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Saturday’s Reflex Reaction

My friend Mike Gillis at Radio Vs. The Martians dared me to write this one. So blame him.

It started when we were talking about this particular upcoming project.

We were agreed that it would either be genius or it would be terrible, and we were also certain that somehow, some way, it would involve ripped-shirt Kirk.

Then I confessed, “My first reaction– well, current, I’m still having it– was to freeze up in a nerd crisis trying to work out the timeline. Which is sort of pathetic really. I was okay till I got to the part of the synopsis where it mentions Taylor and Nova, and then suddenly my brain went into its ridiculous continuity nerd thing where it goes BUT WAIT– BUT WAIT, THAT CAN’T– NOOOO—“ I added, “I don’t care exactly, but it’s a reflex I don’t seem to have any control over.”

This led to a conversation about involuntary nerd reflexes and an effort to list examples. At some point I speculated that there was probably a column in that idea and Mike said, “You should totally do that.” So here we are.

To expand on the idea I started with, let’s talk about the compulsive need that many nerdy types have for continuity-mapping. I suppose there might have been medieval fans arguing over whether or not Shakespeare’s plays took place in the same universe or exactly how Merlin’s power set differed from Morgan Le Fay’s, but really this didn’t get formalized until the Baker Street Irregulars. So if continuity nerds irritate you, well, it’s the fault of Sherlock Holmes fans, because they started it.

Here’s what makes it a reflex. Even those fans– and I’m one of them– who often proclaim that continuity concerns should not drive a story… nevertheless, we all know instantly when someone gets it wrong. The Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite movies, but when Khan says “I never forget a face,” I can’t help thinking, He never SAW that face. Chekov never met Khan Noonien Singh. “Space Seed” was a first-season episode and Chekov joined the show in Star Trek’s second season.

I don’t condemn the movie over it, I know it’s not important, I forgive this minor gaffe and move on…. but every time, there is that mental moment of NO THAT’S WRONG. It’s hard-wired, apparently.

Of course, this leads to another fan reflex. The need to point out the mistake.

In comics this began with the letters pages. For those of you too young to remember back when comic books had letter columns, a recurring feature of them was the smug kid that wrote in to point out an editorial mistake. Here’s a typical letters page from that era. Of the nine letters printed, six of them are demanding explanations for various plot holes.

DC Comics editors Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger were the most frequent targets of these neener-neener gotcha missives, and as a result there were a lot of pre-emptive explanations of things shoe-horned into DC comics back then (as he found himself being enlarged to giant-size, Jimmy Olsen would blurt, “Good thing that my suit is made of expandable fabric!” That kind of thing.) Weisinger eventually published a Superman story filled with “boo-boos” and dared fans to find all of them.

But there was still something adversarial about it, it was always a bit of a duel. (This is probably due to Mort Weisinger’s personality– by all reports, the man had an adversarial approach to everyone he ever met.)

However, Stan Lee over at Marvel had a different notion for dealing with this swarm of youthful pedants that were ready to pounce on any perceived mistake. He hit on the genius idea of enlisting those fans to explain these mistakes with some sort of in-story rationalization and the best explanation got a “no-prize.” For a few years there, the winner even got an actual envelope from Marvel filled with…. nothing.

There were a few winners that wrote in after to complain that someone forgot to put the prize in the envelope, since– despite their eagle-eyed examination of everything else in a given Marvel comic book– they’d somehow missed the fact that the thing was named a “NO-prize.” But most fans got the joke and it became quite a coveted thing to be a winner of this ephemeral honor.

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Marvel doesn’t give out no-prizes any more. For that matter, letter columns themselves have largely disappeared. But the impulse to find that in-story explanation for a plot hole remains. Just a few days ago this Gandalf thing popped up all over social media.

The explanation itself is really quite clever– you can find the whole thing here– but the drive that led to that person not only figuring it out but creating the graphic and putting it up on the internet? That’s clearly the work of a fan with a burning need to explain these ‘seeming’ gaffes and make it all work out. Since this really got formalized in the Marvel comics letter columns of the sixties, let’s call this particular involuntary reaction the no-prize compulsion.

Here’s one anyone on the comics internet will recognize: instant contempt. It’s the default reaction for many of us to… well, anything. Before the thing has ever actually materialized, I mean; it happens the second it’s announced. Barry Allen returns as the Flash. Marvel’s Superior Spider-Man arc. Ben Affleck is cast as Batman. And this has been going on for decades. (I’m old enough to remember the rage that accompanied the announcement of Michael Keaton as Batman.)

In fact, I remember the rage that has accompanied every single casting announcement for every superhero movie ever. (With one exception; no one ever seemed to mind Patrick Stewart as Professor X.) And pretty much every new casting of James Bond is greeted with disgust, as is each new Doctor Who. It goes beyond movies; in comics especially, the announcement of any new anything is greeted with a dour, “It’s gonna suck.”

The weird part is that I can’t figure out where this comes from, because the flip side of this is that fans will forgive anything, a compulsion that seems to go hand-in-hand with the contempt. Star Trek: The Next Generation was a pretty terrible show for its first couple of seasons, with episodes crippled by arbitrary decrees from the producers and incoherent plotting. But we all hung in there with it and persuaded ourselves that it was almost good, there were good parts, it would get better. Well, it took two and a half years, and eventually, yeah, they pulled it out. But nerd forgiveness is what kept that show on the air the first two seasons, because normal people don’t do that. Usually, when a viewer decides a series is bad, they don’t argue that it has potential and come back week after week anyway. For years.

Only fans do this. Comics, TV, movies, doesn’t matter. We can’t help ourselves. The wonderful webcomic Our Valued Customers sums it up beautifully with this actual quote:

(By the way, there is now a trade collection of Our Valued Customers with a lot of never-before-seen material that will leave you helpless with laughter; you can find it on Amazon for a very reasonable price.)

But the point is, even if we hate it, we can’t walk away. We have to know what’s going on. The need to know seems to be hardwired into fan DNA right along with the contempt, which may explain why so many of us are so crabby all the time.

Understand, when I say these things, I don’t exclude myself. I bought Batman comics month in and month out for over four decades, and when I finally owned up to the fact that it was absurd to keep spending the money on something I didn’t enjoy any longer and it wasn’t like I didn’t have a houseful of the things already, I still felt ridiculously sad over it. But I resolved then, and I have kept to it, that I’m not going to buy books or go to movies any more that I know going in that I probably will not enjoy. Everyone in the world seems to love Scott Snyder’s take on Batman and good for him on doing so well with it. But it’s just not for me. Likewise I probably won’t be going to see Batman vs. Superman and it’s got nothing to do with Ben Affleck: I just don’t have any interest in a film building on the version of Superman from Man of Steel. And so on. (I should add that this is not ‘instant contempt’ as described above– I read Snyder’s Batman faithfully up through Night of the Owls and I saw Man of Steel, the Dark Knight trilogy, and Watchmen before making up my mind about Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder.)

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But I should also add that it’s going to be difficult to skip the new stuff. The itch to know is going to be there despite the common-sense certainty that there’s no reason in the world to expect that Batman vs. Superman will make an abrupt left turn into something I’ll like a lot.

And that applies to all the reactions I’ve talked about. Continuity mapping, relentlessly pointing out errors (and then devising fixes for them), constantly skeptical of new things but nevertheless driven to investigate all of them… absolutely, I’ve experienced every one of those compulsions, reflexes, whatever you want to call them, and often behaved foolishly as a result. I’ll own up.

What I’m learning is that I may have involuntary fan reactions like these and others, but I don’t have to be ruled by them. I can shake them off and approach my hobbies rationally. Just because I observe some sort of comics-related phenomenon doesn’t mean that I have to compulsively pontificate about it and categorize it and overthink it and…

…uh, that is…

….Oh, hell.

Look, Rome wasn’t built in a day, okay? I’m getting better about this stuff. I cling to that.

See you next week.


“Get your… hands off me, yooooooou… damndirtyape!”

Great column, Greg. One of your best.

And yes, I recognized a lot of myself in there. I’ve done enough continuity-mapping that I’ve got well over a dozen character chronologies on my computer’s hard drive (Batman, STAR TREK, Sherlock Holmes, Wold Newton, HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET… If I love something, I’m mapping it out on a damn timeline). And yes, my no-prize compulsion made me incorporate several continuity patches in them, too.

Instant contempt? Yep, I’ve been there, though that’s one I try to fight against. Yeah, Ben Affleck is a good actor, but no, I still don’t think he’s all that good choice for Batman. And I agree with you that using MAN OF STEEL as a basis for a DC Cinematic Universe is a bad idea.

Fans forgive anything is also one that I try to fight against. I watched about two seasons of STAR TREK: VOYAGER back in the 90s before I finally realized that I was watching a show I disliked just because of two words in the title, and then I stopped tuning in (…The episode that made me come to that revelation? The horrible Captain Sulu episode. Instant contempt in action!).

That urge to want to be a completist in everything, though (I MUST watch every episode! I MUST get every issue!)… it’s a tough one. It’s like a mild form of OCD, I think.

BTW, Walter Koenig was well aware that Chekov had never met Khan in Space Seed… but since he was afraid that segment of the movie might be re-written into NOT featuring Chekov, he decided on self-reservation & didn’t say anything. :)

Andrew Collins

August 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I think you hit on it there at the end, it’s the need to KNOW. It doesn’t matter how good or bad it is, nerds just need to KNOW what happens next. We’re as bad as soap opera watchers, if not worse. I’m not being hypocritical either, I’ve wasted more than a few of my dollars over the years buying comics I didn’t even like that much, but I had to know what happened next to a favorite team or character. Like you, I’ve finally weaned myself out of that mentality, but it took a long time to get there…

These days I find that the more I delve into comic book continuity, the less I care about making all the parts fit. It’s the parts that *don’t* fit I find interesting.

About the only thing that registers on the instant contempt radar for me anymore is IDW Star Trek crossovers. Planet of the Apes? Really? The Doctor Who one had me apoplectic.

I went through a similar epiphany as you and swore off DC comics period. And on that principle, I avoided seeing Amazing Spider-Man 2 (as I despised the first one and I figure if I want to see a good Spider-Man film I have all the Raimi ones on my shelf at home). I too likely won’t see Batman v Superman on that basis. It will be hard given how much I love Superman, but it’s the only Superman film I don’t own in a home video format…and I own Superman III, IV and Returns!

About the only thing I differ is instant contempt towards casting: I’m pretty open minded about the casting of anyone in a superhero movie, and this dates right back to Michael Keaton as Batman (who I ended up being quite happy with). In fact I’m almost the opposite, I’m usually excited about the casting until I’m disappointed watching the film! (case in point: George Clooney; I exclaimed during an endless number of episodes of ER, “He’s going to make a great Batman!” Not the case, though in fairness that was more direction than anything…)

Great column, Greg. You’re probably better with all of the continuity errors for me. One of my recent irks is the Days of the Future Past movie. At first I was only little bothered with the fact that a lot of stuff like professor X coming back to life wasn’t explained. As time went on and I thought about the movie more and more I absolutely hated it because of this. The reason things like this really upset me is that I put lots of time and money into these things and I expect the writer to do so as well. Anyway, thanks for reminding me that I need to work on this problem. This is one of the best articles I’ve read in a while.

Thanks for a great column as always Greg. Mike Gillis should dare you more often :p

I’m feeling the Need To Know big time over Batman vs Superman. I know it’s going to be in the same tone as Man Of Steel (which I specifically told my kids NOT to buy me for my birthday/Xmas), but I’m still unable to let go of the hope that it might turn out to be something I’ll find enjoyable.

Also, re: casting – RDjr was universally hailed as the perfect man to play Tony Stark as soon as he was announced, wasn’t he? I don’t remember any negativity over that one.

Also, re: casting – RDjr was universally hailed as the perfect man to play Tony Stark as soon as he was announced, wasn’t he? I don’t remember any negativity over that one.

It wasn’t universal. There were a number of people speculating that he wouldn’t be able to stay sober and the whole thing would be a disaster. “Little too close to home,” is what came up a lot.

Remember, I was the moderator for CBR’s Film and TV board for over ten years and had to referee a lot of this stuff; just writing that paragraph almost gave me post-traumatic flashbacks. I still remember the incredibly ANGRY lady who kept proclaiming that casting Daniel Craig, a blond man, as James Bond was a betrayal of everything Ian Fleming had created. Turned out she hadn’t actually read the books.

I think that you’re spot on with this one. If I may regarding fan complaints about change/representation (your points on Barry as Flash or Michael Keaton as Batman), I would argue that a lot of these reactions deal with a) what the individual sees in his/her own mind as the ideal representation of the icon in question; in other words, “I have a mental image of what this character is or how it should be represented” placed against b) “here’s what the reality of that representation will be”.

Invariably, if there is a flaw present anywhere, the negative reaction arises. For example, I remember the Michael Keaton debate pretty well, and most of the people in that debate (at least in my circles; maybe it differed for others) believed that Michael Keaton would make a solid Bruce Wayne, but Batman? No way. I remember when Barry Allen and Hal Jordan were coming back after X years away and being resistant for no reason other than I pictured Kyle Rayner and Wally West as the Flash and GL. Regardless of the latter staying around for a while and even having some prominence, it grated on me for some reason because it wasn’t what I pictured as who the heroes were.

FWIW, when Kyle came on and HEAT formed in response, I imagine it was the same thing; no one could picture a GL front and center other than Hal, and people took it personally…one of the ones I can never get around is that Megatron turns into a gun…and he always will to me no matter how many films or cartoons they release burying that.

In short, a change/representation like these isn’t just a change/representation of what’s on the page or the screen, but almost an invalidation of how a character is perceived on an individual, personal level. Hence, you get the reactions that you get.

“With one exception; no one ever seemed to mind Patrick Stewart as Professor X.”

Well, truthfully, I wanted Hector Elizondo. Isn’t Xavier a hispanic name?

Don’t know why Star Trek/Apes should be a problem. They went to Miri’s planet. And the one with the Yangs and Coms. And the Roman one…

In The Nitpicker’s Guide for Classic Trekkers author Phil Farrand had a good anti-nit for Khan meeting Chekov.

Just because we didn’t see Chekov until the second season doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been aboard in the first season. After all we didn’t see all 400 crewmen. The only thing that argues against Chekov being there for the whole first season is that he doesn’t know who Harry Mudd was, but Mudd appeared early in the first season, while Khan appeared later, so Chekov could have joined the crew partway through the first season and became a member of the bridge crew in the second season.

Just because we didn’t see Chekov until the second season doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been aboard in the first season. After all we didn’t see all 400 crewmen. The only thing that argues against Chekov being there for the whole first season is that he doesn’t know who Harry Mudd was, but Mudd appeared early in the first season, while Khan appeared later, so Chekov could have joined the crew partway through the first season and became a member of the bridge crew in the second season.

I have two responses to this. The first is…

…it’s not about Chekov knowing Khan– OR anyone else. Once he made it to bridge officer he’d have been brought up to speed on this stuff, I would imagine. No, the discrepancy is that Khan knows Chekov. “I never forget a face… Mister…. Chekov?” But Chekov was not a high-enough ranking officer to be at the formal dinner, he wasn’t there even as a server (the dinner’s pictured above in the column) nor did he have any other direct interaction with Khan as far as we know. Chekov would have been briefed on Khan, certainly, but judging from the episode itself the crew of the Botany Bay was on the Enterpise for– let’s be generous and say a week, though it feels more like it’s barely a couple of days, and for the majority of that time Khan and his people were in sickbay or else they were in lockdown after their failed attempt to capture the ship. So Khan’s opportunities for interaction with the rest of the Enterprise crew were severely limited. You can do the no-prize thing and try to justify it by saying, well, maybe Chekov was on the security detail watching the brig or something. But that’s redshirt duty and Chekov was an ensign on the command track, his shirt was gold and when we met him, his primary duty was navigation. He got around more than the other bridge officers, but it was usually in the sciences– more often than not, he was apprenticing to Spock at the science station and in Wrath, he actually was the science officer of the Reliant. The only time Chekov worked security was in Star Trek: the Motion Picture, where he was (briefly) weapons officer. In any case, it’s a HUGE stretch to try and justify a situation where the low-ranking insignificant Russian kid would make such an impression on Khan that his instant response fifteen years later is recognition followed with “I never forget a face.”

My second response is…

…Jesus, I really am going to sit here and type out a long argument against some Trekkie– a guy who wrote a whole damn book analyzing this stuff and working out justifications for it –explaining why he’s wrong. What the hell’s the matter with me?

Lord knows I recognize the instant contempt thing. I’ve certainly struggled with that with the Finch Wonder Woman announcement.

That said, I’ve always been interested in interfranchise crossovers, and my reaction to the Apes/Trek announcement was more along the lines of “holy crap, take my money now!” Though I’d be surprised if it didn’t involve universe-hopping like the Legion/Trek and Who/Trek ones did, what with the contradictory futures and all.

The need to KNOW is why I have an entire bookshelf full of Marvel Essentials. I don’t even care about the Ant-Man, but I got that book nonetheless. It’s also why I’ve slogged through bad video games. I just wanted to see how things ended up. I’m getting better at that, but I’ve still got a ways to go.

I’ve also experienced instant contempt. That’s really something I’m trying to work on. It’s why I’m mostly avoiding any information on the new Star Wars. I really would rather just walk in to the theater without baggage.

Of course, Chekov wouldn’t need to have made a big impression if Khan’s claim to never forget a face isn’t rhetorical but actually literal. But ultimately all this is just an intellectual exercise to come up with possible ways to explain away an obvious goof. I can’t imagine actually believing that it somehow wasn’t a mistake at all.

On the Chekov front… I always figured the reason they had him as the one kidnapped by Khan was — and let’s be totally blunt — he was the most expendable character in the original main crew.

That, and he’s famous for being the character that screams a lot.

I often have to check Wikipedia to remember what his actual job on the Enterprise was.

I really empathized with a lot of the points you made Greg. The closest to home for me was the inability to give up on a comic book even though you know you’re no longer enjoying it. I’ve done that so many times, and hoped that I’ll see a change in creative team or editorial direction and it will “come good again”. It often doesn’t.

As for instant contempt, I’m not sure if it qualifies but I know I won’t be watching the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I loathe the stupid raccoon with a passion and I really cannot bring myself to watch a movie with it in, no matter how popular, or how many times people tell me it’s good. That maybe instant contempt but I like to think, and maybe I’m kidding myself that it’s based on my reading experiences

Wonderful column, Greg – I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Otherwise, I sometimes think the instant contempt reflex with regard to casting for the super-hero movies is almost a defensive posture. You know, you want it to be good, but you’re kind of preparing yourself for it to suck Also, you can then say “I told you so!” later.
To some extent, I think this was the case for Keaton and Batman, and then after it came out pretty much everyone thought he did an awesome job. Same with Downey as Tony Stark – and yes, Greg’s right, there was definitely some grumbling about that choice. I also recall that even Chris Evans as Captain America was met with complaints in some quarters of the comics blogosphere, which naturally all disappeared instantly once the movie came out.

By the way, since you brought up Mike Gillis and Radio v. the Martians, and Mike himself chimed in (he was the navigator, dammit!), I have to say that I had that reflex while listening to one of the old “Mike & Pol Save the Universe” podcasts recently: I think it was in the fifth episode, wherein Pol said that Frank Miller came in on Daredevil and changed its tone “in the mid-1980s.” I was listening to it on my phone while walking my dog, and without even thinking I shouted “what the hell?!” My dog actually turned around to look at me and see if everything was all right…

Walter Koenig gives a tongue-in-cheek explanation of why Khan remembers the lowly Chekov, which involves Khan desperately needing a restroom after that formal dinner and Chekov already being in there and taking his time. :-)

@ Greg Hatcher, Your James Bond example brings up another point about fans: the ones who make bold, usually condemning statements, but actually haven’t read the books or seen the movies or show. I personally think that is one of the worst things that fans do (and it happens a lot). For example: when the internet blew up because they thought Falcon slept with an underaged girl. But it turns out the fans who were complaining that the writer should be fired didn’t even bother reading the SINGLE PAGE where she states that she is at least 23. So dumb…

“(With one exception; no one ever seemed to mind Patrick Stewart as Professor X.)”

I remember, when that casting was announced, thinking, “But he’s British! And Xavier’s American! No, no, it’ll never work.”

Star Trek, planet of the apes, huh… Kirk has to make it with a chimp to give any validity to the story.

Okay, here’s another possible explanation for Khan recognizing Chekov that just occurred to me:

What if, during the time that Khan was in sickbay studying all the schematics of the Enterprise so that he could take over the ship later (Great call on THAT one, Kirk), Khan was ALSO studying the personnel? If he had such a genetically-engineered superior brain, could he not have been capable of actually MEMORIZING the faces of all 430 crewmen aboard the ship? Maybe Khan was looking for more people who, like Marla McGivers, might have been likely to throw in with him when he attempted to seize the ship?

What do you think, does that work? Now, this is something that I just came up with off the top of my head, and I haven’t reviewed “Space Seed” to see if there’s anything in there that contradicts it, but I’m liking the idea right now.

BTW, how was there never a Fotonovel of “Space Seed”? I know that it’s grown in people’s estimation since the release of TWOK, but seriously, Fotonovel people — You picked “Day of the Dove” over that one? :)

I think my last big fanboy moment was reading the recent Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover that DC and IDW did.

Writer Chris Roberson had Kirk blatantly hitting on Shadow Lass during the mission — Something that struck me as massively out of character for Kirk. TOS Kirk would sometimes romance a woman for a strategic purpose or be implied to enjoy himself when he was off duty, but he wouldn’t be giving her sleazy pickup lines in the middle of a firefight the way he did in that book. I have trouble believing that even the horndog Chris Pine version of Kirk would do that.

Yeah, I wasn’t crazy about the writing in Trek/Legion, but it made up for it with the marvelous double-page spread of all those familiar pop-culture time machines.

Everybody talks about Khan knowing Checkov. Big deal. He read the files. Or ran into him in a hallway.

But how did he know an “Old Klingon saying?” Humans had no idea Klingons even existed in 1999.

I’m pretty sure you could find a whole lot of photos of Klingons on Earth from 1999, actually.

Damn me for hitting publish too soon.

The Enterprise didn’t encounter Klingons until after they had dumped Khan on a planet. They mention a war, but would they really know old Klingon sayings from military intercepts?

Buttier, I refuse to acknowledge the existence of Quantum Trek.

I agree not feeling excited and skipping Bat/Supes doesn’t count as Instant Contempt. This is usually compounded by seeing it anyway “just to see how much it sucks”.

I wonder if Action got any letters addressed to Susan Anne Howalsky whining at her for promoting a biased, anti-DC agenda, or mansplaining that comics for boys were what sold and it would be useless to make a SuperGIRL because it wouldn’t sell, or asking why she doesn’t create her own comic with a girl superhero, or…

Don’t know why Star Trek/Apes should be a problem. They went to Miri’s planet. And the one with the Yangs and Coms. And the Roman one…

Agreed, there’s a long tradition in Star Trek TOS of visiting duplicate Earths and in Shatner’s “Preserver” novel they said that there are at least four that the Federation was aware of. No reason that the events of Planet of the Apes couldn’t be taking place on another duplicate Earth or just an Earth in a parallel dimension.

Writer Chris Roberson had Kirk blatantly hitting on Shadow Lass during the mission — Something that struck me as massively out of character for Kirk. TOS Kirk would sometimes romance a woman for a strategic purpose or be implied to enjoy himself when he was off duty, but he wouldn’t be giving her sleazy pickup lines in the middle of a firefight the way he did in that book. I have trouble believing that even the horndog Chris Pine version of Kirk would do that.

Agreed that and Chameleon Boy essentially turning into Morph from Marvel’s “Exiles” were about the only two low-points in the miniseries. Other than that, I enjoyed seeing a composite DC-Star Trek Mirror Universe complete with the Klingons and the Khunds at war and the newest iteration of the Fatal Five.

The Star Trek / Doctor Who crossover that IDW did was pretty good. It’s tough to do a story like that without turning into an episode of Doctor Who where Picard gets cast to fill the role of the stuffy starship captain that always wants to do things by the book or thinks the Doctor and his companions are out to sabotage the ship. They did a pretty good job of showing Picard wrestling with the moral dilemma of the choice he had to make and changing his mind in a manner that preserved both his dignity and seemed true to his character.

I cannot side with the support for Keaton expressed here.


But here, Burton is less faithful than Singer because his character actually behaves differently too. The comic book version of Batman is dedicated to the protection of innocent life rather than cold vengeance and he operates under a strong personal moral code that does not allow for killing. Tim Burton’s Batman was willing to kill, arming his car with machine guns and blowing up chemical plants that held a dozen or more criminals within. Whereas the comic book Batman sometimes wondered if his war against crime is futile and if he was going about things the wrong way, movie version Batman was without regret or remorse over any of his actions. Also, movie Batman was not able to turn his neck due to his costume, something that comic book Batman has no trouble doing at all.

The take on Bruce Wayne is also different. Comic book Bruce Wayne is a charmingly arrogant snob who often mouths off, looks somewhat bored most of the time and doesn’t seem to take an interest in anything that doesn’t involve leisure or enjoyment. This is the perfect disguise, as no one would really think to connect him to the obsessive, cunning control freak that Batman shows himself to be. However, movie-version Bruce Wayne is a recluse who seems socially awkward around others. If I were living in movie-version Gotham City, movie Bruce’s behavior and habit of keeping to himself would definitely make me suspicious of him.

Tim Burton also evidently cared more about the Joker than about Batman, since Batman’s training, his motivations, his personal code and the reason he chose a bat as his symbol are not explained at all (the character even has less screen-time than the villain).

More (this time from Count Karnstein and some quotes from Max Allan Collins in links)



“Keaton wasn’t Bruce Wayne. He was a bumbling parody”. “The Burton version was a clumsy, bumbling oaf. Which of course did not fit in with the overall tone of the movie, unlike the West version, which was consistent. He was a cardboard cut-out and a bumbling oaf. His mental “issues” were not developed properly.” He couldn’t even string together a coherent sentence…..! Or how about the “I’m Batman!” part? Or how about him not knowing which room in Wayne Manor he was in, or whether he’d ever eaten there before? It was absurd! . [Michael Keaton, then and now, mostly makes comedies.]


And I did not like him as Bruce Wayne because the Bruce Wayne that Keaton portrayed in the movie never existed in the comics. So it was unfaithful and helped to ruin the movie for me.

Some dicey writing:

The 1988 WGA strike began just after screenwriter Sam Hamm turned in his final draft, and that’s more or less what sealed this movie’s fate. Script doctor Warren Skaaren was brought in to do polishes without Hamm’s involvement, and at the behest of the producers and the studio, the screenplay was constantly being rewritten even after filming began. The end result is a directionless, patchwork quilt of a story that often feels like director Tim Burton and his cast just kind of winging it.


Since everyone is astounded by the thought of a “6 foot bat” haunting Gotham City by night, it’s safe to assume that the idea of “Batman” is a new one to Gotham’s citizens. That means no comic books, no Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and particularly, no Adam West series.

When the Joker is staging his parade, he notes, “I’M giving away free money. Where’s Batman? At home, washing his tights.” Having never seen Adam West’s portrayal of Batman, where did the joker come up with the idea of Batman in tights, given that Batman’s worn nothing but body armor throughout the movie?


Joker says to Bruce Wayne “do you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight” and claims he asks this of all his prey. Ummm sorry but no you don’t. In fact he only says it twice, both times to Bruce Wayne so add to this loads of continuity errors and the editing looks a little sloppy.


Yes, in the lamest moment of the movie, it turns out a young Jack Napier killed Bruce’s parents. I really don’t get why they felt this plot twist (which isn’t based on anything in the comics) was necessary. Was the random poisoning of innocent people not enough motivation for Batman? Sadly, this crappy “twist” got imitated in other superhero movies (the Sandman killed Uncle Ben??) and it’s lame every time. Making this stupider is how they cast an actor who looks and sounds nothing like a young Jack Nicholson, and he even has blue eyes. Hmm, if only there were some way to know what Nicholson looked like when he was younger…

Ultimately, the story is hopelessly banal; a large chunk of this movie is little more than Batman and Joker fighting over a woman. [a gender flipped Supergirl, perhaps]

I think you can find even earlier examples of continuity-mapping than the Baker Street Irregulars if you count religious texts. For instance in 1654 a bishop named James Ussher used a combination of biblical and historical texts to calculate how old the Bible says the Earth is (if you do a more literal reading anyway). And the various attempts to reconcile the Bible’s mentions of Jesus’ brothers and sisters with the doctrine of perpetual virginity can be seem as an early example of the no-prize compulsion.

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