It’s almost the new year, and while I may not have achieved everything I wanted to in 2013 (weight loss, you sly seductress), I’m really excited to announce a new series of articles. As you my or may not know, UTF is only 2 years old, still a young babe in these hallowed internet halls, but we’ve had incredibly tremendous growth because of our awesome readers. That means YOU! But as easy as it is to praise our readers, UTF also owes a large debt to the influential sites who came before. And now that we’ve grown so large, and we’ve a great platform, we’ll be chatting with the showrunners of some of the most game changing geek news writers on the web.
Today, in our first series of articles, we’re talking to Bill Ramey, founder of Batman-on-Film.com. Birthed in 1998 (way before UTF, CBM, /Film, GeekTyrant… almost every geek site), Ramey’s been churning out Batman news for over 15 years. He’s one of the most venerable geeky sleuths in the business and it was a great honor to talk shop with him. Alright, let’s dive right into this!!!
UTF: First things first, if you had to introduce yourself in 3 sentences, what would you say?
BILL RAMEY: Well, I’m a life-long Batman fan who lives in the great state of Texas who is married to a Minnesotan and I have 3 kids. I’m a football coach and history teacher by training, a Batman website-runner by chance. Besides my family and Batman, my passions are the Dallas Cowboys, Rock-n-Roll, Elvis, and sports bar-hopping!
UTF: So we’re fans of Batman-on-film here at UTF. Since we’re a younger site (2 years this November), we’ve always looked at older geek sites for inspiration. You guys started in 1998, if I’m correct? What was your inspiration for your site?
BILL: Yes, I started BOF in June of ’98. The inspiration was derived from “BATMAN AND ROBIN’ in ’97 and the fear that it had ruined and ended the Batman film franchise. I just wanted to say, “Hey, Batman on film can’t end like THIS!” I wanted to the Batman film series continue and for Warner Bros. to make GOOD Batman films. Honestly, I NEVER thought anyone – much less Warner Bros. and the filmmakers themselves – would ever read the site. But it’s been an awesome ride which has allowed me to do things I never imagined and meet people I thought I’d never meet.
UTF: Where does your love of Batman originate? Was it the classic comics? The Adam West show? The darker, broodier renaissance of the 80’s Batman?
BILL: For me, it was definitely the 60s TV series when I was a kid. I discovered comics about the same time and cut me teeth on those early Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams stories in ‘BATMAN.’ I’ll always have a soft spot in my heard for that old Adam West TV series because it’s what made me a Batman fan.
UTF: You have the distinction of being a Batman movie site during a time when Batman films were nonexistent (the dark period before Batman Begins). What was that like? A lot of wild speculation? What was the climate for Batman geeks then?
BILL: Oh my god! That was a CRAZY time Hahahaha! Yes, lots of rumors and speculation, as well as projects that never got off the ground – like BATMAN BEYOND, YEAR ONE, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, etc. There was also a fear that there would never be another Batman film.
UTF: You started around the time that Aint It Cool News became a really influential site. Did you experience anything similar? Was that ever a goal of yours?
BILL: I’d say AICN was an inspiration for me – as was other early sites like DARK HORIZONS and CORONA’S COMING ATTRACTIONS. But AICN was the “Granddaddy” of ‘em all. It never was my goal to be as influential as them, but eventually BOF did – but only when it came to Batman films.
It’s really easy for anyone to start a blog or website without knowing too much about HTML, but in ’98, that would’ve been a different story. Did you do all the coding? Was it a hard trudge? Or were you experienced?
BILL: Hahaha! Well, they had a few WYSIWYG sites online that would create a website for you. I actually started BOF on WebTV LOL! From there I move to Tripod and kinda learned HTML on the fly. Heck, I still manually edit the site pretty much the same way I did back then – but it’s definitely easier now.
UTF: When you search for anything Batman related, you guys are one of the first websites listed, especially when you search for “Batman Movies”. Did you guys see a massive explosion in popularity at any point? Are you continuing to grow? How big is your following/monthly audience?
BILL: BOF probably blew up “big” in 2003-ish – around the time ‘BATMAN BEGINS’ was in its early, EARLY stages. I don’t know if it’ll ever be as big as it was from 2005 to 2008, but the loyal readers have stayed with me and I still get emails from folks who have just now discovered the site, and that’s cool. BOF’s readership – on the average over these 15 and a half years – is around 1 million visits/month. Of course, the amount of traffic fluctuates tremendously from day to day, month to month.
UTF: Is the rise of blogging Content Management Systems, and the ease with which geeks are creating sites, something you support? I think Batman-News.com is one of the fastest rising Batman websites out there. Is that something that helps you or something that takes away from your audience?
BILL: Hmmm…I don’t know. I don’t “not” support people from starting their own sites, but I do have an issue with the way some of these sites are run – which is blogging and posting content just like they are posting on a message board. I’d also say a lot of the new sites are not “organic,” if you will. It’s A LOT easier nowadays for a site to take off than it was back in the late 90s. On the other hand, there are MANY more websites today than there 15 or so years ago, so there’s more competition.
UTF: Batman-on-Film has a huge future, as the Dark Knight is definitely headed to some major films in the coming years. What are some of your goals?
BILL: Well, at the top of my “to do list” is to make sure that the Batman film series continues and that the character is done right by Warner Bros. I think with ‘BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN’ coming out in 2 years and more solo films afterwards, I’ll have a lot of “BOF’ing” to for the foreseeable future Hahahaha!
UTF: In your 15 years of experience, what are the 5 biggest changes to Batman in the movies?
BILL: Wow…5 changes to Batman on film…I don’t know – but I do know the BIGGEST change and that’s the fact that Batman on film is being taking seriously as a movie. And that’s true for all of superhero cinema nowadays to be honest – the genre is being taken seriously by moviegoers, critics, and of course, the studios.
UTF: What piece of news is your favorite? Ben Affleck as Batman? Joker in The Dark Knight? The fact that Batman Begins would be an origin movie?
BILL: Well, I’d say that announcement that a Batman film had finally been given the greenlight in early 2003 by Warner Bros. That film was what we would come to know as ‘BATMAN BEGINS’ and it was a game-changer for superhero cinema. The casting of Heath Ledger is right up there simply because of how people freaked out over it Hahahaha!
UTF: Do you still enjoy browsing the latest geek news online? Or has it become somewhat of a labor since you must feel compelled to immediately provide coverage for anything Batman related.
BILL: Oh yeah, absolutely. There are several sites I check out daily – just as I’ve done for nearly 17 years now. When it comes to Batman news, I usually get it from my sources or the studio/filmmakers themselves – I don’t do spoilers, so I’m not pressured to break a story first. I also check out the trades daily for Bat-info.
UTF: What was your relationship with studios like? What is it like today? Everyone knows about Harry Knowles and his relationship with Hollywood, so did producers and PR contacts rely on you and the site for feedback? Did they control any of the content you submitted?
BILL: My relationship with the studios — in this case, studio — is great. Like I said previously, I never expected Warner Bros. to actually see and read the site in the first place — but they did. They first contacted me back in 2004 while BEGINS was getting underway. Over the years, they know that I run a site with integrity and will not post pictures or information that would ruin the film for them or the fans. They have also never asked me not to run a story — mostly because they know I wouldn’t run anything illicit. It’s really a partnership and you’ve got to earn their respect — and vice-versa. It’s this way of running the site that allowed me to get to know Chris Nolan and Emma Thomas fairly well. They were huge fans of BOF and it’s pretty cool to be able to call both a friend. If I had any advice for new sites it would be NOT to run spoilers. Spoilers are easy — anyone can do that, especially in this day and age. Not running them is the hard part.
I’d like to say a very heartfelt “Thank You” once again to Bill Ramey for taking time out of his schedule to talk with us. It is the holiday season, after all, and not everyone would indulge our geeky request with the same earnest response. Make sure you go check out Batman-on-Film for your daily Caped Crusader needs and check back here for more awesome interviews with the geek sages of the interwebs.