I've been reading a copy of the Absolute Dark Knight and the seminal 80s Miller work is a very interesting background to this summer's hype for The Dark Knight. I'm actually quite excited about this film and my brother and I already have purchased our IMAX tickets perfectly center for a matinee showing next Friday.

My favorite piece of promo hype has to be Gotham Cable News (now "Joker-ified" it seems in the final lead-up to movie launch), a vertical cross-promotion with Time Warner's Comcast cable unit. Centerpiece of this fine buffet of Gotham-centric news feeds are the segments from Gotham Tonight, a new journal in the fashion of a 60 Minutes or Anderson Cooper with the primary host being "Mike Engel", none other than Anthony Michael-Hall playing Gotham City "Anderson Cooper" with aplomb and seemingly a good bit of fun. This is just a cool character, even without the requisite rumor that the Nolan brothers are grooming Anthony Michael-Hall for an appearance as the Riddler in the capstone to the modern Bat-trilogy. (Newscaster with obvious psuedonym seems like a reasonable background for the Riddler to me.) This week Mike Engel interviews Harvey Dent, which is awesome.

GCN particularly makes it obvious how wide and far into Batman canon the Nolan brothers have knowledge of. There were several direct references to Dark Knight Returns in the GCN news coverage, which works wonderfully considering Miller's focus on talking head news shows in his graphic novels.

This week also marked the arrival of Batman: Gotham Knight, the animated "lead-up" DVD. I was quite happy with the anthology. I felt there were several stand out stories in the anthology, top three were certainly Working Through Pain and the ending Deadshot (arguably the reason for the anthology's existence in the first place [1]) and beginning Legends-inspired piece. Part of my enjoyment here certainly comes from my love of Batman: The Animated Series. The DVD here is an obvious bridge between TAS and the Batman Begins continuity. It's perhaps most interesting for hinting at what TAS may have been given the awesome contributions of geography and style from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. [2] I think that without TAS we might never have seen the ultra-serious/darkly-realistic Nolan films, and yet it is interesting to wonder what may have happened had Dini (head-writer) and Timm (head-artist) waited until after Batman Begins to work on TAS. Forget even how much darker and weirder the rest of the DCAU (Diniverse/Timmverse) may have been in that case...

I particularly love TAS, it seems, due to an oddly late introduction to screen Batman. Kevin Conroy was "my" Batman, not Micheal Keaton. [3] All Batman Begins needed to endear me was its central and intelligent usage of The Scarecrow, certainly one of my favorite TAS villains and quite possibly one of the most central of TAS villains over its seasons. Everything else was a bonus.

Gotham Knight's 2-Disc DVD "special edition" was worth the price alone for the second DVD's worth of special features. The special feature on Batman's rogues gallery probably won't hold too many secrets to anyone at all familiar with Batman canon, or at least TAS familiarity, but the special feature on Bob Kane, Batman's creator, seemed to hold a bit more of interest. But perhaps the jewel of the collection was Timm's selection of 4 key TAS episodes as bonus fodder. It certainly made me debate again the merits of purchasing myself a TAS season collection. Most notable of Timm's 4 episode selection, to me, were two particular episodes Heart of Glass and Legends of the Batman. Heart of Glass is the Mr. Freeze origin story from TAS. It's almost saddening and has a good subtlety to its writing that contrasts amazingly with Schumacher and Ah-nold's (awful) attempt at telling the same origin story. Legends of the Batman is the "blind men feel the elephant" episode that is referenced in Gotham Knight's opening story. Each has its own take on the story, but for a certain extent the TAS Legends is perhaps the more interesting one for where it's take leads. In Legends one kid tells the story of the Batman that directly evokes the 60s Camp Era and another tells a story of Batman that is an exact snippet of 80s Dark Knight Returns and then pulls them together with 90s TAS Batman.

With all of this Batman stuff going on, it might almost be too much hype for next week's The Dark Knight, but from what rumors and spoilers I've heard so far I actually don't think that I'll be disappointed, but it might make the wait for the third Bat-film from the Nolan brothers interminable...

[1]Deadshot, it turns out, a sort of "anti-Batman", had been planned as a TAS episode but never made it due to censorship issues revolving around trying to show a headshot-spectacular assassin in a "kid's" animated program.
[2]I can think of nowhere else in Batman continuity that we see the interesting detail in Gotham City geography as we see outpouring from the Nolan films. As a fan of fictional urban geography I count that alone as a major win for the new movies. Don't believe me? Seek out the Gotham City Ferries website and the Gotham City Rail website.
[3]Which gives me an interesting enough perspective on Tim Burton's Batman films... It seems obvious to me how much that Tim Burton took the Camp 60s Batman and simply notched up the "darkness"... Neither the 60s show or Tim Burton's films are "real batman", but fun facsimiles thereof. I've also decided that "camp gothic" is a pretty good name for Tim Burton's style. I say that not as an insult, because I think it almost illuminates the director's brilliance: he manages to bring all the fun and entertaining things from decades worth of camp and B-movies and tweak that just subtly darker to the point where it barely manages to avoid the wide domains of "creepiness" and "farce".