When writer Bob Kane came up with the idea for a new type of hero, he probably didn't realise that his creation would go on to be quite possibly the most popular fictional crime-fighter of all time. The man he envisioned was a vigilante, a hunter and a 'knight' with a past that haunted him. He was a detective and a fighter all rolled into one. He was something that struck fear into the hearts of criminals everywhere. He was - The Batman.
Bruce Wayne - the son of Thomas and Martha Wayne, successful business magnates - was heir to a fortune. His family owned much of the city they called home, Gotham City. One night young Bruce was keen to go to the cinema with his parents, but a family argument had dashed his hopes - or so he thought. Surprised later by his father, he was on his way with both his parents to see the film that all his friends had been talking about. Argument forgotten and everyone smiling, the Waynes left the cinema to travel home - but a wrong turn into Crime Alley was to lead to tragedy for the Waynes. Attacked by a mugger, the Wayne family was robbed of not only some short change and a pearl necklace, but also the lives of two of its members. After two gunshots rang through the darkness, young Bruce Wayne knelt by the cooling bodies of his parents, their blood running into the drains and the sewers below1.
After a complex police investigation, through which no killer was found, Bruce Wayne spent the rest of his youth alone and orphaned, his only companion the faithful butler of the Wayne household, Alfred. When Bruce became a teenager he travelled the world, learning as much as he could about everything it had to offer in order to forget what had happened. He learned, and trained his body to overcome physical and mental abuse. He would never forget what had happened to his parents, but he planned justice. If the Gotham City Police Department couldn't find his mother and father's killer, he would.
After years of training himself to be a perfect crime-fighter, Bruce Wayne felt he was ready to test his abilities and start tracking down the killer. He soon found the Gotham City he had known in his youth had changed, and not for the better. Attacked in Crime Alley, he was lucky to escape with his life. Later that night he sat in his study nursing his wounds. He needed something to frighten his foes with even before they knew what he was doing. At that moment, a huge bat crashed through the window. Startled, Bruce had found what he was looking for: underneath Wayne Manor, a deep cavern held a family of bats. He had been living above the very icon that would scare his enemies. He would become a human-bat. He would become a Batman!
With the monetary support of Wayne Enterprises, his family's legacy, Bruce was able to rebuild the cave under Wayne Manor into a nest for his new hero persona. The Batman would be his alter-ego, the detective that would hunt down and find his parents' killer. And in the process Gotham City would find itself a new crusader against crime in any form. A Caped Crusader, a Dark Knight.
The Bat Man
Bruce Wayne/Batman is a normal man with amazing knowledge and Olympic gymnastic ability. A man with a depth almost unfathomable - on one side he is a playboy millionaire, entrepreneur and philanthropist, comfortable in his business life; and on the other he is a dedicated fighter of crime and injustice. He knows almost every unarmed form of combat and can combine several different fighting methods in a single attack due to training with grandmasters of almost every martial art, including karate, tae-kwon-do, kung-fu and judo. Due to the horrible way in which he lost his parents, while he is able to use handguns and most projectile weapons with ease, the Batman chooses not to carry a gun. Also an expert tracker, he has lived with the Kalahari tribesmen to learn such techniques, as well as following the teachings of Shaolin and Zen to master control of his mind and body. He has trained with SAS and SEAL Forces, and is also a consummate pilot, driver and scuba diver. His experience of forensic investigation and scientific crime-fighting is unsurpassable even by the great Sherlock Holmes.
Where does he get those Wonderful Toys?
The Batsuit and Utility Belt
Batman's costume has several important design features. Usually completely black or shades of grey and dark blue2, the colours help to camouflage Batman in his nocturnal environment. A cape has always been integral to the look of the costume: it creates bat-like wings, but also has many other protective uses, different unique weaves and forms such as Kevlar and even light aluminium frames to turn the cape into wings, creating a hang-glider. Incorporated into Batman's mask are night-vision goggles and enhanced audio receptors that are hidden in the bat-like 'ears'. Over the years, various armours, mainly Kevlar-based, have also been incorporated into the suit to protect vital organs around the torso. Heavy boots and gloves add to both offensive and defensive purposes while the bodysuit helps to regulate body temperature. The one constant element of the batsuit is the central chest emblem, a black stylised bat.
Batman's Utility Belt is almost as famous as his suit, thanks in part to the 1960s Batman TV Series, where Adam West's Batman would pull various intriguing implements from his Utility Belt, including 'Bat-Shark Repellent' and 'Bat-Screwdrivers'. Batman's most common crime-fighting tools can be found in his utility belt, including 'Bat-A-Rangs' - boomerang-type weapons of various sorts - flashlight, Swiss Army knife, homing beacons, smoke grenades, bolas, skeleton keys, PDA, first aid kit, nerve gas, gas mask, rope and anything else the bat-about-town could want in any given situation3.
Linked to Wayne Manor by a subterranean passage, the Batcave is where Batman stores all his equipment, his crime gallery and the supercomputer he uses to investigate his cases. A huge underground cavern, it was destroyed in an earthquake4, but a deeper cave was found and Batman rebuilt the massive complex for future use.
The Batmobile is one of Batman's favourite modes of transportation. He does have a Batcycle, Batjet, Batcopter and even a Batboat/Submarine, however, for transport within the confines of Gotham City, the Batmobile is his preference. The vehicle has seen many changes over the years - though due to links with Wayne Enterprises it is state of the art and nothing on the road can rival it.
Situated on the roof of the Gotham City Police Department Headquarters, this is used by the GCPD - and Commissioner Gordon in particular - when wanting to contact Batman. The Bat-Signal is a huge searchlight that, when shone into the night sky, causes the stylised symbol of a bat to appear, drifting hazily on darkened clouds. Batman can see the Bat-Signal from almost anywhere in the surrounds of Gotham City; however, it is most visible from the dining room windows of Wayne Manor.
Butler to Thomas and Martha Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth took it upon himself to raise the young master Bruce when Bruce's parents were gunned down. A consummate butler, but also mechanic, nurse and cook, Alfred performs his duties as a manservant to both Bruce Wayne and the Batman with the ease and grace of a man accustomed to his trade.
Robin the Boy Wonder was Batman's almost-constant sidekick for a very long time. Robin has gone through many changes as Batman's aide, friend and sometimes saviour. Over the years, the mantle of the Robin costume has been taken on by separate boys and sometimes even girls. The first Robin, Dick (Richard) Grayson was a circus performer and member of the act The Flying Graysons that consisted of himself and his parents. Some mobsters sabotaged one of their performances by putting acid on the tightropes used by the trapeze artists, and Dick's father and mother fell to their deaths. Batman, knowing how it felt to lose parents, took the young Dick Grayson on as his protégé and made him his sidekick 'Boy Wonder' known as Robin. Dick Grayson would later leave the fold of the Batman family and take up fighting crime as the resourceful Nightwing. The second Robin was Jason Todd, another orphaned teen who Bruce Wayne took under his wing. Unfortunately, Jason died at the hands of the Joker5. Robin Number Three was young Tim Drake, a troubled young lad with a knack for computers and gymnastics. On occasions, the mask of Robin has been handed over to young women and even other members of the Batman family.
Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD
The Gotham City Police Department was never going to have it easy with the criminal element rife in the city. New Commissioner Gordon took the helm of the Department and, stamping out much of the internal corruption, moulded together a force that worked against crime. He was at first against the actions of the vigilante Batman, but soon the Commissioner came to work with the Dark Knight to keep Gotham City safe.
The daughter of Commissioner Gordon, Barbara Gordon first slid into the Batgirl costume at a young age after her father spoke of his assistant in the fight against crime, the vigilante Batman. Bruce Wayne knew nothing of the Batgirl's identity until he and Robin rescued her. She was then pushed into the dark world of the Batcave and became privy to the secrets it held. After an incident with the Joker, she hung up her cape, but Batgirl didn't disappear for long: Cassandra Cain, daughter to one of Gotham City's darkest crime-lords, soon took it upon herself to become Batgirl.
When Dick Grayson grew weary of being Robin, Batman's shadow, he decided to go it alone. Becoming a police officer, he moved to the nearby borough of Bludhaven and there worked as the vigilante crime-fighter Nightwing. Adept at hand-to-hand combat and many of the same weapons as Batman, he is endeavouring to carve out his own place as a crime fighter.
When Barbara Gordon was injured in a fight with the Joker, she lost the use of her legs and became confined to a wheelchair as a paraplegic. Her work as Batgirl at an end, she put her mind to good use and became a consummate computer technician, able to hack into high security files. With high-level information at her fingertips, her connections earned her the moniker of the Oracle. She has worked with Batman, Nightwing and the Huntress on occasions, however, she now puts her skills out to contract.
Helena Bertinelli was the daughter of a major underworld boss. Her entire family was assassinated, so she decided to avenge them. Adopting the identity of the Huntress, she became a successful vigilante, managing to exact some vengeance upon the underworld members responsible for her family's deaths. Operating in Gotham City, she eventually gained the attention of Batman. She somehow became a member of the Batman 'family' of caped crusaders, but the Dark Knight never revealed his secret identity to her, nor did he allow her access to the Batcave. The Huntress is a master acrobat, and trained in many martial arts. Her weapons are usually a crossbow, daggers, and a fighting staff.
Batman has had many other allies in his adventures, including other superheroes like Superman. Detectives like Harvey Bullock and even some of his enemies and critics like Catwoman, Two-Face and Judge Dredd have been known to work alongside or against the Batman.
It's not Metropolis, but it'll do.
Batman lives out his life mostly in and around the areas of Gotham County. Several places of interest are as follows:
A large city much like New York or Chicago, the fictional Gotham was founded by the mouth of Gotham River. Gothic architecture and dark alleyways make Gotham City a haven for criminals and it is somewhat difficult to imagine a part of the city that can be classed as 'suburbia'. After a massive earthquake, the city has been rebuilt from the finances of Wayne Enterprises and LuthorCorp6 into a new utopia. Crime still finds a way in, however, keeping Batman as busy as ever.
The estate of Bruce Wayne, this Gothic mansion sits outside of central Gotham City, looking over both the City and the mouth of the river it lies upon. It is the home of not only Bruce Wayne, but his butler Alfred and many of his friends and allies, notably Dick Grayson and at one time or another most of the women who courted Bruce Wayne.
Officially named Arkham Hospital7 and Arkham Sanitarium when it was located somewhere 'north of Gotham City' and 'deep in the suburbs of Gotham City', the Joker and Two-Face were the first of Batman's enemies to reside there. A proliferation of super-villains ended up being detained in the facility. The Arkham Asylum's structure was later destroyed by Bane and his mob, and the inmates had to be re-located for a while in Blackgate Prison, Bludhaven. The new Arkham Asylum was rebuilt in accordance with LuthorCorp.
Batman, and, for that matter, Bruce Wayne, has made many enemies since he started fighting the criminal element in Gotham City. From street thugs to white-collar criminals to the super-villains like the Joker, he has constantly battled them with his unique brand of vigilante justice.
Batman on Screen
Nah-nah, nah-nah, nah-nah, nah-nah BATMAN!
Batman has been portrayed in film and television more often than any other superhero bar Superman. Two black-and-white serials were made in the 1940s, The Batman (1943) starring Lewis Wilson in a rather saggy suit, and Batman and Robin (1949) in which Robert Lowery sported a 'fuller frame' than we might now expect for a superhero. Then, in 1966, the character hit TV screens in a colourful adventure series that became a cult classic. BAT-MAN starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, the Dark Knight becoming the Caped Crusader and losing much of his dark foreboding presence to camp narration, colourful costuming and comic guest appearances. Children were heard to cry 'BIF', 'ZAP' and 'KAPOW' as they were playing, much like the hero they watched on screen. It's this interpretation that's most satirised by other shows, notably Only Fools and Horses and The Simpsons.
Batman followed Superman into animated series in the 1960s and 1970s, joining the Justice League of America and acquiring another sidekick - Batfink - while from the 1990s onwards we were treated to Batman - The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, The Batman and regular appearances in Justice League and Gotham Girls.
Hollywood has made many films about the Dark Knight, the most popular being Tim Burton's8 brooding reworking that starred Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Burton also directed the first sequel, the even darker Batman Returns, with Michael Keaton reprising the role of Batman, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman and Danny Devito as the Penguin. The darker, more sinister tone of the films was aided by the sweeping music composed by Danny Elfman.
Although not a huge hit with fans, the most successful of the films in terms of box office was Batman Forever - directed by Joel Schumaker with Val Kilmer as Batman, Chris O'Donnell as Robin, Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and Jim Carrey as the Riddler and minor roles given to Nicole Kidman and Drew Barrymore. The fourth film, Batman and Robin was mauled by critics; George Clooney starred as Batman, with Chris O'Donnell as Robin, Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. After sufficient time for Batman and Robin to be forgiven and forgotten, 2005 saw the release of Batman Begins, retelling the story of Batman's birth that had been alluded to in previous films. With a distinctly British bias in casting, Christian Bale took on the dual role of Batman and Bruce Wayne, with Michael Caine as Alfred, Ken Watanabe as Ra's Al Ghul and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon. This was followed in 2008 by the sequel The Dark Knight, with Heath Ledger in the role of The Joker. Director Chistopher Nolan completed his retelling of the Batman mythos with the final in his trilogy in 2012, with The Dark Knight Rises introducing Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane.
'I make my own history.'
Batman first appeared in issue 27 of Detective Comics in May 1939. Bob Kane's creation, his foreboding appearance and almost film noir storyline gained him immediate popularity. A more human figure than the alien Superman, the Batman quickly overtook the arguably 'first' superhero as the favourite amongst comic book fans worldwide. Other writers and artists have also given their hand to the Batman, amongst them Archie Goodwin, Frank Miller (Sin City) and Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (Spider-Man: Blue, Daredevil: Yellow, Superman: A Man For All Seasons). Batman's adventures can be read in many different serialised comics, including Detective Comics, Gotham Knights, Superman/Batman and the simply titled Batman. Collections of Batman tales are as follows:
- A Death in the Family
- Broken City
- The Long Halloween
- Dark Victory
- No Man's Land
- Black And White Volumes 1 and 2
- The Dark Knight Returns
- Batman: Year One
- Bruce Wayne - Fugitive
- War On Crime
Other comic book films mention Batman in a fashion also, one such being Spider-Man, who is sitting atop a building and casually talking about his problems to a gargoyle called 'Bruce'.