The Story Of Batman

Batman history is one of the most unique story ever created. Here is his story from his origin through today.

In 1938 DC Comics was profiting excitedly from its new phenomenon: Superman. DC publisher Vin Sullivan would tell anyone and everyone that he wanted to have another superhero for the Detective Comics series. Bob Kane was one of those who heard Sullivan's talk. Late one night in 1939, Kane set to work and by morning he had created one of the most popular characters in American history: Batman.

Batman is interesting because he is such a combination of people and things. The drawings of Da Vinci, the persona of Zorro, the style of 1930's horror films and the movie "˜The Bat' all consciously influenced the look and feel of Kane's creation. There are also underpinnings of The Shadow and Sherlock Holmes in his actions. Kane took his drawings to Bill Finger (often uncredited but a major force in Batman's creation) and together they worked out some stories which Sullivan immediately jumped at. In May 1939 Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 and was an immediate hit. The early Batman was a dark, moody creature (and for several issues he even carried a gun).

In Detective Comics 33 (November 1939) his origin was fully fleshed out. The story of a boy who saw his parents murdered and then set out to "˜avenge' them took hold of comic book readers and Batman's popularity soared higher. In spring of 1940 he became the star of a second comic title: Batman. That spring also added an important piece of the Batman legend: Detective Comics 38 gave us the first appearance of Robin. Robin was an immediate boost to the title, lightening up the series while giving it added weight among the younger readers.

One of the most popular and important pieces of the Batman myth are the villains. Batman may have more recognizable villains than any other superhero. That first issue of Batman presented the first appearances of two of the most popular: The Joker and The Cat (who over time would become Catwoman). In 1941 a "˜cartooney' version of the Penguin appeared and in 1942 Two-Face (inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) stole onto the scene.

By the early 1940's Batman's popularity was in full swing and the Batmobile, Batsignal and Batplane were all firmly in place. He also became the star of his own newspaper strip and in 1943 jumped onto the silver screen in the 15-part serial "˜Batman'. It was here where Alfred the Butler first appeared. Soon he would make the transition into a comic book regular. Another comic book regular was Vicki Vale who appeared first in 1948. Vicki was Bruce Wayne's steady girlfriend up through 1963.

Batman did appear on radio during the late forties but it was only as a guest star on Superman's program. It would be the first time that the two heroes worked together (They first appeared in the comics in Superman 76 (1952)).

The 1950's saw a slight decline in Batman's popularity (many comics took a slight downturn) and believability with the introduction of many science fiction and "˜gimmick' storylines (an idea taken from the Superman series). Among these were the introductions of Batwoman, Batgirl, Ace the Bat-Hound and Bat-Mite.

In the 1960's Batman roared back, carrying the comic book world with him. On January 12, 1966 "˜Batman' appeared on ABC. Starring Adam West as Batman, the show opened on a Wednesday and ended the half-hour with a "˜cliff-hanger'. The very next night, the action resumed. The Pop Art influence, campiness, cliffhangers and guest star villains all made the show an immediate smash success. Comic book sales boomed as the show ran for 26 months before fading out as fast as it had started in 1968.

Comic book sales declined also and Batman relaxed into a period of "˜non-excitement'. He continued his capers in the comics and on television as a member of the animated "˜Superfriends' in the 1970's. But his work in the 70's was pretty status quo (his appearance with Robin on "˜Scooby Doo' is seen by many as a testament to this "˜blandness').

1986 was a pivotal year in the saga. First, Frank Miller created the limited series "˜The Dark Knight Returns'. Set in the future, it told the story of an older Bruce Wayne and a Batman who had become a "˜God of Vengeance'. It was a much-needed link from Batman's beginnings to his future.

Later that year, Batman and Robin took part in a 4-issue story in which they fought the Joker. In the midst of their battles, the Joker exploded a bomb that left Robin lying in Batman's arms. The next page contained a 900 number which allowed readers to choose whether Robin lived or died. In the next issue we learn of Robin's death. The audacity of the gimmick and the death of a major character pushed Batman back into the spotlight, a light that would grow even brighter with the 1989 movie "˜Batman' (directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton). The film proved to be immensely popular and turned out to be the first of four live action Batman movies. The Nineties also saw the rebirth of Batman on television. In 1992 "˜Batman: The Animated Series' debuted on Fox. Like the previous Batman incarnations on TV, it was immediately recognizable thanks to its design. This time though the look was very stylized, very moody, evoking the work of Bob Kane on the early Batman comics as well as the Fleischer Superman cartoons. The series featured all of the old villains, plus a few new favorites. In 1993 one of these appeared with Batman on the big screen in "˜Batman: Mask of the Phantasm'.

Batman has continued to grow and expand, there are theme-park rides named after him, new movies being planned and ever involving comic book stories. What direction will Batman take next? It's a question that even the World's Greatest Detective may not be able to answer, we are sure though it will be thrilling.

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