batman is? As much a dialogue on Batman as it is a discourse on interpretation of art and literature, they bookend an interesting cultural chronology. In between, he takes a tour through Batman, beginning with his roots and his participation (or non-participitation) in World War II and on through the censorship of the 50's, the camp of the 60's, and into Batman in the 90's. On the journey, he touches on many things, including the merchandising crazes of the 40's and the 60's, when Batman was not only the best thing since sliced bread, but you could even get Batman sliced bread.

Batman Unmasked is worth looking into for the different spin he gives on Frederic Wertham. While Brooker suggests that he's not an apologist for Wertham, he definitely casts Wertham in a different light, painting him to be less of a villain than he's normally given credit for in comic book circles. He also takes a different tack with Adam West and the ABC television series, attempting to properly put the show in it's cultural setting, along with describing it's debt to pop art and camp.

I won't attempt to summarize these arguments here; if you want to find out about what Brooker has to say, take a look at his book. If you're interested in culture, history, comics, or Batman, this book should provide some interesting reading. After reading this, I've re-evaluated some thoughts about both Wertham and the 60's television show. I've got to do more reading on Wertham, but Brooker sheds some light in some areas I didn't see before.

1 comment:

Thoughtz said...

I just wanted to give a shot out because I am a huge superhero fan. I'm also a graduate student, and part of my intereests include studying ways in which superheroes can be an educational tool. I wrote a piece on in t in February of last year entitled "More than meets the eye?" Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think. If you know of any resources regarding using comic books or superheroes as educational tools, then let me know. my website is www.speeklife.com. If you're interested, I would like to do a link exchange. Take care and holla back.