- For other uses see Batman (disambiguation)
Batman, more properly known as "The Batman," is a fictional character, a comic book superhero created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939; however, only Kane has received any official credit for the character. Batman first appeared in the title Detective Comics, and is currently the lead character of a number of comic books published by DC Comics. Batman and Superman are DC Comics' two most popular and recognizable characters.
The "DC" in DC Comics is taken from Detective Comics, the title in which Batman first appeared.
Overview and history
In most versions of the Batman mythos, Batman (also called the Batman, and originally The Bat-Man) is the alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, a millionaire 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 and disguise, among other relevant skills. He wears a bat-like costume to frighten his enemies, holding the opinion that criminals are a "superstitious lot". The details of the costume have changed with each new incarnation of the character, except for its most distinctive element: a dark cape and cowl with a pair of pointed ears. He also wears a stylized bat emblem on his chest.
To the world at large, Bruce Wayne appears as a 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 modelled after New York City. He operates from the "Batcave", a cavern located beneath Bruce Wayne's manor which contains his vehicles, crime lab, gym, computers and trophies.
An important part of the mythos is that Batman – unlike, for example, Superman – does not possess any superhuman abilities. He is a normal human who has elevated himself to near-superhuman status through discipline and training. He fights with martial arts, high-tech gadgets, custom designed vehicles, esoteric weapons, and (especially) brilliant detective skills and a well-trained mind. The equipment often shares a common design theme of being dark-colored (black or deep blue) and having some element of design to suggest a bat. A prime example of this is his car, the batmobile, often depicted as long, black-colored and having large tail fins to suggest a bat's wings; another is his chief throwing weapon, the batarang, which often looks like a bat. In proper practice, ideally, the "bat" prefix (as in batmobile or batarang) is never 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 Superfriends series) where his arsenal included everything – including a bat-computer, bat-rope, bat-scanner, bat-radar, bat-handcuffs, even a bat-phone – down to his trademark line "To the Batmobile!" He keeps most of his personal field equipment in a signature piece of apparel, a yellow utility belt. It typically contains items such as smoke bombs, batarangs, a fingerprint kit, a cutting tool, explosives, a grappling hook gun, a breathing device, etc. As a rule, Batman has an aversion to carrying a sidearm (being the method of his parents' murder), though some stories forgo this plot element; and other stories have him make an exception to this rule by arming his vehicles (although their use is usually only to disable vehicles or remove inanimate obstacles). He is also typically portrayed as a brilliant tactician and detective, but typically flawed with a humorless personality obsessed with seeking justice.
Nicknames for the Batman include The Dark Knight, The Caped Crusader, and The World's Greatest Detective. This last phrase comes from the fact that in addition to his James Bond-styled arsenal of gadgets and weapons, Batman is also a brilliant detective, criminal scientist, tactician, and commander. His best stories have almost without exception been ones where he has displayed intelligence, cunning, and planning to outwit his foes, even more so 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 him 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".
Alfred Pennyworth, as seen in Justice League
Bruce Wayne has a butler, Alfred Pennyworth, who knows his secret identity. Alfred typically holds down the fort at the Batcave, and does not accompany Batman on his cases. However, he is often in radio contact in order to feed information or carry out instructions. His skill in first aid has proven invaluable on numerous occasions when his master or his companions are injured.
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.
James ("Jim") Gordon, the police commissioner of Gotham City, often provides Batman with information to help him solve cases; in return, Batman helps deliver criminals to the police. The main way of summoning Batman for a meeting is with a large searchlight, featuring a bat symbol on the glass, which creates a bright beacon called the Batsignal. In most versions of the mythos, Gordon is ignorant of Batman's identity. In the current DC Universe, James Gordon has retired and been replaced by Michael Atkins. Some writers have a more tenuous relationship between Gordon and Batman.
In 1940, a year after his debut, the original Batman comic book introduced "Robin, the Boy Wonder", a teenage sidekick. Robin is the alter ego of Dick Grayson, an orphan who was Bruce Wayne's ward. In the current comic book continuity, Grayson grew up and switched to the identity of "Nightwing", continuing as an assistant to Batman. Nightwing also is leader of a 'superhero' group known as The Teen Titans (similar to the Justice League of America, of which Batman was a member).
In late 1989, DC Comics polled Batman readers regarding whether or not to kill off the second Robin, Jason Todd. They voted "yes" by a small margin, and Todd was subsequently murdered by the Joker in the Death in the Family storyline.
In 1991, Batman took in Timothy Drake as the third (and current) Robin.
In the 1960s, the original Batgirl was introduced: Barbara Gordon, the niece of James Gordon. She continued in the role until the late 1980s, when an attack by the Joker left her paraplegic. She later reinvented herself as Oracle -- a research assistant for superheroes.
In 1999, a second Batgirl was introduced: Cassandra Cain, the daughter of the assassin Cain.
Batman's adversaries form one of the most distinctive rogue's galleries in comics, including supervillains such as:
- The Joker: a homicidal maniac with a clownlike appearance who takes comedic delight in violent crime and challenging Batman.
- The Penguin: 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.
- Catwoman: a female criminal who operates with a cat theme and costume and has a love/hate relationship with Batman.
- Two-Face: formerly District Attorney Harvey Dent, 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: a professional criminal who has a strange compulsion to challenge his opponents by presenting clues to his crimes in the form of riddles and puzzles.
- Mr. Freeze: a criminal scientist who is a master of cryonics and related technologies, but who cannot physically tolerate temperatures above freezing and so wears a special self-contained refrigeration suit and uses similar technology for weapons and other devices of his own design.
- Ras Al Ghul: ("Demon's Head" in Arabic), a centuries-old would-be world conqueror who knows Batman's secret identity; Ras Al Ghul desires for Batman to marry his daughter Talia Head and become his successor.
- The Scarecrow: A renegade scientist specializing in the nature of fear, who employs special equipment and techniques designed to use it to his advantage.
- Poison Ivy: A female criminal who employs plants of all varieties and their derivatives in her crimes.
- 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.
- Bane: A venom-enhanced criminal who wants nothing more than to destroy Batman and rule Gotham City.
- 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.
However, some versions of the Batman mythos pit him against more ordinary enemies, such as mobsters.
Batman in Popular Culture
Since his introduction, Batman has been 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 has always been an unusually (though not uniquely) grim superhero, particularly for a Golden Age character. He is driven by vengeance, and wears a frightening costume; 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), 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, travelled into outer space regularly, and Batman even acquired a crime-fighting Batdog mascot and an annoying extra-dimensional imp named "Batmite," who had powers similar to Superman's own Mr. Mxyzptlk.
In 1953, the book Seduction of the Innocent by psychologist Frederic Wertham was published. Wertham used Batman and Robin to attack the comic book medium. He insinuated that Batman and Robin had a pedophilic relationship, and asserted that the bare legs in Robin's costume encouraged homosexuality. He succeeded in raising a public outcry, eventually leading to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. Nowadays, most comic book readers regard these accusations as utterly baseless.
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 R'as Al Ghul storyline, written by Dennis O'Neill; and a brief eight-issue series 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. In Dark Knight, Gordon is seventy and forced into mandatory retirement from his post as police commissioner. These stories gave Gordon's character a depth he had seldom achieved before. Dark Knight 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 that he was still known for; 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.
Batman in other media
There was a 1960s Batman television series broadcast by ABC, with Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. The series debuted on January 12, 1966 and was marked for its high camp, and continues to be the version many associate with the Batman character despite it perhaps being least representative of the many versions. Despite the abhorrence of the TV series by Batman's fans of the 1970s through the present day, the live-action TV show was extraordinarily popular; at the height of its popularity, it was the only prime-time TV show broadcast twice in one 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. These cartoons include:
- 1960s - Batman/Superman Adventure Hour by Filmation
- 1970s - Super Friends by Hanna-Barbera Productions
- 1970s - Batman and Robin by Filmation
- 1980s - Super Powers: Galactic Guardians by Hanna-Barbera
- 1990s - Batman: The Animated Series by Warner Bros.
- 2000s - Batman Beyond by Warner Bros.
- 2000s - Justice League animated series by Warner Bros.
- 2000s - Bring on the Batman (premiering this fall on Kids WB)
A number of Batman movies have also been made:
- Two serials in the 1940s: The Batman (1943) and Batman and Robin (1948)
- Batman (1966 movie)
- Batman (1989 movie)
- Batman Returns (1992)
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993 feature length spinoff of Batman: The Animated Series)
- Batman Forever (aka Forever) (1995)
- Batman and Robin (1997 movie)
- Batman Begins (planned by DC for 2005)
Several low-budget, "unofficial" 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 promo film titled "Batman: Dead End" generated some considerable buzz.
In addition, since 1997 Warner Bros. has released a number of episodes of Batman: The Animated Series on video (both VHS and DVD). One three-part episode involving a team-up with Superman 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: The Mystery of the Batwoman.