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The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  1,639 Ratings  ·  358 Reviews
A witty, intelligent cultural history from NPR book critic Glen Weldon explains Batman’s rises and falls throughout the ages—and what his story tells us about ourselves.

Since his creation, Batman has been many things: a two-fisted detective; a planet-hopping gadabout; a campy Pop-art sensation; a pointy-eared master spy; and a grim and gritty ninja of the urban night. For
Audiobook, 9 pages
Published March 22nd 2016 by Simon Schuster Audio
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Simon Logan Yeah he doesn't really champion any particular version of Batman, it's more that he is (perhaps quite rightly) a little critical of the people who…moreYeah he doesn't really champion any particular version of Batman, it's more that he is (perhaps quite rightly) a little critical of the people who think Batman *should* be one thing or another.

In my opinion if you get the audiobook (read by the author) then it's worth it for the accents alone!(less)
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Community Reviews

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Let's open this review with the hilarious Lego Batman's self composed death metal song--which should have been the theme song for all of the Batman movies! (Youtube video here:

No parents!
Continued Darkness!
Get it?
The opposite of light!"

And who can forget the following infamous famous line from Frank Miller's All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder?


You think 'I'm Batman' is so badass?
Hell nooo
So just who, or what, is Batman?

Is he the dark prowler of the night that protected the rich from working class thieves (often throwing them gleefully off tall buildings) as he was originally conceived back in the 1930's?


Is he the wacky Adam West character whose TV show showed the lighter side of the caped crusader and introduced America to the Batusi?


Maybe he is Frank Miller's borderline psychotic and abusive dark knight.


Perhaps the more toned down, but iconic Batman from the animated series.


Sam Wescott
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, my god. You guys, this was SO good.

Ok, so cards on the table. I am not a Batman fan. I am a huge fan of Glen Weldon, though. I listen to the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast every week without fail and hold my breath in the hopes that we'll get another "Weldonian Taxonomy" this time. So, I knew going in that I was going to enjoy the tone of the book regardless of the content.

But, goodness, this book was so interesting! I love a good deep dive and this certainly delivers. Weldon guides the re
Dana Stabenow
I've been listening to Glen Weldon for years on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and he's so funny and so smart and so endearingly enthusiastic when it comes to all things Batman that in spite of not being a Batman fan myself I couldn't resist reading this book.

Well. Whole lotta Batman going on, and some truly insightful commentary on the sledgehammer impact Batman has had on American culture, Batman as primogenitor of the noli me tángere nerd culture, Batman (with Superman and Weldon's alread
Megan H
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I listened to the audiobook & it was phenomenal. The history of Batman intersects in fascinating ways with the history of comics as a medium and the evolution of nerd culture. But this book never gets bogged down in detail and is very easy to follow without knowing much (or anything) about the original comics. And of course Glen Weldon reads with his usual on-air panache (and has a wider range of spot on accents than I ever realized). A great read/listen.
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Five stars on its own merit - a fascinating, funny, insanely well researched and realized look at the Batman franchise and how it fits into the overall landscape of nerddom.
Three stars because WOW, that was a much deeper dive into the subject than I personally needed.
Averaging four stars.

Really like Mr. Weldon's writing style - I've been listening to him on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, and could hear his voice and timing come through. I hope he reads any audio version of this, he would hit all
Paul ataua
It was my fascination with the relationship between changes in society through time and changes in genre and my admiration of Glen Wheldon’s wit and perceptiveness that drew me into ‘the Caped Crusade”, and although I have never really been a comic book hero aficionado, I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It was interesting to be transported through the various regenerations of Batman from champion of the rich, to crime fighter, to time traveler, and to angst ridden superhero. Worth the time!
Kelly McCubbin
This is a tough book to review. I LIKE Glen Weldon and I have to preface this by saying that because this is a snobby book. The audio book (where everyone he doesn't agree with, which, trust me, is a lot of us, is read in the voice of the comic book nerd guy from The Simpsons) doubly so.
Here's a litany of Weldon's points... Robin is crucial.
If you revel in gritty, severe Batman, you're misguided.
The Tim Burton movies stink.
If you think The 60s Batman TV show (Weldon's favorite version of the cha
Robert Greenberger
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Glen Weldon at times to be a true fan of the character and at other times seems contemptuous of the very Fandom he is a part of. This is an informative survey of Batman as a cultural icon from his pulp - drenched roots to the many flavors available today from video games to DVD to the current Rebirth titles. You can enjoy the Batman you grew up on or any assortment, each representing the era in which it was produced. He does not spend much time on co-creator Bob Kane's diminishing involvement un ...more
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, media
I’ve been a non-rabid Batman fan since I got hooked on the reruns of the Adam West TV show a number of decades back. I also remember winning a reprint copy of an old Detective Comics featuring the first appearance of Batman. That was an excellent win at the PTA carnival – the publisher was local and had donated hundreds of copies. But as time went on, I just casually kept up on the caped crusader, seeing a couple of the movies, reading one of the Frank Miller books that people had mentioned. “Th ...more
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
It may seem odd that some of my fondest memories of childhood involved my being sick. I can remember curling up on the couch, fevered, sipping on a delicious ginger ale (these were the days when soda was as rare a commodity in our house as peace and quiet), and watching the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition videotapes that I treasured. I skipped to my favorite battle scenes and lightsaber duels, watched AT-ATs wreck the rebel base over and over again, and appreciated the melodramatic heights of ...more
Luke Boyce
Initially, I was tempted to give this book 2 stars, but I took a moment to think about it and realized two things: 1) Despite it being written with a hugely snobbish attitude the entire time, in which I often felt attacked or demeaned for liking a certain version of Batman, there is still quite a lot of really good information and I learned a lot. I can't deny that the book is educational and enlightening. 2) I listened to the audiobook, which was grating and frustrating and hard to get through. ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
Glen Weldon finally delivers on the promise he made to deliver a cultural biography of a DC powerhouse, only it's not the Big Blue Boyscout but his battier cousin.

Everything that disappointed me about Superman: The Unauthorized Biography is remedied here: the detailed progression of the Caped Crusader's development across the decades is contextualized societally and I guess one would have to say nerdily, reinforcing once again that we wind up with the heroes our cultural zeitgeist needs and not
Amy Sturgis
I wanted to read this book for two main reasons.

In the short term, I was looking ahead to watching the history-making 2016 film The Killing Joke (I say "history-making" because 1. it is the first animated Batman feature to receive a rating of R and 2. it marks the return of the legendary voice team of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker), and I wanted to put into larger context both that film and the text that inspired it, Alan Moore's 1988 The Killing Joke graphic novel.

In a br
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture, comics, history
I thoroughly enjoyed this account of Batman's history. It covers Batman from the very beginning up until Batman vs. Superman. What's new is that this is not just a history of Batman, but also of the fan culture surrounding Batman. It's fascinating to see how Batman shaped his fans, and how his fans shaped him in return. Overall, this was a very fun read. The author has a sense of humor, so there are laughs throughout. I'd highly recommend this for Batman fans.
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My oldest daughter loves Batman. He was my favorite as a child, but I only knew him from Saturday morning cartoons and the (much reviled by purists) television show of the 60's. From her and from this book, I have a much greater understanding and knowledge of Batman and his fanatical fans. And realized that, according to the most dedicated fans, I didn't really know Batman because my sources weren't "pure".
This passage from the book really resonated with me and made me think of our culture today
Apr 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, film, comics
Alternately enlightening and enervating history of the Batman. Not too much about so-called "nerd culture," this is more a straight history of the various iterations of the character and fans' reactions to it. I could have done with less of Weldon's, uh, snarky, for lack of a better word, writing style. The book is very informal and peppered with jokes that don't quite land, reading more like a personal blog than a work of history, and Weldon's bias toward the campy, silly Batman of the 60's TV ...more
Time to face facts: I'm not finishing this anytime soon. All I can say is, Book, it's not you, it's me.

Weldon is smart, engaging, witty, and accessible. The combination of professional expertise, personality, love for the subject, and unique take is a winning one. I've very much enjoyed dipping in and out, and it even lends itself to that type of reading with frequent section breaks that nonetheless are unified by vision. However, I've checked this out, renewed it, returned it, repeated, repeate
Timothy Walker
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book i've read in awhile, it tells you everything you need to know about batman and heaps more through the eyes of a slightly cynical but still agreeable bat-nerd.

my favourite thing about this book is instead of talking about this series as a manual it instead looks at the different themes and topics that batman covers.

Jenna Iden
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I liked this book so so much. It is nerdy and clever, self-aware and earnest, engaging and freakishly detailed. I wish it were a little simpler linguistically so I could give it to students, but, even as an utter Bat-novice, I was delighted all the while. Audiobook highly recommended.
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Darkness. No parents.

Full review here.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tim Burton's 1989 Batman was mesmerizing for me as a child. In addition, I remember being supremely entertained, albeit somewhat confused, by Adam West's parody of Batman; was Batman the Dark Knight, doling out justice with his bare hands and becoming the terror of criminals everywhere, or was he a farcical (and don't forget campy!) satire of heroism? Glen Weldon's endlessly fascinating book not only illuminates the nuances of the character of Batman but also his fans and his devotees.

I didn't g
Quite a fun read on Batman and the ways the batman comics have changed over the years and the impact different entertainment mediums have had on it (and vice versa). From its fairly straightforward beginnings to the TV series (that most now either appreciate or make fun of as campy - interestingly, the book lets us know that it all started out as a straight recreation of the comics) to the graphic novels and the movies. It covers the rise of "nerd culture" from the 50s. (and its quite interestin ...more
Guilherme Smee
Analisar a trajetória e a evolução do personagem e da ideia do Batman é, nada mais, do que analisar a própria trajetória da cultura nerd, da cultura de fãs, do fandom, seja como você quiser chamar. Afinal, o Homem-Morcego foi um dos super-heróis mais adaptados e readaptados para diversas mídias, produtos, histórias, realidades, se não O MAIS. O Batman, segundo a teoria de Umberto Eco, não é nada mais do que um "personagem flutuante". Ele já deixou as páginas dos quadrinhos há muito, muito tempo. ...more
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a great "biography" of Batman accessible to the non-superfan. I am broadly familiar with various Batmen, but not by any means an expert, and I found that Weldon's level of explanation was quite perfectly pitched to someone like me. For any fan of NPR's "Pop Culture Happy Hour" podcast, Glen Weldon's unique tone will certainly come across. Glen's long been my favorite, and it's a pleasure to actually read his prose, which is deeply recognizable as pure Glen-ness. I think the book may ...more
Saran Walker
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A delightful and compelling read about the history of Batman and the origins of nerd culture as we know it today. Weldon's writing is humorous and light-hearted but also minutely detailed and indicative of his own passion as a fan; he carefully tracks the cyclical rise and fall of various Bat-tropes, highlighting the difficult and never-ending process of making a satisfying adaptation of such a large cultural icon. I've always been kind of neutral on Batman and by no means a mega-fan, but, havin ...more
Dank Wit
Nice cultural capsule history of the character and his following, and served well as the gateway I hoped it'd be. I have a soft spot for the pop art absurdity of Batman '66 that many of my friends do not share (I mean, when I finished watching Star Trek '66 I realized that the concurrent caped crusader content was actually tonally more similar to TOS than TNG was). It seems that the author enjoys it as well, but covers it as a travesty as to remain in the proper nerd context, which struck me as ...more
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book immensely, probably more so given that Glen Weldon, with his wonderful inflection and voice, read the audiobook. I've never really been a Batman comics reader (or anything in the D.C. Universe) but this was a really interesting look at the development as Batman in all his iterations since the 1939s and the parallel development of nerd culture. (PS: Glen's "Comic Book Guy" voice is just perfect for reading fan-boy quotes, particularly the toxic quotes)

Incidentally, I started t
Apr 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A kötet túl azon, hogy végigviszi a sötét lovag történetét a keletkezésétől a napjainkig komolyan foglalkozik a hős rajongóival is. Innen az alcím, a nerd kultúra kibontakozása és felemelkedése. Batman igazi rajongói ugyanis, akik a képregénnyel kelnek és fekszenek és megszerzik az összes egyedi kiadást, játékot, kütyüt meg conokra járnak, nagyon sokáig csak egy kicsi főleg magányos emberekből álló csoport volt, az évek alatt azonban egyre többen lettek és az internet segítségével olyan erőre ka ...more
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic telling of the history of Batman and the influence he's had on nerd culture and vice versa. The audio book was amazing with the great voices used to differentiate between who was being quoted. Great book!!
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Glen Weldon is a contributor to NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See, where he posts weekly about comics and comics culture. He also reviews books and movies for and is a regular panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast.

Over the course of his career, he has spent time as a theater critic, a science writer, an oral historian, a writing teacher, a bookstore clerk, a PR flack, a seriousl
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“Holy Adam West!” 4 likes
“The Joker as sadistic chaos, the Batman as merciless order. This mirror-image theme would come to define the two characters' relationship in the comics and across all media for the next forty years.” 4 likes
More quotes…