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Bob Kane: The Man Behind Batman

In anticipation of the new Batman film The Dark Knight, which opens in theaters next week, we revisit an archival interview with Bob Kane, the man who drew Batman from its inception in 1939 until the late 1960s.


Other segments from the episode on July 11, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 11, 2008: Interview with Zooey Deschanel; Review of the film "The Wackness;" Interview with Bob Kane; Review of the television show "Generation kill."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Actress, singer and songwriter Zooey Deschanel on her
new album with M. Ward, "She and Him Volume 1," and her career

This is FRESH AIR. I'M David Bianculli, for Broadcasting & Cable magazine and, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Actress Zooey Deschanel is on movie screens right now as one of the stars of
"The Happening,' but that's not the only place you can see her this summer.
You can also see her live, singing on tour with her band. It's not always
good news when an actor decides to make a record, but in Zooey Deschanel's
case it is. You may have gotten a taste of her singing in the movie "Elf," in
which she starred opposite Will Ferrell. Her other movies include "Almost
Famous" and "All the Real Girls," and she's appeared on the Showtime series
"Weeds" and starred in the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries "Tin Man."

She recently teamed up with indie rock musician Matt Ward, who goes by the
name M. Ward. Their first CD, called "She and Him Volume 1," features her
original songs and a couple of covers. She and Him also is the name of their
band. The arrangements are by Ward, who is also featured on guitar. Here's
one of Deschanel's originals, "Change Is Hard."

(Soundbite of "Change Is Hard")

Ms. ZOOEY DESCHANEL: (Singing) I'm all out of luck,
But what else could I be?
I know he's yours
And he'll never belong to me again
I did him wrong
So don't brag, keep it to yourself
I did him wrong

I was never, no I was never, no I was never, no
But I can try, I can try to toughen up
I listen when they told me
If it burns, you let him go
Change is hard
I should know
I should know
I should know

(End of soundbite)

TERRY GROSS, host: Zooey Deschanel, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Ms. DESCHANEL: Thank you.

GROSS: Congratulations on the new CD. I really love it.

When I hear your album, here's one of the things I think about that makes me
think that you really love music and have a fairly like diverse record
collection, and that you love country music and you love jazz and you love
girl groups and the Beach Boys, and somehow like all of this is reflected in
the songs that you write and sing. The song that we opened with, "Change Is
Hard," has a country-ish sound to it.

Ms. DESCHANEL: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And would you talk a little bit about what you were thinking about
when you wrote it, what you were thinking about musically? Or do songs just
kind of come to you?

Ms. DESCHANEL: I don't know. I guess I have certain sort of chord
progressions that I'm attracted to. I don't usually come at it from the point
of view that I'm, you know, I'm trying to be in a certain genre, which is
probably why it sort of spans a lot of genres; because I do have a diverse
music collection and my taste is kind of eclectic, so I'll just go right into
it and sort of start writing. It's sort of a spontaneous thing. And
sometimes things come out that I'm surprised. I didn't know that I had that
impulse in me, and then it just sort of comes out.

GROSS: You used to have a cabaret act, right, before you were well known in


GROSS: What was that like?

Ms. DESCHANEL: It was just basically a friend of mine. Another actress,
whose name is Samantha Shelton, and I had a cabaret act, and it was basically
just jazz standards, and we'd do a little dancing, and we had a five- or
six-piece band, depending upon who was in town. And it was just kind of
something that I liked to do when I wasn't working on movies; and I just, I
love to sing and I love performing for people in a live setting. It does
different things for you than, you know, doing movies, you don't get the
feeling of a live audience because the crew is always just so bored of what
you're doing, and they're not allowed to laugh or do anything audibly to show
that they're enjoying what you're doing. So it's nice to have an audience

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Zooey Deschanel; and of course
she's an actress, but she also sings and writes songs. There's some great
evidence of that on the new CD "She and Him," which features her and M. Ward
together collaborating.

I think a lot of people were introduced to you as a singer through the movie
"Elf," in which you sang a complete song and a couple of excerpts, including
"Santa Claus is Coming to Town." So here's what I'd like to do, I'd like to
first play the scene where you and Will Ferrell meet. And Will Ferrell, of
course, is a human being who was adopted by elves in Santa Land in the North
Pole, and he goes to New York to find his birth father. And there he works in
a department store Santa Land, where he meets you, who wrap gifts there. And
in this scene, you're in the department store. And here's you and Will

(Soundbite of "Elf")

(Soundbite of music and people's voices in background)

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie) Are you enjoying the view?

Mr. WILL FERRELL: (As Buddy) You are very good at decorating that tree.

(Soundbite of tree being shaken)

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie) Why you messing with me? Did Crumpet put you up
to this?

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy) I'm not messing with you. It's just nice to meet
another human who shares my affinity for elf culture.

(Soundbite of laugh)

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie) I'm just trying to get through the holidays.

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy) Get through? Christmas is the greatest day in the
whole, wide world!

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie) Please stop talking to me.

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy) Uh-oh. Sounds like someone needs to sing a
Christmas carol.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie) Go away.

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy) Best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud
for all to hear.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie) Thanks, but I don't sing.

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy) Well, it's easy. It's just like talking, except
louder and longer and you move your voice up and down.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie) I can sing, but I just choose not to sing,
especially in front of other people.

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy) Well if you sing alone, you can sing in front of
other people. There's no difference.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie) Actually, there's a big difference.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Well, that's Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell in "Elf."

And a little later, you are, you think, alone and singing. You're in the
shower singing in the ladies' room; and unbeknownst to you, Will Ferrell is in
the ladies' room sitting on a sink, duetting with you quietly, and the sound
of the shower water is drowning him out, so you don't realize he's in there
and singing with you until the end. So let's give that a listen.

(Soundbite of "Elf")

(Soundbite of shower running)

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie, singing) So really I'd better scurry
Well, maybe just a half a drink more
The neighbors might think

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy, singing) Baby, it's bad out there

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie, singing) Say, what's in this drink?

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy) No cabs to be had out there

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie, singing) I wish I knew how

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy, singing) Your eyes are like starlight now

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie, singing) To break the spell

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy, singing) I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie, singing) I ought to say no, no, no, sir

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy, singing) Mind if I move in closer?

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie, singing) At least I'm gonna say that I tried

Mr. FERRELL: (As Buddy, singing) What's the sense of hurting my pride?

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Jovie, singing) I really can't stay

Mr. FERRELL and Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Buddy and Jovie, singing in unison)
Ah, but it's cold outside!

(Soundbite of faucet being turned off)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: And then you're--turned off the shower because you're pretty alarmed
knowing that he's in there. It's such a really delightful scene.

You know, in "Elf," you say that singing is really private, like, yeah, you
can sing, but you don't sing in front of anybody.


GROSS: And I got the impression that writing songs for you is really private
and so it was maybe a little difficult initially to sing the songs you wrote
in public. Was that more difficult than singing Rodgers and Hart in public?

Ms. DESCHANEL: Yeah, actually it was really--I was really, really shy about
it for a really long time. I mean, I've been writing music for years and
years, but I would just sort of make these home demos that--sort of elaborate,
I mean, elaborate for me. I would be like, you know, I mean I would spend a
long time and then I would just let them sort of sit around. And it got to
the point where I just had so many and they were starting to sort of drive me
crazy; I mean in the sense that I wanted so badly to do something with them,
but I felt crippled by shyness about them.

And it wasn't until I met Matt that I really felt like I had found, you know,
just the right person to work with on this stuff because it, you know...

GROSS: Did he get you to hear your own songs differently?

Ms. DESCHANEL: Definitely. Definitely. I mean, there were songs that I was
like, `Oh, this is just a little ditty.' And he's like, `No, it's not! We
have to make this into a, you know, a big production.' So it was really--it
was fun to see. I mean, and then there were some things that I had written
as, you know, bigger things and then he made them more spare. And then some
of them were exactly how I pictured. But he definitely gave me a new

GROSS: Now, was "Sentimental Heart" one of the songs that he changed, in your

Ms. DESCHANEL: Well, actually that was interesting because it was the first
song we recorded, and I was really nervous. And we were recording in a studio
in Portland with this engineer named Mike Coykendall, who's really great; and
he played a lot of the instruments on the record, too. And we recorded my
voice and piano at the same time first, and Mike had filtered it through an
echo effect where you record the echo on the voice, and it made it sound
really sort of lo-fi. And then at the end, we were all sort of just, I mean,
I can't remember exactly what happened, but the idea sort of came
spontaneously to make the ending hi-fi; like to have this song that sounds
very innocent and very modest and then have it sort of introduced into a new
world, where...

GROSS: The Beach Boys world.

Ms. DESCHANEL: Yeah, exactly. And actually, just the end of that, that's me
playing drums at the end, which I was proud of.

GROSS: So let's hear the latter part of the opening track of "She and Him."
This is "Sentimental Heart," written and sung by my guest Zooey Deschanel, who
is also featured on drums.

(Soundbite of "Sentimental Heart")

Ms. DESCHANEL: (Singing) Cried all night till there was nothing more
What use am I as a heap on the floor?
Healin' devotion, but it's just no good
Taking it hard just like you knew I would

Old habits die hard
When you got, when you got a sentimental heart
Piece of the puzzle, I'm your missing part
Oh, what can you do with a sentimental heart?
Oh, what can you do with a sentimental heart?
What can you do with a sentimental heart?


(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Zooey Deschanel, who spoke to Terry Gross earlier this year. More
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's interview recorded earlier this year
with actress and now singer Zooey Deschanel. Her CD with M. Ward is called
"She and Him Volume 1."

GROSS: Now, you got your first music role when you were still in high school.


GROSS: And I think you left high school the last month of your senior year to
shoot the movie "Mumford."

Ms. DESCHANEL: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

GROSS: What did you like or not like about that experience? I mean,
obviously you decided to stay in that world as a movie actress?

Ms. DESCHANEL: Well, I had an amazing experience, and I was finishing
school. I just finished high school on set. And then I--it was sort of--I
didn't know that I would get into acting so early. I thought that it would be
something that I did after college. I was all set to go to Northwestern
University, and then I auditioned for that movie and I got it; and I went up
to Santa Rosa to shoot it, and then I had an amazing experience, a wonderful
time working with Lawrence Kasdan. The director was just, I mean, it was a
perfect first experience because every day we'd shoot--I mean, we'd shoot, you
know, 14 or 16 hours and I'd be like, `I love this! I never want to go home!'
I would get sad when they would be like, `OK, you're done for the day.' And I
would be like, `Really? Already?' It was so much fun that I didn't want to go
home. So that was a great experience.

And then I went to Northwestern University for a year, and partway through the
year I auditioned for Cameron Crowe on my spring break, and they were casting
this movie "Almost Famous," and somebody had fallen out of the--they had it
cast, but the lead actress decided not to do it. And then Kate Hudson was
supposed to play the part of the kid sister, and then he bumped her up to the
lead role. And then there was this empty role, and they were about to shoot,
and I auditioned for it. And I found out that I had, you know, booked the
job. And I shipped all my stuff home from school on a just sort of an

GROSS: Well, you did good. Let's hear your first scene in "Almost Famous."
You're walking in the door. You're still living with your mother. You're 18.
Your mother's played by Francis McDormand. As you walk in, you're wearing
this like big coat and you're kind of holding it shut as if you're covering
something up. So you walk in, your mother greets you at the door; and your
little brother, who ends up growing up and writing for Rolling Stone, is
standing in the room also listening.

(Soundbite of "Almost Famous")

Ms. FRANCES McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) You've been kissing.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) No, I haven't.

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) Yes, you have.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) No, I haven't.

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) Yes, you have. I can tell.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) You can't tell.

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) Not only can I tell, I know who it is.
It's Darryl. What you got under your coat?

(Soundbite of ruffling)

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) It's unfair that we can't listen to our

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) It's because it is about drugs and
promiscuous sex.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) Simon & Garfunkel is poetry.

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) Yes, it's poetry. It is the poetry of
drugs and promiscuous sex. Honey, they're on pot.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) First it was butter, then it was sugar and
white flour, bacon, eggs, bologna, rock 'n' roll, motorcycles. Then it was
celebrating Christmas on a day in September when you knew it wouldn't be
commercialized. What else you going to ban?

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) Honey, you want to rebel against
knowledge? I'm trying to give you the Cliff Notes on how to live life in this

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) We're like nobody else I know.

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) I am a college professor, why can't I
teach my own kids? Use me.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) Darryl says that you use knowledge to keep
me down. He says I'm a "yes" person and you are trying to raise us in a "no"

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) Well, clearly no is a word Darryl doesn't
hear much.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) I can't live here! I hate you. Even
William hates you.

Mr. PATRICK FUGIT: (As William Miller) I don't hate her.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) You do hate her. You don't even know the

(Soundbite of silverware clattering)

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) Sweetheart, don't be a drama queen.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) (Word censored by station)!

Ms. McDORMAND: (As Elaine Miller) Hey!

Ms. DESCHANEL: (As Anita Miller) This is a house of lies!

(Soundbite of door slamming)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Zooey Deschanel and Frances McDormand in a scene from "Almost
Famous," which was Zooey Deschanel's second movie.

So, you know, here's something odd that I read, you know, you were supposed to
play Janis Joplin in a movie directed by Penelope Spheeris, who's made a bunch
of movies about punk rock. And I thought, wow, that seems so wrong to me.
You have such a kind of clear, pure voice, and she had so much kind of growl
in hers, and your body types are completely different. Like, what were you
thinking? What were they thinking?

Ms. DESCHANEL: I think that it was--they were looking for somebody who was
an actress who also could sing; and I was thinking that it would be, you know,
a really fun challenge to try to portray this person. I mean, our voices,
yes, are very different. And we were actually supposed to go, like a year and
a half ago, we were all set to make it, and then it fell through due to a lot
of sort of logistical things that I don't think I quite understand at this

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Ms. DESCHANEL: But it was a lot, a lot of work. I worked for like six
months. I mean, it's definitely very different from who I am, but I really
found her to be an interesting person once I sort of started looking into who
she was.

GROSS: So I have to ask you about your name. You were named Zooey after
"Franny and Zooey," the famous J.D. Salinger story, which so many people have
read. How old were you when you read the story, and did you like it well
enough to feel good about being named after the character? Because probably
throughout your life people have been saying, `Oh, you're named after "Franny
and Zooey"?'


GROSS: So how old were you when you read the story, and do you like it?

Ms. DESCHANEL: I actually waited a really long time to read it because I
was--I had read all of J.D. Salinger's other works and I was sort of
terrified that I wouldn't like it and that I would be living with this, you
know, identity of a person who doesn't like their namesake. But fortunately,
I loved it when I read it; and I was 18 when I read it. I read it the summer
after I graduated from high school.

My older sister was named after Emily Dickinson and Emily Bronte, and they
wanted me to have a literary name, too; and I think they liked the name Zooey,
and they just decided to spell it that way as, you know, they loved J.D.
Salinger, and they loved that book. So I think that's why.

GROSS: Well, they certainly chose a different period and different form of
writing than your sister was named after.

Ms. DESCHANEL: That's true.

GROSS: Well, Zooey Deschanel, thanks so much for talking with us, and, you
know, good luck with your new CD and...

Ms. DESCHANEL: Thank you.

GROSS: Yeah, thank you again.

Ms. DESCHANEL: It was really nice talking to you. Thank you.

BIANCULLI: Zooey Deschanel speaking to Terry Gross earlier this year.

Later this month, Deschanel's band She and Him will start their summer tour.
I'm David Bianculli and this is FRESH HAIR.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. DESCHANEL: (Singing) Saw your face
My hand you took
Just like in a storybook
And you've got me
Yeah, you've got me

I can't even argue
Couldn't cause it's true
Now you've got me
Yeah, you got me

Got me...

(End of soundbite)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Film critic David Edelstein on "The Wackness"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli.

"The Wackness" is a semi-autobiographical film by the young writer/director
Jonathan Levine, set in New York City in 1994. The film stars Josh Peck, and
co-stars, as a pot smoking psychiatrist, Sir Ben Kingsley. Film critic David
Edelstein has a review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: Jonathan Levine's "The Wackness" unfolds in New York
City in 1994, and it's a weave of two fat thematic strands: a late teenager's
coming of age story--he's a drug dealer, so not your standard fresh-faced
protagonist--and a portrait of a city and a culture in the throws of
transition. Those strands don't mesh, but the film has real wit and an
undertow of melancholy. It wears its heart on its hero's baggy jeans.

The kid is named Luke and played by Josh Peck of Nickelodeon's
excruciating--at least for non-tweens--sitcom "Drake & Josh." At the moment he
sells pot, wheels it around the city in a beat up ice cream cart. There are
no cell phones back then, so he's isolated and he broods over his lack of
popularity in high school. Josh is one of those upper middle class '90s white
kids who embraced the slang of hip-hoppers, appropriating the rage of the
African-American underclass for their own ends. Levine uses Luke's hip-hop
lingo satirically, but he also suggests that the music is a lifesaving outlet
for his pain, as well as an alternative to Kurt Cobain, who just offed

Peck is too much of a mouth-breather. He doesn't need to let his mouth hang
open all the time. But his passion suggests a minor key variation on John
Cusack's great Lloyd Dobbler in "Say Anything." He narrates in a distinctive

(Soundbite of "The Wackness")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JOSH PECK: (As Luke) But I don't need high school friends.

(Soundbite of breathing in)

Mr. PECK: (As Luke) One week they're listing to Kriss Kross. The next
they're listening to Pearl Jam. I'm not like that. I'm loyal.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PECK: (As Luke) I mean, I still listen to cassettes.

(Soundbite of video game)

Mr. PECK: (As Luke) But tomorrow my life changes. Tomorrow I graduate. And
then I go to my safety school, and then I get older, and then I die.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. EDELSTEIN: Luke's dad is going broke, his family on the verge of
eviction. His only confidante his psychiatrist, Dr. Squires, a late
middle-aged hippie played by a weirdly cast, though very funny, Sir Ben
Kingsley. We're in the twilight of Freudian psychotherapy here, when the rise
of antidepressant medication is making this disillusioned doctor all but give

(Soundbite of "The Wackness")

Sir BEN KINGSLEY: (As Dr. Jeff Squires) So what's on your mind, Luke?

Mr. PECK: (As Luke) Nothing. I mean, I can make something up.

Sir BEN: (As Squires) Fine. Make something up then.

Mr. PECK: (As Luke) OK. I'm--I'm having trouble getting laid.

Sir BEN: (As Squires) Common problem. Have you ever gotten laid?

Mr. PECK: (As Luke) Two years ago, Katie Randall at Battery Park, but she
had drank like two 40 ounces and the cops came and broke us up before we...

Sir BEN: (As Squires) So she was drunk.

Mr. PECK: (As Luke) Homegirl weighs like 60 pounds and she drank two 40
ounce bottle of Crazy Horse.

Sir BEN: (As Squires) Crazy Horse.

Mr. PECK: (As Luke) Look, Dr. Squires...

Sir BEN: (As Squires) Call me Jeff.

Mr. PECK: (As Luke) Look, Jeff, Dr. Squires, how much you need, man?

Sir BEN: (As Squires) You're the one who needs this, son.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. EDELSTEIN: There's so much in those excerpts: Luke's self-hatred and
pride in his own integrity; his therapist's cynicism--he gets pot from his
patient; and his vision of a better future for this kid. That's before he
knows that Luke has the hots for his stepdaughter, played by a willowy Olivia
Thirlby, the second banana in "Juno." No, it's more than the hots. He falls
in love with her, and we see his crash coming a mile away.

In 1994, the crack cocaine epidemic was easing, and there are references in
"The Wackness" to new Mayor Rudy Giuliani's crackdown on quality of life
crimes, sweeping the homeless off streets, running dealers out of parks. But
as the non-love story goes on and on, the Giuliani subplot peters out.

"The Wackness" has what a friend of mine once called "the spread of
nonfiction." It isn't shaped. But that might be in part because Levine
doesn't believe in easy resolutions, certainly not after a high school
graduation. The core of "The Wackness" is the bond between the bitter
therapist and the kid who wants to sleep with his stepdaughter. It's strange,
funny, off-putting, and finally moving, a once-in-a-lifetime union. And
watching Kingsley stick his tongue down the throat of Mary-Kate Olsen as a
free-spirited hippie, one of Luke's customers at a bar, is one of the weird
sights of the year. Even the queen might say, `Sir Ben, that is wack.'

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.

Coming up, shedding light on a "The Dark Knight," a conversation with Bob
Kane, the cartoonist who created Batman almost 70 years ago. This is FRESH

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Batman creator Bob Kane from 1990

"The Dark Knight," the second installment in the latest cinematic incarnation
of the costumed crime fighter know as the Batman opens next Friday. Christian
Bale returns as Bruce Wayne, the billionaire with a villain-hunting alter ego,
and Michael Caine once again plays his loyal butler Alfred.

(Soundbite of "The Dark Knight")

Mr. CHRISTIAN BALE: (As Batman) People are dying, Alfred. What would you
have me do?

Mr. MICHAEL CAINE: (As Alfred) Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They'll hate
you for it, but that's the point of Batman: he can be the outcast. He can
make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.

Mr. BALE: (As Batman) Today I found out what Batman can't do; he can't
endure this. Today you get to say, `I told you so.'

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred) Today I--I don't want to.

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the Batman character.
Cartoonist Bob Kane created the character in 1939 when he was a teenager.
Batman has been in continuous publication ever since. Kane drew Batman
himself for DC Comics until 1966, the year the TV series premiered and took a
camp, pop-art approach to the character. When Bob Kane gave up drawing Batman
comics, he started painting Batman on canvas. Kane died in 1998.

In 1990, Terry Gross talked to him and asked about the creation of the caped


Why did you make Batman someone without superpowers? I mean, he was a regular
mortal who was very fit and very clever, but he didn't really have superpowers
like Superman did.

Mr. BOB KANE: Exactly. For one thing, I didn't want to emulate Superman and
imitate it because I thought maybe they wouldn't want that. And I wanted to
come up with something original, for one thing. And secondly, I felt that
every person that doesn't have superpowers could relate to Batman a lot easier
than they could to Superman. In other words, you didn't have to come from
another planet to be a superhero; all you had to do was be born rich and build
your body into perfection and have the urge to go out and fight crime. So
most people liked the idea that Batman never had superpowers; they can relate
to him a lot quicker than to a superhero with superpowers.

GROSS: Now, here you were, a Jewish kid growing up in the Bronx, right? And
your superhero is named Bruce Wayne. I mean, what a very not-Jewish name.

Mr. KANE: Well, it's an alliteration of Bob Kane.


Mr. KANE: Bruce Wayne.

GROSS: Well, I mean...

Mr. KANE: Alliteration. I wanted it to sound--I wanted to be Bruce Wayne in
my reverie and in my daydreams.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. WAYNE: I felt, instead of a poor kid, I imagined I'd like to be a rich
playboy and fight crime at night because I hate all injustices in the world.

GROSS: Would it have been possible to have made a Jewish superhero, or was
that out of the question at the time?

Mr. KANE: Well, only for the Jewish Forward, which is a newspaper in the
Bronx. But that's the only paper that would take a Jewish hero.

GROSS: Tell me why you decided to draw Batman in tights and shorts. Now, I
know Superman was drawn that way.

Mr. KANE: Well, actually it's called a union suit character. And for
whatever reason, Superman started it and it seemed to work, and mine was
second, except I used a bat cape and the bat symbols, the bat mystique, which
spread out into the Batcave, the Batmobile, the batarang and so forth. I used
the entire bat mystique to create my bat-world. Superman only had a telephone
booth. So mine is really more merchandiseable, so to speak, and also more
mysterioso, yeah. Somehow you enhance an idea. You begin with it, it's just
a germ of an idea, and as I studied the history of comics in America, all the
comics heroes were very crude at the beginning and they developed along the
way. Like Dick Tracy didn't have a two-way wrist watch when he started; that
came along later.

GROSS: You started off doing slapstick comics, and then turned to Batman.
How did your drawing style change to create the Batman mood?

Mr. KANE: Well, I was very good copyist, Terry, and I was able to copy
superheroes at an early age. At 15, I could copy Flash Gordon almost as well
as the artist who drew him, Alex Raymond. And I used to dabble in copying all
the comics, slapstick as well as the illustrative kind. And the reason for my
adaptation and switching over to the illustrative art rather than slapstick
art was simply because there was more money in the superhero. Like when I
asked Vincent Sullivan how much money the Superman artists were making, they
were making $1600 between them in any given week, and I was making $25. So I
did that because of the money, basically. Intrinsically, I really would
rather draw slapstick comics. I've always been a great lover of the early
"Mutt and Jeff" and "Popeye" and "Maggie and Jiggs." And those were the comics
that I grew up on, that I wanted to emulate and become a slapstick comic
artist. But I realized that the illustrative superhero was probably my forte
for making money and fame.

GROSS: Batman was obviously inspired by the success of Superman. What was
the reaction initially of the Superman artists to Batman? Did they think that
you were just stealing from them?

Mr. KANE: No, not really, because Batman really was nothing like Superman,
in costume or in the general genre. Superman came from Krypton, another
planet, and he had superpowers. He could fly and leap great heights over
buildings, where Batman was merely a mortal that wore a bat costume. And, no,
they weren't surprised, because they knew that there would be a whole slew of
imitative superheroes to come, and mine was second. And frankly, Terry, after
Batman and Superman, there really wasn't another original superhero in the
last 50 years. All they are are offshoots in one way or another of the
costumes--of new costumes based on Superman and Batman. A few of them don't
have super powers like Bruce Wayne, Batman. Most of them do have super
powers. But nobody other than Spider-Man, which came along about 25 years
later and is kind of a unique character and looks like a spider--it's amazing
though how all the characters, other than Superman, took on the names of
insects, animals and so forth. If you want to analyze it. Yes.

GROSS: Did you ever see a bat when you were growing up?

Mr. KANE: Oh, well, I had great fears of bats, and therein lies an amazing
dichotomy also. The fact that who thought any character with a name like a
Bat-Man would go, only because--even my publisher at that time thought it was
a very ominous name and he suggested I change it. And I said, `Well, why
don't we try one issue and we'll see how it goes?' But when the issue sold out
and I came to him and I said, `Well, what about changing the name? Let's call
him "Irving Schwartz the Tailor," or whatever.' And he laughed and he said,
`No, let's keep the name.' Because, you know, obviously the bottom line in any
industry, in motion pictures, in comic books, is money. If you're making
money, you stay with it.

GROSS: You drew Batman for DC Comics. You stayed with that house. What are
some of the pros and cons of doing a comic for a comic book house like that?
Who owns the rights to the characters, for instance?

Mr. KANE: Unfortunately, that's part of the negative part of the business,
is that when you're young, you sell away your copyrights. And actually that
happens with most of the cartoonists. And they own the character at that
time, and they--I couldn't take it elsewhere. And actually I was making very
good money. And in 1940, '41, I was making practically $1,000 a week, and so
you're not about to leave. And $1,000 a week in 1940 was comparable to about
five, $6,000 today a week. And so being that they owned the copyright, I did
the best I could at the time by compromising and getting a good piece of the
action and a perpetuity contract. So therefore I did rather well compared to
some artists who sold it away and didn't get very much out of it.

GROSS: Have you owned a piece of the merchandising over the years?

Mr. KANE: Yes, I do. Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Let me ask...

Mr. KANE: Yes. I do rather well.

GROSS: Uh-huh. Yeah. I'll bet. Yeah.

Mr. KANE: I mean, all things being equal.

GROSS: Yeah, yeah.

Mr. KANE: I'd love to own it and I would have done 1,000 percent better.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KANE: But I didn't do badly the way it turned out. And life is a
compromise. If it weren't for the publisher, I'd probably--maybe I never
would have been where I am today. So, you know, one hand washes the other.

GROSS: Just briefly, can you tell us what you thought of the movie "Batman"?
You were a consultant to that.

Mr. KANE: Yes, I was project consultant and I did add a lot of my input. I
drew the costumes and I said the costume has to be rigged with wire that when
he jumps through a skylight, it'll billow out behind him like a bat. And I
critiqued the script and so forth. I thought it was very true to the roots of
Batman, the way I started it, whence it came. In other words, Batman had gone
back to the mysterioso, dark, brooding Batman that I created in the early

I love the campy version, but never--I really prefer the dark, brooding
version. And I think the sets were marvelous. The whole mood of the movie,
it had a different, film noir look. And, look, it grossed over $250 million
dollars. It's one of the all-time top grossers in Hollywood from the time of
its inception. And in Europe it'll probably make another 200 million, and
plus the merchandising and the videocassettes. The Batman could very well go
to a billion dollars. That's more than any movie ever earned, ever will earn
in the history of movies.

And I loved the movie. I thought it just was true to my original dark
brooding. I was just worried it shouldn't turn into a campy TV show again,
and it did not. It followed faithfully my early mood of the genre of Batman.

BIANCULLI: Bob Kane speaking to Terry Gross in 1990. He died in 1998.

Next week, director Christopher Nolan takes his second shot at the Batman
legend, and playing The Joker is the late Heath Ledger in a performance that
crackles with energy and originality. Here he is as the ghoulishly made-up
Joker crashing a society party looking for a hated adversary, district
attorney Harvey Dent.

(Soundbite of "The Dark Knight")

Mr. HEATH LEDGER: (As The Joker) Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

(Soundbite of footsteps, clanking)

Mr. LEDGER: (As The Joker) We are tonight's entertainment.

(Soundbite of clanking and shoes hitting floor; feet shuffling)

Mr. LEDGER: (As The Joker) I only have one question. Where is Harvey Dent?

(Soundbite of coughing, footsteps, clanking)

Mr. LEDGER: (As The Joker) You know where Harvey is? Do you know who he is?

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LEDGER: (As The Joker) Do you know where I can find Harvey? I need to
talk to him about something, just something little, huh?

Unidentified Actor #1: (In character) No.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LEDGER: (As The Joker) You know, I'll settle for his loved ones.

Unidentified Actor #2: (In character) We're not intimidated by thugs.

Mr. LEDGER: (As The Joker) You know...

(Soundbite of clanking)

Mr. LEDGER: (As The Joker) remind me of my father. I hated my

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: The late Heath Ledger playing The Joker in a scene from "The Dark
Knight," the new Batman movie that opens next week.

Coming up, I review "Generation Kill," the new HBO miniseries from the
creators of "The Wire." This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: David Bianculli on HBO miniseries "Generation Kill"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm TV critic David Bianculli of

If the history of war dramas about Iraq is any guide, HBO's new "Generation
Kill" has a tough campaign ahead in the battle to interest viewers. "Over
There," an excellent FX drama about the current Iraq war came and went in 2005
without most people watching or noticing, even though Steven Bochco was one of
its producers. And if you look at the box office results for movies about the
current conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them have--well, pardon the
expression--tanked, even "A Mighty Heart" with Angelina Jolie and "The
Kingdom" with Jamie Foxx.

On TV, viewers have tended to accept shows about war only after those wars
have cooled a bit in memory. World War II dramas like "Combat" didn't show up
until about 20 years later, in the 1960s. "M*A*S*H" was a huge hit during the
Vietnam War; but despite its obvious parallels and parables, it was set during
the Korean War from a previous decade. The first successful shows actually
about Vietnam, "China Beach" and "Tour of Duty," didn't appear until the
mid-1980s. And perhaps in that respect "Generation Kill" may have an edge
that "Over There" three years ago did not. Three years later, our national
mood is measurably different. And "Generation Kill" plays the nostalgia card
as much as it can, by dramatizing the opening days and weeks of the ground
assault in Iraq. Those were the days of shock and awe, the days of "mission
accomplished," the days of expecting grateful citizens to wave as tanks and
humvees rolled into Baghdad.

"Generation Kill" throws us into the conflict through the perspective of Evan
Wright, a reporter from Rolling Stone who's attached to the 1st Reconnaissance
Battalion of the Marines. Lee Tergesen from "Oz" plays the reporter, and he
experiences the war as the ground level soldiers do, on and around the front
lines, and with an increasing sense of confusion and frustration as missions
lead to nowhere and supplies don't arrive from anywhere.

After a poorly planned military maneuver leads to the destruction of supply
trucks, one of the company commanders gathers his Marines to give them a pep
talk. The heat is unbearable. The flies are inescapable. And the message,
as we hear after the company is dismissed and the soldiers talk among
themselves, is received with sarcasm.

(Soundbite of "Generation Kill")

Unidentified Actor #1: (In character) And I know you're mad at the battalion
because, as you know, I've been talking to you and I've heard you.

(Soundbite of fly buzzing)

Actor #1: (In character) And I know you're angry. I know you're angry that
the supply truck was burned and you don't have that food to eat. You told me
this and I heard you.

(Soundbite of fly buzzing)

Actor #1: (In character) But you shouldn't be angry at your command. If
you're angry at your command, then you're saying that it was our fault that
the supply truck was burned. But we didn't burn the supply truck. The enemy
burned the supply truck. They took your food from you. That's the important
thing to remember. It was the enemy who stole your food from you, and you
should be really, really mad at them!

Before we step off on this next mission, I'm reminding you who your enemy is.
The enemy.

Unidentified Actor #2: (In character) Thank you, sir.

Unidentified Actor #3: (In character) Company, atten-hut!

(Soundbite of soldiers coming to attention)

Actor #3: (In character) Fall out!

(Soundbite of mumbling and shuffling feet)

Unidentified Actor #4: (In character) I am in awe.

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: There's a lot that "Generation Kill" gets right. It's definitely
worth watching, because it unfolds the same way HBO's "Band of Brothers" did.
Like that miniseries about World War II, "Generation Kill" confines the action
to the soldiers carrying out the orders and shows the generals and other top
ranked officers only when they interact directly with their troops.

The budget is bigger than in "Over There," so the battle scenes and the
scenery are more convincing; but the scope, in a way, is bigger, too, and I'm
not sure "Generation Kill" handles that as well as it could have.

We're supposed to follow the action and the characters, not only in the
vehicle carrying Tergesen's embedded reporter, but in four other primary
vehicles. With everyone in fatigues or camouflage and spending a lot of time
under helmets or behind gun sights, it's not always easy to tell the players,
even with a scorecard. But some performances do rise to the top.

HBO provided five of the seven episodes for preview. In those five, there are
several standouts. They include Alexander Skarsgard as "Iceman," Billy Lush
as the trigger happy Trombley, Chance Kelly as the gravel voiced lieutenant
colonel known as "The Godfather," and, as journalist Evan Wright, the always
reliable Tergesen.

The real Evan Wright is one of the writers on "Generation Kill," along with
David Simon and Ed Burns from "The Wire." Simon and Burns get to chase their
favorite obsessions here, too. They love to explore complicated and often
contradictory characters and the mechanisms of various power structures that
either solve problems or perpetuate them. There's plenty of all that in
"Generation Kill."

Should people watch this miniseries? Yes. It's not as polished or as good as
"Band of Brothers," but it's a very strong drama. Will people watch this
miniseries? Except for a million or two, I'm guessing they won't. But in
this case, I applaud HBO for trying.


BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Profile: Drummer Bobby Durham dies at age 71

We'll end today with music from drummer Bobby Durham, who died on Monday in
Italy at the age of 71. Durham was born in Philadelphia and played with a
number of jazz greats including: Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel
Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald and Roy Haynes. He also led his own trio, and here
they are, recorded in 2005.

(Soundbite of "It's Almost Like Being in Love")
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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