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Dark Knight, Meet The Spider.

Posted in Movies,Pulps on July 26, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

This probably deserves a longer post than I have time to write, but I wanted to make the point and see if anybody agrees with me.  So if you want to comment, please do it here (rather than on Facebook) and maybe we can get a good discussion going.

This afternoon I saw The Dark Knight Rises. Now, I quit reading Batman comics in the late Sixties, so I missed all that Ras Al Ghul stuff.  When Frank Miller’s Dark Knight graphic novel came out, in the Eighties. I flipped through it in a comic shop but hated the look of it and therefore never bought a copy. So I should state at the outset that I have no idea to what extent, if any, Dark Knight Rises reflects the progression of Batman comics since I stopped reading them.

What struck me about the movie was how closely Christopher Nolan’s Batman mirrors the Spider of pulp-magazine fame. The similarities are striking: Both men suffer the tortures of the damned — mentally, physically and emotionally — in their struggles against crime. (Nolan’s Batman has been dark all along, but never so much, it seems to me, as in this final installment of the trilogy.) Both have messianic complexes. Both suffer crises of conscience. Both finish their adventures more dead than alive. Both occasionally yield to an inner rage they keep under wraps most of the time. Both are hunted by the police yet go out of their way to help and protect cops, even at risk of their own lives. And both overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and eventually triumph over their adversaries  by sheer force of will.

Now, maybe I’ve missed something. Maybe DC’s four-color Batman has moved a lot closer to Popular Publications’ pulp Spider. But I kinda doubt it. You tell me, though. Has the Caped Crusader been reading Richard Wentworth’s mail, or what? The similarity between Christopher Nolan’s vision and Norvell Page’s vision seems too pronounced to be accidental. Does anybody out there know if Nolan is a Spider fan? I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t. Or maybe Batman comics simply have more depth than they did back in the “New Look” era.

19 thoughts on “Dark Knight, Meet The Spider.

  1. You make some good points. I haven’t seen the 3rd film yet but know enough about it to get what you’re saying. And they say the world isn’t ready for New Pulp…

  2. I’ve actually seen a few comments by some that the takeover of Gotham by the League of Shadows is similar to the takeover of New York by the Black Police in the Spider trilogy.

  3. I continued reading Batman & comic books in general to 1980, then couldn’t take them any more. For me, Miller ruined Batman, but he wasn’t the only one destroying the comic book heroes at the time. I can’t tell you if the current Batman trilogy is taken after Page’s Spider, or not. But I did like the first two movies in this current trilogy. I haven’t seen the third one yet. It does appear Nolan is capturing the emotional drive of The Spider, whether knowingly or not, though. But I don’t hold out hope for this trend. We thought George Pal was going to give us an honest pulp Doc Savage, but look what happened. From your comments, I am looking forward to TDKR.

    • For what it’s worth, Tom, I immediately saw Nolan’s Batman as dark (i.e., haunted by the tragedy of his parents’ murder) and introspective. But his similarity to the pulp Spider seems far more pronounced in TDKR than it was in the two earlier movies. Without being a spoiler, I can say that fans familiar with Norvell Page’s Spider will note in TDKR a sequence quite reminiscent of one in “The Spider and the Slaves of Hell.” You’ll know it when you see it.

  4. I’ve been a fan of The Batman since around 1948 when my uncle bought me a copy. Pretty much hated the 1960’s tv show. I reconnected when I bought a copy of the Frank Miller version which I liked very much. Did not especially care for any of the Tim Burton Batmans. But when Christopher Nolan did Batman Begins my interest perked up. The darkness of Batman is what appeals to me now as it did when I was a kid. Now that you mention it Ed I know of what you speak in TDKR. After all it is all grist for the mill in film or writing a novel.

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