Happy 80th Birthday to Batman. It’s insane that this character has been around for so long. Before we know it, the 100th anniversary will be around the corner. So much history has happened since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 to the character’s recent milestone Detective Comics #1000.
Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s (mostly Finger) creation has inspired multiple generations of fandom. DC’s most important heroes are easily Superman and Batman, but if you were to ask who is currently more valuable to the company, most would say Batman.
Superman will always be the undisputed symbol of comic book heroes, but Batman just might be the coolest. But why is that?
Batman is the first superhero I ever fell in love with. I remember being really young watching Batman: The Animated Series and thinking this is the coolest thing ever. Gotham was a city full of these colorful villains that Batman always managed to beat in his adventures. Since I was a kid, the definitive Batman voice I hear whenever I read a comic is Kevin Conroy’s. I also remember being in awe of the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher movies because it was honestly just so thrilling seeing Batman kick ass in live action.
Since then I’ve consumed countless hours of Batman media ranging from shows, comics, film, and video games. I’ve admittedly have not read enough comics, but I’ve read the essentials like Batman: Hush, The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, The Killing Joke, and other important stepping stones of the character’s history.
I am currently reading Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman which encapsulates the history of not only Batman but of Detective Comics as a whole. Detective Comics was built on the foundation of wanting to tell fantastical detective stories and when the world’s greatest detective was formally introduced in the 27th issue, DC couldn’t have found a more perfect character to headline arguably its most important line of comics. What surprises me most about this compilation of old Batman stories is just how well they hold up and the fact that these characters’ blueprints are still being used today.
At his core, Bruce Wayne is a man who avenges the death of his parents by fighting the crime that caused that. How does he do that? He dresses up as a bat, something he fears, so he can hopefully strike fear into his enemies. He may have a lot of money and resources, but he is still just a man who wants to make a difference who’ll forever be motivated and haunted by the murder of his parents.
I can go on about how awesome Batman is. He’s one of the best hand to hand fighters, possesses incredible intelligence, can investigate any crime scene, and of course, he possesses those awesome gadgets.
But what’s a hero without a villain?
Batman quite simply has one of the, if not the best rogues gallery ever. Batman’s notable villains are so colorful, wacky, and intriguing that a lot of times fans are more interested in them rather than the main hero. Nowadays when a new Batman film is in the works, everyone wants to know who’s going to be the villain? Batman’s villains are so distinctive to the point that their appearance can tell you what type of story is going to be told. A lot of praise needs to go to the writers who introduced these villains with such striking imagery and personality that rivals the main hero.
But Batman is not alone on his crusade. Batman’s supporting cast of characters are important in keeping him grounded.
Robin, the Boy Wonder, is a character that defines the perfect sidekick. After Dick Grayson witnesses his parent’s death, Bruce adopts him and sees a lot of himself in Dick. Dick introduces a caring fatherly side to Bruce that’s refreshing to see. Bruce can be a frustrating loner at times, but Robin makes sure he’s not alone. Every character Batman has taken under his wing has impacted his life in some shape or form. A lot of them have headlined their own stories as well and have grown to be prominent figures in the DC Universe.
Alfred Pennyworth, his butler and father figure is arguably Batman’s most important supporting character. He’s Bruce’s moral conscience and was the one who took care of him after that tragic night. Commissioner Jim Gordon is the honorable law official Batman can always count on to help him.
All of these elements put together have given creators a foundation to continuously build upon for the years to come, especially in Batman’s adaptations. It’s no secret that Batman is profitable, so of course, the character has appeared outside the comics a lot. Movies, cartoons, shows and video games have all successfully brought the caped crusader to life. In these mediums, Batman has been a trendsetter as well.
Tim Burton’s Batman set a lot of standards. Scott Mendelson for Salon wrote that Batman was the first time people cared about opening weekend box office, made the film villain cool again, showed the PG-13 rating was profitable, and showed that film merchandise can be ultra-successful. It’s also the reason Batman: The Animated Series exists.
Batman: The Animated Series is considered by many including myself to be one of the best shows of all time and its success kickstarted the DC Animated Universe that featured Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League: Unlimited.
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy showed how to properly introduce a hero in the 21st Century. Batman Begins was a dark mature reboot of the beloved character after the cheesy Schumacher films put the franchise on hiatus. Begins’ serious approach to the hero’s mythos inspired other beloved franchises to do the same with their properties. Even Marvel’s Kevin Feige called Begins “the greatest thing that happened because it bolstered everything”. The Dark Knight proved that superhero films can reach the levels of prestige entertainment and that fans of all type can enjoy a film starring a dude dressed up as a bat. Heath Ledger as Joker won a posthumous Academy Award for his masterful performance.
The Batman: Arkham series showed that superhero games are capable of telling powerful stories while simultaneously providing interesting gameplay mechanics. Batman: Arkham City was a landmark title with amazing open world elements that games are still inspired by today (*cough* Spider-Man PS4).
These adaptations are what made me fall in love with the character in the first place and its what’s motivated me to go directly to the source material. And that’s what I hope these adaptations continue to do.
So what does that Batman mean to me on his 80th anniversary? He’s an inspiring relatable hero with an amazing supporting cast of characters that are in the middle of these amazing stories that can push the boundaries of creativity. In the last 80 years so many people have put their own stamp on the character to the point where every fan can pick and choose whichever version of Batman they love, and can completely ignore the versions they don’t.
Check out Alex Batt’s articles for more exclusive MediaByte Batman content. He reviews Batman comics and has gotten noticed by notable writers. Follow his @BatmanFiles account, an extensive fan trivia account where his essential Batman reading guide demonstrates all the Batman material that any fan can pick up and enjoy.
🦇 Batman Reading Guide 🦇
My complete Batman reading guide broken down into 4 categories. Though there are a few comics absent, this covers pretty much everything and all the major events in his history.
— Battman 🦇 (@BatmanFiles) February 23, 2019