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Batman Unmasked: Analysing a Cultural Icon [Paperback]

Will Brooker
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2001
An academic monograph that traces the various ways in which Batman has been interpreted over the years - by wartime film producers, gay teenagers, pop artists, Internet fan communities, and so on. Written from both an academic and a fan's perspective, is examines how a character can be a brand and a myth at the same time. The book draws on substantial research from the DC Comics archives, as well as interviews with DC editors and writers. Also included is a comprehensive Batman iconography, listing examples of how Batman has been used as a reference in other TV shows, movies, and fast food restaurants.

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Batman Unmasked: Analysing a Cultural Icon + Hunting The Dark Knight: Twenty-First Century Batman + Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Continnuum-3PL; Reprint edition (1 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826413439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826413437
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 468,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Eloquent and reasoned." Popmatters.com

From the Author

The must-have gift for Bat-fans this Christmas
I have loved Batman for as long as I can remember. This is the book I always wanted to read about the Dark Knight: a love-letter and a tribute to his role in my life. BATMAN UNMASKED is the result of three years' dedicated research, including interviews with DC Comics staff and examination of the original comics kept in DC's vaults. It deals with the Batman in all his incarnations, from a detailed analysis of the first ever comic story through Adam West's TV show to Frank Miller's "Dark Knight", Alan Moore's "Killing Joke" and the Burton/Schumacher franchise. This is the only book about Batman you will need - until I write the second edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking Batman seriously ... 2 Jan 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is an academic textbook, a revised version of the author's doctoral thesis. Most comics' fans, I guess, have a rough idea of the history of Batman: wartime crimefighter, 50s SF, 60s camp, 70s social relevance, 80s revisionism, 90s films and animated series. Brooker's survey is chronological, but comes to some interesting new insights - Batman's forays into wartime propaganda were surprisingly rare, the growth of comics fandom was engineered by the publishers themselves. Pride of place, though, is a radical reinterpretation of Seduction of the Innocent, the fifties book that first raised the question of a gay subtext in Batman and Robin's relationship, which comic fans have long equated with the McCarthyite witch-hunts.
There's an interesting analysis of fans and fandom, and how fans who take Batman seriously equate this with a serious Batman, seeing any hint of humour or camp as aberrant. While Brooker demonstrates there are common elements to all Batman tales, there is plenty of room for all manner of interpretations and versions of Batman - Adam West is just as valid as Frank Miller, Brooker's Batman contains multitudes.
Anyone after pictures (not an unreasonable request, given the medium under discussion), go for Les Daniels' 'Complete History' series instead. But this is almost certainly the most intelligent and informative analysis not just of Batman but of the production and reception of comics. There are insights into fan psychology here which ought to make this book a key text in the study of 'fandoms', and the analysis applies as much to other series with a cult following (Doctor Who and Star Wars, for example) as it does to Batman or other superheroes.
The acid test, though, is that it made me want to seek out some of the stories being discussed. It's a labour of love, as well as a rational, balanced analysis. It's an expensive book, it won't be to everyone's taste, but it's an important, informative and entertaining study.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique piece of research 5 Jan 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
The thing that struck me most about this book, apart from the fluid writing style, is the sheer amount of detailed research presented and analysed. There is close reference to various media - comics, television and film - as well as important primary texts. Wertham's "Seduction of the Innocent" is of particular note. Even for non Bat fans such as myself, it is fascinating reading. It is interesting to discover just how significant a figure Batman has been in American culture. The book covers a wide span chronologically, from the 1940's through to the late 90's, yet recurrent themes give the work continuity and focus. Brooker offers a refreshing approach to readings of Batman, considering the use of the character as 1940's propaganda, and the much disputed gay readings of the 1950's.
Finally, read the book for Brooker's anecdotes. Ranging from childhood memories as a batfan to the reception he received from the press as a bat academic, these are wonderfully written and give a personal touch to what otherwise is pure scholarly research.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting but flawed study of character 8 April 2006
By Danny McCaslin Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Will Brooker's "Batman Unmasked" has its moments. Brooker does a great job of giving the character a solid publication background and discussing some of the key issues that have come up in the history of the Batman character. However, he seems to spend a disproportionate ammount of time trying to convince us all that Batman is gay, or, more accurately, that "gay readings" of Batman are not "wrong", or even uncommon.

Well, to be frank, of course they're not "wrong," as you can never be "wrong" in an interpretation of a character. I remember writing a paper in my freshman year comparing the characters of Hamlet, Iago, and Richard III, and concluding that Hamlet could be read as a villain. However, Brooker preemptively tries to pigeonhole everyone who argues against this point as "homophobic" and tries to essentially say that most of the gay subtext of the character in the 40s, 50s, and 60s was intentional. It's one thing to reinterpret a character, it's something completely different to make the assumption that the subtext is intentional.

Brooker spends little time talking about "The Dark Knight Returns," probably the most famous, well-loved, and groundbreaking Batman comic book of the last 25 years, and only mentions it as a counterpoint to the more campy interpretations and as an influence on Tim Burton's 1989 film.

Finally, Brooker spends way too much time quoting from Internet message boards. I guess that's fine for a Culture Studies book, but I think that time may have been better spent reading Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Bruno Bettelheim and discussing how The Batman fits into the ideas of authors who have done similar works relating to mythology and fairy-tales.

This wasn't a bad book, but I think it could have been MUCH better.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Batman Stripped is More Like It! 13 Dec 2000
By Mark Delaney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Readers searching for a loving, fannish look at Batman would be happier with those books written by Les Daniels or Chip Kidd. Batman Unmasked contains no Batman art, no story reprints, not even a Batman image on the cover. Brooker intends instead to present the reader with a well-researched and documented work that reads rather like a Ph.D thesis. Oddly enough, Brooker devotes well over half the book to discussing what has become little more than a humorous footnote to most Batman fans: the idea, first presented by Frederic Wertham in Seduction of the Innocent, that Batman's relationship with Robin can be read in a homosexual context. As has always been the case, some readers will laugh at the examples provided; others may find offense. More interesting, however, are Brooker's assertions that secondary artists and writers, specifically Jerry Robinson and Gardner Fox, worked on Batman far earlier than previously thought, thus leaving us with the idea that Bob Kane contributed far less to the character's genesis than he has earned credit for. Ultimately, Batman Unmasked will be interesting only to those readers who know what to expect when they buy it.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. We need more books like this. 29 Jan 2001
By Steven Savage - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The idea of analyzing Batman as a serious cultural icon may seem laughable - until one realizes that there is some sixty years of history to the character and his companions. Batman has been there through most of the 20th Century, so there's something to analyze.
This is not a pop culture book - this is an analysis of culture. Serious, insightful, footnote-heavy analysis. This is not for the casual comics fan - this is for people who love comics and their culture and want some insight into that culture and that history.
This book analyzes batman in "blocks" of time. From the creation, to the war years, to the 50's, the 60's, the 70's, and beyond. Examples of interpretations, misinterpretations, and historical impact are given, at times in incredible detail (such as panel-by-panel analysis of a comic issue).
Without giving anything away about the book, this analysis looks at how Batman came to be, what themes have endured, and how the times have (and haven't) affected him. Most interestingly, the "dark eras" of the comics Inquisition of the 50's and the controversial pop-interpretation of the 60's are examined in detail - and some startiling revelations and interpretations are made.
The problem with reviewing this book is that I can't do it justice and don't wish to spoil the readers. However, simply, if you care about comics in general or Batman in particular, and like to understand the deep issues of culture, buy it. Buy several - give them to friends. It's worth it.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and entertaining 6 Mar 2001
By Natassia Khan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a rare thing - a scholarly study that you can't put down. It's beautifully written, enlightening and thoroughly researched all at once. I strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Batman in particular or popular culture in particular. Superb.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great comic book history - but an obvious gay bias 29 July 2007
By Ryan S - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
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