Last week, I promised literature. I promised high-brow commentary and an intellectual comparison between giants in their field.
I’m giving you Lego Batman vs Batman the Animated Series.
Look, I’m tired, okay? We can’t all swing for the fences every day! Also, they’re both way better than you think.
Please understand, (shameless plug here) my book, Piggyback to the End of the World, won Second freaking Runner Up for the Dell Sol Press for First Novel! So, I’ve been super busy writing statements and bios and getting my picture taken to send Del Sol for their website. Super modest about it. Pray hands, pray hands. (end shameless plug).
Okay then. Batman it is.
As the 24/7 slave of a three-and-a-half-year-old, I’ve become something of an expert on Lego Batman. So much so, that it’s difficult to parse my encyclopedic knowledge of the character into a few paragraphs.
Meanwhile, having survived my early twenties on a diet of store brand mac-n-cheese and Batman the Animated Series, I’m in a similar predicament there.
So, let me start with Batman the Animated Series. If you find yourself on a date and feel a need to explain your love of comics, or Batman, or genre entertainment, Batman TAS is a good place to start. It’s super accessible. It doesn’t require you to know what happened last episode, and the world is explained brilliantly in the opening credits. More than likely, if you’ve gone this far, you won’t be getting a second date anyway, so go ahead, break out the phone and show the object of your affection this lovely remaster of that classic opening. They may be hooked. It might be the litmus test you need to find that one special person who can tolerate you.
Batman of TAS takes every version of Batman, up to the point it was made thirty freaking years ago, and builds something that is arguably the essence of Batman. He’s the World’s Greatest Detective from the classic Denny O’Neil run in the comics. He’s got a touch of the relentlessness, and the striking imagery, of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s Dark Knight Returns mini-series form the 1980’s. He’s even got a subtle, but healthy, dose of the camp from the 60’s Batman show. Harley Quinn, one of the most loved characters in modern comics, came from TAS as a goofball henchman to the Joker. I’d say her roots are planted firmly next to Julie Newmar’s Catwoman and Vincent Price’s Egghead.
How does that old, amazing show relate to Lego Batman? Lego Batman is one giant, delicate ego fueled by money. His public facade is far more important to him than his afterthought of a real life. He fires off his merch-gun to orphans and plays brooding metal anthems for the babes. Lobster Thermador seems to make up his entire diet, yet he never seems to eat a meal
Lego Batman is clearly an actor.
Who does Lego Batman play, you ask? Well, I’m pretty sure he plays Batman on the Animated Series.
Now, this is not to take away from his achievements as Lego Batman. Lego Batman is a real Hero, not just an actor. Batman TAS seems to be a somewhat edited and reworked version of Lego Batman’s personal adventures is all. Lego Batman clearly has a Batman skillset. He is a master martial artist. He is a skilled detective. He can crash Superman’s private parties and swipe his most prized possessions. Lego Batman, as Hollywood shallow as he may be, has most of what Batman has. He’s not just an empty Bat-suit.
It’s like “Arnold Schwarzenegger of the movies” vs “Arnold Schwarzenegger of the real world”. He has real muscles in real life. Also, he may have fought a real alien in a jungle, we don’t know. He’s almost certainly a robot from the future. We’ve just re-worked his real life into a marketable, more coherent, perhaps somewhat sanitized, fiction for movies.
Same thing for Lego Batman. He’s just as much Batman as Batman TAS. It’s just the real world is less coherent, and his heart is in a different place than the Animated Series version. It’s in the place celebrities keep their hearts.
So, while for me, Batman TAS is the truest of all Batmen, Lego Batman is who he is when he goes home at night.
As usual, I’m not recommending one Batman over another. I think, especially in this case, they add nuance to one another. May you never again be able to watch Batman without imagining him being Lego Batman between takes.
That’s this week’s VS for you. No promises this time about what we’ll be looking at next week but I'll be here.