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Batman Publication History

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History

Creation

The original concept of Batman was developed by writer/artist Bob Kane. Inspired by Sherlock Holmes, Zorro, a Leonardo da Vinci sketch of a bat-winged flying machine, and his own imagination, Kane sketched an early version of the character.

Taking his idea to writer Bill Finger, they further developed the concept. Finger himself said on more than one occasion that Kane did indeed create a version of the character before Finger got involved with the project. Kane was inspired by the flying machine of Leonardo Da Vinci, a movie he had seen called The Bat and of course, Bela Lugosi's 1931 film Dracula which featured a "man-bat" in its opening credits. However, Finger did suggest a different costume direction for "The Bat-Man."

Batman Earth-Two 0002

Detective Comics #27

In an interview for Jim Steranko's History of the Comics: Vol. One, Finger described in detail, the extent of his suggestions about the costume. He felt the original character (The Bat-Man) looked too much like Superman with a mask and bat-wings. He recommended replacing the Da Vinci-inspired wings with a cape, giving him gloves, and changing the character's bodysuit from red to grey. Perhaps most importantly, Finger found a book with a picture of a bat in it and encouraged Kane to replace the character's domino mask with a more bat-like hooded cowl, complete with "ears" which would make the character distinguishable even in silhouette. It's generally agreed that Finger encouraged Kane to leave out the character's eyes when he wore the mask. Although Kane would accept many of these suggestions, one cannot escape the direct influence of Lee Falk's character The Phantom, as Kane admitted that he studied newspaper strips on a routine basis.

Finger wrote the first Batman script, while Kane provided art. Because Kane had already submitted the proposal for a Batman character to his editors at DC Comics, Kane was the only person given official credit at the time for the creation of Batman. This was not unusual in the comic books of that time, where the artist would often sign his name to the first page of the story and the script would be uncredited, but it was in contrast to other features on which Finger worked where he was identified as scripter, such as Wildcat and Green Lantern, and in contrast to the credits on features by the same publisher such as Superman, where writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster both received credit during the time they were affiliated with the publisher, even on stories ghosted for them by other writers and artists.

According to Wizard Magazine, Bob Kane had Finger enter a work for hire contract. It is this contract that provided National and DC their strongest defense against later claims by Finger.

Finger was a very meticulous writer and as such, a slow one, leading editor Whitney Ellsworth to "suggest" that Kane replace him with someone else. During Finger's absence, Gardner Fox contributed scripts that introduced Batman's early "Bat-" arsenal (the utility belt, the Bat-Gyro/plane and the Batarang). Upon his return, Finger created or co-created items such as the Batmobile and Batcave, and is credited with providing a name for Gotham City. Among the things that made his stories particularly distinctive was a use of giant-sized props: enlarged pennies, sewing machines, or typewriters.

Kane and Finger brought together such diverse influences as pulp magazines, comic strips, film noir, and the slapstick comedy of teams like the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges, creating a "Cartoon-Noir" that was widely imitated. Eventually, Finger left Kane's studio to work directly for DC Comics where he still supplied scripts for Batman as well as many other characters.

Supporting Characters and Villains

Batman was featured in solo adventures for nearly the first year since his creation. It was then that Kane and Finger decided to introduce a new character. Finger, who was the regular writer of the Batman comic, would find it difficult to write the stories when the main character had nobody to talk to, and thus, they decided to create a partner for Batman. Robin was introduced in 1940 and he remained a constant character for the rest of Batman's history.

Soon after Robin's introduction, many other characters were introduced to the Batman history, but instead of being supporting characters, they were all villains. Characters like Joker, Catwoman and Hugo Strange debuted immediately after this. For years, these characters remained as the main cast, and they were soon followed by others like Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, Scarecrow and many other minor characters like Alfred Pennyworth.

Batman and his supporting cast remained unchanged for years until the late 1950s, in which many colorful characters were introduced. Among them were Batwoman, Ace the Bat-Hound, Bat-Girl, Bat-Mite and several others that were created as caricatures of the main concept of Batman. However, their existence was short lived and they were soon eliminated from the history of Batman.

Evolution

In 1964, DC Comics introduced the "New Look" of Batman. His costume was changed in order to feature a yellow oval/circle surrounding the Bat insignia on the Batsuit. This new appearance also marked the change of direction in the Batman stories, which had been based around science-fiction and fantasy elements. The new stories featured a more serious context and they were often presented as mysteries and detective stories, as they did in the early days.

A couple of years later, in 1966, the notorious Batman TV Show premiered on national television and the popularity of Batman increased to levels that were never reached before. As a result of the TV show, Batman was changed once again and became a friendlier version of himself. Around this time, a new wave of colorful character were created in order to keep the direction of the TV show and characters like Spellbinder, Poison Ivy and Batgirl were introduced into the Batman history, while other forgotten characters from the early days were reintroduced. Unfortunately, the popularity of the Batman TV Show didn't last long and in 1968 it was cancelled.

After the "Bat-mania" created by the TV show disappeared, Batman's levels of popularity decreased dramatically and the writers had to recreate the character once again. In 1970, Batman was transformed into a dark figure of the night and his stories were based around murder mysteries and thrillers. Around this time, notorious characters like Ra's al Ghul, Lucius Fox, Jason Todd and several other new characters were introduced. However and despite this changes, the general public was no longer interested in the character and the Batman comic book reached historical low selling numbers in 1985.

In 1985, writer Frank Miller created a dark version of Batman as an elder hero who returns to action after years of retirement. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was set outside of the main DC Universe continuity and it became the graphic novel that defined the Batman for the new generations. This version was much more psychologically complex, dark, gritty and based on real situations which made Batman a more feasible character. Soon, Miller was assigned to write the new origin for Batman in the regular continuity in Batman: Year One. In 1988, writer Alan Moore created the shocking graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke, which further defined Batman as a dark, menacing figure as well as Joker's title of Batman's arch-nemesis.

Not long after this, Batman returned to the screens, but this time under Tim Burton's direction. The Batman film of 1989 was a complete success and Batman became once again, one of the most popular figures in pop culture. After the success of the film, a new TV series started production and Batman: The Animated Series made its debut in 1992.

It was around this time that new characters were introduced into the Batman history. Bane was a new villain, who was capable of defeating Batman with catastrophic consequences. Harley Quinn was another new character, who was adapted from the Animated Series, due to her extreme popularity.

Ever since then, Batman has remained a mainstay figure for DC Comics. He has become the comic book character with the most films and TV series, as well thousands of comics and hundreds of interpretations and his legacy keeps growing.

Comics

Batman is one of the comic book characters with the largest history in comic books. He was created in 1939, during the so-called Golden Age of comics and his books have remained in publication to the present date without interruption.

Golden Age

Early Depitcion of Batman

Early Depitcion of Batman

The Golden Age of comics is defined by the creation of several characters and elements that helped define the super-hero comic book genre. This is no different for Batman, as the Golden Age was the time period in which his main concept and supporting cast were created and developed.

Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 and during his early appearances, the character was somewhat pulp-influenced, either killing his opponents, or, at least, letting them die and also he would have no problems carrying weapons and using them against the criminals. During the entire first year of Batman's existence, he became the main feature in Detective Comics. This is something that has not changed to this day.

Batman was a complete success and soon after, National suggested that character receive a youthful sidekick who the readers could use as an audience surrogate. Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Robin after a suggestion by artist Jerry Robinson, who had arrived at the studio while Kane and Finger were kicking names around. Robin first debuted in Detective Comics #48 and soon after his introduction, the notion of a superhero with a sidekick became ubiquitous as shown by the many other characters who decided to follow the same patter. Among them were Sandman & Sandy the Golden Boy, Black Terror and Tim, Captain America & Bucky and many others.

Batman and Robin

Batman and Robin

The introduction of Robin was another success and soon Batman was featured in his own comic book. Immediately after this, DC Comics (National back then), urged the writers to create enemies for the heroes and so, Joker and Catwoman debuted on the very first issue of Batman.

As Batman grew larger in popularity, the workload that Bob Kane and Bill Finger had to mantain was too much for them and soon, other artists and writers became part of the Batman and Detective Comics titles. Some of them included artists such as George Roussos, their early collaborator, Jerry Robinson, Jack and Ray Burnley, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Paul Cooper and most importantly, Dick Sprang, who defined the way Batman looked in the Golden Age. Various writers were also involved in the creation of the comics including Gardner Fox, Don Cameron, Joe Greene, Edmond Hamilton, but Bill Finger remained the main writer of the Batman books.

Batman and his characters by Dick Sprang

Batman and his characters by Dick Sprang

However, the introduction of Robin forced the writers to change Batman from his original concept. He could no longer carry weapons, much less kill enemies intentionally. For this reason, Batman stopped being a dark menacing figure who stalked the streets, hunting down criminals, but instead, he became a "father figure", always looking out for his young protege and capturing criminals in the least harmful way possible. It was an editorial edict that Batman would never kill, with any weapon of any kind. It is for this reason that he stopped being a vigilante who worked outside of the law and became a deputized member of the Gotham City Police Department in Batman #7.

The Golden Days

The Golden Days

This decision, helped DC when it came to Batman's enemies. In the early days, the criminals would die very easily and Batman would never confront a criminal more than a couple of times. With this new direction, the enemies were left alive and thus, they could return to haunt Batman. It is like this that the ever expanding list of enemies of Batman started to grow. In the Golden Age, several villains were introduced, some of them include Clayface, Hugo Strange, Penguin, Two-Face and Scarecrow, who became notorious characters in later years. There were also minor villains that were not featured during the Golden Age, but would appear on later years. They were the Cavalier, Deadshot, Killer Moth, Firefly, Mad Hatter and the Riddler.

Batman's supporting cast was also increased. Batman would also become friends with James Gordon, the Police Commissioner of Gotham City. Batman and Robin were soon joined by Alfred Pennyworth, who became their trusted butler and aid in many cases. As Bruce Wayne, he would also have romantic interests such as Julie Madison, Linda Page, who disappeared shortly after. Perhaps the most notorious of the women in Bruce's life is Vicki Vale, who is still around in modern times. Batman had also a flirtatious relation with his enemy, Catwoman.

The Golden Age

The Golden Age

Over the years, the Batman's arsenal to fight crime was expanded and various elements were introduced. The first elements were the gadgets such as the Batarang and Batrope. Then came the vehicles, starting with the Batgyro and going to the Batplane, Batmobile, Batboat, Bat-Sub and even the Batcycle. The Batcave and the Bat-Signal where some of the latest additions to the ever-growing arsenal of Bat elements.

Batman started as a serious manhunter, but in less than 2 years, he became a family law enforcer and remained the same for an entire decade. The stories featured in the Batman comics were also similar, to the point where they became repetitive in the late 1940s. By the end of the decade, the use of the well known villains like Penguin and the Joker, became more scarce as writers would rather have Batman and Robin confront regular criminals.

In 1950, the Golden Age ended, and the Batman comic books had a different concept from the very first books. By that time, the stories about the masked heroes fighting everyday criminals had oversaturated the market and most of the super-hero comic books were cancelled. Only Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman remained in constant publication, but the Dark Knight was the most affected by this change. Superman and Wonder Woman were characters based on science-fiction elements, and thus, in the new upcoming age, their books expanded upon those concepts without seriously damaging their image. Unfortunately, Batman was never closely related to sci-fi. Some of the Batman comics from the Golden Age featured a very rare and occassional fantasy or sci-fi story, but with the end of the Golden Age, this elements were forced on the Batman comics, creating all sorts of scenarios, characters and situations never seen before in the books; which was not always a good thing.

Silver Age

After the publication of Fredric Wertham's juvenile delinquency treatise, Seduction of the Innocent, and the adoption of the Comics Code Authority, Batman's more violent and darker aspects were jettisoned to focus on relatively wholesome (and some would argue, blander) detective stories. In addition, with the writers' need for adventure, but with their freedom to depict violence curtailed, Batman became a daytime deputy of the police, and became involved in increasingly outlandish science-fiction type stories, often involving a fantastic transformation of some kind and trips through time and space.

Batman 122

"The Marriage of Batman and Batwoman" - see, he can't be gay


Partly to counteract Wertham's claims about Batman and Robin's homoexuality, various female characters were introduced in the late 1950s, including Vicki Vale, Batwoman, and Batgirl. These characters provided "love interests" for both Batman and Robin.

Batman 153

"Prisoners of Three Worlds" - an example of Batman's sci-fi period

Batman 162

"The Batman Creature"

During the 1960s, the Batman comics were actually near cancellation. Carmine Infantino was brought in and introduced a "new look" for the character in Detective Comics #327 in 1964.

Later still, he hired a new artist, Neal Adams. Together with writer Dennis O'Neil they brought back the old elements that originally defined the character. For a list of some of O'Neil's greatest Batman tales, see Wizard's DENNY O'NEIL'S TOP 12 GREATEST BATMAN MOMENTS.

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Batman as depicted by artist Neal Adams

Modern Age

TBD

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Batman as depicted by Jim Lee



Serials

Batman (1943 Serial)

Batman 1943 Serial 001

Lewis Wilson as Batman

Batman first came to the Silver Screen in 1943's Batman serial, starring Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin. J. Carrol Naish played the villain, an original character named Dr. Daka. Rounding out the cast were Shirley Patterson as Linda Page (Bruce Wayne's love interest), and William Austin as Alfred.

Batman (1943 Serial) Batman-Robin-1

Batman and Robin in 1943

Batman and Robin (1949 Serial)

A second serial called Batman and Robin followed in 1949, starring Robert Lowery as Batman.

Batman and Robin 1949 Serial 001

Batman and Robin, 1949



Movies

Tim Burton's Batman

Michael Keaton Batman

Batman in 1989

Batman returned to the big screen in director Tim Burton's Batman in 1989.

Christopher Nolan's Batman

After a series of increasingly cartoonish film adaptations, the franchise was reinvigorated in 2005 with Batman Begins, starring Christian Bale as the Dark Knight. Villains included the Scarecrow and Ra's al Ghul.

Batman Begins-2

Christian Bale as Batman in 2005

Batman Begins was the fifth live-action Batman movie since 1989 and was a reboot to the superhero's film franchise. It tells the origin story of the character as he takes on crime for the first time in Gotham. It is a significantly darker film, studying the character's inner struggle between justice and vengeance. It received high praise from critics and general audiences, being considered by many as the best of the series, with praise for Bale's performance. The film is followed by a 2008 sequel, The Dark Knight. In it, Batman encounters the Joker and Two-Face.

Television

Batman 1966 TV Series

Batman was a thirty-minute prime time, live action television series broadcast by the ABC Network between 1966 and 1968. Premiering on January 12th, the series featured actor Adam West as the perennial character of Batman, while Burt Ward donned nylon stockings and fairy boots for his portrayal of the erstwhile sidekick, Robin.

Batman 1966 movie

Batman and Robin in 1966

The series took the tradition of Batman into the uncharted territory of camp, oftentimes mocking the character's heritage with trite dialogue and silly plot devices. The show was noteworthy for its memorable use of onomatopoeia during climactic fight scenes. Despite the clumsy nature of the series however, the show proved popular to many fans, and transformed Adam and Burt into modern pop culture icons.

Batman: The Animated Series

Bruce Wayne DCAU 001

Batman Animated

Batman: The Animated Series ran from 1992 to 1999. The series was based on the exploits of Batman and his crusade against injustice. It was arguably a children's show, yet its dark atmosphere and award-winning writing grew a more mature fanbase. The show is based in modern-day Gotham City, a dark, gothic, crime-ridden area. In 1994 the series was retitled The Adventures of Batman & Robin. It now focused more on Robin in an attempt to appeal to children. The rename and inclusion of Robin did not adversely affect the writing and the series bowed out in September 1995.

Aborted Bruce Wayne WB Series

Prior to the development of Smallville, there were tentative plans for a live-action TV series to follow the development of Bruce Wayne into Batman.[1] The series failed to materialize.


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Notes

  • DC Comics has never made a clear distinction between when the Golden Age Batman stories end, and the Silver Age Batman stories begin. As such, there is also room for interpretation in determining which Bronze Age Batman stories carry over into the modern Post-Crisis environment and which ones should be considered apocryphal. Mike's Amazing World of DC indicates Superman (Volume 1) #76 as the first appearance of the Earth-One Batman. This information is predicated upon the idea that Batman and Superman are meeting each other, seemingly, for the very first time. As the Golden Age Batman and Superman have met each other on several occasions, it is believed by some, that this issue represents the earliest possible appearance of the Earth-One Batman.


Trivia

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