The Hidden S in Phone Booth

Welcome to "The Hidden S in Phone Booth." Your writer is Mark Rhodes, a man known within many magazine circles including The Christian Science Monitor, Opera and Wizard. He runs a site called the European Film Report that looks at the art of filmmaking, and will tackle whatever he feels like writing about (similar to Tedd in Hank McCoy (Before the Fur) except with less love of Dazzler). For the Bat-Man Fan who has everything… It is impossible for many (even those who were around) to remember the absolute Batman craze of the mid-1960’s. The pop art sensibility of the show definitely was part of the zeitgeist of the time when the most influential artists of the day like Warhol, Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns took their cues from comic books, newspaper strips and imagery usually associated with “low” culture and made the public re-evaluate them as objects worthy of artistic attention and merit. The Adam West Batman series took these ideas, already in the air, and ran with them. In so doing, it laid some of the groundwork for adult appreciation of the comic form (an idea the television Batman doesn’t always get credit for doing), and a sense that comics can be a kind of hip form of popular art. A strange footnote about all of this is the fact that a weekly Japanese manga for boys called Shonen King licensed the legal rights to create their own Batman and Robin series. The artist on this series was Jiro Kuwata, a manga maestro who had created the popular manga superhero comic 8-Man. This series only ran a year and the series was never officially collected in print and were never translated into English (until now of course). Genius graphic designer Chip Kidd and Saul Ferris have managed to bring these works back in Bat-Manga: The Secret History of Batman in Japan (Pantheon). Unbelievably, DC was previously unaware of the existence of the Kuwata Batman and Robin manga. The works in this series are really amazing and unlike any portrayal of Batman and Robin yet. This incarnation of the Dark Knight has a Japanese specific outlook and reflects the influence of the atomic age on Japanese popular culture with Batman and Robin battling foes like Go-Go Magician, mutants, aliens and zombies. It is hard to say if Batman is the greatest superhero, but this work makes a case that he might be the most versatile and even universal. Batman can be everywhere at once, translate across cultures (as in the famous Batman of All Nations storyline from Batman #667-669) and in this way he resembles a deity. Indeed, in works like Frank Miller’s Dark Knight opuses he is God and the Devil, savior and demon. This series of works shows how easily Batman can translate into other cultures. As with the recent DVD release of Batman: Gotham Knight, there is a particular sensibility that translates well to the Orient with regard to portraying the Dark Knight. There are a couple of different versions of this book. A rich, but basic paperback edition as well as a hardcover edition with a variant cover, extra story and an interview with artist Kuwata.