History of Batman

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Since I was young I have always been a big fan of Batman from the various tv shows, the movies, and of course the comics. The character has had such an impact on me that I would like to show you the history of Batman while also sharing with you my personal history with the character as well.

Batman was created in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. With the success of Superman, it prompted the editors at National Comics Publication to request more superheroes for their titles. In a direct response, Bob Kane created The Batman. Both Kane and Finger based the character off of fictional characters such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, Dick Tracy and Sherlock Holmes. Finger came up with the name Bruce Wayne, which was inspired by Scottish patriot Robert Bruce. Other inspirations for the character were The Mask of Zorro and The Phantom.

Batman made his official debut in March 1939 in Detective Comics #27. Batman proved to be such a hit character that in 1940 he received his very first solo title.  By 1940 both Batman and Superman had become the epitome of their company’s success. Both characters were featured side by side in World’s Finest comics which debuted in the fall of 1940. Over the course of several issues, many staples of the Batman mythos were added including Batman’s utility belt, the BatPlane and in issue #33 Batman’s Origins were revealed.

In Detective Comics #38, Batman’s kid sidekick Robin was introduced. Robin was created based on Bill Fingers suggestion that Batman needed a “Watson” to talk to. The first issue of Batman’s solo title introduced two of Batman’s most famous villains: The Joker and Catwoman. During the early days of Batman there was a story where Batman would shoot giant monsters to death. That story would prompt editor Whitney Ellsworth to decree that Batman would no longer kill or use a gun.

By 1942 most of the basic elements that we know about Batman had been established. During World War II, DC Comics had adopted a postwar editorial direction which focused less on social commentary and more on lighthearted fantasy. It became apparent when The Batman comics which had previously featured a bleak and menacing world of the early 1940s, had now featured Batman as respectable citizen that had now inhabited a bright and colorful environment.

During the 1950s Batman was one of the few superheroes to be continually published at a time when interest in the superhero genre had began to wane. In the storyline The Mightiest Team in the World which was featured in Superman #76, the story features Batman and Superman teaming up for the very first time.

During the 1950s Batman comics were among the many that were scrutinized by psychologist Fredric Wertham and his book Seduction of the Innocence. In his book, Wertham’s thesis had stated that children were imitating crimes that were committed in the comics. This led to the eventual creation of the Comic Book Code authority which is no longer around. The Comic Book Code Authority had lead to a more sunnier side of Batman which intensified even more after World War II.  

In 1960, Batman made his debut as a member of the Justice League of America in Brave and The Bold #28, he would later go on to star in several other JLA books that year. In 1964 sales of Batman books began to drop and DC was considering killing the character off at one point. In response to this, comic book editor Julius Schwartz was assigned to work on the Batman titles. Schwartz made some big changes to the character starting in Detective Comics #327. The changes included a more contemporary Batman, a return to more detective based stories, a newly redesigned bat mobile, and a modified bat suit that included a yellow eclipse behind the bat- insignia.

The debut of the 1966 Batman series had a big impact of the character, the success of that series helped increase sales throughout  the comic book industry. Certain elements from the show were incorporated into comics such as Batgirl and the show’s campy nature. In 1969 writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams made an effort to distance Batman from the campy 1966 series and return to his dark and gritty roots. Despite O’Neil and Adams’ work on the series being popular with fans, it did little to help the sales of the book.

In 1986 Frank Miller returned the character to it’s roots with the limited series The Dark Knight Returns. In this story a 55 year old Bruce Wayne is forced to come out of retirement and the Batsuit once again in a possible future. The series proved to be a financial success and helped spark a major resurgence in the character. The story also featured the first ever female Robin, Carrie Kelley. That year also saw artist Dennis O’Neal take over as editor of The Batman titles. This would set the template for how Batman would be portrayed, following DC’s event comic Crisis on Infinite Earths. This template would spawn two of Batman’s most iconic stories Batman Year One and The Killing Joke. In 1988 DC created a 900 number to see whether or not Jason Todd, the second Robin, would live or die. Voters ended up voting in favor of Jason Todd dying.  

In 1989 Batman made his triumphant big screen return in Batman. This film was directed by upcoming newcomer Tim Burton. The film also starred Michael Keaton as Batman, Jack Nicholson as The Joker, and Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale. The film ended up being a huge financial success grossing 400 million dollars at the box office. The film would also set the tone for future installments in the franchise. The film would also spawn an animated series that would go on to become critically acclaimed.

In 1992 a follow up to the 1989 film was released called Batman Returns. Despite mostly positive reviews from critics and grossing 262 million worldwide, many parents and critics criticized it for being too dark. The film once again starred Michael Keaton as Batman and this time around starred Danny Devito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. This would also be the last film to feature Tim Burton as director and Michael Keaton as Batman.

In 1993 DC released Knightfall a story in which supervillain Bane breaks Batman’s back and paralyzes Batman leaving him out of commission for a while. With Batman out of commission, a new hero Azrael takes up the mantle for a while. The story arc is split in two directions with the Azrael-Batman storyline and the other involving Bruce Wayne’s quest to become Batman once more. The story arc comes together in KnightsEnd in which Azrael becomes more and more violent and is ultimately defeated by a healing Bruce Wayne. After that storyline Bruce Wayne hands over the Batman Mantle to Dick Grayson for a while.

In 1994 the event comic Zero Hour once again changed a lot of aspects of DC’s continuity again including Batman’s. The biggest among these changes is that the general population and the criminal element now consider Batman to be an urban legend.

In 1995 Batman Forever was released. This time around the film would star Val Kilmer as Batman, Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face, Jim Carrey as Riddler, Nicole Kidman Dr. Chase Meridian, and Chris O’Donnell as Robin.  The film received mixed reviews from critics, but despite the reviews, the film would go on to gross 336 million dollars at the box office.

In 1997 a follow up to Batman forever was released titled Batman and Robin. The film this time around would star George Clooney as Batman, Chris O’Donnell once again as Robin, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. The film was panned by critics and was nominated for 11 razzies.  The film would go on to gross 238 million dollars at the box office making it the lowest grossing entry in the Batman movie franchise. There was a planned sequel titled Batman Unchained but after Batman and Robin was panned by critics it was scrapped.

In 1999 Batman No Man’s Land was released. This storyline would be a year long and it was spread out through all the Batman titles at the time. The title deals with the effects of an earthquake that ravaged Gotham City. After the conclusion of the storyline, Danny O’Neill stepped down as editor and was replaced by Bob Schreck.

In 2002 writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee teamed up to create Batman Hush. In this story Batman and Catwoman team up to take on all of Batman’s rogues gallery including a supposedly resurrected Jason Todd, while also trying to figure out the identity of the mysterious villain Hush. Although the character Hush didn’t catch on with readers, the arc was a success for DC. The series became #1 on Diamond Comic Distributors sales charts. The storyline became artist Jim Lee’s first regular comic work in a decade. The series would lay the groundwork for the story line Under the Hood.

In 2005 a new Batman film had been released titled Batman Begins. The film starred Christian Bale as Batman, Liam Neeson as Ra’s al Ghul, Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Kane as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, and Cillian Murphy as The Scarecrow. The film was directed by Christopher Nolan who when making the film wanted to return Batman to his darker and grittier roots. The film would go on to receive favorable reviews from critics and went on to gross 374 million dollars at the box office.

Also in 2005 All Star Batman and Robin was released. This series would have Frank Miller as writer and Jim Lee as artist. Although the series was praised for its artwork and was a financial success for DC, it was heavily panned by critics. Many panned it for the portrayal of Batman as being violent and cruel and for being physically and verbally abusive towards Dick Grayson.

Starting in 2006, writers Grant Morrison and Paul Dini became the new writers for Batman. Morrison and Dini introduced a lot of new elements to the Batman Mythos including Bruce Wayne’s son Damian becoming the new Robin. They also reintroduced some of the sci fi elements from Batman’s stories in the 1950s. In the event comic Final Crisis Batman was supposedly killed by the hands of supervillain Darkseid. Following that event, Batman’s former protege Dick Grayson become the new Batman.

In 2008 The Dark Knight was released and the film once again starred Christian Bale as Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. Once again, director Christopher Nolan returns and this time around it is Heath Ledger as the Joker, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/ Two Face, and Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. The film would receive critical acclaim from critics praising its dark themes, action and the performances – most notably Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. The film would go on to gross 1.005 billion dollars at the box office. The film would go on to win two Oscars, one for best sound editing and one for Best Supporting Actor. The Best Supporting Actor win would be Heath Ledger’s first Oscar. The film would also sadly be one of Heath Ledger’s final film roles, as after the movie was done filming he died of a drug overdose.

In 2010 the storyline Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne saw Bruce Wayne travel through various points in history to eventually take up the mantle of Batman once again.   In September of 2011 DC cancelled all of their comics at the time, including Batman and relaunched them with new #1s. The new books were relaunched under DC’S new 52 banner. Batman was relaunched with four new books which were Batman, Batman and Robin, Detective Comics, and Batman the Dark Knight. In the New 52, Dick Grayson returns to the mantle of Nightwing. In the beginning of the New 52, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo became the writer and artist for the regular Batman title. Their first major storyline was The Night of Owls which sees Batman confront a Secret Society that has controlled Gotham for centuries. The second storyline titled Death of the Family saw the return of the Joker and see him attack each member of the Bat Family.

In 2012 The Dark Knight Rises was released. This film would the final film in the Dark Knight Trilogy. The film once again saw the return of Christian Bale as Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, and Christopher Nolan as director of the movie. Newcomers to this movie are Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. The film, while it didn’t receive the critical acclaim as its predecessor, still received positive reviews.  The film would go on to gross 1.085 billion dollars at the box office. It would also become the final film in the now famous Dark Knight Trilogy.

In the final storyline of the New 52 Batman titles Endgame, the storyline depicts the supposed final battle between Batman and the Joker. The storyline ends with the supposed death of Batman and the Joker. In Batman volume 2 #41, Commissioner James Gordon takes over as Batman. Later it is revealed that Bruce Wayne is in fact alive but suffers from amnesia. Eventually Bruce Wayne regains his memories takes back control over Batman leaving James Gordon to go back to being Commissioner.

In 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released. This film saw Batman and Superman meeting and fighting each other on the big screen for the first time. The film would star Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. The film would be directed by Zack Snyder.  Despite a strong debut weekend for the film, it would have a significant drop the following weekend. Despite being profitable at the box office, it would be considered a box office disappointment. The film would gross  873.3 million dollars at the box office and would also receive negative reviews from the critics. Many critics criticized it for being too dark and too violent. The film would go on to be nominated for 7 razzies winning 4 of them.

In 2016 DC released Rebirth a new DC universe that would restore the DC universe prior to FlashPoint and include elements from the New 52. In DCs Rebirth, Batman would receive two new mainstream titles Batman and Detective comics. In Batman, the series introduces two new vigilantes Gotham and Gotham Girl. In Detective Comics, Batman and Batwoman train a new group of heroes including Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Clayface. In 2017 Batman is set to star in a Justice League Movie. That is my history of Batman I hope to those that read it enjoy my article.

Nathan B




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