Batman: Fighting Crime At 80 In Tights And Still Looking Good!
For 80 years, the Dark Knight has been watching over the streets of Gotham City and protecting its citizens. Even though he has upgraded his tights to a more versatile carbon fiber he is still striking fear into evil-doers. To celebrate cities around the world lit up the sky with the Bat Signal.
But how did millionaire Bruce Wayne become Batman?
Bob Kane (born as Robert Kahn… we all need secret idenities), had an idea for a character known as Batman. For those who have studied character development, you know the first draft of a character always needs to be polished. Collaborator and writer Bill Finger recalled, “ 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”.
Batman debuted in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) and was an immediate success and Kane was asked to produce more stories.
At the time comics only gave credit to one person and as we all know Kane was that person. It really wasn’t until 1989, that Bob Kane acknowledged the contributions of Finger in his autobiography and it wasn’t until 2015 that Finger was truly given recognition as a cocreator.
I think we all can thank Bob and Bill for creating this iconic crime fighter.
The Bat Family…
When we look at DC Comics, Batman is has produced more supporting characters than any of their other titles. Many of these characters have had their own titles as well. From Alfred to Robin to Commissioner Gordon to Batgirl to Batwoman, the Bat Family has really grown over the years.
Taking on a sidekick, probably was quite interesting at the time for fans. Robin was conceived to attract younger fans to comics. In April 1940, Robin debuted in Detective Comics #38. We all know several people have taken on the mantle of Robin, but Dick Grayson was the first. Like Bruce Wayne, Dick witnessed the death of his parents. This led to Bruce taking in the orphan and training him to become Robin. Dick would go on to become a founding member of the Teen Titans and later rebrand himself as Nightwing.
Villains have plagued the streets of Gotham for years and it does not look like the bad guys are ever going to give up. Batman comics has produced some of the most iconic villains of all time… the Joker, Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Bane, Harley Quinn, Ra’s al Ghul, Two-Face and many more.
The ultimate villain would have to be the Joker. This character has played an integral role in DC Comics. Constantly pushing Batman towards the edge, the Joker’s main goal is to cause chaos. It was the Joker who beat Jason Todd (aka the Robin that no one wanted) to a pulp only to blow him up. And if that is not bad enough shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordan (the first Batgirl).
What would Gotham be without its villains?
Enter The Dark Knight…
I think when writing about Batman, one has to take a moment and mention Frank Miller. In 1986, DC Comic’s published Miller’s 4 part miniseries entitled Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. This darker and grittier version of Batman would take us deeper into the psyche of the Caped Crusader. Later, Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli would collaborate on Batman: Year One, which revamped the origins of Batman to fit the story arch of The Dark Knight Returns. Miller’s work would go on to inspire Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films.
Comics, TV, Cartoons, Films, Games…
Naturally, Hollywood would take interest in Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. Columbia Pictures was first to bring Batman to the silver screen as a 15 part serial starring Lewis Wilson. In 1949, Columbia Pictures went on to release another serial entitled Batman and Robin.
In 1966, Adam West and Burt Ward would take on the roles of the Dynamic Duo and bring them to television. ABC aired 120 episodes of this campy version of Batman. After the third season, the ratings dropped and ABC canceled the show. NBC had agreed to take over the show. However, after finding out that several the sets had already been destroyed, the opted to drop the project.
Batman has appeared in several cartoons over the years and has even teamed with Scooby-Doo. There have been so many animated versions of Batman that is hard to list them all. The New Adventures of Batman and Super Friends were two of the earlier adaptations. In fact, The New Adventures of Batman did feature the voices of West and Ward.
When you compare this to the opening of Batman The Animated Series, you see quite a change in the portrayal of Batman.
Over the years, we have seen several incarnations of Batman in cinemas worldwide. Everyone has their favorite. The list includes: Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck and it looks like soon Robert Pattinson will be the next to play Batsy.
We have seen other shows such a Gotham and films such as Suicide Squad continue the stories of some of our favorite characters. Harley Quinn’s cartoon is set to debut soon and we are expecting the trailer for Birds of Prey to give us more of Margot Robbie.
DC’s streaming service launched Titans, which features not only Dick Grayson but also Robin. For those living in Europe, Netflix picked up the first season of Titans to stream in countries such as Germany. Smart move by Netflix since DC’s Streaming service is not available there.
It was only natural for Batman to find his way into video games. One of the first video games was released in 1986 by Amstrad CPC in Europe. Of course, now we have much darker versions as seen in the Batman: Arkham series. With Batman being a popular character, I would expect there will be even more titles for gamers to play.
Merchandise and Collectibles…
What fan does not love memorabilia, merchandise, limited edition fan articles? Early on Batman proved to be marketing gold.
One of the early figures was produced by Mego in 1972. The company actually took the bodies from their Action Jackson series, replaced their heads, changed their clothes and redesigned the packaging. Now one can get highly detailed action figures through DC Collectibles (formerly DC Direct).
Two of the world’s most impressive Batman collections belong to Kevin Silva (Indianapolis, IN) and Brad Ladner (Roswell, GA). Kevin’s collection was acquired by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Neither will share that amount that was paid for the collection, however… Kevin once said his collection was worth 6 figures according to his insurance.
Ladner is the current Guinness World’s record holder with over 8k+ pieces in his collection. With Funko producing more and more Batman Funko Pops, I can imagine Ladner’s collection will continue to grow.
Batman Day takes always takes place on September 21st and this year marked a celebration of ‘super’ proportions.
Cities around the world lit up the skies with the Bat Signal from NYC to Berlin to Tokyo! Lighting up Bat Signal seems like the perfect way for fans to gather for a celebration.
In LA, hosted a 5k Batman Run. At the finish line participants were able to experience a celebration that even Bruce Wayne would approve of. Those who ran the race received a DC Batman Run Medal, which I am sure many collectors will want to get their hands on…. they might have to enlist Catwoman to swipe a one!
In New York City, fans were treated to signings and readings.
Baseball fans love bobbleheads, so the San Francisco Giants decided to give away Giants theme Batman bobbleheads away at their game on September 28th.
As a creative, I have to say looking back at 80 years of the Bat, I am blown away. It is really hard to believe that a sketch of a guy wearing a cape could become a major hit (ok we have Superman and other heroes). But, my guess is that Kane and Finger had no idea how big Batman would become! Bruce Wayne will forever be part of American pop culture.
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