Batman : Capes, Cowls and Bat-Nipples
In May 2014, Batman completed 75 years in comic book history. For any pop culture icon, 75 years is an extraordinarily long time. For a character to remain relevant enough today to have an extraordinarily successful trilogy, and even a TV show currently on air, is unheard of. So let’s delve into the history of the most famous character in history to have a sidekick named Dick.
Batman – The Beginning
The idea of Batman came about in 1939 after the success of Superman and his red tights, and artist Bob Kane came up with ‘the Bat-man’. Kane claimed that he took inspiration from sources as widespread as the masked vigilante Zorro, Leonardo da Vinci’s diagram of the ornithopter, and the 1930 film The Bat Whispers.
According to writer Bill Finger, “Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Bruce, 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.” I can see his point. I might not support a superhero named Bruce Hancock. And again, he has a sidekick named Dick. But we’re all sophisticated people so we won’t make jokes about that.
Batman’s first appearance ever was in Detective Comics #27 “The Case of the Criminal Syndicate” in May 1939, and his origin story was explained in #33, which came out in November 1939. Robin, Batman’s trusted sidekick and occasionally creepy partner, made his debut in Detective Comics #38 in 1940.
Bat-Progression and Bat-Movies
Batman’s progression through the 1940s and 50s was erratic and inconsistent, with the character going through various phases, including a prolonged science fiction-influenced phase, till writer Frank Miller revitalized the comic series in the 80s.
Oh and while on the subject of nipples (I know we weren’t on the subject, but we are now), there have also been various movies and TV shows made on everybody’s favorite brooding bat in a gimp suit. While Adam West was the first one to play Batman on the television screen (along with a Jar Jar Binks-level annoying Burt Ward as Robin), the 1989 live-action movie Batman, directed by Tim Burton with Michael Keaton as Batman was a huge hit. Keaton followed this success by acting in a bunch of movies that nobody ever saw, and Tim Burton followed it by making the same movie over and over.
It was all going well, the series was being successful, Batman was being Batman-y, and then Joel Schumacher came along and ruined the party for everyone. His Batman movies weren’t just bad. They were so bad that Warner Bros. cancelled any upcoming Batman movies. Oh, and he put nipples on the Batsuit. Apparently it gets cold in there.
The 1992 Batman: The Animated Series did well to restore the series’ reputation with its darker tone, before Christopher Nolan brought a more realistic Batman into our lives with Batman Begins in 2005, with Christian Bale playing the titular character. The rest is history. Then The Dark Knight happened, The Joker once again became terrifying, and life was good again. The Dark Knight Rises was okay too, sure, if you insist.
I Am Vengeance. I Am The Knight. I Am…
Batman. Say those lines to yourself in the mirror a couple of times and you’ll grow a beard instantaneously. Even if you’re a woman. It behooves us to also talk a little bit about Batman, the character (I lost a bet, now I have to use the word ‘behoove’).
Born to wealthy parents in fictional Gotham City, young Bruce Wayne goes to see an opera with his parents, only for a random mugger to come and shoot them in a dark alleyway. Bruce does the only logical thing a boy can do. He starts a gothic thrash metal band He travels the world to learn the secrets of criminals and trains to become a masked vigilante. His cape and cowl protect his identity, and his butler Alfred listens to his nonsense and cleans the sweat and bat-poop off his cape. But no story is complete without a good villain, and Batman has the best villain of all – The Joker. I’m going to end this article with this picture.