Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: 'The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture'


While it’s been socially acceptable for grown men to trade statistics about other grown men playing children’s games for as long as newspapers have had sports sections, the phenomenon of adults collecting toys, dressing up in tights and capes, and reading books intended for kids is much more recent. As is the case with any phenomena, one brave pioneer had to break through that glass ceiling to make “nerd culture” acceptable in the adult world. According to Glen Weldon, that pioneer was Bat Man, and the writer lays out how the Caped Crusader made it OK for grown ups to not put away childish things in his new book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture.

The Caped Crusade essentially tells two complimentary stories: the basic history of Batman through all his dark and light variations and how those variations sparked the comment and outcry from the people who refused to grow out of their Batman fandom that is a key aspect of what Weldon calls “nerd culture” (as a nerdy nitpicker, myself, I personally prefer “geek culture.” I always considered a “nerd” to be an exceptionally smart book worm, while intelligence is hardly required of the “geeks” who go crazy over comics, cartoons, superheroes, sci-fi, etc.).

While Weldon clearly ranks among the geeks he assays, he maintains a rightfully irreverent attitude toward them. He recognizes that reading “Detective Comics” or watching Burt Ward exclaim “Holy priceless collection of Etruscan snoods!” is tremendous fun, but it’s ridiculous for adults to fly into outrage—often homophobic or misogynistic outrage— about a TV show, book, or movie that fails to properly “respect” a particular (sorry… not particular; always dark and gritty) iteration of Batman. After all, as Weldon shows with good humor, there have been many Batmen, all have been legit in one way or another, and all have done their part in creating a world in which children from eight to eighty can debate whether Adam West or Christian Bale is the “true” Batman or whether or not Luke Skywalker is actually Rey’s dad or any of the other silly things that make life a little more fun.
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