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While fans celebrate the 75th anniversary of “the Caped Crusader”, the teaser photo of Ben Affleck as Batman recently unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con reignites the debate as to whether or not Affleck is a suitable Dark Knight. Affleck is set to play Bruce Wayne in next year’s Batman Versus Superman feature-film; probably the DC Universe’s most ambitious film enterprise to date.
The answer is probably no, he isn’t a good fit – at least not on first impressions.

The majority of fans are outspoken in their disrelish for Affleck’s assuming of the Batman mantle and have been using on-line forums and communities to rant about it ever since it was announced. Affleck has already played an iconic superhero, of course, in 2003’s widely panned Daredevil film.

As poor as that film was, I’m not sure Affleck was the problem with it; he might’ve made a better Matt Murdoch under better circumstances. But no, Affleck as Batman doesn’t sit right. But then neither did Clooney; and I’ve personally never been all that keen on Christian Bale’s overly macho, gravel-voiced Dark Knight either, who has always seemed half like a parody.

In fact I have to go back to – no, not Adam West Michael Keaton to find the big-screen Batman/Bruce Wayne that has worked best for me. Keaton has his detractors, but for me he’s the best Dark Knight we’ve had. Not as excessively macho as Christian Bale, but not as Ben Affleck as… Ben Affleck; Keaton’s Bruce Wayne was likeable, somewhat more down-to-earth in nature, but no less convincing as the Dark Knight.

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I still think, for the record, that Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns stand up really well both in terms of tone and style, as well casting (particularly Michelle Pfeiffer’s definitive Catwoman, though Danny DeVito’s Penguin is also great even all these years later), even if the more recent Christopher Nolan trilogy of films can be rightly considered the standard-bearer (and raiser) for Batman in the medium of cinema.

Affleck has repeatedly expressed regret over how badly the Daredevil film was handled, particularly as he himself was a professed Daredevil comic fan as a child. Assuming he is also a Batman fan, he may be setting himself up for an unfortunate repeating of history, but it remains to be seen.

As for the Batman/Superman film (which we know will also feature another DC staple, Wonder Woman, in cinema form for the first time), I’m not sure when or even if I’m liable to get excited about it; I didn’t see Man of Steel, but what I heard about it from people didn’t exactly make me feel I’d missed out. Much like the Batman dilemma, I find it difficult to think of anyone other than Christopher Reeve as a screen version of Superman – but that’s largely also because he’s never been replaced with a suitable successor, and the current Man of Steel, Henry Cavill, isn’t it either.

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But, of course, this new film might be worth getting excited about when it draws nearer its release (need to see a teaser first, probably – not for another year in all likelihood).

Speaking of DC-derived films and questionable casting, I remember being fairly enthusiastic about the fact there was a Green Lantern film being made; that was until (1) I discovered Ryan Reynolds had been cast, and (2) I saw the film. It’s difficult to tell how badly that film suffered from its main casting choice and whether it would’ve actually been much more  enjoyable had that one key decision been made differently. Say what you might about Ben Affleck, but he’s not as utterly mind-numbingly unwatchable as Ryan Reynolds at least. But it does demonstrate how utterly crucial it is to cast your lead role intelligently.

This year also is the 75th anniversary of Batman; a creation with a richness of history, canon and output so vast that it’s difficult to do the matter justice in an aside like this.

Suffice it to say, Batman is one of the great comic-book creations of all-time – many would put it at the top of the tree, in fact. The Batman franchise of comics has also, at certain points in its long history, virtually carried the DC Universe on its shoulders. In more recent years it can also be said to have been carrying the DC film tie-in world on its shoulders too, the success of the Batman big-screen projects keeping open the possibilities for other DC Universe entities to be considered viable by the big studios. With the Gotham TV series approaching too and garnering a lot of  attention, this is seemingly a very busy time for The Dark Knight in all his various forms.

I’ve personally been really enjoying watching the Batman: The Bold and the Brave animated series lately (admittedly a show not to everyone’s tastes); but it further demonstrates just how broad a field the Batman ‘franchise’ has become.

Among what will no doubt be other DC celebrations of Batman’s 75th Anniversary is a special slipcase collection featuring the classic trade paperbacks of three highly lauded Batman epics: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, written by the great Frank Miller with art by Miller and Klaus Janson, Batman: Hush, written by Jeph Loeb with art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams, and Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls, written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion. No Knightfall in there, but I guess that would be overload.

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In general, the influence and importance of Batman both in comics and in the broader cultural landscape is almost too big to quantify. From being a kid watching reruns of Adam West in the (admittedly camp) sixties TV show, to reading the Caped Crusaders exploits in comic-book form (again, Knightfall is my main Batman era), to marveling at Tim Burton’s screen interpretation of Gotham City and “ooohing” at Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman as a teenager, until eventually things got much more adult with Christopher Nolan’s cinematic interpretation of things and Heath Ledger’s unforgettable Joker; and with all the (numerous) animated series’ in-between; the Dark Knight has been a presence in a great many of our own misty Gotham-esque landscapes, looking down ominously from some moody roof-top like a grim sentinel.

And admit it, isn’t there a part of most of us every now and then that looks across the night sky or a skyline and half expects to see the bat signal projecting out?

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