Batman: Through the Years
The Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne, these are all aliases for an enigmatic character in popular culture most commonly known as Batman. While having his humble origins in the pulp magazines of the late 1930’s, over the span of his existence, he has expanded into a full-blown franchise. There have been 3 TV shows on him, 4 movies (1 more still in the making), various videogames, and over 20 comic book series that currently feature his name. Even after 60 years of being in print, it was a Batman issue that was the highest selling comic book of the last week of November, 2004. It is the aim of this project to explore the reasons why this one particular comic book superhero has managed to keep his relevance where so many others have faltered, with a focused look into how Batman artwork has changed over the sixty years of his existence.
Who is Batman to you?
Almost everybody knows something about Batman, from my Sunday school teacher (who confiscated my Batman comic book calling him ‘devilish’ and ‘violent’) to my little cousins who play the new Batman videogame incessantly. What many people fail to realize though is that the character of Batman has always been evolving, always being modified to fit the purposes of both the medium and the audience.
Take for example the Batman television series that lasted from 1966 till 1968. Adam West as Batman, a little lumpy in his Batsuit, would fight crime accompanied by his faithful sidekick, Robin (Burt Ward). They would awkwardly beat up their enemies, (Listen to the classic soundtrack)accompanied by the classic POW! BIFF! WHAM! sound effects and use goofy phrases like, “…if two plus two equals four…Quick Robin, to the Batmobile!” In all the articles describing the show, one word was used over and over to describe the show and its characters: campy. However, this was a program that reached millions of people, and if someone were to build their opinion solely on the depiction this tubby, good-natured Batman, they would be shocked to learn that the original Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939 “…was portrayed as a relentless manhunter dedicated to the eradication of crime [who] would play on criminals’ fear of the night and exploit his batlike appearance. He could be vicious – he shot more than one man – and his amazing abilities overwhelmed the common hoodlum. In short, The Batman was an avenging vigilante” (Horn, Maurice).
Clearly the TV networks deemed it necessary to clean up the image of the angry crime fighter in order to placate the censor boards and parents, so the image of Batman that they put out was one that did not correspond at all to what he started out as. Yet, this show was able to attract its own audience, just like the darker comic book version had its own fan base. Batman would not have been able to be as successful as he was if he depended solely on his comic book image, because it would have limited his audience and...