After missing last year’s Superman 75th anniversary panel, I was intent on making it to this year’s Batman 75th anniversary panel. I sat through two panels to see this one (The League panel, which I wanted to see, and the Marvel Cup O’Joe panel, which I wasn’t really interested in). The panelists introduced were Geoff Johns, Kevin Conroy, Neal Adams, Greg Capullo, Scott Snyder, and Jim Lee. They talked about their favorite Batman villains. Conroy said his favorite was the Joker mainly because of Mark Hamill’s take on the iconic villain (Capullo and Snyder also picked the Joker). Conroy said that he never thought that anyone could top Mark Hamill, but then Heath Ledger came along with his Oscar-winning performance in 2008’s The Dark Knight. Conroy added that they were both brilliant in different ways. The Joker’s adaptability over the years was discussed and how evil and terrifying he is.
Adams wanted to pick the Joker only because he couldn’t pronounce Ra’s Al Guhl. Lee’s favorite was the Catwoman played by Julie Newmar on the Adam West Batman TV series. They then discussed the Batman TV series and its upcoming complete series Blu-ray release. Lee said that he took the show seriously when he was a kid and that Cesar Romero’s Joker was scary to him because of the moustache underneath the makeup. Lee also mentioned that an unproduced Harlan Ellison script for the Batman TV series was going receive a comic book adaptation in December. Capullo mentioned that the very first superhero drawing he ever did was of Batman and Robin from the opening credits of the Batman TV series. Adams said he tried to suspend his disbelief while watching the TV show, but that ended when he saw the episode where Jill St. John climbs on top of a cyclotron, falls in, and Batman responds, “What a way to go-go.”
Various Batman comic book covers were shown to show the evolution of Batman over the last 75 years. Adams compared Batman to Sherlock Holmes and talked about Batman: Odyssey (where Batman fights dragons!). Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was then brought up; everyone praised it. Snyder mentioned how it appealed to people and how the Gotham City in that story resonated with people (especially New Yorkers in the late 1980s). He also said that it was his favorite book (not just comic book). Lee said that Miller’s book was the one that inspired him to become a comic book artist. They shifted to Batman: The Animated Series. Conroy revealed that producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini had to explain the background of Batman to him when he was first hired (Conroy’s only exposure to Batman had been the 1960s TV series). He also mentioned that he had no idea what kind of impact the show would have.
Conroy then told a story about a woman who grew up in the projects in Chicago who told him that watching Batman: The Animated Series saved her life. She said that focusing on the character of Batman really helped her (Conroy added that he’s heard numerous stories like that). Conroy also mentioned that he was recently asked what the overarching lesson on Batman was, and he responded that it was to never, ever, ever give up because Batman doesn’t give up and neither should you. Two Batman animated shorts, produced by Bruce Timm, that were commissioned for the 75th anniversary of Batman were shown afterward. The first one has a 1930s/1940s Batman trying to rescue a woman from Dr. Hugo Strange, and the other one (done by artist Darwyn Cooke) has the Terry McGuinness Batman and the older Bruce Wayne from Batman Beyond fighting robotic Batmen inside the Batcave).
They then brought up Batman: Hush, which Lee worked on with Jeph Loeb and Scott Williams. Lee described it as a love letter to the creators who got to work on Batman before he did. He mentioned that he loved how one particular line from Batman: Hush (“I’m the god-damn Batman!”) has become a part of Batman lore. Lee said that Frank Miller had been an influence on Batman: Hush, and that he got to work with Miller on Absolute All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. Batman: Earth One Volume 1 was then brought up (Johns worked on it). Earth One shows a new take on Batman, one in which he hasn’t yet become the highly competent detective that we know. Several characters are different as well, including Alfred (who’s more blue collar and military-oriented in this tale). They showed the cover of Batman: Earth One Volume 2 after that and mentioned that Volume 2 will see Batman learning to become a detective from Jim Gordon.
The Riddler will appear in Volume 2 as a terrorist, Harvey Dent and his twin sister will play a big role, and a reinvented Killer Croc will also appear. The New 52 was brought up afterward. It was mentioned that it’s been a consistent best-seller for DC Comics. They then brought up the Endgame storyline that’s going on now with Batman in the New 52 continuity (which will feature Jokerized versions of the Justice League). Conroy was thankful for the villains because those characters attracted a lot of terrific actors for Batman: The Animated Series. He also mentioned that he recently re-watched Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and was astounded by how great a movie it was and how good it still looked after 20-plus year. Snyder mentioned how it was cool that there was a Batman for every phase of a person’s life. The panel then thanked everyone for coming, and officially ended the panel by showing the trailer for the new TV series Gotham. Happy 75th birthday, Batman!