BATMAN AND ROBIN AND THE COMICS
Let’s start with the casting. George Clooney certainly looks like the Bruce Wayne from the comics.
And arguably he looks a lot like the Alex Ross Batman when wearing the suit.
Chris O’Donnell is a perfect physical match for the adult Dick Grayson in the comics. He’s five foot ten with blue eyes, a square jaw and an athletic physique. I suppose you could nitpick that his hair is brown instead of black, but that aside his physical characteristics match the adult Robin’s perfectly.
Robin’s costume in this movie was modelled on the Nightwing costume from the nineties comics.
There was even a line in the original script that alluded to this.
Mr. Freeze’s appearance in the film is similar to his muscular high-tech look from the nineties comics, which itself was an evolved version of the Otto Preminger version from the TV show.
When we first see Mr. Freeze he’s stealing a diamond from a museum. Before Paul Dini introduced Mr. Freeze’s more sympathetic origin story, his MO typically revolved around ice-themed crimes. He would often try and steal diamonds, seeing as how a slang term for diamonds is ‘ice’. The very first time Batman and Robin encountered Mr. Freeze – back when he was known as Mr. Zero in ‘The Ice Crimes of Mr. Zero’ (Batman #121, February 1959) – he was in the process of stealing diamonds.
Of course back then he was known as Mr. Zero. He only appeared in one story and was promptly forgotten until writer Max Hodge decided to use him in a two-part story for the Batman television series. Hodge reworked the character to make him more interesting, and he and the rest of the crew imbued him with certain characteristics that were subsequently adopted into the comics. Amongst these were:
• His new name: Mr. Freeze
• His Teutonic background
• His blue skin
Mr. Zero was then reintroduced into the comics in the story ‘Mr. Freeze’s Chilling Deathtrap!’ (Detective Comics #373, March 1968); one of the stories that most heavily influenced Schumacher’s film. This was the first time he appeared as ‘Mr. Freeze’, and his change of name was playfully attributed to the TV show.
In 1996, Hodge applied for monetary compensation for his part in creating Mr. Freeze. He created a document to support his case containing his notes on the writing of the first script and correspondences with the producer. You can read the whole thing over at www.batfriend.com/data.htm. It’s a fascinating read for anyone who has an interest in the Mr. Freeze character or just the sixties TV show in general.
As far as the casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger goes – well this isn’t a comic influence, but check out this fan letter printed in Batman #479 (June 1992).
I love the fact the editor only printed this letter because it was such a terrible idea.
Anyway, back to the movie. Mr. Freeze’s freeze-gun functions much the same as it does in the comics.
Batman and Robin show up and are attacked by Freeze’s henchman. During the battle they click their feet together to make skates come out of their boots. Back in the fifties Batman and Robin would often use ‘jet skates’ to quickly manoeuvre around the city. As it happens, they were wearing these the very first time they encountered Mr. Freeze back in Batman #121.
During the skirmish Batman and Robin use ice skates and hockey sticks to fight their opponents. A remarkably similar battle occurred in ‘Murder Masquerade!’ (Batman #268, October 1975) in which Batman and Robin fought their enemies on an ice rink using hockey sticks. They spouted their fair share of hockey-puns too.
Freeze escapes the museum in his Freezemobile. The Mr. Freeze in the comics drove a vaguely similar vehicle in his second appearance in Detective Comics #373.
Batman then gives chase, firing a grapple hook from a device on his wrist. He, Batgirl and Robin are shown to do this several times throughout the movie rather than using a more traditional hand-held grapple gun as in the previous films. The Batman in the comics has occasionally used a similar wrist-mounted grapple launcher.
Freeze then traps Batman on a rocket heading into space and leaves him to die there. This scenario, whereby the villain leaves Batman in a seemingly inescapable death trap and doesn’t stick around to watch the outcome, was a staple of the old Batman TV show from the sixties. We see a similar example later in the movie where Ivy tries to leave Batman and Robin to die in the Turkish baths.
Robin shows up to rescue Batman and cuts him free using a laser tool. The dynamic duo both carry such tools and made especially prominent use of them in the sixties comics and TV show.
Batman then plants a Batbomb. Again, these have shown up in numerous comics.
The scene of Robin sky-surfing is likely a nod to Pepe Moreno’s 1990 one-shot Digital Justice. Moreno used computer generated artwork to tell a story about a new Batman and Robin protecting Gotham in the future. It had a contemporary cyberpunk feel that I expect would’ve appealed to Joel Schumacher’s visual sensibilities. In this comic Robin has a flying skateboard, and the image of him surfing through the night sky over Gotham is pretty similar to the scene in the movie.
Mr. Freeze using his freeze-gun to facilitate a getaway is typical of the comic character (note the lame ice pun – “Don’t get hot under the collar” – also typical of the early stories).
Batman and Robin using their capes like parachutes to slow their descent has also happened many times in the comics.
Mr. Freeze relaxing in a dressing gown while his henchmen freeze in his subzero hideout harkens back to his first appearance in Batman #121.