Holy Camp, Batman!

At his conception in 1939, Batman was positioned as the grim answer to an upbeat Superman: instead of an invincible superhero in bright colors, here was a mere mortal struggling with ethical dilemmas in a darkly drawn diegetic world. Later incarnations of Batman have been strikingly comical, however – think especially of the 1960s television series in this respect. Looking back on 75 years of Batman re-mediations, a push-pull dynamic between seriousness and silliness can be perceived, with each new installment attempting to move away from its predecessor’s supposed solemnity or triviality.

We propose to enact a dialogue between these two sides of Batman. Through what means are seriousness and silliness constructed in the Batman universe? Are these means medium-specific? How do seriousness and silliness relate to each other? Are they merely opposites, or can this binary pair be deconstructed? What are the textual and sexual politics of the supposed opposition between seriousness and silliness? And how come the silliness of Batman has already been the topic of serious academic study, but not his seriousness?

Kreij, Max van, and Roel van den Oever. “Holy Camp, Batman! Deconstructing the Opposition Between Seriousness and Silliness in the Batman Universe.” Amsterdam Comics Conference: Comics Interaction, University of Amsterdam, 3 July 2015. Drawing by Amber Witsenburg.