Batman, more properly known as The Batman and occasionally as The Bat-Man, is a fictional character and superhero who first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Most accounts suggest that he was co-created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, but only Kane receives official credit for the character. Batman was at first just one of several characters featured in Detective Comics, but has since become the lead or co-lead character of a number of comic book series, in addition to a "family" of titles featuring related characters (e.g. Robin, Batgirl). Batman and Superman are DC Comics' two most popular and recognizable characters.
Overview and history
In the Batman mythos, Batman is the alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, a billionaire industrialist who was driven to fight crime after his parents were murdered by a mugger when he was a child. To that end, he spent his youth learning criminology, forensics, martial arts, disguise, and other relevant skills. He wears a bat-like costume to frighten his enemies, based on his observation that criminals are a "cowardly, superstitious lot". He is also typically portrayed as a brilliant tactician, but flawed with a humorless personality obsessed with seeking justice.
To the world at large, Bruce Wayne is an irresponsible superficial playboy. He is known for his contributions to charity, notably through the Wayne Foundation, a charitable foundation devoted to helping the victims of crime and preventing people from turning to it. He guards his secret so well that his true identity is known only to a handful of individuals, including Superman. Occasionally, a villain will be struck by the idea that Bruce Wayne is Batman, only to dismiss the possibility because Wayne clearly doesn't have the brains or the nerve to be Batman.
Batman operates in Gotham City, a fictional city modeled after New York City -- specifically altered to emphasize a "dark side," in contrast to Metropolis. In keeping with the "dark" theme, Batman is usually presented as operating only at night. Whenever he is needed, the police activate a Bat Signal shining into the sky. He operates out of the Batcave, a cavern located beneath Wayne Manor, which contains all of his paraphernalia , gadgets and weapons.
An important part of the mythos is that Batman – unlike Superman and most other costumed heroes – is a normal human being who does not possess superhuman ability. However, he has elevated himself to near-superhuman status through years of rigorous training.
Bruce designs and builds the costumes, equipment, and vehicles he uses as Batman. Over the years he has accumulated a large arsenal of specialized gadgets (compare with the later James Bond). The designs of most of Batman's equipment share a common theme of being dark-colored and suggest a bat. A prime example is Batman's car, the Batmobile, often depicted as an imposing black car with large tail fins that suggest a bat's wings; another is his chief throwing weapon, the batarang, a bat-shaped boomerang. In proper practice, the "bat" prefix (as in batmobile or batarang) is no longer used by Batman himself when referring to his equipment, especially as this has been stretched to camp in some versions (namely the '60s TV show and the Super Friends series). The 60's TV show arsenal included such ridiculous "bat-" names as a bat-computer, bat-rope, bat-scanner, bat-radar, bat-handcuffs, bat-phone, bat-drinking water dispenser, bat-camera with polarized bat-filter, and shark repellent bat-spray.
The details of the Batman costume have changed repeatedly through the character's evolution, but the most distinctive elements have remained consistent: a dark scalloped cape, with a cowl covering most of his face, with a pair of pointed ears suggestive of those of a bat, and a stylized bat emblem on his chest. The most noticeable costume variations include a "yellow oval" bat-emblem vs. no oval, lighter colors (medium blue and light gray) vs. darker (black and dark gray), a bulky utility belt vs. a streamlined belt, and a long-eared cowl vs. short-eared. The development of Kevlar and other types of body armor has prompted some modern creators to make Batman's costume or parts of the costume bullet-proof. This use of armor has been used to explain why Batman once wore the yellow oval on his costume since it would attract enemy fire where he could wear the heaviest armour.
He keeps most of his personal field equipment in a signature piece of apparel, a yellow utility belt. It has contained items such as smoke bombs, batarangs, a fingerprint kit, a cutting tool, explosives, a grappling hook gun, a breathing device, etc. In some of his early appearances, Batman used sidearms, but for the past several decades he has eschewed the use of firearms (that being the method of his parents' murder). Some stories have relaxed this rule to allow exceptions such as arming his vehicles, for the purpose of disabling vehicles or removing inanimate obstacles.
Nicknames for Batman include the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, and the World's Greatest Detective. Batman is also a brilliant detective, criminal scientist, tactician, and commander. His most lasting and popular stories have almost without exception been ones where he has displayed intelligence, cunning, and planning to outwit his foes, rather than merely out-fighting them. His deductive skills put him on par with Sherlock Holmes, and in several stories he has even met the "Great Detective" himself, proving himself to be a worthy successor to Holmes. Batman is the mastermind behind the Justice League of America, offering brains and tactical skills to guide the raw power of the other members of the team. He has also been briefly affiliated with other superhero teams, including a short-lived team he founded in the 1980s called "The Outsiders".
Robin: Perhaps Batman's most important allies have been several teenage sidekicks, all of whom had the title Robin (some of them advertised with the nickname "The Boy Wonder" or "The Teen Wonder").
- Dick Grayson (1940): The original Robin, Dick Grayson has since grown up and has become "Nightwing," continuing as an assistant and ally to Batman. Many writers have portrayed his current relationship with Batman as strained.
- Jason Todd (1983): Originally a virtual copy of Dick Grayson (orphaned circus acrobat trained by the Batman), Todd's origin was later retconned so that he was a juvenile delinquent Batman took into his care. In 1989, Todd was murdered by the Joker in the controversial A Death in the Family storyline.
- Tim Drake (1990): After Jason Todd's death, Tim tracked down Grayson and urged him to become Robin once again, because Batman was growing unstable. When Dick refused, Tim volunteered for the job - arguing that "Batman needs a Robin". Although Tim retired, he has since returned.
- Stephanie Brown (2004): Tim's girlfriend, (formerly known as the Spoiler), became the fourth Robin and the only female Robin in current DC continuity. Stephanie was captured and fatally tortured by Black Mask, becoming the second Robin to perish.
- Carrie Kelly (1986): Although not technically part of current DC continuity, Carrie Kelly became the first female Robin (in real world chronology) in 1986's The Dark Knight Returns.
James ("Jim") Gordon: the police commissioner of Gotham City, often helps Batman solve cases; in return, Batman helps deliver criminals to the police. Initially, Gordon thought Batman a rogue operating outside the law, and actually pursued him as a criminal, but Batman has since proven himself a trustworthy ally. In most versions of the mythos, Gordon is ignorant of Batman's identity, though some fans and writers feel that Gordon is smart enough to solve the puzzle, but chooses not to in order to preserve Batman's effectiveness. Some writers have a more tenuous relationship between Gordon and Batman. In the current DC Universe, James Gordon has retired and been replaced by Michael Akins , a hand-picked successor.
- In addition, other members of the Gotham City Police Department have played prominent roles, such as Harvey Bullock who was introduced as a subordinate secretly assigned to spy and discredit Gordon. However, Bullock soon changed his mind and became loyal to the commissioner while having a deep suspicion of Batman. The 1990s comics added Detective Renee Montoya as a character adapted from the animated series. The Gotham Police are currently featured in their own series, Gotham Central, in which they investigate the unusual crimes that plague the city, in a personal effort to minimize Batman's involvement.
- Alfred Pennyworth: Bruce Wayne's loyal butler, who knows his secret identity. Alfred was hired away from the British Royal Family by Bruce's parents, and virtually raised him after their murder. He holds down the fort at Wayne Manor, and does not accompany Batman. However, he is in contact in order to feed information or carry out instructions. When he drives Bruce around Gotham, Alfred always keeps a Batsuit in the trunk, just in case. His skill in first aid has proven invaluable on numerous occasions when his master or his companions are injured.
Batgirl: Several female crime-fighters have taken the name "Batgirl". Unlike Robin, Batgirl has rarely debuted as a sanctioned member of the "Batman Family," although they have all come to be accepted by the Batman to some extent (depending on continuity).
- In 1961, the original Bat-Girl was introduced as the sidekick to Batwoman (Kathy Kane).
- In 1967, the Silver Age Batgirl was introduced: Barbara Gordon, the daughter of James Gordon. She continued the role until an attack by the Joker left her a paraplegic. She later reinvented herself as Oracle, a research assistant for superheroes.
- In 1999, a third Batgirl was introduced: Cassandra Cain, the daughter of the assassin Cain.
- Huntress: Originally the daughter of the Batman and Catwoman of Earth Two, Helena Wayne followed in her late father's footsteps. In current DC continuity, Helena Bertinelli, a daughter of the Bertinelli mafia family, has become a crime-fighter. She has a difficult relationship with Batman, who feels that she is too rash and violent, and she works closely with Oracle/Barbara Gordon.
- Lucius Fox: Although far less privy to his life, Lucius Fox is a close associate of Wayne as his business manager responsible for both Wayne Enterprises and The Wayne Foundation.
- The Justice League of America: Batman is a member of the superhero group, although is sometimes skeptical of the League's more powerful and idealistic members. In particular, Superman has been an uneasy ally for Batman because both characters approach costumed adventuring in radically different ways.
- Ace, The Bat-Hound: In 1955, a few years after the Superman mythos saw the introduction of Krypto, the Batman mythos saw the introduction and short duration of Ace, the Bat-hound, a German shepherd with a black mask covering most of his head. Ace reappears as Bruce's guard dog and companion in the television series Batman Beyond.
- Batwoman: In 1958, Kathy Kane was introduced as Batwoman, but the character was mostly dropped from the series by the appearance of Barbara Gordon's Batgirl in 1967. A different Batwoman appeared in the direct-to-video animated movie Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman in 2003.
- Azrael: Trained from birth to be the assassin and enforcer of a sinister secret society, Jean-Paul Valley was trying to forge a new destiny for himself with Bruce Wayne's help when Wayne was crippled by Bane. Valley took up the Bat-mantle until Wayne recovered, but his Azrael conditioning began to take over, and he became violent and dangerous, and Bruce Wayne was forced to fight him to reclaim the Batman. Valley went his own way, returning for the occasional guest appearance.
Enemies of Batman
Batman's adversaries form one of the most distinctive rogue galleries in comics, including supervillains such as:
- The Joker: A homicidal maniac with a clown-like appearance who takes comedic delight in violent crime and challenging Batman.
- Catwoman: Selina Kyle, a female criminal who operates with a cat theme and costume and has a love/hate relationship with Batman.
- The Scarecrow: Jonathan Crane, a renegade scientist specializing in the nature of fear, who employs special equipment and techniques designed to use it to his advantage.
- The Penguin: Oswald Cobblepot, a short rotund man with a long pointed nose who fancies himself a gentleman of crime. He usually wears a tuxedo, top hat, and monocle, and carries any variety of umbrellas which have various hidden functions such as vehicles or weapons.
- The Mad Hatter: a research scientist named Jervis Tetch who is completely smitten with the works of Lewis Carroll. He specializes in neuroscience and developed hardware that can control the brain and induce hypnotic states.
- Two-Face: Formerly District Attorney Harvey Dent (a friend of Bruce Wayne's), until his latent case of multiple personality disorder fully took hold when half his face was horrifically scarred, and he became obsessed with committing crimes themed around duality and opposites with all major decisions being determined by a two-headed coin.
- The Riddler: Edward Nigma, a criminal mastermind who has a strange compulsion to challenge his opponents by presenting clues to his crimes in the form of riddles and puzzles.
- Poison Ivy: Pamela Isley, a female criminal who employs plants of all varieties and their derivatives in her crimes. She is often described as fanatic about defending plants from human beings, even to the extent of murdering them.
- Mr. Freeze: Formerly a scientist expert on cryonics, Victor Fries tried to cryopreserve his stricken wife until a cure is found to her disease. An accident in the process caused his body to function only below freezing point and so he wears a special self-contained refrigeration suit and uses similar technology for weapons and other devices of his own design (such as a freezing gun).
- Ra's Al Ghul: ("Demon's Head" in Arabic), a centuries-old eco-terrorist who knows Batman's secret identity; Ra's Al Ghul desires for Batman to marry his daughter Talia and become his successor.
- Clayface: A name for a number of criminals, with the best known being Matt Hagen, a criminal with the power to instantly change his shape and appearance to any form he wants.
- Professor Hugo Strange: An insane psychologist who knows Batman's secret identity and lusts to take the identity for himself.
- Man-Bat: A scientist, Kirk Langstrom is cursed to periodically turn into an animalistic humanoid bat, and often causes much trouble for Batman despite also being an ally.
- The Ventriloquist : a ventriloquist who suffers from a multiple personality disorder in which his other personality, emblemed in his puppet, is a mobster known as Scarface.
- Bane: An escaped convict from an island prison in South America, who has abnormal strength as a result of having had experiments with a derivative of the drug Venom performed on him. Bane was responsible for breaking Batman's back, forcing Bruce Wayne to give up the Batman persona whilst he recuperated.
- Zsasz: Victor Zsasz, a serial killer who keeps a tally of his victims by cutting new scars into his body with his trademark knife.
- Firefly : Garfield Lynns, an orphan who became a pyromaniac and has developed a fireproof suit and flamethrower to further pursue his 'hobby'.
- Hush : Thomas Eliot, a surgeon and former friend of Bruce Wayne. Bitter because of a scarring injury and an inheritance that went the wrong way, he has set about to destroy the Batman. True to his name, he uses manipulation and guile instead of any noisy "signatures."
However, some versions of the Batman mythos put him against more ordinary enemies, such as mobsters.
Batman in popular culture
Since his introduction, Batman has become one of the most famous comic book characters, and is known even to people who do not read the comics. In addition to DC's comic books, he has appeared in movies, television shows, and novels.
Batman is known as being an unusually (though not uniquely) grim superhero, particularly for a Golden Age character. He is driven by vengeance, and wears a frightening costume to scare criminals. The contrast to characters like Superman is stark. The grimness is not a constant; in some incarnations of the character (notably the television series of the 1960s, and many of the comic books from the 1950s and 60s), it evaporates into camp and even comedy. In fact, during the 1950s (when the popularity of superhero comics had declined considerably), Batman and Robin engaged in a number of science fiction adventures that resembled the comic book stories of Superman of the time. They had a number of time travel adventures, traveling into outer space regularly; and Batman even acquired a crime-fighting mascot (Ace, The Bat-Hound) and an annoying extra-dimensional imp named "Bat-Mite", who had powers similar to Superman's own Mr. Mxyzptlk.
In 1953, the book Censored page by psychologist Frederic Wertham was published, in which Wertham used Batman and Robin, among several examples, to attack the comic book medium. He insinuated that Batman and Robin had a Censored page relationship, and asserted that the bare legs in Robin's costume encouraged Censored page. He also criticized the dark and violent portrayals of crime in comic books as promoting juvenile delinquency. He succeeded in raising a public outcry, eventually leading to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. The outcry particularly affected Batman comics; the characters of Batgirl and Batwoman were introduced to "prove" that Batman and Robin were not gay, and the stories took on a campier, lighter feel. Characters such as the Joker, who had previously been murderers, became characterized by odd themed crime sprees, such as committing robbery while dressed as famous jester characters from literature. Most current comic book readers regard Wertham's accusations, particularly those about Batman being gay, as utterly baseless; though Batman continues to be a fairly popular figure in gay culture.
The Silver Age of comic books is generally marked by comic book historians to have begun when DC comics re-created a number of its superhero titles during the late 1950s. Editor Julius Schwartz presided over the drastic changes made to a number of DC's comic book characters, including Batman. After a decade of colorful, campy adventures, Batman was returned to his dark and mysterious roots, giving rise to the character that most fans are familiar with. For the next twenty-five years, Batman was the mysterious, dark avenger of the night; though the popularity of the Batman TV series of the 1960s overshadowed the comic books considerably. A plethora of writers and artists took the Caped Crusader on a number of interesting adventures; high points of the comic book series include the Ra's Al Ghul storyline, written by Dennis O'Neil and drawn by Neal Adams who established the modern look of the character; and a brief eight-issue run of Detective Comics written by Steve Englehart that many fans considered to be the definitive Batman. (The classic Joker story "The Laughing Fish" was written by Englehart.)
Writer Frank Miller grounded Batman firmly in his grim and gritty roots with the comic book miniseries The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Batman: Year One. In both, Batman's story runs parallel to that of Jim Gordon. In Year One, Gordon has not yet become the police commissioner, and is instead a middle-aged cop with a shady past working to redeem himself amidst Gotham's corrupt police force, while Bruce Wayne learns the ropes as a costumed avenger. In The Dark Knight Returns, Gordon is seventy, and is forced into mandatory retirement from his post as police commissioner while Bruce returns from retirement as Batman. These stories gave Gordon's character a depth he had seldom achieved before. The Dark Knight Returns gave a shot in the arm to the entire mainstream comic book industry, as its popularity was nothing short of phenomenal. It allowed Batman to finally shed the image of a campy, clownish character for which he was still known; and it also helped to raise the image of comic books so that they were no longer known solely as a form of children's entertainment.
Comics that feature Batman
Current comics starring Batman:
Current comics where Batman does not star, but appears regularly or from time to time as a guest character:
Previous comics with long runs featuring Batman:
- Batman Family
- Batman and The Outsiders
- The Brave and the Bold
- Shadow of the Bat
- World's Finest Comics
Batman has of course also featured in numerous miniseries and guest starred in many other comics. Because he is one of the most popular DC Comics characters he frequently appears in new titles or titles with falling readership in an attempt to draw more readers.
See also List of Batman comics
Batman in other media
From 1943 to 1946, Batman and Robin appeared in a syndicated daily and Sunday newspaper comic strip distributed by the McClure Syndicate. Other newspaper comic versions appeared in 1953, 1966, and 1989.
Beginning in March 1945, Batman and Robin made regular appearances on the Superman radio drama on the Mutual Broadcasting Network . Efforts were made to launch a Batman radio series in 1943 and again in 1950, but neither came to fruition.
There was a 1960s Batman television series broadcast by ABC, with Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. The series aired for 120 episodes from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968 and was marked for its high camp. It continues to be the version many associate with the Batman character, despite it being perhaps the least representative of the his depiction in comics. Although it has been disliked and denounced by serious Batman fans ever since, the live-action TV show was extraordinarily popular; at the height of its popularity, it was the only prime-time TV show broadcast twice each week as part of its regular schedule.
There have also been several TV animated series starring Batman, produced by at least three different TV animation studios. The treatment of the character has varied with the decade; the 1990s and later series have had a darker, more sincere tone which has appealed to adult viewers, while still being accessible and entertaining to children. These cartoons include:
- 1960s - Batman/Superman Adventure Hour by Filmation
- 1970s - Super Friends by Hanna-Barbera Productions
- 1970s - The New Adventures Of Batman by Filmation
- 1980s - Super Powers: Galactic Guardians by Hanna-Barbera
- 1990s - Batman: The Animated Series by Warner Bros.
- 2000s - Batman Beyond (a.k.a. Batman of the Future in Europe) by Warner Bros.
- 2000s - Justice League animated series by Warner Bros.
- 2000s - The Batman by Warner Bros.
A number of Batman theatrical films have also been made.
- Columbia Pictures released two 15-chapter, live-action movie serials, Batman (1943) and The Adventures of Batman and Robin (1949).
- Batman (1966), the first feature-length adaptation, based on the TV series with Adam West and Burt Ward.
- Batman (1989), directed by Tim Burton, and starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Many regard this as the definitive superhero movie.
- Batman Returns (1992), also directed by Burton and starring Keaton, with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman and Danny DeVito as the Penguin.
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) feature length spinoff of Batman: The Animated Series
- Batman Forever (aka Forever) (1995), produced by Burton, directed by Joel Schumacher, and starring Val Kilmer as Batman, Chris O'Donnell as Robin, Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, and Jim Carrey as the Riddler. The decision to continue the franchise without Burton or Keaton was controversial and opinions of the movie's quality were mixed.
- Batman and Robin (1997), starring George Clooney as Batman, O'Donnell as Robin, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. A huge critical and box office flop, many believe it weakened the Batman franchise and superhero films in general.
- Batman Begins (To be released in USA in June 2005), directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as Batman, a prequel that arguably reboots the film franchise by exploring Batman's origin.
Several low-budget, unauthorized Batman movies have also been made, including Batman Dracula (1964) by Andy Warhol; Batman Fights Dracula (1967), made in the Philippines; and a second Filipino movie called Alyas Batman en Robin (1993). (Critics who have seen this movie say it is very poor quality.) Additionally, an independently funded self-promo film titled "" was produced by Sandy Collora in 2003, starring Clark Bartram as Batman. The film featured not only Batman but also Aliens and Predators from the popular 20th Century Fox film franchises, and generated considerable buzz. Another self-promo by Collora, a "trailer" for a "World's Finest" film and also featuring Superman, followed in 2004.
Since 1997 Warner Bros. has released a number of episodes of Batman: The Animated Series on video (both VHS and DVD), including a season one set of DVDs in 2004. One three-part episode involving a team-up with Superman ("World's Finest") is available on video as The Batman/Superman Movie. In addition to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a number of movies based on the animated series have been released direct-to-video: SubZero, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.
Several Batman video games were created:
- for various 8-bit and 16-bit platforms
- Batman for Sega Genesis, Atari Lynx, Commodore Amiga, Sinclair ZX Spectrum and other platforms. (In October 1989, the Amiga 500 was bundled with this game as part of the Batman Pack  , which was sold in the United Kingdom and was a phenomenal success.)
- Batman Returns for Nintendo Entertainment System
- Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker for the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation
- Batman Vengeance for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and the Xbox
- for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and the GameCube
- DC Comics - Batman
- The Bat Squad
- Batman: The Dark Knight
- Warner Bros.' Batman.com
- Batman: The Animated Series on toonzone.net