Sunday, July 13, 2008

If You Can't Trust 'em on the Small Things...

So I end up at, by way of clicking a link on Google News. The subject in question is "Filming the Dark Knight," which is all well and good. But then I click on the "Related" link, The Dark Knight, and thence to the timeline, "Caped Crusader Chronology."

And the first thing I note is that the timeline, when I get there, is in fact titled "Cape Crusader Chronology." Not "caped." This on both the page itself and in the title bar. It bodes not well. But I plunge on.

I'm basically okay for the first couple of decades. Not bothering to go and check dates and so on; things seem as right as they need to be. Of course, the timeline perpetuates the old fiction that young Bob Kane one day sat down and created Batman all by his lonesome, but of course that canard is so well integrated into the mythos that it's nearly impossible to give poor old Bill Finger his due as virtual co-creator of the character.

But when I get to May 1964, I about lose it:

    Batman turns 25 and Kane considers killing off the character due to a drop in sales. Instead, the Dark Knight gets a "New Look" in Detective Comics # 327. The makeover by editor Julius Schwartz includes an updated Batmobile and the addition of the yellow ellipse behind the costume's Bat-insignia.
Kane considers killing him off? I think it's been pretty well documented that certainly by 1964 Kane's involvement with the character consisted primarily of cashing his royalty checks. Somewhere--I think in the excellent book Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones--there's an anecdote of a kid showing Kane the comic book that introduced the "new look" Batman (and also the first Batman book that did not include the "Bob Kane" signature) and noting Kane's surprise at both the new design and his missing byline. So I hardly think Kane considered pulling the plug on the character--or ever would consider killing the golden goose--or had any legal standing to do so if it did enter his head.

Skeptism sensors activated!

Next, it's a little odd that the "chronology" goes from May 1964 to May 1966 to January 12, 1966, and then to 1966. Ordinarily I expect a "chronology" to be you know, chronological, and the last time I looked May 1966 should come after January 12 1966. And why is 1966 hanging there all alone? The reference is to the movie Batman, with Adam West and Burt Ward, and you'd think that an organization with the resources of CBS News might have been able to dig up the release date. (October 5, if you're interested.)

Forging ahead, I come to Feb. - June 1986, and read:

    Frank Miller's "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" hits shelves, featuring an aged Batman of the future. It is considered a pioneer of the comic book industry and reinforces the darker, modern Batman.
No objection...except one wonders how The Dark Knight Returns can be a "pioneer" of a 50-year-old industry...

And so on. A few more minor quibbles--why not give the release dates, or at least the months, for Batman Returns, Batman: Gotham Knight, and The Dark Knight? But by then I've largely lost interest in the "chonology," having determined that CBS News decided it wasn't worth taking much pains with, which causes me to wonder why I should care either.

But one always does wonder: If a news organization is sloppy with small, unimportant details, what makes me think they're any more conscientious or accurate with the big, important stories?

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