6.22.2016

Books: The Caped Crusade by Glen Weldon

I picked this book up not because I'm some big Batman fan (I'm not) but because I like Glen Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour and wondered if his unique voice transferred well to the written word. Short answer: it does.

Longer answer: I bristle a bit at the term "normal" to stand opposite "nerd" in this book. Glen doesn't take time to define either, which means we're either supposed to know or draw from context which camp we as readers fall in. But is "nerd" here solely Batman fans? Or the wider world of nerddom? I don't find this an either/or classification, more a sliding scale that moves not just horizontally but in three dimensions. You need a plotted, 3D graph to see where people fall as "nerds" or, ugh, "normals." And what is normal? There's no such thing really, and here Glen seems to use it to mean people who only engage with Batman in the larger pop culture world rather than people who consistently read the comics and stick with the character through thick and thin. So I guess, when it comes to Batman, I'm a normal.

When it comes to comics, I'm a normal, more or less. I read Betty and Veronica as a kid, and all my parents' old Peanuts books, and I had all the Garfield books too. Later, I subscribed via my local comic book shop to the ST:TNG comics and The X-Files. Superheroes were never my thing.

I first connected with Batman when I would watch the animated series after school. With my mom of all things because she really liked it too. I was in high school at this time, had blissfully missed all the Burton and Schumacher movies. I wouldn't bother with the Bat again until Christopher Nolan made his films.

So that's where I'm coming from in approaching this book. Weldon does a nice job of chronicling—and chronologizing (I made that word up)—the life of Batman in all his various iterations and cycles. I found it easy to read, even for a "normal," and engaging enough, even for someone who has no real investment in the character.

It's clear Weldon is invested, however. And he does a good job of conveying his knowledge and research. There's a lot of information here, and it's organized well. Though, if he wanted to really punch up the whole nerd culture angle, he could have done more with that. As it stands, this is largely a history of Batman with some editorializing on how nerds felt about each new version versus how the wider world embraced the popular films, TV shows, etc.

No mention of Gotham, though. Hmm.

Overall an interesting read.

Shout out to Dean Trippe, who earns a mention at the end of the book. Incredibly talented guy with an origin story that he's used to help others in wonderful ways.