Last weekend I was sitting across from a German couple I’d never met before, trying my best to formulate a coherent answer to the inevitable question “what do you do?”. It was after 3 AM, I’d already had a few drinks and was feeling particularly loquacious, so I couldn’t simply give them a straight answer. I didn’t want to say “oh, my job is this thing, and I want to do this other thing.” I wanted to provide them with a peek into my soul. I wanted to communicate something real, something that would more accurately convey who I was, beyond the pleasantries and platitudes. But of course– because it was after 3 AM and I’d already had a few drinks– I didn’t have the vernacular. I struggled for the words for several painful minutes, until I was finally able to dredge up the awkward phrase “I… like… stories”.
I quickly shook my head and opted for an easier, more palatable answer (effectively surrendering to the pleasantries and platitudes), but I later got to thinking about that first answer I gave, and how it rose from the depths of me. And I realized that throughout my entire life, from early childhood all the way to adulthood, I really have been fascinated with stories: the telling of, the listening to, the making of. As an overimaginative youngster drawing epic renditions of superheroes instead of paying attention in class, into my adult life as a would-be writer and filmmaker, feverishly consuming fictions like some sort of addiction. It shapes my interest in song, too: I’ve always been especially moved by music that tells a story– not necessarily a literal story, like a rock opera, but songs that have a certain drama to them– that build and climax and resolve. It’s all part of the same thing, and it’s an integral part of my personality. It has shaped and inspired me all these years.
There’s been a character from these stories that has remained a constant fixture: the story of Bruce Wayne, the Batman. And I’m talking well beyond the reach of its pop culture ubiquity– I’m talking real, life-changing, personal significance. I’ve already written about how a specific experience with a Batman movie shaped my professional aspirations (you can read the story here). It’s a presence that has been with me since I was a kid, in various iterations– comic books, the Adam West show, the corny 60s cartoon, the Burton/Schumacher film series, the wonderful 90s animated series and even an embarrassing fanfiction serial I wrote at age eleven in which I became Robin (true story). I’ve long been enamored with the Batman mythos, his family of characters and the stories that accompany his legacy. Even after I grew out of my comic-book phase in my early teens, Batman is the only character I still keep up with, whose mythology I’m still very much steeped in.
The universal appeal of the Batman character comes from the notion of resilience and perseverance through abject adversity. It’s an aspect that’s been with the character throughout its dozens of permutations and incarnations– from the pulp swashbuckling detective of the 1940s through the brightly-colored comedic camp of the 1960s TV show, from the dark & brooding persona of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” to the smiling, kid-friendly crimefighter of “Batman: The Brave & The Bold”. The malleability of the character has made him an enduring pop culture icon across several generations who continue to be thrilled and inspired by his stories.
The idea of Batman as a modern mythological figure that, 70+ years into its existence, continues to dazzle and inspire us is what drives Brett Culp’s new feature “Legends of the Knight”. An exploration not just of Batman but of the power of storytelling, zeroing in on why we continue to chase these whimsical fantasies throughout our lives, and what we derive from them. The documentary takes us through several examples of real-life, everyday people who take comfort and inspiration from the story of Batman, motivating them to push on forward and extend themselves beyond the limits of what we think we are capable of. It also features interviews with professionals within the film and comics industries, as well as the field of psychology, who have dedicated their time and energy to understanding what is so exhilarating and all-encompassing about this hero’s struggle. It’s not just a celebration of Batman: it’s a celebration of stories and what they can mean to us.
Watch the trailer to Brett Culp’s film “Legends of the Knight”:
When Brett initially told me about this project, I knew immediately I wanted to get involved in some way– the character is so intrinsically tied to my identity that the project resonated with me on a very deep level. Seeing the trailer now, after several months in production, I feel like it strikes a chord– not just within me and my own closed-off existence, but the overall human experience. Now it’s nearing the home stretch, coming up with funds for fine-tuning and completion. You can get involved in bringing it to full fruition by contributing to its Kickstarter page. It’s already received a great amount of support, but every bit counts.
If you’ve ever been inspired by this timeless character, if you’ve ever found solace and comfort in his continued adventures, please consider supporting this project. Let’s bring this to as many eyes as possible, to tell these extraordinary stories of ordinary people being pushed along by a legend.