The best thing about The Caped Crusade, Glen Weldon’s book-length ode to Batmania, is Glen Weldon himself. Sure, the actual book is informative and well thought out, organized and insightful. But it’s also got a personality to it, thanks to Weldon, who impregnates even the most mundane sentence with his dry wit and his enthusiasm for his two subjects (Batman, the nature of nerdery).
His twin theses? Nerdery isn’t about what you love, but loving what you love with a staggering, vacuum-sucking passion. And that all the Batmans that have existed over his seventy-eight year history, from the campiest Batus-dancing iteration, to the elderly violent sociopath lurking for a comeback. They are all Batman.
“Anyone can look at Christian Bale’s Kevlar-suited, mouth-breathing Batman, croaking his dire threats like an enraged, laryngitic frog, and immediately recognize him as the same character as Adam West’s Batusi Batman, out there on the go-go floor, shaking what his dead mama gave him.”
Weldon traces Batman’s full history from his creation in 1939, all the way through early 2016 just before the release of Batman Vs. Superman (he mentions seeing the trailer, and can’t resist making a dig at the scene where Batman and Supes glower at each other in the rain). But he does this in a way that is more than just listing out things like, Hey this happened, and then this happened, and then this! Which is what the author of the Nancy Drew book I just read did. Weldon did for Batman what I wanted her to do for the girl sleuth. I couldn’t have planned a better study in contrast. Girl Sleuth put me to sleep. The Caped Crusade vibrates with attitude on every page. Glen Weldon has VOICE. It also helps that what he says with that voice is insightful and engaging. And funny. I actually laughed out loud at this book on several occasions.
“[Batman’s] status as an inkblot onto which we project our basest drives has always made it easy to mistake him for a creature of hatred, or darkness.
But though he lives in darkness, Batman is not of it. He was birthed in a senseless act of violence, but his mission, his life’s work, is to prevent such acts from happening to others.”
I’m not a Batman fan. I’ve seen the movies once each, and that’s about it (although Weldon REALLY made me want to watch Batman: The Animated Series). I’ve always been more attracted to what Superman had to offer, but Weldon makes it very clear in this book why Batman has endured for so long, and why so many people feel so passionately about him. This is a book for people who love Batman, yes, but it’s also for nerds, and for people who are interested in just good straight up cultural analysis and history.
I hope Glen Weldon writes many more books, I really do. I find him very amusing. But first I’m definitely going to track down a copy of his Superman book because I WANTS IT.