It's easy to assume that the whole world swooned the moment it saw Batman or James Bond appear on screen -- certain characters are just so undeniably awesome that they couldn't possibly fail. But the reality is that lots of your favorite franchises had to suffer through ill-conceived false starts before rounding into shape, at which point their creators hoped you would forget all about the early efforts.
That's why it's so strange to look back at ...
7 Batman's (Racist) Black-and-White Films of the 1940s
The Version You Know:
The first Batman comics came out in 1939, but it wasn't until the 1966 show with Adam West that the Dark Knight really became a cultural phenomenon. Suddenly, Batman's adventures weren't only accessible to the intellectual elite who knew how to read speech balloons.
20th Century Fox Television, Warner Bros.
Clearly it's also where Nolan got this idea from.
Then Tim Burton resurrected the franchise with the 1989 film, and it's been an unstoppable box office juggernaut ever since. Mostly.
The Original Version:
Turns out there's an older live-action version of Batman that DC Comics understandably doesn't like to talk about.
With the black and white, there's always the uneasy feeling that those legging might not be leggings at all.
Why? For starters, in this low-budget 1943 Batman serial, the costumes were crappy, the Batmobile was a regular car, and the Batcave was ... well, a cave. An empty, bat-infested cave where Batman drops criminals to terrorize them.
Also, it's kinda racist. In this version, Batman is actually a government agent fighting against the "shifty-eyed Japs" -- that's his entire origin. No traumatic witnessing of his parents' murder as a child, just "the government asked him to put on a bat costume and punch Asians" (the CIA had to stop doing that in 1957). This Batman truly didn't give a fuck: When he wasn't letting innocent window cleaners fall to their deaths or losing his cape and mysteriously regaining it, he was stashing cigarettes in his costume:
And not bothering to reshoot the scene after dropping them.