Dec 12, 2008
In Part Two of my Comics and Graphic Novels inspiration articles, I will be looking at the caped crusader, Batman. Arguably the most famous superhero without super powers, "he makes use of intellect, detective skills, science and technology, wealth, physical prowess, and intimidation in his war on crime" (Wikipedia, 2008).
Our second look at comics and graphic novels takes us to the most enigmatic hero of them all: Batman. With the amazing success of Superman (see Part One), DC Comics requested more characters for their titles, and artists Bob Kane and Bill Finger came up with the Bat-Man.
Originally intended to wear a domino mask, Finger suggested using a cowl instead of a simple domino mask, a cape instead of wings, and gloves, and removing the red sections from the original costume. With the disguise complete, now the task was to think of alter ego's alter ego. The name Bruce Wayne was devised from the Scottish patriot, Robert the Bruce and former American army general Anthony Wayne.
Much of the inspiration for Batman's look and personality came from the films of that time, including The Mark of Zorro, The Bat Whispers and older characters such as Doc Savage, The Shadow and Sherlock Holmes, for his master detective skills. From then on, Batman's adventures began, starting with The Case of the Chemical Syndicate in the Dark Knight's debut in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). As the issues rolled on, Batman's character grew and grew with every new villain, but with the war in full flow, DC Comics decided to alter the dark and bleak atmosphere of Gotham City and change it to that of a "bright and colorful" environment, where Batman became the commendable "father" of Gotham.
By the 1960s, Batman's popularity had begun to wane dramatically, thanks in part to the lack of interest in the genre. In order to regain fans, massive changes were made, including the yellow background added to the Batman logo, the removal of characters such as Batwoman, Bat-Mite, Ace and butler Alfred and a redesign of the Batmobile. In 1966, the well-known Batman TV series was released, starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman. The show was in initial success, with Batman comic sales of nearly 900,000. However, the camp undertone of the show began to wear thin on fans and it was eventually cancelled in 1968. The 70s saw a return to the Gothic feel of Batman, but this wasn't enough, and by 1985, sales had reached an all-time low.
It wasn't until a year later that Batman became reinvigorated, thanks to the famous comic book mini-series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. With Batman now 50, and witnessing the death of second Robin, Jason Todd, the hero decided to retire his cape and turn to drinking. Without Batman, Gotham became a Dystopia, with crime rife and overwhelming. According to Wikipedia, Bruce retook the mantle of Batman after he encountered a group of gangs known as the Mutants in the alley where his parents were murdered. A new Robin was introduced, name Carrie Kelly. The change of characters and darker feel of Batman had fans buying the comics once more. This was then perpetuated with the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, redefining the origins of the Caped Crusader and one-shot comic Batman: The Killing Joke, starring infamous villain The Joker. Coupled with Tim Burton's Batman film in 1989, Batman had become popular once again, and the fame hasn't waned since.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, 1986
Batman: Knightfall, when Bane breaks Batman's back, leaving Azrael to take the role of Batman.
Azrael as Batman
Without Frank Miller's mini-series, there would be no Batman Begins, and certainly no Dark Knight movies. Batman is one of the few superheroes people can feel especially close to, having lost his parents at a young age, and seeking vengenance, with nothing but his own body and mind, as he possessed no superhuman powers. People may also draw parallels with the change in character between the solemn Batman and the flamboyant billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, seemingly a two-faced character, but made so as to detract any kind of suspicion of a familiarity between the two identities. With the dark undertone of Batman comes some of the best designs, which tie in very well with the popular grunge designs of today.
And who could forget the Joker, Batman's long term counterpart. Some may say one could no longer exist without the other, something I tend to agree with, especially if you've watched the movies.