REVIEW: THE COMIC BOOK ADAPTATION OF BATMAN ’89 IS AS GORGEOUS AS IT IS FLAWED
By Kevin Church
I love movies. I love comic books. I wrote about comic book adaptations of movies for this site a while back, but the Batman ’89 adaptation is worth looking at on its own, especially on its 25th anniversary. It’s an odd creature, to be sure — one of the very first adaptations of a movie based on a comic as far as I can recall with only Howard The Duck coming to mind as a predecessor. (Yes, that was terrible, just like its source, but it had Kyle Bakerart, which makes everything a bit easier to take.)
As part of the marketing blitz for the movie, the comic version of Batman naturally sold batloads [Editor’s note: we apologize for nothing] and is a fixture of many a 30-something’s comics collection. In an effort to extort as much as they could from the fanbase, DC Comics made the book available in two formats: a newsstand-friendly comic that set readers back a mere $2.50 and a prestige format version) with a painted cover and spine) that retailed for $4.95. Personally, the cheaper version’s cover has always appealed to me more, but I’ll admit that Batman kicking a clown has a visceral appeal to me than Batman standing on a gargoyle, even if it’s nicely rendered. No matter what version you bought though, the interiors were the same, and they were among the best drawings of Jerry Ordway’s already distinguished career.
Unfortunately, even with scripter Denny O’Neil’s bonafides as one of the people behind the 1980s version of the caped crusader that inspired the film and Ordway’s extraordinary ability to render likenesses, the comic is inert and suffers from a complete inability to be compelling on its own. That’s something that can’t be said about Burton’s movie, as scattershot and disorderly as the final product is. Even if you’re not a fan of the movie (and I’m not), if it’s on a screen, you’re going to watch its weirdness unfold — you can’t say that about the comic version, no matter how pretty it is.
I wrote this.