Batman: Comic Book Superhero
The Bat-Man, as he is originally known, was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger in 1939. The character was first seen in the pages of the DC’s Detective Comics in May of the same year. The story was called “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate”.
Batman became such a popular character; he was given a starring role in his own comic book Batman by spring of 1940.
The first drawings of Batman showed a man with wings wearing a red and black costume and sporting a simple domino mask. Before publication, Batman’s costume went through a transformation. His mask was changed to a cowl to cover more of his face – showing only his mouth – with slits for his eyes, and pointy ears. His wings morphed into a cape that looks like bat wings when he was in motion. The costume became dark gray with black accents to convey an ominous feeling. Sometimes it was shown as dark gray with a blue cape, gloves and boots. His ever-present utility belt was drawn in yellow, and carried all the gadgets Batman needed to outwit his enemies and escape into the night.
The story of how Batman became Bruce Wayne’s alter ego is very well known. As a child, Bruce Wayne saw his parents murdered, and he swore that he would spend his life trying to avenge his parents’ death by declaring war on criminals in Gotham City.
As an adult, Bruce is depicted as an irresponsible billionaire bachelor who inherited Wayne Enterprises and family real estate investments, and lives alone except for his butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Because Bruce has no superhuman powers, he has to rely on his mind and body to defeat evil. He trains his mind to function at the highest level, and his detective skills and knowledge of science and technology are always in peak form. Bruce also works out his body to achieve physical prowess and uses the power of his threatening Bat image to win battles.
In the 1940s, Batman comics were dark and menacing, with such characters as The Joker and Catwoman as his main adversaries. Robin, Batman’s trusty sidekick, was created in 1940 to give Batman someone with whom to talk to and solve crimes. The introduction of Robin in the Batman comic book doubled sales and started a trend giving superheroes kid sidekicks.
By the 1950s Batman’s image had softened. This was due largely in part to criticism of the comics industry for the violence in the stories, which allegedly were leading children to commit crimes and act out their fantasies.
In 1964, the campy television series, Batman (starring Adam West), was introduced. A 1966 film, also starring Adam West, was released, and the success of the show and the movie vastly increased sales of the comic book. The success was short-lived, however. By 1968 the show was cancelled and the direction the comic book had taken wore thin. Once again, the comic book returned to its dark and menacing roots. Although fans loved this change, comic book sales kept falling throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1989 the phenomenal success of the new film led to a resurgence of interest in the Batman comic strips. The film, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton, was the top-grossing movie of the year.
Since, there have been four sequels. Batman Returns (Keaton, 1992), Batman Forever (Val Kilmer, 1995), Batman & Robin (George Clooney, 1997) and Batman Begins (Christian Bale, 2006).
Due to the popularity of the Batman movies, an animated television series, Batman: The Animated Series ran from 1992 through 1997 and an animated feature length film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), were released.
The Dark Knight, starring Christian Bale as Batman and Heath Ledger as The Joker launches July 18, 2008.
Batman has been entertaining people for more than 65 years. Be it in the form of comic strip books, television series, animated television series and movies, or blockbuster films, Batman lives on. He is an American pop culture phenomenon that symbolizes the need we have to believe in superheroes and the prevalence of good over evil.