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|First appearance|| Detective Comics #27 |
Story: "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate"
|Created by|| Bob Kane |
Bill Finger (uncredited)
|Origin|| Detective Comics #33 |
|True Identity||Bruce Wayne|
|Affiliations|| Justice League of America |
|Known alias(es)|| The Dark Knight |
The Caped Crusader
The Dark Knight Detective
The World's Greatest Detective
|Abilities|| Genius-level intelligence|
Skilled chemist and inventor
Peak physical condition
Skilled hand-to-hand combatant
Batman, originally referred to as the Bat-Man and still referred to at times as the Batman, is a fictional character, a superhero co-created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger (although only Kane receives official credit), appearing in publications by DC Comics. The character first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939.
Additionally known as the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, the Dark Knight Detective, and the World's Greatest Detective; in the original version of the story and the vast majority of subsequent re-tellings, Batman's secret identity is Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy, industrialist, and philanthropist. Having witnessed the murder of his parents as a child, he swore revenge on crime, an oath tempered with the greater ideal of justice. Bruce trains himself both physically and intellectually and dons a bat-themed costume in order to fight crime. Batman operates in the fictional American Gotham City, assisted by various supporting characters including his main sidekick Robin, occasional assistance from former sidekick Batgirl and hero Nightwing, the police commissioner James Gordon, and his butler Alfred Pennyworth, and fights an assortment of villains influenced by the characters' roots in pulp magazines. Unlike most superheroes, he does not possess any superpowers; he makes use of intellect, detective skills, science and technology, wealth, physical prowess, and intimidation in his war on crime. In 2009, following Wayne's apparent death, the role of Batman has been taken up by his former ward and the first Robin, Dick Grayson.
Batman became a popular character soon after his introduction and gained his own comic book title, Batman, in 1940. As the decades wore on, differing interpretations of the character emerged. The late 1960s Batman television series used a camp aesthetic which continued to be associated with the character for years after the show ended. Various creators worked to return the character to his dark roots, culminating in the 1986 miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, by writer-artist Frank Miller, while the success of film director Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman helped to reignite popular interest in the character. A cultural icon, Batman has been licensed and adapted into a variety of media, from radio to television and film, and appears on a variety of merchandise sold all over the world.
In early 1938, the success of Superman in Action Comics prompted editors at the comic book division of National Publications (the future DC Comics) to request more superheroes for its titles. In response, Bob Kane created "the Bat-Man." Collaborator Bill Finger recalled Kane
"had an idea for a character called 'Batman', and he'd like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane's, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of... reddish tights, I believe, with boots... no gloves, no gauntlets... with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign... BATMAN."
Finger offered such suggestions as giving the character a cowl instead of a simple domino mask, a cape instead of wings, and gloves, and removing the red sections from the original costume. Finger said he devised the name Bruce Wayne for the character's secret identity: "Bruce Wayne's first name came from Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Bruce, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock... then I thought of Anthony Wayne."
Various aspects of Batman's personality, character history, visual design and equipment were inspired by contemporary popular culture of the 1930s, including movies, pulp magazines, comic strips, newspaper headlines, and even aspects of Kane himself. Kane noted especially the influence of the films The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Bat Whispers (1930) in the creation of the iconography associated with the character, while Finger drew inspiration from literary characters Doc Savage, The Shadow, and Sherlock Holmes in his depiction of Batman as a master sleuth and scientist.
Kane, in his 1989 autobiography, detailed Finger's contributions to Batman's creation:
"One day I called Bill and said, 'I have a new character called the Bat-Man and I've made some crude, elementary sketches I'd like you to look at'. He came over and I showed him the drawings. At the time, I only had a small domino mask, like the one Robin later wore, on Batman's face. Bill said, 'Why not make him look more like a bat and put a hood on him, and take the eyeballs out and just put slits for eyes to make him look more mysterious?' At this point, the Bat-Man wore a red union suit; the wings, trunks, and mask were black. I thought that red and black would be a good combination. Bill said that the costume was too bright: 'Color it dark gray to make it look more ominous'. The cape looked like two stiff bat wings attached to his arms. As Bill and I talked, we realized that these wings would get cumbersome when Bat-Man was in action, and changed them into a cape, scalloped to look like bat wings when he was fighting or swinging down on a rope. Also, he didn't have any gloves on, and we added them so that he wouldn't leave fingerprints."
Kane signed away ownership in the character in exchange for, among other compensation, a mandatory byline on all Batman comics. This byline did not, originally, say "Batman created by Bob Kane"; his name was simply written on the title page of each story. The name disappeared from the comic book in the mid-1960s, replaced by credits for each story's actual writer and artists. In the late 1970s, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster began receiving a "created by" credit on the Superman titles, along with William Moulton Marston being given the byline for creating Wonder Woman, Batman stories began saying "Created by Bob Kane" in addition to the other credits.
Finger did not receive the same recognition. While he had received credit for other DC work since the 1940s, he began, in the 1960s, to receive limited acknowledgment for his Batman writing; in the letters page of Batman #169 (February 1965) for example, editor Julius Schwartz names him as the creator of the Riddler, one of Batman's recurring villains. However, Finger's contract left him only with his writing page rate and no byline. Kane wrote, "Bill was disheartened by the lack of major accomplishments in his career. He felt that he had not used his creative potential to its fullest and that success had passed him by." At the time of Finger's death in 1974, DC had not officially credited Finger as Batman co-creator.
Jerry Robinson, who also worked with Finger and Kane on the strip at this time, has criticized Kane for failing to share the credit. He recalled Finger resenting his position, stating in a 2005 interview with The Comics Journal: Although Kane initially rebutted Finger's claims at having created the character, writing in a 1965 open letter to fans that "it seemed to me that Bill Finger has given out the impression that he and not myself created the Batman, t' sic as well as Robin and all the other leading villains and characters. This statement is fraudulent and entirely untrue." Kane himself also commented on Finger's lack of credit. "The trouble with being a 'ghost' writer or artist is that you must remain rather anonymously without 'credit'. However, if one wants the 'credit', then one has to cease being a 'ghost' or follower and become a leader or innovator."
In 1989, Kane revisited Finger's situation, recalling in an interview,
"In those days it was like, one artist and he had his name over it [the comic strip] — the policy of DC in the comic books was, if you can't write it, obtain other writers, but their names would never appear on the comic book in the finished version. So Bill never asked me for it [the byline] and I never volunteered — I guess my ego at that time. And I felt badly, really, when he [Finger] died."
The first Batman story, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate," was published in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Finger said, "Batman was originally written in the style of the pulps," and this influence was evident with Batman showing little remorse over killing or maiming criminals. Batman proved a hit character, and he received his own solo title in 1940, while continuing to star in Detective Comics. By that time, National was the top-selling and most influential publisher in the industry; Batman and the company's other major hero, Superman, were the cornerstones of the company's success. The two characters were featured side-by-side as the stars of World's Finest Comics, which was originally titled World's Best Comics when it debuted in fall 1940. Creators including Jerry Robinson and Dick Sprang also worked on the strips during this period.
Over the course of the first few Batman strips elements were added to the character and the artistic depiction of Batman evolved. Kane noted that within six issues he drew the character's jawline more pronounced, and lengthened the ears on the costume. "About a year later he was almost the full figure, my mature Batman," Kane said. Batman's characteristic utility belt was introduced in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939), followed by the boomerang-like batarang and the first bat-themed vehicle, the Batplane, in #31 (September 1939). The character's origin was revealed in #33 (November 1939), unfolding in a two-page story that establishes the brooding persona of Batman, a character driven by the loss of his parents. Written by Finger, it depicts a young Bruce Wayne witnessing the death of his parents as part of a street robbery. Days later, at their grave, the child vows that "by the spirits of my parents [I will] avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals."
The early, pulp-inflected portrayal of Batman started to soften in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) with the introduction of Robin, Batman's kid sidekick. Robin was introduced, based on Finger's suggestion Batman needed a "Watson" with whom Batman could talk. Sales nearly doubled, despite Kane's preference for a solo Batman, and it sparked a proliferation of "kid sidekicks." The first issue of the solo spin-off series Batman was notable not only for introducing two of his most persistent antagonists, the Joker and Catwoman, but for a story in which Batman shoots some monstrous giants to death. That story prompted editor Whitney Ellsworth to decree that the character could no longer kill or use a gun.
By 1942, the writers and artists behind the Batman comics had established most of the basic elements of the Batman mythos. In the years following World War II, DC Comics "adopted a postwar editorial direction that increasingly de-emphasized social commentary in favor of lighthearted juvenile fantasy." The impact of this editorial approach was evident in Batman comics of the postwar period; removed from the "bleak and menacing world" of the strips of the early 1940s, Batman was instead portrayed as a respectable citizen and paternal figure that inhabited a "bright and colorful" environment.
Silver Age/Bronze AgeEdit
Batman was one of the few superhero characters to be continuously published as interest in the genre waned during the 1950s. In the story "The Mightiest Team in the World" in Superman #76 (June 1952), Batman teams up with Superman for the first time and the pair discovers each other's secret identity. Following the success of this story, World's Finest Comics was revamped so it featured stories starring both heroes together, instead of the separate Batman and Superman features that had been running before. The team-up of the characters was "a financial success in an era when those were few and far between;" this series of stories ran until the book's cancellation in 1986.
Batman comics were among those criticized when the comic book industry came under scrutiny with the publication of psychologist Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. Wertham's thesis was that children imitated crimes committed in comic books, and that these works corrupt the morals of the youth. Wertham criticized Batman comics for their supposed homosexual overtones and argued that Batman and Robin were portrayed as lovers. Wertham's criticisms raised a public outcry during the 1950s, eventually leading to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. The tendency towards a "sunnier Batman" in the postwar years intensified after the introduction of the Comics Code. It has also been suggested by scholars that the characters of Batwoman (in 1956) and Bat-Girl (in 1961) were introduced in part to refute the allegation that Batman and Robin were gay, and the stories took on a campier, lighter feel.
In the late 1950s, Batman stories gradually became more science fiction-oriented, an attempt at mimicking the success of other DC characters that had dabbled in the genre. New characters such as Batwoman, Ace the Bat-Hound, and Bat-Mite were introduced. Batman's adventures often involved odd transformations or bizarre space aliens. In 1960, Batman debuted as a member of the Justice League of America in The Brave and the Bold #28 (February 1960), and went on to appear in several Justice League comic series starting later that same year.
By 1964, sales on Batman titles had fallen drastically. Bob Kane noted that, as a result, DC was "planning to kill Batman off altogether." In response to this, editor Julius Schwartz was assigned to the Batman titles. He presided over drastic changes, beginning with 1964's Detective Comics #327 (May 1964), which was cover-billed as the "New Look". Schwartz introduced changes designed to make Batman more contemporary, and to return him to more detective-oriented stories. He brought in artist Carmine Infantino to help overhaul the character. The Batmobile was redesigned, and Batman's costume was modified to incorporate a yellow ellipse behind the bat-insignia. The space aliens and characters of the 1950s such as Batwoman, Ace, and Bat-Mite were retired. Batman's butler Alfred was killed off (though his death was quickly reversed due to fan response) while a new female relative for the Wayne family, Aunt Harriet, came to live with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.The debut of the Batman television series in 1966 had a profound influence on the character. The success of the series increased sales throughout the comic book industry, and Batman reached a circulation of close to 900,000 copies. Elements such as the character of Batgirl and the show's campy nature were introduced into the comics; the series also initiated the return of Alfred. Although both the comics and TV show were successful for a time, the camp approach eventually wore thin and the show was canceled in 1968. In the aftermath, the Batman comics themselves lost popularity once again. As Julius Schwartz noted, "When the television show was a success, I was asked to be campy, and of course when the show faded, so did the comic books."
Starting in 1969, writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams made a deliberate effort to distance Batman from the campy portrayal of the 1960s TV series and to return the character to his roots as a "grim avenger of the night." O'Neil said his idea was "simply to take it back to where it started. I went to the DC library and read some of the early stories. I tried to get a sense of what Kane and Finger were after."
O'Neil and Adams first collaborated on the story "The Secret of the Waiting Graves" (Detective Comics #395, January 1970). Few stories were true collaborations between O'Neil, Adams, Schwartz, and inker Dick Giordano, and in actuality these men were mixed and matched with various other creators during the 1970s; nevertheless the influence of their work was "tremendous." Giordano said: "We went back to a grimmer, darker Batman, and I think that's why these stories did so well... Even today we're still using Neal's Batman with the long flowing cape and the pointy ears." While the work of O'Neil and Adams was popular with fans, the acclaim did little to help declining sales; the same held true with a similarly acclaimed run by writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers in Detective Comics #471-476 (August 1977 - April 1978), which went on to influence the 1989 movie Batman and be adapted for Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted in 1992. Regardless, circulation continued to drop through the 1970s and 1980s, hitting an all-time low in 1985.
Frank Miller's 1986 limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which tells the story of a 50-year old Batman coming out of retirement in a possible future, reinvigorated the character. The Dark Knight Returns was a financial success and has since become one of the medium's most noted touchstones. The series also sparked a major resurgence in the character's popularity.
That year Dennis O'Neil took over as editor of the Batman titles and set the template for the portrayal of Batman following DC's status quo-altering miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths. O'Neil operated under the assumption that he was hired to revamp the character and as a result tried to instill a different tone in the books than had gone before. One outcome of this new approach was the "Year One" storyline in Batman #404-407 (February-May 1987), in which Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli redefined the character's origins. Writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland continued this dark trend with 1988's 48-page one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the Joker, attempting to drive Commissioner Gordon insane, cripples Gordon's daughter Barbara, and then kidnaps and tortures the commissioner, physically and psychologically.
The Batman comics garnered major attention in 1988 when DC Comics created a 900 number for readers to call to vote on whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, lived or died. Voters decided in favor of Jason's death by a narrow margin of 28 votes (see Batman: A Death in the Family). The following year saw the release of Tim Burton's Batman feature film, which firmly brought the character back to the public's attention, grossing millions of dollars at the box office, and millions more in merchandising. However, the three sequels, Tim Burton's Batman Returns and Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, did not perform as well at the box office. The Batman movie franchise was rebooted with Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins in 2005 and The Dark Knight in 2008. In 1989, the first issue of Legends of the Dark Knight, the first new solo Batman title in nearly fifty years, sold close to a million copies.
The 1993 "Knightfall" story arc introduced a new villain, Bane, who critically injures Bruce Wayne. Jean-Paul Valley, known as Azrael, is called upon to wear the Batsuit during Wayne's convalescence. Writers Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant worked on the Batman titles during "Knightfall," and would also contribute to other Batman crossovers throughout the 1990s. 1998's "Cataclysm" storyline served as the precursor to 1999's "No Man's Land", a year-long storyline that ran through all the Batman-related titles dealing with the effects of an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City. At the conclusion of "No Man's Land", O'Neil stepped down as editor and was replaced by Bob Schreck.
Another writer who rose to prominence on the Batman comic series, was Jeph Loeb. Along with longtime collaborator Tim Sale, they wrote two mini-series ("The Long Halloween" and "Dark Victory") that pit an early in his career version of Batman against his entire rogue's gallery (most notably Two-Face, whose origin was re-envisioned by Loeb) while dealing with various mysteries involving serial killers Holiday and the Hangman, of which the former was the subject of intense debate and speculation amongst Batman fans. In 2003, Loeb teamed with artist Jim Lee to work on another mystery arc: "Batman: Hush" for the main Batman book. The twelve issue storyline saw Batman and Catwoman running the gauntlet against Batman's entire rogue's gallery, including an apparently resurrected Jason Todd, while seeking to find the identity of the mysterious super-villain Hush. While the character of Hush failed to catch on with readers, the arc was a sales success for DC. As the storyline was Jim Lee's first regular comic book work in nearly a decade, the series became #1 on the Diamond Comic Distributors sales chart for the first time since Batman #500 (October 1993) and Jason Todd's appearance laid the groundwork for writer Judd Winick's subsequent run as writer on Batman, with another multi-issue epic, "Under the Hood," which ran from Batman #637-650.
Starting in 2006, the regular writers on Batman and Detective Comics were Grant Morrison and Paul Dini, with Grant Morrison reincorporating controversial elements of Batman lore (most notably, the science fiction themed storylines of the 1950s Batman comics, which Morrison revised as hallucinations Batman suffered under the influence of various mind-bending gases and extensive sensory deprivation training) into the character. Morrison's run climaxed with "Batman R.I.P.", which brought Batman up against the villainous "Black Glove" organization, which sought to drive Batman into madness. "Batman R.I.P." segued into Final Crisis (also written by Morrison), which saw the apparent death of Batman at the hands of Darkseid. In the 2009 miniseries Batman: Battle for the Cowl, Wayne's former protégé Dick Grayson becomes the new Batman, and Wayne's son Damien becomes the new Robin. In June 2009, Judd Winick returned to writing Batman, while Grant Morrison was given his own series, titled Batman and Robin.
Fictional Character BiographyEdit
The character's origin was first established in Detective Comics #33 (though only two pages of the actual story were devoted to telling it). In it, the parents of Bruce Wayne were shown for the first time, and subsequently gunned down by a common mugger. Bruce, a mere child at the time of this murder, is traumatized, and swears on his parents' deaths to avenge them by fighting evil wherever it may appear. Over the next years of his life, Bruce makes good on his promise, training vigorously in many fields.
By adulthood, Bruce has become a master scientist through studies, as well as the owner of a body honed to peak physical perfection through exercise. Even with all of the money from his father's estate, however, Bruce is still not ready to tackle crime - he is still lacking in one thing: a disguise. Bruce comes to the conclusion that "criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot", and that to strike fear into their hearts, he must adopt the mantle of a frightening creature of the night. At that moment, a bat flies into his mansion, inspiring him to adopt the guise of the Batman.
Various stories throughout the Golden Age expanded upon the circumstances surrounding Batman's origin. The story "The First Batman", for example, revealed it was in fact Bruce's father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, who was the first "Bat-Man". As a film can left in Dr. Wayne's desk reveals, he had created a similar costume to Bruce's for a masquerade ball, and won first prize for it. Shortly after, however, the ball was interrupted by the henchmen of mobster Lew Moxon, who threatened Thomas into removing a bullet from his body.
Thomas' diary reveals the rest of the story: Knowing that Moxon would never let him leave with his life after the operation was finished, Thomas attacked Moxon's bodyguards with grace and strength nearly identical to the "true" Batman. As a result, Moxon was arrested and sentenced to ten years in jail. After being released, Moxon was far from forgiving toward Thomas, and swore to have a hand in his death. Though the diary ends at this point, Bruce (correctly) deduces that Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents, had in fact been hired by Moxon, and only pretended that the crime had been a common mugging. 
The Batman's origin was rarely addressed in stories spanning from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, though the three-part limited series The Untold Legend of the Batman (which has since then be declared out of continuity) established the origins shown in both of the aforementioned Golden Age stories to apply to the Earth-One Batman as well.
Frank Miller's famed four-part story arc "Batman: Year One" established most of the character's Post-Crisis history.
- ↑ Detective Comics #235