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Batman

This article is about the comic book hero. For alternate meanings, see: Batman (city), Batman River, Batman (army)


Batman is a fictional character, a comic book superhero created by Bob Kane[?] and Bill Finger in 1939. He first appeared in the title Detective Comics[?], and is currently the lead character of a number of comic books published by DC Comics. Batman and Superman are DC Comics' two most popular and recognizable characters.

In most versions of the Batman mythos[?], Batman (also called the Batman) is the alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, a millionaire playboy industrialist. Bruce Wayne was driven to fight crime after his parents were murdered by a mugger named Joe Chill when he was a child. He wears a bat-like costume to frighten his enemies, holding the opinion that criminals are a "superstitious lot." The details of the costume have changed with each new incarnation of the character, except for its most distinctive element: a dark cape and cowl with a pair of pointed ears. He also wears a stylized bat emblem on his chest.

Batman operates in Gotham City, a fictional city modelled after New York City. He operates from the "Batcave", a cavern located beneath Bruce Wayne's manor which contains his vehicles, crime lab, gym, computers and trophies.

Unlike most superheroes, Batman does not possess any superhuman abilities. Instead, he fights with martial arts, high-tech gadgets, custom designed vehicles, esoteric weapons, and (especially) brilliant detective skills and a well-trained mind. The equipment often shares a common design theme of being dark coloured as in black or deep blue and have some element of design to suggest a bat. Examples of this include his car, The batmobile, which often depicted as long, black coloured and having large tail fins to suggest batwings and his chief throwing weapon, the batarang often looks like a bat. He keeps most of his personal field equipment in a signature piece of apparel, a yellow utility belt. It typically contains items such as smoke bombs, batarangs, fingerprint kit, a cutting tool, explosives, a grappling hook gun, breathing device etc. As a rule, Batman has an aversion to carrying a sidearm (being the method of his parents' execution), though some stories forgo this plot element and while other stories have him make an exception to this rule by arming his vehicles (although their use is usually only to disable vehicles or remove obstacles). He is also typically portrayed as a brilliant tactician and detective, but typically flawed with a humourless personality obsessed with seeking justice.

Nicknames for the Batman include The Dark Knight, The Caped Crusader, and The World's Greatest Detective. This last phrase comes from the fact that in addition to his James Bond-styled arsenal of gadgets and weapons, Batman is also a brilliant detective, criminal scientist, tactician, and commandr. His best stories have almost without exception been ones where he has displayed intelligence, cunning, and planning to outwit his foes, even more so than merely out-fighting them. His deductive skills put him on par with Sherlock Holmes, and in several stories he has even met the "Great Detective" himself, proving him to be a worthy successor to Holmes. Batman is the mastermind behind the Justice League of America, offering brains and tactical skills to guide the raw power of the other members of the team. He has also been briefly affiliated with other superhero teams, including a short-lived team he founded in the 1980s called "The Outsiders."

Batman uses his keen intelligence to maintain his secret identity of "mind mannered" Bruce Wayne. He guards his secret so well that his true identity is known only to a handful of individuals, including Superman.

Supporting Characters

Bruce Wayne has a butler, Alfred Pennyworth, who knows his secret identity. Alfred typically holds the fort at the Batcave, and does not accompany Batman on his cases. However, he is often in radio contact in order to feed information or carry out instructions. His skill in first aid has proven invaluable on numerous occasions when his master or his companions are injured.

James ("Jim") Gordon, the police commissioner of Gotham City often provides Batman with information to help him solve cases; in return, Batman helps deliver criminals to the police. The main way of summoning Batman for a meeting is with a large searchlight with a bat symbol on the glass which creates a bright beacon called the Batsignal. In most versions of the mythos, Gordon is ignorant of Batman's identity. In the current DC Universe, James Gordon has retired, and been replaced by Atkins. Some writers have a more tenuous relationship between Gordon and Batman.

The original Batman comic book introduced "Robin, the Boy Wonder", a teenage sidekick. Robin's real name was Dick Grayson, an orphan who was Bruce Wayne's ward. In the current comic book continuity, Grayson grew up and switched to the identity of "Nightwing[?]", continuing as an assistant to Batman. Nightwing also is leader of a 'superhero' group known as The Teen Titans[?] (similar to the Justice League of America, which Batman was a part of).

In late 1989, DC Comics polled Batman readers on whether or not to kill off the second Robin, Jason Todd. They voted "yes" by a small margin, and Todd was subsequently murdered by the Joker in the Death in the Family storyline.

In 1991, Batman took in Timothy Drake as the third (and current) Robin.

In the 1960s, the original Batgirl was introduced: Barbara Gordon, the niece of James Gordon. She was paralysed by The Joker, and eventually became Oracle -- a research assistant for superheros.

In 1999, a second Batgirl was introduced: Cassandra Cain, the daughter of the assassin Cain.

Batman has one of the most distinctive rogues' galleries in comics, including supervillains such as:

  • The Joker: a homicidal maniac with a clownlike appearance who takes comedic delight in violent crime and challenging Batman
  • The Penguin: a short rotound man with a long pointed nose who fancies himself a gentleman of crime usually wearing a tuxedo, top hat, monocle and carries any variety of umbrellas that have various hidden functions like vehicles or weapons
  • Catwoman[?]: a female criminal who operates with a cat theme and costume and has a love/hate relationship with Batman
  • Two-Face: formerly District Attorney Harvey Dent until his latent case of Multiple personality disorder took fully hold when half his face was horrifically scarred and he became obsessed with committing crimes themed around duality and opposites with all major decisions being determined by a two-headed coin.
  • The Riddler: a professional criminal who has a strange compulsion to challenge his opponents by presenting clues to his crimes in the forms of riddles and puzzles.
  • Mr. Freeze: a criminal scientist who is a master of cryonics and related technologies who cannot physicially tolerate temperatures above freezing and so wears a special self contained refrigeration suit and uses similar technolgy for weapons and other devices of his own design.
  • Ras A Ghul: ("Demon's Head" in Arabic), a would be world conqueror who knows Batman secret identity and desires to have him made his successor.
  • The Scarecrow: A renegade scientist specializing in the nature of fear, who employs special equipment and techniques designed to use it to his advantage.

However, some versions of the Batman mythos pit him against more ordinary enemies, such as mobsters.

Batman in Popular Culture

Since his introduction, Batman has been one of the most famous comic book characters, and is known even to people who do not read the comics. In addition to DC's comic books, he has appeared in movies, TV shows, and novels.

Batman has always been an unusually (though not uniquely) grim superhero, particularly for a Golden Age[?] character. He is driven by vengeance, and wears a frightening costume; the contrast to characters like Superman is stark. The grimness is not a constant; in some incarnations of the character (notably the television series of the 1960s), it evaporates into camp and even comedy. In fact, during the 1950s (when the popularity of superhero comics had declined considerably), Batman and Robin engaged in a number of science fiction adventures that resembled the comic book stories of Superman of the time. They had a number of time travel adventures, travelled into outer space regularly, and Batman even acquired a crime-fighting Batdog mascot and an annoying extra-dimensional imp named "Batmite," who had powers similar to Superman's own Mr. Mxyzptlk.

In 1953, the book Seduction of the Innocent[?] by psychologist Frederic Wertham was published. Wertham used Batman and Robin to attack the comic book medium. He insinuated that Batman and Robin had a pedophilic relationship, and asserted that the bare legs in Robin's costume encouraged homosexuality. He succeeded in raising a public outcry, eventually leading to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. Nowadays, most comic book readers regard these accusations as utterly baseless, and a particularly amusing example of homophobia.

The Silver Age of comic books is generally marked by comic book historians to have begun when DC comics re-created a number of its superhero titles during the late 1950s. Editor Julius Schwartz[?] presided over the drastic changes made to a number of DC's comic book characters, including Batman. After a decade of colorful, campy adventures, Batman was returned to his dark and mysterious roots, giving rise to the character that most fans are familiar with. For the next twenty-five years, Batman was the mysterious, dark avenger of the night; though the popularity of the Batman TV series of the 1960s overshadowed the comic books considerably. A plethora of writers and artists took the Caped Crusader on a number of interesting adventures; high points of the comic book series include the R'as Al Ghul storyline, written by Dennis O'Neill[?]; and a brief eight-issue series of Detective Comics written by Steve Englehart[?] that many fans considered to be the definitive Batman. (The classic Joker story "The Laughing Fish" was written by Englehart.)

Writer Frank Miller grounded Batman firmly in his grim and gritty roots with the comic book miniseries The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Batman: Year One. In both, Batman's story runs parallel to that of Jim Gordon. In Year One, Gordon has not yet become the police commissioner, and is instead a middle-aged cop with a shady past working to redeem himself amidst Gotham's corrupt police force. In Dark Knight, Gordon is seventy and forced into mandatory retirement from his post as police commissioner. These stories gave Gordon's character a depth he had seldom achieved before. Dark Knight gave a shot in the arm to the entire mainstream comic book industry, as its popularity was nothing short of phenomenal. It allowed Batman to finally shed the image of a campy, clownish character that he was still known for; and it also helped to raise the image of comic books so that they were no longer known solely as a form of children's entertainment.

The Miller series have set the tone for the franchise, including Tim Burton's Batman movies, the 1990s animated series, and the ongoing comic book series.

Batman in other media

Two Batman serials wer released to theaters in the 1940s, introducing Batman and Robin to many viewers for the first time.

There was a 1960s Batman television series broadcast by ABC, with Adam West[?] as Batman and Burt Ward[?] as Robin. The series debuted on January 12, 1966 and was marked for its high camp, and continues to be the version many associate with the Batman character despite it perhaps being least representative of the many versions. Despite the abhorrence of the TV series by Batman's fans of the 1970s through the present day, the live-action TV show was extraordinarily popular; at the height of its popularity, it was the only prime-time TV show broadcast twice in one week as part of its regular schedule. (The popularity of the show even contributed to careers of two real-life New York City policemen, David Greenberg and Robert Hantz. This pair had a remarkable career as police officers, so much so that they were given street nicknames of "Batman and Robin." Their careers were fictionalized in a 1974 movie called The Super Cops.)

There have also been several TV animated series starring Batman, produced by at least three different TV animation studios. These cartoons include:

A number of Batman movies have also been made:

Several low-budget, "unofficial" Batman movies have also been made, including Batman Dracula (1964) by Andy Warhol; Batman Fights Dracula (1967), made in the Philippines; and a second Filipino movie called Alyas Batman en Robin[?] (1993). (Critics who have seen this movie say it is very poor quality.)



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