Gotham City: 14 Miles
There's a certain show that I have cautiously avoided discussing in this column...mostly because of the amount of rancor resulting from such discussion. It's a topic that either causes great enthusiasm...or great discomfort. It's a topic that can, quite honestly, be divisive, but in an effort to strive towards journalistic integrity (and because - let's face it - I can't think of anything else to write about), I feel the need to cover it this month.
In some areas, it is a major bone of contention - some feel that it's a dead-on parody of comics; some feel it's a campy derision of comics, and some feel that it is a straightforward adaptation of comics. For many of us (myself included), it was our first exposure to comic adaptations, and the fact that it is currently not available on DVD (short version: there's a multitude of rights issues to untangle) makes it a little more rife for discussion.
And my own attitude has been...well, I need to be in the right mind to watch Batman. Some episodes excite me, others make me cringe, and others I have no respect for whatsover. (Burt Ward beat up Bruce Lee? Really?). But a recent book released by the Sequart Research and Literacy Organization has provided me not just with great insight...but is also a really good read in itself.
Edited by writer Jim Beard, Gotham City: 14 Miles is a collection of essays focusing on various aspects of the 1960s Batman, and is not quite what you would expect in a book. Unlike, say, the (Insert Pop Culture Artifact Title) And Philosophy series, these are not dry-and-dull essays written by professors between classes; they're well-thought out, articulate essays which use the series to explore a variety of topics and issues. It's a great mix of serious academic thought, but written with a slightly more modernistic flavor.
"But Gordon,", you're probably thinking to yourself, "Why waste time reading a serious attempt to cover what is - admittedly - a campy 1960s television show?" My answer is...this book helps me appreciate the show for being a dead-on representation of popular culture trends at a key point in American history. It's easy to see the Adam West Batman as an over-the-top campfest (which it eventually turned into in its third season), or even as a children's show (which is, admittedly, how I began watching it), but there's a delicious tension in how the actors approached the show versus how the production staff might have approached creating the material. (In past interviews, both William Dozier and Lorenzo Semple, Jr. have expressed some mixed - if not dismissive - feelings and attitudes about comics).
But Gotham City: 14 Miles serves as both a serious study of the show - and a fun read. While some episodes of Batman absolutely make me cringe, this book has me actively wanting to watch the series again. (Thankfully, Me-TV provides twice weekly reruns). With news of upcoming merchandise based on the show, although rumors of a DVD release might be premature, at the very least...we can keep dreaming, and keep watching. Same bat-time, same bat-channel.
And by the way, if you enjoy Gotham City: 14 Miles, I would like to recommend two other works of theirs. One is the documentary Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods, which you can watch for free on Hulu. The other (which I've just finished reading via Kindle Cloud Reader) is Teenagers from the Future, a selection of essays about the Legion of Super-Heroes. (And Sequart, if you ever have an open call for essays, let me know - would love to participate in some way).
Read More! For more of Gordon's writings, insights, and
general information, please visit his blog at blogthispal.blogspot.com.
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