Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chicago author reveals Batman tidbits in new book; makes appearance at C2E2 expo


If you are playing a trivia game filled with questions about the caped crusader Batman, you would do well to have Evanston author Bruce Scivally on your side.

Scivally recently penned a book, "Billion Dollar Batman," that traces Batman's first appearance in 1939 as a character in "Detective Comics" to his stature today. The book is available on his website, www.brucescivally.com.

I had the pleasure to interview Scivally about the book during his appearance last weekend at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.

Q - What made you want to write the book?

The "Billion Dollar Batman" book is one that I wrote because I had done a book previously on Superman. And when I went around promoting that one, everyone kept saying, ''When are you going to write a book about Batman?''

It took a little while, but after three years of research and writing, I finally got it all done.

I was doing as many interviews as I could, and I went through newspaper archives and magazine archives. I was trying to debunk some of the myths that are out there, like the story that ABC got the idea for the Batman series because the serial was screening at the Playboy Mansion.

It actually screened at the Playboy Theater, which was a theater in the Chicago in the '60s. ABC was already planning to do the series before those screenings, so that's not true.

Q - Did you grow up on the TV series?

I was a little kid when the Adam West series came on TV. I was a huge fan of Adam West's Batman. I was living in L.A. for many years, so I went to the premiere of the 1989 "Batman" movie and saw a press screening of the "Batman & Robin" movie.

I was here in Chicago when they were shooting "The Dark Knight." So it's sort of almost by happenstance that I've kind of been in the right place at the right time for a lot of those things.

Q - Who did you interview for the book?

Well, one of the first people I interviewed was Michael G. Wilson. He's the son of Lewis Wilson, the first live-action Batman (he was in the 1943 film serial "Batman.")

Michael G. Wilson is now the producer of the "James Bond" movies. Also, I talked to Michael Uslan, who's the executive producer of all the current "Batman" films and Lorenzo Semple Jr., the writer and sort of co-creator of the "Batman" TV series.

I spoke to Jane Adams, who was Vicki Vale in the 1949 "Batman" serial. So pretty much anyone I could get, I spoke to.

Q - And everyone was cooperative?

Everyone I spoke to was very cooperative, yeah. Of course, I tried very hard to get an interview with Adam West. He didn't want to give an interview, but he said I could use anything I wanted from his book, and he provided some photos for the book. So that was very nice of him. 

Q - As far as the movies, do you think they have paid justice to the Batman character?

One of the things I chart in the book is how the character changes through the years. When they made the TV series, as much as some hard-core fans want to say, ''Oh, it's too campy and silly,'' that's the way the comic books were at the time.


Q - What do you think about the new "Batman" movie that's about to come out in July?

I'm really excited to see "The Dark Knight Rises." I'm sort of purposely trying not to find out much about it before I see it, because I want to be surprised by it.

I think Christopher Nolan is a great filmmaker, and did a really terrific job with those first two movies he made. He really set the bar high with "The Dark Knight."

Q - Is Batman your favorite superhero?

I like a lot of them. When I was a kid, I think maybe Superman was more of my favorite.

Superman sort of represents hope, goodness and justice, the things we aspire to, whereas Batman is more about revenge and sort of dark motives and things we can relate to more.

Superman is what we aspire to be, but Batman is who we are.