Batman Noir . . . for your ears only

Imagine, in your mind, a Gotham City of cold, concrete skyscrapers, and abandoned buildings along the polluted river shoreline, and dented cars from the 1930s to the 1970s, and men on the streets wearing wide-brimmed hats, and women in long, old-fashioned dresses.

This is the Gotham of Tim Burton’s original Batman film from 1989. It’s timeless, caught somewhere between the thirties and the seventies. It’s Batman noir.

And it’s the Gotham City, ostensibly, of Batman: The Audio Adventures, now streaming on HBO Max.

This is a podcast, and it’s almost all audio. (The screen you see above, minus the logo, is present during the podcast, and occasionally something in it will change along with events in the audio story.) It’s almost a return to radio dramas of the ’40s and ’50s—but it’s decidedly different.

First, the cast is top notch, all from tv and movies, and a surprising number come from the halls of SNL at 30 Rockefeller Center. So does the podcast’s creator and producer, Dennis McNicholas, who populates his Gotham City with the voices of Westworld‘s Jeffrey Wright as the Batman, Rosario Dawson, John Leguiziamo, Jason Sudeikis, Chris Parnell, Melissa Villaseñor as Robin, Seth Meyers, Brent Spiner as the Joker, Paula Pell, Ike Barinholtz, Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson, Alan Tudyk, Heidi Gardner, Brooke Shields, Paul Scheer, Tim Meadows, Fred Armisen, and Twin Peaks‘ Ray Wise.

Second, it sounds a little like the classic Adam West/Burt Ward show from the ’60s, but it’s a lot darker, and much closer to today’s comic books. So don’t go into it expecting high camp and hijinks. Maybe a laugh here and there—Bent Spiner’s Joker is wonderful—but the show straddles some extraordinary middle ground, and reminds me in tone of the best tv Batman, Batman: The Animated Series from the ’90s. Here’s the first podcast episode, free on YouTube:

Today’s Musical Interlude

I don’t wear it on my sleeve, but I do have a lapel pin. I am a rabid, card-carrying, born again Bat-Fan.

pinWhile many critics and comic book fans hail the Neal Adams/Denny O’Neill run in the comics for establishing the dark mood that is still present today, I believe, instead, that it was the Marshall Rogers/Steve Englehart run that truly established the theatricality of the character, his threatening personality to criminals, the art of evocative illustration, and a swirling cape of darkness that could stretch to infinity.


What, you ask, does this have to do with music?  For a short while, the only Batman that the mass public envisioned was the one popularized on ABC TV in the mid ’60s, and that’s where this video comes from.  Well, enamored as I still am of the lyrics-heavy Batman theme, it is not a Batman tune I present here today, but merely a Bat-related tune.  For in an episode of the Adam West Batman series, a young lady performed a short, private concert for three of Catwoman’s henchmen.


That young lady was popular singer Leslie Gore, who left us just a few short days ago, and the song she sang was one I heard many times, over and over, on WGH Radio (Hampton-Norfolk-Newport News).   Before she ever sang it on Batman, it was already a favorite of mine.