The New Batman: Darker, But Gentler?

"All of our heroes in our society tend to have a chink in their armor, making them more endearing to the American sensibility," said M. Thomas Inge, author of "Comics as Culture" in a previous report. "They tend to have a compromised morality. … Huck Finn was not an ideal character. He did some questionable things to get what he wanted and faced a moral dilemma with Jim the slave before he ended up doing the right thing."

Batman Showing His Vulnerable Side?

As Spider-Man was gaining popularity, viewers saw West portray Batman -- laden with "Pow!" "Bang!" "Zoom!" bubble-word onscreen special effects -- on the TV series, which premiered in 1966. Though the series had its followers, The Dark Knight seemed to have lost his edge.

Batman's character underwent a resurgence, helped by the 1987 publication of Frank Miller's graphic novel "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns," which tells the story of an embittered Caped Crusader who comes out of a self-imposed exile to save Gotham.

Hollywood hopes "Batman Begins" will remind fans why they liked seeing Batman on the big screen while showing them a hidden side of the hero. The movie is directed by Christopher Nolan, the mind behind the critically acclaimed 2000 independent film "Memento."

"It's much more human," Bale said of the portrayal of Batman. "It focuses on Bruce Wayne and answers many questions like, why the hell is a guy dressing as a bat running around the city as a way to fight crime? He is facing his fears. You get to see his origins, you get to see him at age 8. You get to see him as a lost cause, as an angry young man who doesn't know what to do with his life."

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