As a child, the Batman I was first acquainted with was the blue-and-gray Caped Crusader with the bright yellow utility belt. He had a batarang and a mask that made him look more like a pig than a bat, and he wore his underwear over his tights.
And - he had no abs.
Through the '70s and '80s, kids and adults caught the reruns of the 1966 Batman series starring Adam West. I never enjoyed watching it but the series must be a big hit, considering it was re-aired.
Image found on the Web.
In those days, Christian Bale (the current badass Batman) was just a kid too. In fact, he wasn't even born yet when the TV show was first produced.
One of the things I remember (because it exasperated me so much) is that everything in the Bat-Cave had a name tag, and all action sound-effects had to be spelled out:
The Batman of my early childhood was kinda dorky. He spoke like a senator, talked down to his audience and always had a moral lesson to teach children. I was a kid then, and I thought it was lame.
Of course, before the series came the comic books.
Comicbook covers nicked from superdickery.com
There's our hero shown above, stymied by a plastic bag.
He and his sidekick Robin lived together in a confusing, semi-wholesome, semi-heterosexual, semi-murderous relationship in Wayne Manor. Holy cow, Batman.
|Just why were they sleeping in the same bed?|
... and what's with the suggestive dialogue?
And, oh - they had an annoying Bat-Mite (a bat-what?) I had no idea what purpose this imp served, but seeing him on the cartoon really confused me.
Image from here.
In the mid-80s, Frank Miller (later of Sin City and 300 fame) re-imagined Batman for mature audiences.
Almost immediately, the Dark Knight eclipsed the blue-and-gray Caped Crusader. Though this darker, grittier Batman was previously known only to fanboys, the world got acquainted with him through the Tim Burton movies (Batman, 1989; Batman Returns, 1992). It was Michael Keaton (previously known as Beetlejuice) under the cowl of your worst nightmare.
In those few years between the Burton flicks, the bat insignia was ubiquitous. There were all sorts of merchandise everywhere - apparel, lunchboxes, hair clips. It was Bat-mania, I tell ya.
The Tim Burton / Michael Keaton Batman movies might seem dumb to a kid who would watch them now (much like how I thought the Adam West series was goofy when I was a first-grader). But in those days, that was kinda dark. Have-you-ever-danced-with-the-devil-in-the-pale-moonlight sort of dark. The late-90s Batman flicks by Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever, 1995; Batman and Robin, 1997) were clowny in comparison.
This generation's reincarnation is a fully-ripped, kevlar-plated, raspy-voiced Christian Bale. Tall, dark and two social experiments short of sociopathic.
Now, the Joker - from a corny, crazy clown to a full-blown psycho killer - that's a whole other story.
By the way - check out this gallery of Batman movie posters I stumbled into.