Full disclosure: My total geekiness notwithstanding, I'm nonetheless not the kind of person lying awake in breathless anticipation of the July 18th opening of Christopher Nolan's latest Batman sequel The Dark Knight. Yes, I'm sure the late Heath Ledger is terrific as the Joker, and yes, anytime you replace celebrity beard unhealthily perky Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal, you have my vote. Basically, though, I'm one of those cranky purists who thinks that none of the live action Batman films to date -- with the possible exception of the first Tim Burton entry -- holds a candle, on any level, to even the lesser episodes of Batman: The Animated Series from the early 90s. I could go on at length about why that's the case -- why the Batman should always be more Marshall Rogers and less Frank Miller -- but don't worry; I may be a geek but I'd still be way too embarassed to bore you with that kind of fanboy crap.
That said, I am vastly relieved that Nolan and his collaborators haven't given Christian Bale's Caped Crusader a Boy Wonder sidekick. Obviously, we needn't get into the thousand indignities foisted upon a hapless public in Joel Schumacher's horrific 1997 George Clooney/Chris O'Donnell vehicle Batman and Robin (nipples on the Batsuit? Arnold Schwarzenegger as Otto Preminger?). No, I'm thinking more about the sort of subtext you found in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin.
I believe the late crackpot psychiatrist Fredric Wertham said it best in his 1954 bestseller Seduction of the Innocent:
Wertham's general assertion was that readers would imitate crimes committed in comic books, and that these works would corrupt the morals of the youth. The most notorious charge in the book, however, was leveled at Batman, in a four-page polemic claiming that Batman and Robin were gay. "They live in sumptuous quarters, with beautiful flowers in large vases, and have a butler," Wertham wrote. "It is like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together[emphasis mine]."
Hey -- these guys gay? Who could have guessed? Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.
All kidding aside, you can get the Wertham book -- one of the most notorious works of pseudo-science of the 20th century, not to mention a hideously destructive influence on the development of comic books as an art form -- here; it's a fascinating read in a perverse and cautionary sort of way. The serial, which is quite amazingly lousy even by the standards of legendary and prolific shlockmeister producer Sam Katzman -- Batman drives a '49 Mercury in lieu of a Batmobile -- is available on disc here. Those of you on a late Bush Era tight budget, however, should forego both serial and book and lay down your coin for the DVD box of Batman: The Animated Series instead; no better written or more stylish screen translation of the comic books has ever been seen by sentient mammals, nor is likely to be any time soon.