Marvel debated Michael Keaton playing Batman in a 1989 Hulk comic

When he was chosen, Marvel reacted the way most people did at first to Michael Keaton playing Batman, except they put their appraisal in a random Hulk comic.

As hard as it is to believe in hindsight, Michael Keaton was met with a passionately negative reaction when it was announced Tim Burton wanted him, an actor who was known more for his comedic chops than brooding vigilantism by night, to play his Dark Knight in 1989’s Batman.

Fans were so upset that they sent a record-breaking amount of hate mail to Warner Bros. reproving and booing the idea Mr. Mom was going to wear the cape of the Caped Crusader. At the time, it didn’t inspire confidence Burton was out to make a dark and serious updating of the Bat that left the antics and dancing of Adam West in the past.

Two Thumbs Up

All doubts were laid to rest when Batman was released and it is academic from there, but what many don’t remember is Marvel Comics, DC’s main competitor (it goes without saying), made reference to the fan reaction and critical division in an issue of The Incredible Hulk.

In issue #355, which like Batman, came out in 1989, two critics based on the late trendsetting cinephiles Siskel & Ebert exchange the banter and opposing analysis the real-life duo was famed for.

The Gene Siskel analog is very much on the side of the backlash viewing Keaton as “simply inappropriate” and “hearkening back to the camp 60s” when no one took Batman seriously. Meanwhile, the Roger Ebert clone is of the dissenting opinion most agree with today – that Keaton remains “brilliant, offbeat casting.”

Grey Area

This conversation goes down with Bruce Banner standing off to the side pleading with a female companion to be careful about “Joe,” a shady guy Bruce says is dirty, no good and will lead the lady down the path to ruin.

Joe is Joe Fixit, the Grey Hulk’s mob enforcer persona. During this time, the Hulk was grey again and transformed at night rather than when Bruce was angry or stressed. After failing to stop The Leader from detonating a Gamma Bomb, Hulk, along with Banner, resurfaced in Las Vegas where he started a new life as Fixit that Bruce was impeding.

For once, the roles were reversed and puny Banner was getting in the Hulk’s way rather than how it usually goes down. Bruce and his brutish personalities would smooth things over later on and become the “Smart” or “Professor” Hulk for the first time, but that’s another story.

The real amazement that’s the focus here is the Hulk’s writer back then, Peter David, actually took the time to play off pop culture by inserting a jab at Michael Keaton playing Batman, who’s not even a Marvel property.

Batman IS Forever

It worked out for Keaton until Batman Forever came around with a script the actor didn’t think was any good. Burton’s dismissal by Warners wasn’t helping matters either and, under Joel Schumacher’s direction, we got what we got.

The third entry is a mixed bag but it has its faithful supporters who – prompted by the studio acquiescing to Zack Snyder with Justice League – want an extended cut released in honor of Schumacher and putting the fullness of his original vision on display.

Batman Forever: The Schumacher Cut would make a fitting supplement to Keaton’s return to the cape and cowl in The Flash. Coming a year from now, the return has been long past due for the fans lying in wait.

Was there any doubt with you? How do you think Keaton will do in The Flash after so many years? Let us know in the comments and keep coming back for more DC movie coverage.