|First appearance||Detective Comics #27|
|Created by||Bob Kane|
|In story information|
|Alter ego||Bruce Wayne|
|Team affiliations||Batman Family|
|Notable aliases||Matches Malone|
Peak human physical condition
Martial arts master
Access to high tech equipment
Extensive monetary resources
Batman (originally referred to as the Bat-Man and still referred to at times as the Batman) is a fictional comic book superhero co-created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger (although only Kane receives official credit) and published by DC Comics. The character first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Batman's secret identity is Bruce Wayne, a wealthy industrialist, playboy, and philanthropist. Witnessing the murder of his parents as a child leads Wayne to train himself to physical and intellectual perfection and don a bat-themed costume in order to fight crime. Batman operates in the fictional Gotham City, assisted by various supporting characters including his sidekick Robin and his butler Alfred Pennyworth, and fights an assortment of villains influenced by the characters' roots in film and pulp magazines. Unlike most superheroes, he does not possess any superpowers; he makes use of intellect, detective skills, science and technology, wealth, physical prowess, and intimidation in his war on crime.
Batman became a popular character soon after his introduction, and eventually gained his own title, Batman. As the decades wore on, differing takes on the character emerged. The late 1960s Batman television series utilized a camp aesthetic associated with the character for years after the show ended. Various creators worked to return the character to his dark roots, culminating in the 1986 miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, by writer-artist Frank Miller. That show, together with the success of director Tim Burton's 1989 Batman motion picture helped reignite popular interest in the character.
In early 1938, the success of Superman in Action Comics prompted editors at the comic book division of National Publications (the future DC Comics) to request more superheroes for its titles. In response, Bob Kane created "the Bat-Man." Collaborator Bill Finger recalled Kane
…had an idea for a character called "Batman," and he'd like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane's, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of … reddish tights, I believe, with boots … no gloves, no gauntlets ... with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign … BATMAN.
Finger offered such suggestions as giving the character a cowl instead of a simple domino mask, a cape instead of wings, and gloves, and removing the red sections from the original costume. Finger said he devised the name Bruce Wayne for the character's secret identity: "Bruce Wayne's first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock … then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne." Various aspects of Batman's personality, character history, visual design, and equipment were inspired by contemporary popular culture of the 1930s, including movies, pulp magazines, comic strips, newspaper headlines, and even aspects of Kane himself. Kane noted especially the influence of the films The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Bat Whispers (1930) in the creation of the iconography associated with the character, while Finger drew inspiration from literary characters Doc Savage, The Shadow, and Sherlock Holmes in his depiction of Batman as a master sleuth and scientist.
Kane himself, in his 1989 autobiography, detailed Finger's contributions to Batman creation:
One day I called Bill and said, "I have a new character called the Bat-Man and I've made some crude, elementary sketches I'd like you to look at." He came over and I showed him the drawings. At the time, I only had a small domino mask, like the one Robin later wore, on Batman's face. Bill said, "Why not make him look more like a bat and put a hood on him, and take the eyeballs out and just put slits for eyes to make him look more mysterious?" At this point, the Bat-Man wore a red union suit; the wings, trunks, and mask were black. I thought that red and black would be a good combination. Bill said that the costume was too bright: "Color it dark gray to make it look more ominous." The cape looked like two stiff bat wings attached to his arms. As Bill and I talked, we realized that these wings would get cumbersome when Bat-Man was in action, and changed them into a cape, scalloped to look like bat wings when he was fighting or swinging down on a rope. Also, he didn't have any gloves on, and we added them so that he wouldn't leave fingerprints.
Kane signed away ownership of the character in exchange for, among other compensation, a mandatory byline on all Batman comics. This byline did not, originally, say "Batman created by Bob Kane;" his name was simply written on the title page of each story.
The first Batman story, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate," was published in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Finger said, "Batman was originally written in the style of the pulps," and this influence was evident with Batman showing little remorse over killing or maiming criminals and was not above using firearms. Batman proved a hit character, and he received his own solo title in 1940, while continuing to star in Detective Comics. By that time, National was the top-selling and most influential publisher in the industry; Batman and the company's other major hero, Superman, were the cornerstones of the company's success. The two characters were featured side-by-side as the stars of World's Finest Comics, which was originally titled World's Best Comics when it debuted in fall 1940. Creators including Jerry Robinson and Dick Sprang also worked on the strips during this period.
Over the course of the first few Batman strips elements were added to the character and the artistic depiction of Batman evolved. Kane noted that within six issues he drew the character's jawline more pronounced, and lengthened the ears on the costume. "About a year later he was almost the full figure, my mature Batman," Kane said. Batman's characteristic utility belt was introduced in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939), followed by the boomerang-like batarang and the first bat-themed vehicle in #31 (Sept. 1939).
The character's origin was revealed in #33 (Nov. 1939), unfolding in a two-page story that establishes the brooding persona of Batman, a character driven by the loss of his parents. Written by Finger, it depicts a young Bruce Wayne witnessing the death of his parents as part of a street robbery. Days later, at their grave, the child vows that "by the spirits of my parents [I will] avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals." The early, pulp-inflected portrayal of Batman started to soften in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) with the introduction of Robin, Batman's kid sidekick. Robin was introduced based on Finger's suggestion Batman needed a "Watson" with whom Batman could talk. Sales nearly doubled, despite Kane's preference for a solo Batman, and it sparked a proliferation of "kid sidekicks." The first issue of the solo spin-off series, Batman was notable not only for introducing two of his most persistent antagonists, the Joker and Catwoman, but for a story in which Batman shoots some monstrous giants to death. That story prompted editor Whitney Ellsworth to decree that the character could no longer kill or use a gun.
By 1942, the writers and artists behind the Batman comics had established most of the basic elements of the Batman mythos. In the years following World War II, DC Comics "adopted a postwar editorial direction that increasingly de-emphasized social commentary in favor of lighthearted juvenile fantasy." The impact of this editorial approach was evident in Batman comics of the postwar period; removed from the "bleak and menacing world" of the strips of the early 1940s, Batman was instead portrayed as a respectable citizen and paternal figure that inhabited a "bright and colorful" environment.
Batman was one of the few superhero characters to be continuously published as interest in the genre waned during the 1950s. In the story, "The Mightiest Team In the World" in Superman #76 (June 1952), Batman teams up with Superman for the first time and the pair discovers each other's secret identity. Following the success of this story, World's Finest Comics was revamped so it featured stories starring both heroes together, instead of the separate Batman and Superman features that had been running previously. The team-up of the characters was "a financial success in an era when those were few and far between;" this series of stories ran until the book's cancellation in 1986.
Batman comics were among those criticized when the comic book industry came under scrutiny with the publication of psychologist Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent, in 1954. Wertham's thesis was that children imitated crimes committed in comic books, and that these works corrupt the morals of the youth. Wertham criticized Batman comics for their supposed homosexual overtones and argued that Batman and Robin were portrayed as lovers. Wertham's criticisms raised a public outcry during the 1950s, eventually leading to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. The tendency towards a "sunnier Batman" in the postwar years intensified after the introduction of the Comics Code. It has also been suggested by scholars that the characters of Batwoman (in 1956) and Bat-Girl (in 1961) were introduced in part to refute the allegation that Batman and Robin were homosexual, and the stories took on a campier, lighter feel.
In the late 1950, Batman stories gradually become more science fiction-oriented, an attempt at mimicking the success of other DC characters that had dabbled in the genre. New characters such as Batwoman, Ace the Bat-Hound, and Bat-Mite were introduced. Batman has adventures involving either odd transformations or dealing with bizarre space aliens. In 1960, Batman debuted as a member of the Justice League of America in The Brave and the Bold #28 (February 1960) and went on to appear in several Justice League comic series starting later that same year.
"New Look" Batman and camp
By 1964, sales on Batman titles had fallen drastically; Bob Kane noted that as a result "[DC was] planning to kill Batman off altogether." Editor Julius Schwartz was soon assigned to the Batman titles and presided over drastic changes. Beginning with 1964's Detective Comics #327 (May 1964)—cover-billed as the "New Look"mdash;Schwartz introduced changes designed to make Batman more contemporary and return him to more detective-oriented stories, including a redesign of Batman's equipment, the Batmobile, and his costume (introducing the yellow ellipse behind the costume's bat-insignia). He brought in artist Carmine Infantino to help in this makeover. The space aliens and characters of the 1950s such as Batwoman, Ace, and Bat-Mite were retired. Batman's erstwhile butler Alfred was killed and replaced with Aunt Harriet, who came to live with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.
The debut of the Batman television series in 1966 had a profound influence on the character. The success of the series increased sales throughout the comic book industry, and Batman reached a circulation of close to 900,000 copies. Elements such as the character of Batgirl and the show's campy nature were introduced into the comics; the series also initiated the return of Alfred. Although both the comics and TV show were successful for a time, the camp approach eventually wore thin and the show was canceled in 1968. In the aftermath, the Batman comics themselves lost popularity once again. As Julius Schwartz noted, "When the television show was a success, I was asked to be campy, and of course when the show faded, so did the comic books."
Starting in 1969, writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams made a deliberate effort to distance Batman from the campy portrayal of the 1960s TV series and to return the character to his roots as a "grim avenger of the night." O'Neil said his idea was "simply to take it back to where it started. I went to the DC library and read some of the early stories. I tried to get a sense of what Kane and Finger were after." O'Neil and Adams first collaborated on the story "The Secret of the Waiting Graves" (Detective Comics #395, Jan. 1970). Few stories were true collaborations between O'Neil, Adams, Schwartz, and inker Dick Giordano, and in actuality these men were mixed and matched with various other creators during the 1970s; nevertheless the influence of their work was "tremendous." Giordano said, "We went back to a grimmer, darker Batman, and I think that's why these stories did so well … Even today we're still using Neal's Batman with the long flowing cape and the pointy ears." While the work of O'Neil and Adams was popular with fans, the acclaim did little to help declining sales; the same held true with a similarly acclaimed run by writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers in Detective Comics #471-476 (Aug. 1977-April 1978), which went on to influence the 1989 movie, Batman, and be adapted for the 1990s animated series. Nonetheless, circulation continued to drop through the 1970s and 1980s, hitting an all-time low in 1985.
The Dark Knight Returns and modern Batman (1986–present)
Frank Miller's 1986 limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which tells the story of a 50-year-old Batman coming out of retirement in a possible future, reinvigorated the character. The Dark Knight Returns was a financial success and has since become one of the medium's most noted touchstones. The series also sparked a major resurgence in the character's popularity. That year Dennis O'Neil took over as editor of the Batman titles and set the template for the portrayal of Batman following DC's status quo-altering miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths. O'Neil operated under the assumption that he was hired to revamp the character and as a result tried to instill a different tone in the books than had gone before. One outcome of this new approach was the "Year One" storyline in Batman #404-407 (Feb.-May 1987), where Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli redefined the character's origins. Writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland continued this dark trend with 1988's 48-page one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the Joker, attempting to drive Commissioner Gordon insane, cripples Gordon's daughter Barbara, and then kidnaps and tortures the commissioner, physically and psychologically.
The Batman comics garnered major attention in 1988, when DC Comics created a 900 number for readers to call to vote on whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, lived or died. Voters decided in favor of Jason's death by a narrow margin of 28 votes (see Batman: A Death in the Family). The following year drew more attention to the character, due to the release of the feature 1989 film Batman. In addition to the film's multimillion dollar gross and millions more generated in merchandizing, the first issue of Legends of the Dark Knight, the first new solo Batman title in nearly fifty years, sold close to a million copies. 1993's "Knightfall" arc introduces a new villain, Bane, who critically injures Batman. Jean-Paul Valley, known as Azrael, is called upon to wear the Batsuit during Bruce Wayne's convalescence. Writers Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant worked on the Batman titles during "Knightfall" and would also contribute to other Batman crossovers throughout the 1990s. 1998's "Cataclysm" storyline served as the precursor to 1999's "No Man's Land," a year-long storyline that ran through all the Batman-related titles dealing with the effects of an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City. At the conclusion of "No Man's Land" O'Neil stepped down as editor and was replaced by Bob Schreck. In 2003, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee began a 12-issue run on Batman. Lee's first regular comic book work in nearly a decade, the series became #1 on the Diamond Comic Distributors sales chart for the first time since Batman #500 (Oct. 1993). Lee then teamed with Frank Miller on All-Star Batman and Robin, which debuted with the best-selling issue in 2005, as well as the highest sales in the industry since 2003. Batman was featured in major roles in DC's 2005 company-wide crossover Identity Crisis and 2006's Infinite Crisis. Starting in 2006, the regular writers on Batman and Detective Comics were Grant Morrison and Paul Dini, respectively.
Fictional character history
Batman's history has undergone various revisions, both minor and major. Few elements of the character's history have remained constant. Scholars William Uricchio and Roberta E. Pearson noted in the early 1990s, "Unlike some fictional characters, the Batman has no primary urtext set in a specific period, but has rather existed in a plethora of equally valid texts constantly appearing over more than five decades."
The central fixed event in the Batman stories is the character's origin story. As a little boy, Bruce Wayne is shocked to see his parents, the physician Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, murdered by a mugger in front of his very eyes. This drives him to fight crime in Gotham City as Batman. In later years, June 26 becomes the established date (Batman Confidential #14) that the murder occurred, and the Batman annually visits the spot in Crime Alley where his parents died.
Pearson and Uricchio also noted beyond the origin story and such events as the introduction of Robin, "Until recently, the fixed and accruing and hence, canonized, events have been few in number," a situation altered by an increased effort by later Batman editors such as Dennis O'Neil to ensure consistency and continuity between stories.
In Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics #27, he is already operating as a crime fighter. Batman's origin is first presented in Detective Comics #33 in November 1939, and is later fleshed out in Batman #47. As these comics state, Bruce Wayne is born to Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, two very wealthy and charitable Gotham City socialites. Bruce is brought up in Wayne Manor and its wealthy splendor and leads a happy and privileged existence until the age of eight, when his parents are killed by a small-time criminal named Joe Chill on their way home from the movie theater. Bruce Wayne swears an oath to rid the city of the evil that had taken his parents' lives. He engages in intense intellectual and physical training; however, he realizes that these skills alone are not enough. "Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot," Wayne remarks, "so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible…" As if responding to his desires, a bat suddenly flies through the window, inspiring Bruce to assume the persona of Batman.
In early strips, Batman's career as a vigilante initially earns him the ire of the police. During this period Wayne has a fiancée named Julie Madison. Wayne takes in an orphaned circus acrobat, Dick Grayson, who becomes his sidekick, Robin. Batman also becomes a founding member of the Justice Society of America, although he, like Superman, is an honorary member and thus only participates occasionally. Batman's relationship with the law thaws quickly, and he is made an honorary member of Gotham City's police department. During this time, butler Alfred arrives at Wayne Manor and after deducing the Dynamic Duo's secret identities joins their service.
The Silver Age of comic books in DC Comics is sometimes held to have begun in 1956, when the publisher introduced Barry Allen as a new, updated version of The Flash. Batman is not significantly changed by the late 1950s for the continuity which would be later referred to as Earth-One. The lighter tone Batman had taken in the period between the Golden and Silver Ages led to the stories of the late 1950s and early 1960s that often feature a large number of science-fiction elements, and Batman is not significantly updated in the manner of other characters until Detective Comics #327 (May 1964), in which Batman reverts to his detective roots, with most science-fiction elements jettisoned from the series.
After the introduction of DC Comics' multiverse in the 1960s, it is retroactively established that stories from the Golden Age star the Earth-Two Batman, a character from a parallel world. This version of Batman partners with and marries the reformed Earth-Two Catwoman, Selina Kyle (as shown in Superman Family #211) and fathers Helena Wayne, who, as the Huntress, becomes (along with the Earth-Two Robin) Gotham's protector once Wayne retires from the position to become police commissioner, a position he occupies until he is killed during one final adventure as Batman. Batman titles however often ignored that a distinction had been made between the pre-revamp and post-revamp Batmen (since unlike The Flash or Green Lantern, Batman comics had been published without interruption through the 1950s) and would on occasion make reference to stories from the Golden Age. Nevertheless, details of Batman's history were altered or expanded upon through the decades. Additions include meetings with a future Superman during his youth, his upbringing by his uncle Philip Wayne (introduced in Batman #208, Jan./Feb. 1969) after his parents' death, and appearances of his father and himself as prototypical versions of Batman and Robin, respectively. In 1980, then-editor Paul Levitz commissioned the Untold Legend of the Batman limited series to thoroughly chronicle Batman's origin and history.
Batman meets and regularly works with other heroes during the Silver Age, most notably Superman, whom he began regularly working alongside in a series of team-ups in World's Finest Comics, starting in 1954 and continuing through the series' cancellation in 1986. Batman and Superman are usually depicted as close friends. Batman becomes a founding member of the Justice League of America, appearing in its first story in 1960s Brave and the Bold #28. In the 1970s and 1980s, Brave and the Bold became a Batman title, in which Batman teams up with a different DC Universe superhero each month.
In 1969, Dick Grayson attends college as part of DC Comics' effort to revise the Batman comics. Additionally, Batman also moves from Wayne Manor into a penthouse apartment atop the Wayne Foundation building in downtown Gotham City, in order to be closer to Gotham City's crime. Batman spends the 1970s and early 1980s mainly working solo, with occasional team-ups with Robin and/or Batgirl. Batman's adventures also become somewhat darker and more grim during this period, depicting increasingly violent crimes, including the first appearance (since the early Golden Age) of an insane, murderous Joker, and the arrival of Ra's Al Ghul. In the 1980s, Dick Grayson becomes Nightwing.
In the final issue of Brave and the Bold in 1983, Batman quits the Justice League and forms a new group called the Outsiders. He serves as the team's leader until Batman and the Outsiders #32 (1986) and the comic subsequently changed its title.
After the 12-issue limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics rebooted the histories of some major characters in an attempt at updating them for contemporary audiences. Frank Miller retold Batman's origin in the storyline Year One from Batman #404-407, which emphasizes a grittier tone in the character. Though the Earth-Two Batman is erased from history, many stories of Batman's Silver Age/Earth-One career (along with an amount of Golden Age ones) remain canonical in the post-Crisis universe, with his origins remaining the same in essence, despite alteration. For example, Gotham's police are mostly corrupt, setting up further need for Batman's existence. While Dick Grayson's past remains much the same, the history of Jason Todd, the second Robin, is altered, turning the boy into the orphan son of a petty crook, who tries to steal the tires from the Batmobile. Also removed is the guardian Phillip Wayne, leaving young Bruce to be raised by Alfred. Additionally, Batman is no longer a founding member of the Justice League of America, although he becomes leader for a short time of a new incarnation of the team launched in 1987. To help fill in the revised backstory for Batman following Crisis, DC launched a new Batman title called Legends of the Dark Knight in 1989, and has published various miniseries and one-shot stories since then that largely take place during the "Year One" period. Various stories from Jeph Loeb and Matt Wagner also touch upon this era. In 1988's "Batman: A Death in the Family" storyline from Batman #426-429 Jason Todd, the second Robin, is killed by the Joker. Subsequently Batman takes an even darker, often excessive approach to his crimefighting. Batman works solo until the decade's close, when Tim Drake becomes the new Robin. In 2005, writers resurrected the Jason Todd character and have pitted him against his former mentor.
Many of the major Batman storylines since the 1990s have been inter-title crossovers that run for a number of issues. In 1993, the same year that DC published the "Death of Superman" storyline, the publisher released the "Knightfall" storyline. In the storyline's first phase, the new villain Bane paralyzes Batman, leading Wayne to ask Azrael to take on the role. After the end of "Knightfall," the storylines split in two directions, following both the Azrael-Batman's adventures, and Bruce Wayne's quest to become Batman once more. The story arcs realign in "KnightsEnd," as Azrael becomes increasingly violent and is defeated by a healed Bruce Wayne. Wayne hands the Batman mantle to Dick Grayson (then Nightwing) for an interim period, while Wayne trains to return to his role as Batman.
1994's company-wide crossover Zero Hour changes aspects of DC continuity again, including those of Batman. Noteworthy among these changes is that the general populace and the criminal element now considers Batman an urban legend rather than a known force. Similarly, the Waynes' killer is never caught or identified, effectively removing Joe Chill from the new continuity, rendering stories such as "Year Two" non-canon.
Batman once again becomes a member of the Justice League during Grant Morrison's 1996 relaunch of the series, titled JLA. While Batman contributes greatly to many of the team's successes, the Justice League is largely uninvolved as Batman and Gotham City face catastrophe in the decade's closing crossover arc. In 1998's "Cataclysm" storyline, Gotham City is devastated by an earthquake. Deprived of many of his technological resources, Batman fights to reclaim the city from legions of gangs during 1999's "No Man's Land." While Lex Luthor rebuilds Gotham at the end of the "No Man's Land" storyline, he then frames Bruce Wayne for murder in the "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" and "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive" story arcs; Wayne is eventually acquitted.
DC's 2005 limited series, Identity Crisis, reveals that JLA member Zatanna had edited Batman's memories, leading to his deep loss of trust in the rest of the superhero community. Batman later creates the Brother I satellite surveillance system to watch over the other heroes. Its eventual co-opting by Maxwell Lord is one of the main events that leads to the Infinite Crisis miniseries, which again restructures DC continuity. In Infinite Crisis #7, Alexander Luthor, Jr. mentions that in the newly rewritten history of the "New Earth," created in the previous issue, the murderer of Martha and Thomas Wayne—again, Joe Chill—was captured, thus undoing the retcon created after Zero Hour. Batman and a team of superheroes destroy Brother Eye and the OMACs. Following Infinite Crisis, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Tim Drake retrace the steps Bruce had taken when he originally left Gotham City, to "rebuild Batman." In the "Face the Face" storyline, Batman and Robin return to Gotham City after their year-long absence. At the end of the story arc, Bruce adopts Tim as his son. The follow-up story arc in Batman, "Batman & Son," introduces Damian Wayne, who is Batman's son with Talia al Ghul. Batman, along with Superman and Wonder Woman, reforms the Justice League in the new Justice League of America series, and is leading the newest incarnation of the Outsiders.
Batman's primary character traits can be summarized as "wealth, physical prowess, deductive abilities, and obsession." The details and tone of Batman's characterization have varied over the years due to different interpretations. Dennis O'Neil noted that character consistency wasn't a major concern during earlier editorial regimes; he said, "Julie Schwartz did a Batman in Batman and Detective and Murray Boltinoff did a Batman in the Brave and the Bold and apart from the costume they bore very little resemblance to each other. Julie and Murray did not coordinate their efforts, did not pretend to, did not want to, were not asked to. Continuity was not important in those days."
A main component that defines Batman as a character is his origin story. Bob Kane said he and Bill Finger discussed the character's background and decided that "there's nothing more traumatic than having your parents murdered before your eyes." Batman is thus driven to fight crime in order to avenge the death of his parents. While details of Batman's origin have varied from version to version, the "reiteration of the basic origin events holds together otherwise divergent expressions" of the character. The origin is the source of many of the character's traits and attributes, which play out in many of the character's adventures.
Batman is often treated as a vigilante by other characters in his stories. Frank Miller views the character as "a dionysian figure, a force for anarchy that imposes an individual order." Dressed as a bat, Batman deliberately cultivates a frightening persona in order to aid him in crime fighting.
In his secret identity, Batman is Bruce Wayne, a billionaire businessman who lives in Gotham City. To the world at large, Bruce Wayne is often seen as an irresponsible, superficial playboy who lives off his family's personal fortune (amassed when Bruce's family invested in Gotham real estate before the city was a bustling metropolis) and the profits of Wayne Enterprises, a major private technology firm that he inherits. However, Wayne is also known for his contributions to charity, notably through his Wayne Foundation charity. Bruce creates the playboy public persona to aid in throwing off suspicion of his secret identity, often acting dim-witted and self-absorbed to further the act.
Writers of both Batman and Superman stories have often compared the two within the context of various stories, to varying conclusions. Like Superman, the prominent persona of Batman's dual identities varies with time. Modern-age comics have tended to portray "Bruce Wayne" as the facade, with "Batman" as the truer representation of his personality (in counterpoint to the post-Crisis Superman, whose "Clark Kent" persona is the "real" personality, and "Superman" is the "mask"). However, some stories have portrayed the division between the two as less clear-cut than that; when the alien race known as the Cathexis divided Batman, along with five other heroes, into their superhuman and civilian identities, the Batman identity grew increasingly withdrawn, unable to fight crime with the same strength as before. This was explained as being due to the fact that, while Batman was driven by the memories of his parents' deaths, the original memory belonged to Bruce, not Batman, leaving Wayne constantly angry at the world and unable to vent his frustrations.
Skills, abilities, and resources
Unlike many superheroes, Batman has no superpowers and instead relies on "his own scientific knowledge, detective skills, and athletic prowess." Batman is physically at the peak of human ability in dozens of areas, notably martial arts, acrobatics, strength, and escape artistry. Intellectually, he is just as peerless; Batman is one of the world's greatest scientists, engineers, criminologists, and tacticians, as well as a master of disguise, often gathering information under the identity of Matches Malone. He is regarded as one of the DC Universe's greatest detectives Rather than simply outfighting his opponents, Batman often uses cunning and planning to outwit them. In Grant Morrison's first storyline in JLA, Superman describes Batman as "the most dangerous man on Earth," able to defeat a team of superpowered aliens all by himself in order to rescue his imprisoned teammates.
Batman's costume incorporates the imagery of a bat in order to frighten criminals. The details of the Batman costume change repeatedly through various stories and media, but the most distinctive elements remain consistent: A scallop-hem cape, a cowl covering most of the face featuring a pair of bat-like ears, and a stylized bat emblem on the chest, plus the ever-present utility belt. The costumes' colors are traditionally thought of as blue and grey, although this colorization arose due to the way comic book art is colored. Batman was conceptualized by Bill Finger and Bob Kane as having a black cape and cowl and grey suit, but conventions in coloring call for black to be highlighted with blue. Batman has been presented as wearing a black cape and cowl, as seen in the Tim Burton Batman movie series, whilst the 1960s television showed Batman in blue and grey, as have prose adventures. This coloring has been claimed by Larry Ford, in Place, Power, Situation, and Spectacle: A Geography of Film, to be a reversion of conventional color-coding symbolism, which sees "bad guys" wearing dark colors. Batman's gloves typically feature three scallops that protrude from the sides. A yellow ellipse around the bat logo on the character's chest was added in 1964, and became the hero's trademark symbol, akin to the red and yellow "S" symbol of Superman. The overall look of the character, particularly the length of the cowl's ears and of the cape, varies greatly depending on the artist. Dennis O'Neil said, "We now say that Batman has two hundred suits hanging in the Batcave so they don't have to look the same … Everybody loves to draw Batman, and everybody wants to put their own spin on it."
Batman utilizes a large arsenal of specialized gadgets in his war against crime, the designs of which usually share a bat motif. Batman historian Les Daniels credits Gardner Fox with creating the concept of Batman's arsenal with the introduction of the utility belt in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939) and the first bat-themed weapons the batarang and the "Batgyro" in Detective Comics #31 and #32 (September; October, 1939). Batman's primary vehicle is the Batmobile, which is usually depicted as an imposing black car with large tailfins that suggest a bat's wings. Batman's other vehicles include the Batplane (aka the Batwing), Batboat, Bat-Sub, and Batcycle.
In proper practice, the "bat" prefix (as in batmobile or batarang) is rarely used by Batman himself when referring to his equipment, particularly after some portrayals (primarily the 1960s Batman live-action television show and the Super Friends animated series) stretched the practice to campy proportions. The 1960s television series Batman has an arsenal that includes such ridiculous, satirical "bat-" names as the bat-computer, bat-scanner, bat-radar, bat-cuffs, bat-pontoons, bat-drinking water dispenser, bat-camera with polarized bat-filter, bat-shark repellent bat-spray, and bat-rope. The storyline "A Death in the Family" suggests that given Batman's grim nature, he is unlikely to have adopted the "bat" prefix on his own.
Batman keeps most of his field equipment in a utility belt. Over the years it is shown to contain a virtually limitless variety of crimefighting tools. Different versions of the belt have these items stored in either pouches or hard cylinders attached evenly around it.
In some of his early appearances, Batman uses guns (see especially Detective Comics #32, September 1939). However, this soon changed. In Batman #1, Batman is depicted as using a gun, stating "Much as I hate to take human life, I'm afraid this time it's necessary." The editor of Batman at this time, Whitney Ellsworth, found this distasteful and decreed that Batman would no longer be shown using a gun or taking human life. Later Batman editor Julius Schwartz, unaware of this rule, inadvertently allowed Batman to use a gun. "The first story I did, I made two terrible mistakes. One was that the story took place during the day, and the second was that when Batman caught the villain, he pulled a gun on him." Some stories relax this rule, allowing Batman to arm his vehicles for the purpose of disabling other vehicles or removing inanimate obstacles. In two stories, The Dark Knight Returns and The Cult, Batman uses machine guns loaded with rubber bullets rather than live ammunition. In the 1989 Batman film, firearms figure more prominently in the Dark Knight's arsenal; machine guns and grenades are mounted on the Batmobile, and missiles and machine cannons on the Batwing.
When Batman is needed, the Gotham City police activate a searchlight with a bat-shaped insignia over the lens called the Bat-signal which shines into the night sky, creating a bat-symbol on a passing cloud which can be seen from any point in Gotham. The origin of the signal varies, depending on the continuity and medium. The origin of the signal varies between timeline and media. In the 1989 Batman film, Batman gave the signal to the police as a gift enabling them to call him when the city is in danger; in 2005's Batman Begins, then-detective James Gordon creates his own signal light, inspired by an incident when Batman strapped the defeated mobster Carmine Falcone to a large searchlight which created a roughly bat-like image from the light's beam. In the comic's post-Crisis continuity the signal was introduced after the Batman's first encounter against the Joker (not unlike the first movie) in Batman: The Man Who Laughs. On Batman: the Animated Series, it was introduced in the episode "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy." On The Batman (a newer animated series unrelated to the aforementioned one), Gordon invented it to summon Batman in "Night in the City" (somewhat similar to the 2005 film).
In various incarnations, most notably the 1960s Batman TV series, Commissioner Gordon also has a dedicated phone line, dubbed the Bat-Phone, connected to a bright red telephone (in the TV series) which sits on a wooden base and has a transparent cake cover on top. The line connects directly to Wayne Manor, specifically to a similar phone sitting on the desk in Bruce Wayne's study.
The Batcave is Batman's secret headquarters, consisting of a series of subterranean caves beneath his residence, Wayne Manor. It serves as his command center for both local and global surveillance, as well as housing his vehicles and equipment for his war on crime. It also is a storeroom for Batman's memorabilia. In both the comic Batman: Shadow of the Bat (issue #45) and the 2005 film Batman Begins, the cave is said to have been part of the Underground Railroad. Of the heroes and villains who see the Batcave, few know where it is located. The cave is also home to a large colony of bats which Batman can summon to a scene with a sonic device. Batman also has several little caches throughout the city, linked together through his computer, where he stores extra equipment.
Batman's interactions with the characters around him, both heroes and villains, help to define the character. Commissioner James "Jim" Gordon, Batman's ally in the Gotham City police, debuted along with Batman in Detective Comics #27 and has been a consistent presence since then. However, the most important supporting role in the Batman mythos is filled by the hero's young sidekick Robin. The first Robin, Dick Grayson, eventually leaves his mentor and becomes the hero Nightwing. The second Robin, Jason Todd, is beaten to death by the Joker but later returns as an adversary. Tim Drake, the third Robin, first appears in 1989 and has gone on to star in his own comic series. Alfred, Bruce Wayne's loyal butler, father figure, and one of the few to know his secret identity, "[lends] a homey touch to Batman's environs and [is] ever ready to provide a steadying and reassuring hand" to the hero and his sidekick.
Batman is at times a member of superhero teams such as the Justice League of America and the Outsiders. Batman has often been paired in adventure with his Justice League teammate Superman, notably as the co-stars of World's Finest and Superman/Batman series. In pre-Crisis continuity, the two are depicted as close friends; however, in current continuity, they have a mutually respectful but uneasy relationship, with an emphasis on their differing views on crimefighting and justice.
Batman is involved romantically with many women throughout his various incarnations. These range from society women such as Vicki Vale and Silver St. Cloud, to allies like Sasha Bordeaux, to even villainesses such as Catwoman and Talia al Ghul, the latter of whom he sired a son, Damien. While these relationships tend to be short, Batman's attraction to Catwoman is present in nearly every version and medium in which the characters appear. Authors have gone back and forth over the years as to how Batman manages the "playboy" aspect of Bruce Wayne's personality; at different times he embraces or flees from the women interested in attracting "Gotham's most eligible bachelor."
Other supporting characters in Batman's world include former Batgirl Barbara Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's daughter who, now confined to a wheelchair due to a gunshot wound inflicted by the Joker, serves the superhero community at large as the computer hacker Oracle; Azrael, a would-be assassin who replaces Bruce Wayne as Batman for a time; Cassandra Cain, an assassin's daughter who became the new Batgirl, Huntress, the sole surviving member of a mob family turned Gotham vigilante who has worked with Batman on occasion, Ace the Bat-Hound, Batman's pet dog; and Bat-Mite, an extra-dimensional imp who idolizes Batman.
Batman faces a variety of foes ranging from common criminals to outlandish supervillains. Many Batman villains mirror aspects of the hero's character and development, often having tragic origin stories that lead them to a life of crime. Batman's "most implacable foe" is the Joker, a clownlike criminal who as a "personification of the irrational" represents "everything Batman [opposes]." Other recurring antagonists include Catwoman, the Penguin, Two-Face, the Riddler, Scarecrow, Mister Freeze, Poison Ivy, Ra's Al Ghul, and Bane, among many others.
Batman has become a pop culture icon, recognized around the world. The character's presence has extended beyond his comic book origins; events such as the release of the 1989 Batman film and its accompanying merchandizing "brought the Batman to the forefront of public consciousness." In an article commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the character, The Guardian wrote, "Batman is a figure blurred by the endless reinvention that is modern mass culture. He is at once an icon and a commodity: the perfect cultural artefact for the 21st century." In addition, media outlets have often used the character in trivial and comprehensive surveys- Forbes Magazine estimated Bruce Wayne to be the 7th-richest fictional character with his $6.8 billion fortune while BusinessWeek listed the character as one of the ten most intelligent superheroes appearing in American comics.
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ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Aitken, Stuart C., and Leo E. Zonn (eds.). Place, Power, Situation and Spectacle. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1994. ISBN 978-0847678266
- Aichele, George, and Tina Pippin (eds.). The Monstrous and the Unspeakable: The Bible as Fantastic Literature. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997. ISBN 1850756929
- Beatty, Scott, et al. The Batman Handbook: The Ultimate Training Manual. Quirk Books, 2005. ISBN 1594740232
- Benton, Mike. The Comic Book in America: An Illustrated History. Dallas: Taylor, 1989. ISBN 0878336591
- Conray, Mike. 500 Great Comicbook Action Heroes. Collins & Brown, 2002. ISBN 1844110044
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- Daniels, Les. DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. Bulfinch, 1995. ISBN 0821220764
- Foley, Mick. The Hardcore Diaries. Pocket Books, 2007. ISBN 1416531572
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- Jones, Gerard. Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book. Basic Books, 1995. ISBN 0465036570
- Kane, Bob, and Tom Andrae. Batman and Me. Eclipse Books, 1990. ASIN B010TT9868
- O'Neil, Dennis. Batman: Knightfall. Bantam Books, 1994. ISBN 0553096737
- Pearson, Roberta E., and William Uricchio (eds.). The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. Routledge: London, 1991. ISBN 0851702767
- Schelly, Bill. Sense of Wonder: A Life in Comic Fandom: A Personal Memoir of Fandom's. TwoMorrows Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1893905128
- Steranko, Jim. The Steranko History of Comics 1. Reading, PA: Supergraphics, 1970. ISBN 0517501880
- Wright, Bradford W. Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America. Johns Hopkins, 2001. ISBN 0801874505
All links retrieved September 20, 2023.
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