Batman has become the biggest name in comic book lore. He’s known as the Dark Knight, brooding and moody like a disenfranchised teenage Goth. Bruce Wayne and his alter ego Batman have graced the cover of thousands of comic books, novels, animated TV shows, a live action TV show, and tons of movies. Some of them were great, some were not so great. With the recent mammoth success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, I thought I would take a look back at the Caped Crusader’s history and shed some light (no pun intended) on his nature and just when he got so damn serious.
Back when the character came into being in 1939, creator Bob Kane envisioned Batman to be a loose combination of Zorro with a touch of Sherlock Holmes. Batman was a detective but also a crime fighter, a vigilante who uses his brain and plenty of gadgets to get the job done. Soon, Kane introduced the now iconic utility belt, including the batarang and then a bat vehicle, the Batplane.
After a year or so into the run, Kane introduced Robin, whom was suggested because Batman needed a “Watson”, a partner to speak with and have adventures with.
During this time, after Robin came onto the scene, Batman began to soften a bit. When he first began his career, he showed no remorse in killing or even maiming criminals. Yeah, Batman was hardcore. He was a badass, beating criminals to a pulp, so I guess he started Dark, got softer because this sissy-assed Robin partnered up with him and they became kind of the Ambiguously Gay Duo in some circles.
So blame Robin for it, if anything.
It was soon after WWII that Batman got even brighter, becoming more of a father figure and do-gooder rather than a dark, brooding figure that punishes criminals for their transgressions. His world was no longer bleak and depressing but full of hope, a little more like Superman in that regard, and perhaps they were attempted to build a world of the two combined; comics can’t help but be influenced by what the others is doing.
In fact, the two superheroes team up in the early 50s. This was the first attempt to pick up the dragging sales in comics and did have some limited success but comics in general were in trouble. Batman got plagued with criticisms that his comics promoted violence and criminalities. The rumors that he and Robin were gay lovers persisted so what did they do? They introduced girls of course into the mix to offset the idea they didn’t like women. Pffft. Gimme a break, will ya?
Can’t two guys live together in a dark cave with only themselves and a butler, working out in the gym and riding a- okay, enough, I get why this happened.
But it was shortly after this where the duo got into some serious camp. It got light hearted with the introduction of Batgirl and Batwoman but didn’t fall off the deep end until the 1960s.
By 1964, sales were in the tank and they considered killing off the character completely! Say what? Get rid of Batman? Crazy talk. But they considered it as some final promotional ploy to drop him like a bad habit and move on with the world. Bastards. Dirty, dirty bastards. They were dead wrong, it turns out, but I can’t blame them for thinking all doom and gloom at a time when comics were dying.
They overhauled Batman and the character became more grounded again, more like the prime detective from his early days, and they jettisoned many characters and story arcs involving time travel and space aliens. Yep, those things were in Batman comics. They decided to clean the plate and get back to their roots.
Then the live action TV show hit in 1966 and everything changed.