Ben Affleck is set to be the 9th star to don the batsuit to become the “Caped Crusader” when he takes on Superman in one of biggest films of the year, Batman v Superman. But who are the other eight and how has the interpretation of the “Dark Knight” varied over the years? And most importantly: who really wore it best?
1. Lewis G. Wilson (1943)
The first Batman was a first for many reasons: it was Wilson’s actorial debut (at the age of 23), he was the first to ever wear the cape and it was the first ever DC comics character to be filmed, just four years after the very first Batman comic was released. The movie wasn’t afraid to jump on the war propaganda wagon either; Dr. Daka starred as the bad guy and Japanese mastermind of a wartime espionage-sabotage group.
Costume and physique: He looked more like your uncle at a fancy dress party than a crime-fighting vigilante. Only Fools and Horses comes to mind.
What happened after: Wilson’s Hollywood career didn’t last long as he called it a day in 1950.
Fun Fact: He was married to Dana Natol, who later went on to marry Albert R. Broccoli of James Bond fame and is the father of Bond executive producer Michael G. Wilson.
Rating: 4/10 Batarangs
2. Robert Lowrey (1949)
At 36, Lowrey was a lot older than Wilson when he squeezed into the tights to fight crime in 1949’s Batman and Robin. This time he took on the Wizard, black-hooded mastermind and his gang.
Costume and physique: Lowrey filled out the suit a lot better than Wilson, who many thought was a little too soft around the waist. The suit was also made to look darker and more ominous.
What happened after: This was Lowrey’s only film as the bat but he did continue to be very active in Hollywood until the late ‘60s.
Fun Fact: He made a guest appearance in the Adventures of Superman in 1956, making him the first “Batman” to star alongside “Superman” .
Rating: 6/10 Batarangs
3. Adam West (1966)
Perhaps the “original” Batman many people have in mind when they think of the first Batman. The camp, over-the-top, colourful adventures of Batman dominated both TV and film for a large chunk of the ‘60s as Adam West played the character for the longest time ever. The hangover from the swinging sixties version would also last for over a decade…
Costume and physique: From the drawn on eyebrows and blue cape, to gadgets like the shark-repellent bat spray, everything about this Batman screamed the swinging sixties.
What happened after: Typecast hell. West spent much of the following decades doing various Batman work and cameos, the most popular being Mayor Adam West in Family Guy.
Fun Fact: West turned down the role of James Bond in the early ‘70s when they were considering rebooting the franchise with an American Bond. West believed the character should only be played by a Brit. Talk about missing the chance of a lifetime!
Rating: 6/10 Batarangs
4. Michael Keaton (1989)
After the jovial days of the ‘60s, Batman went with the times and we were treated to a darker, moodier late ‘80s version. The decision to cast comedy actor Keaton in the role was a controversial one, but it turned out to be the perfect move by Tim Burton. As was casting Nicholson as The Joker – one of the most iconic movie villains of all time.
Costume and physique: Things got all rubbery as Batman went for more protection over actually being able to move his head.
What happened after: Keaton went on to star in the equally good Batman Returns and continued to have a busy decade in the ‘90s. He won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for his role as a washed-up superhero actor in Birdman.
Fun Fact: His real name is Micheal Douglas, but changed it to Keaton to not be confused with Micheal Douglas.
Rating: 8/10 Batarangs