Imagine. In an alternate universe, at DC Comics’ Gotham City, where there are no more crimes and no more villains. Imagine. All the Batmen we’ve known throughout our lives, from Adam West’s, to George Clooney’s, to Christian Bale’s, and to Ben Affleck’s, decided to go out on each other; who do you reckon will be the last Batman standing?
In anticipation of The Batman, we are looking back on every Batman (before Robert Pattinson’s) who zipped through the skies and saved Gotham City from supervillains to see how they stack up.
*The Batmen assessed are: Adam West (Batman TV series), Michael Keaton (Batman and Batman Returns), Kevin Conroy (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm), Val Kilmer (Batman Forever), George Clooney (Batman & Robin), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight trilogy), Will Arnett (The Lego Movie) and Ben Affleck (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).
There isn’t a doubt Batman uses a gravelly voice to conceal his identity. Beyond that, however, the voice is also part of the Caped Crusader’s act to instil fear into his opponents, be it regular criminals or notorious villains like Ra’s al Ghul. Hence, what better way to do so than to exert an emotionless gruff voice.
To that point, most Batmen generally did well. The voices were rough, emotionless and distinctive enough on-and-off Bat-suit. Except for West’s and Clooney’s who barely tried and sounded as they were. Speaking of trying, Bale tried too hard like he’s having a sore throat; Kilmer and Keaton were inconsistent at times and Affleck “cheated” for using a voice-changing technology whenever he dons his suit. While we eliminate them four, it wasn’t for the lack of trying. So that leaves us with Arnett’s and Conroy’s.
For this criterion, we’d like to give a shout out to Kevin Conroy. Since the ‘90s, Conroy has been the voice of Batman throughout the animated series, the Arkham games, and the theatrical film Mask of the Phantasm. For the longest of time, it was Conroy’s voice we grew up with. Heck, at aged 63, he even played Bruce Wayne in TV series Arrow: Crisis on Infinite Earth in 2019. Perhaps, it’s been his calling to play the Dark Knight.
We kid you not. Watch the trailers of Batman Forever, you’d find Kilmer’s Batsuit having nipples. It’s rather comical, if you ask us. Sure, its carbon-fibred suit is sleek and packs immense protective abilities. But, with those bulges, it loses Batman’s gravitas. As such, we strike off Kilmer.
The next has to be West’s Caped Crusader. His Batsuit appears to be in cotton and silk and in grey and navy. To be critical, however, those materials and colour combinations can’t protect Batman from his battles. Although credit to the costume designers in the ‘60s, it’s fairly similar to the comics.
For obvious reasons (and fairness), Keaton’s, Clooney’s, Bale’s and Affleck’s Batsuit have to be assessed without Arnett’s stick-on. From the remaining four Batmen, the winner is Bale’s due to its high mobility rate and streamlined shape. Unlike the others, Bale’s take as the Dark Knight can turn his head, fight crimes with smoother movements and, even, glide through the air in Hong Kong. All in all, it isn’t as bulky as the others. Kudos to Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) though.
Over the years, Batman’s reliance on his utility belt lessened. You could tell from having a series of gears like gun hoisters, brass knuckles, and what not (Kilmer and Clooney), he transitioned to carrying mainly ninja stars (Batarangs) and smoke bombs (Bale and Affleck). Wayne, throughout the years, also placed more focus on his combat abilities rather than weapons. Especially so, in The Dark Knight trilogy.
There are, of course, gizmos he kept around. The Batmobile, for instance. Earlier versions saw the Bat-mobile having a long and wide hood with winged-like spoilers (in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) at the back. One truly wonders how Batman cuts corner and turn on the road. And West’s Batmobile, as a roofless mustang, exposes Batman to possible projectile hits however “muscular” it may be. That leaves us with Bale’s, Arnett’s and Affleck’s Bat-mobiles. Arnett’s Batmobile is fragile as LEGO pieces; Bale’s Batmobile, whichever way it transforms, it has a limited firing and defence system. Affleck’s Batmobile, on the other hand, is more well-rounded. Director Zack Synder made sure Batman, with his Bat-mobile, could defend and attack simultaneously — electrified vehicle surface, ballistic missiles, smoke grenades and Gatling guns. For that, Affleck’s vehicle edges ahead of the pack — the perfect vehicle to kick some ass.
Probably the easiest, and the shortest, analysis of them all. The winner is Arnett’s Batman. Remember how it felt like when you stepped on a LEGO piece barefoot? A simple 2×2 LEGO brick can withstand up to 4,240 Newtons which is 950 pounds in total. That is something all Batmen can’t compete how much brawns and brains they have.