What? Oh, you wanted more of an explanation than that? Well, while the debate of who’s better, Batman or Spider-Man, would be a heated one I’m sure, that’s not quite what I had in mind today. I’m biased when it comes to the Caped Crusader but one area I’m almost one hundred percent certain Batman will wind up on top (trying...to...resist...the...obvious...joke), is stage shows.
I haven’t seen Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark but I think it’s safe for me to say it sucks. At least that’s the consensus of the entire internet these days. The crazy expensive Broadway musical by Tony Award winning director Julie Taymor and U2’s Bono and the Edge just did not gel with fans or critics. In fact, it’s so bad, they are shutting it down to completely retool. And let’s not forget how the cast was plagued with injuries almost as much as the show itself suffered from technical difficulties.
In steps Batman Live - the World Arena Tour. Batman Inc. this aint’t.
Like many of you probably are, I was highly concerned we’d have another repeat of the Spider-Man drama when Batman Live was announced. But now, I’m thinking it might just turn out to be the coolest thing ever. Much like Batman himself.
Here’s the number one reason - Batman Live is NOT a musical. It’s also never set to appear on any Broadway stage. It’s going to tour for five years at large arenas. Although it’s appropriate for anyone, Batman Live, produced by Warner Bros Consumer Products, DC Entertainment and Nick Grace of Water Lane Productions, is aimed at kids and families. So I’d say it’s closer to Disney On Ice than Turn Off the Dark. I know a lot of fans are outraged seeing Batman in this forum but just think of it as a Batman cartoon brought to life. And don’t even try to tell me you’ve never enjoyed a Batman cartoon.
The second big reason? Batman Live was written by Allan Heinberg, with the original story by Stan Berkowitz and Alan Burnett and Heinberg. Why is this such a great thing? Well, Heinberg, Berkowitz and Burnett have worked on actual superhero properties before, something Turn Off the Dark made the mistake of not utilizing initially. They’ve since hired Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa but honestly, they should have thought of that before.
Heinberg developed the animated series Legion of Super Heroes for Warner Bros. Animation as well as writing JLA (with Geoff Johns), Superman/Batman and Wonder Woman for DC Comics. He also wrote Young Avengers and Avengers: The Children's Crusade for Marvel. Berkowitz has worked a lot in superhero animation writing for The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Spider-Man, Batman Beyond and Justice League. And Burnett’s Batman credits are enormous. He scripted episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, produced episodes of Batman Beyond and The Batman, co-produced and co-wrote Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and wrote one of the segments for Batman Gotham Knight. Holy credentials, Batman!
The trio are playing it smart by using actual characters from the comics, not new ones made up for the show like Turn Off the Dark did (The Geek Chorus, Arachne). The story will center around Robin’s (Dick Grayson) emergence and his quest for justice as he becomes Batman’s sidekick. The villains the duo will face during the show were unveiled as the Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Catwoman in recent promo shots, although Two-Face apparently also has a spot in the show.
I will say this, when I first saw the promotional shots of the cast I got a strange porn vibe. But that could also be because Batman and Robin’s costumes are vaguely Joel Schumacher-esque and that made me think of the nipple fiasco and from there, well, porn. But still, for a stage show aimed at kids, things were bound to be more colorful and exaggerated. I think it’s awesome Catwoman is in her more modern get-up and although I would have loved to see a classic Harley outfit brought to life, this new spin is actually kind of cool. Commissioner Gordon and Alfred will also be along for the ride. And speaking of rides, there’s also going to be a Batmobile created for the show by Formula One designer Professor Gordon Murray.
From what I’ve seen from some press presentations, the set pieces are going to be insane. The entire center of the arena is made to look like a miniature Gotham cityscape, complete with iconic Gotham architecture. Arkham Asylum, The Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge, Wayne Manor and the Batcave will also play a part although some of those will be depicted on a giant-sized Bat symbol shaped video wall. There’s Jim Lee illustrations up on the official website along with some other art and there’s supposed to be some animated sequences worked into the show but no word yet on who will be doing it.
And finally, one of the key components of Batman Live, a great stunt crew. Besides all the regular stunt work being figured into the show, there are also a few circus sequences. The UK’s National Centre for the Circus Arts are coordinating the choreography and acrobatic acts. That, along with lots of pyrotechnics and illusions, make the show seem like a winner to me.
Warner Bros. was smart to go with a production like this. Even with the upcoming changes to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, it’s still likely to be an overall failure for the creators when all is said and done. Batman lends himself to the drama of an arena show and I’m sure seeing the Dark Knight live will be a memory few children will forget. Let’s just hope the Flying Grayson’s only fall when they’re supposed to.Batman Live is opening in Manchester, England on July 19 and making its way to North America by summer of 2012.Images courtesy of Collider and Daily Mail