In 1939, the relatively new character of Superman had proven to be a major hit for Detective Comics (a forerunner of DC Comics). As a result, the publishing company wanted more characters with a similar theme. Bob Kane, an artist and writer with the company, designed a character called the Bat-Man that was dressed in a costume that included bat-like wings.
Bill Finger, a writer for Detective Comics, would make a number of suggestions for the character, including replacing the wings with a cape and having him wear a hood that could resemble a bat's head. Finger has also been credited with naming the character's alter ego, Bruce Wayne. Reportedly, the name is a joint reference to the Scottish King known as Robert the Bruce and to American military officer and politician Anthony Wayne.
Publication and character history
After changing the spelling of the name to 'Batman', the character was debuted in May of 1939 in an issue of Detective Comics (not to be confused with the name of the company). A later origin story would reveal that Bruce Wayne decided that he would dedicate his life to warring against crime after witnessing the tragic murder of his parents when he was a child. The inheritance he would receive from his wealthy parents would help him in this cause. Although certain elements of the Batman stories would be changed as the years would go on, the origin story would remain basically the same. In 1940, the character began headlining a solo title.
Unlike other costumed heroes, Bruce Wayne did not feature special powers, instead relying on assets such as his intelligence and an assortment of special equipment, arguably the most iconic example of this being the 'Batmobile'. His lack of superpowers has contributed to a long-standing debate as to whether or not he should be considered a 'superhero'.
Batman storylines have often considered been dark in nature and the morals of he and those of his inner circle may not always be sound. His loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth, has perhaps been his most consistent ally. Dick Grayson, an orphaned acrobat, would become the first incarnation of the 'sidekick' known as Robin before taking on other identities, the most prominent being Nightwing. Selina Kyle has been the main alter ego of Catwoman, who has been at various times a love interest, friend and adversary of Batman's. Other key allies include James Gordon, the police commissioner of the fictional Gotham City.
Batman has also been part of a number of 'superhero teams'. The most famous of these is likely the Justice League, of which other members include Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Aquaman. In addition, he has also been featured in numerous crossovers with characters from other comic book publishers, including Marvel Comics, DC's long-time main rival. In Amalgam Comics, a joint venture between DC and Marvel, Batman was merged with Marvel's Wolverine to form the character Dark Claw, also known as Logan Wayne.
The roster of villains that Batman has regularly faced is widely considered to be iconic. Many have regarded Batman's 'rogues gallery' as at least the best of DC and has often been paired with that of Marvel's Spider-Man as the two best rogues galleries in comic books.
Arguably the most famous recurring villain is the Joker, a maniacal mass-murderer who dresses similar to a clown. He is later joined by Harley Quinn, otherwise known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatrist who had been studying the Joker before falling in love with him and going insane herself. Other major adversaries include Bane (a genius on super-steroids), Deadshot (Floyd Lawton, an extreme expert marksman), Deathstroke (Slade Wilson, a former military officer who became an assassin with special abilities after being experimented on), Killer Croc (Waylon Jones, who was born with a medical condition that made his body resemble a crocodile and later went insane), Mr. Freeze (previously called Mr. Zero, Dr. Victor Fries was a scientist experiment with cryogenics when an accident left his body unable to deal with temperatures above subzero), Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot, a mobster with an affinity for birds who sometimes serves as an informant to Batman), Poison Ivy (most prominently Pamela Isley, a former botanical biochemistry student who obtains abilities such as that of controlling plant life as a result of experimentation), the Riddler (Edward Nygma, who tends to leave puzzles and riddles in his wake after committing crimes and who for a time left villainy behind him) and Two-Face (Harvey Dent, previously Kent, a former district attorney who went insane following a mob attack that left roughly half of his body severely disfigured).
Heroes and villains of the Batman stories have both been included in numerous lists of comic book characters that are considered the greatest of all-time. Among these are IGN's lists of the 100 greatest comic book heroes and 100 greatest comic book villains. Batman would be ranked as the second-greatest hero, and the Joker as the second-greatest villain. Uniquely, Catwoman appeared as part of both lists. Dick Grayson and James Gordon were among other Batman heroes who made the cut, while Two-Face, Deathstroke, Bane, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze were among those of his adversaries that were part of the villains list. Other appearances on lists include spots in the top ten for both Batman and the Joker on a list of greatest comic book characters that was compiled by Empire.
In 1986, the storyline called The Dark Knight Returns was released. Set in the future, the story would have a major influence on ensuing comic books. Some of the other more famous Batman storylines include Batman: Year One, a sort of prequel, and A Death in the Family, which featured the highly controversial death of Jason Todd (an incarnation of Robin).
For many years, a there was a dispute as to whether or not Bill Finger should have been officially credited alongside Bob Kane as a creator of Batman. Beginning in 2015, both Kane and Finger would be named as the official co-creators of the character.
Batman has been featured in various forms of media over the decades. Screen adaptations have included ones that were fully animated and ones that were live action.
In 1943, a serial was theatrically released by Columbia Pictures that starred Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft and William Austin. Columbia released another series in 1949 that featured Robert Lowery, Jimmy Duncan and Lyle Talbot.
A campy version of the character was featured in the television series Batman, which began airing on ABC in 1966 and ran for three seasons. Adam West, Burt Ward, Alan Napier and Neil Hamilton were among the regular cast members. Shortly after the conclusion of the first season, a theatrical film based on the series was released by 20th Century Fox and featured much of the series' cast. The series has the distinction of changing Mr. Zero's name to Mr. Freeze.
From 1989 to 1997, four films (all distributed by Warner Bros.) were released as part of a franchise that began with Batman, which was directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson (whose accolades for his performance as the Joker would include Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations), Kim Basinger, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough and Jack Palance. A major success, financially and critically, the movie won an Academy Award for its art direction and, including Nicholson's nomination, was nominated for six BAFTA Awards. In 2003, both Keaton's Batman and Nicholson's Joker were included on the American Film Institute's list of greatest heroes and villains. The first sequel, Batman Returns, was released in 1992. Its new cast members included Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito and Christopher Walken. Also a success, its visual effects and its makeup would receive Academy Award and BAFTA Award nominations.
The third installment, Batman Forever, was released in 1995. Joel Schumacher replaced Burton as director (though he stayed on as a producer), Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton in the main role and Tommy Lee Jones replaced Billy Dee Williams (who had played Harvey Dent in the first movie). Other new members of the cast included Chris O'Donnell, Nicole Kidman, Jim Carrey and Drew Barrymore. The movie continued the streak of success and was nominated for three Academy Awards, the song Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and composer Elliot Goldenthal was nominated for a Grammy for the score. Batman & Robin, the next movie, was released in 1997. George Clooney replaced Val Kilmer as Batman and other cast additions included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Alicia Silverstone, Uma Thurman, John Glover and Vivica A. Fox. Though it was a financial success, critical reception was highly negative and plans for a fifth movie in the series, to be called Batman Unchained, were cancelled. It can be noted, however, that the song The End Is the Beginning Is the End performed by The Smashing Pumpkins was written for the movie and would go on to win a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Arguably the most famous animated adaptation can be found with Batman: The Animated Series (sometimes called The Adventures of Batman & Robin). For most of its run, the series aired as part of Fox's 'Fox Kids' block during weekday afternoons, beginning in 1992. The series was so successful, however, that for a time it received a weekly primetime slot. Among its long-lasting effects was the popularity of the character Harley Quinn, who it had introduced and was such a hit that she was incorporated into the comics. Included in the accolades the series received were four Emmys, three of them being in the daytime category and one in the primetime category.
In 2005, Warner Bros. released Batman Begins. Directed by Christopher Nolan, it starred Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Ken Watanabe, Linus Roache and Cillian Murphy. Receiving an overwhelmingly positive reception from critics and the general public, with box office results to match. The movie received an Academy Award nomination for its cinematography and three BAFTA Award nominations.
The first sequel, The Dark Knight, came out in 2008. Heath Ledger being chosen to play the Joker had become a source of heavy discussion after it was announced. It became even more so after he tragically died between the completion of production and the release date. Ultimately, his performance was exceptionally well-reviewed and posthumous accolades he received include an Academy Award, BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe. Additional new cast members included Maggie Gyllenhaal (who replaced Katie Holmes), Aaron Eckhart and Eric Roberts. It would generate near-universal acclaim was the highest-grossing movie of the year. In addition to the wins for Ledger, The Dark Knight won an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing and was nominated for six others and was nominated for eight more BAFTA Awards. Composers James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer won a Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack Album. The final chapter of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, was released successfully in 2012. Playing previously unseen famous characters in this particular movie series were Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard. Its visual effects received a BAFTA Award nomination and for its score a Grammy nomination.
In 2014, a more comedic version of the character was featured in the (mostly) animated feature The Lego Movie, voiced by Will Arnett. A spin-off, The Lego Batman Movie, is planned to be released in 2017.
Also in 2014, Fox began airing Gotham, a prequel series following many characters who would become part of the Batman storyline in their more formative years. A similar idea had been considered in the past, but instead work began on what would become the long-running series Smallville, which followed characters that would be essential in the Superman franchise in their youth. Gotham would center on a young James Gordon, played by Ben McKenzie (who had previously served as the voice of Batman in the 2011 animated movie Batman: Year One). Others featured include Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle as children, portrayed by David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova.
In 2016, Warner Bros. released Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, directed by Zack Snyder and featuring Ben Affleck as Batman. The movie followed 2013's Superman movie Man of Steel, which was also directed by Snyder and featured Christopher Nolan among its producers. Later in 2016, Affleck was included in Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer. Other cast members included Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje. Future plans for the character in the franchise include appearing in Justice League, scheduled for release in 2017.