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

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture by Glen Weldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Glen Weldon takes us through Batman’s history and evolution and how it was affected by the culture in which it was written. I knew bits and pieces of the story from other histories of comics, but this was the first time I’d read one focused on Batman. There are many ways to tell this story and I think Weldon’s is a very good strategy.

By showing how Batman evolves in reaction to the culture around it as well as previous iterations, we see what is crucial to Batman and unchanging as well as what is mutable. It’s quite fascinating when seen in this light. After all, Batman and the original heroes now owned by Warner Bros (via DC Comics) are each nearly 100 years old now. They’re also unique in that we’ve had stories about them constantly for those 100 years. We have had lots of retellings of Greek Mythology, but they haven’t been a constant in the cultural landscape. Even Mickey Mouse, who’s older, hasn’t been a constant presence in decades. He’s been around, but he hasn’t been in monthly stories and epic movies. I’m glad this book was written recently enough to be able to talk about how Grant Morrison took advantage of this during his reign on Batman and found a way to have Batman in conversation with itself.

Weldon does a good job of showing how the fandom (nerddom in his parlance) have affected things, particularly starting in the 1960s. Sometimes this has been for the better and other times for the worse; especially in the reaction to Shoemaker

I think the only thing Weldon doesn’t hit hard enough is the effect subsequent generations of fans becoming writers. He mentions the first generation of writers who got to write for Batman after having grown up with the character. But I think he probably could have had something very interesting to say about subsequent writers who grew up reading the stories of that first generation. Or later writers like Snyder who would have also seen many of the movies before taking on the character.

Overall, I recommend the book if you’re a Bat-Fan and want to see how it evolved from a rip-off character to one of the anchor characters at DC.

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