There is no denying that Batman is one of the most recognizable superheroes ever created, with an impeccable record of defending the innocent and fighting for truth and justice. In honor of Batman’s eighty-fifth anniversary this year, Hot Toys, the company behind many of the finest collectibles available, has recently created a line of officially licensed Batman products, each of which is painstakingly crafted to exacting standards. The range is expansive, from tiny Batmobile resin models to full-sized collectibles based on the 1989 classic that have the look and feel of the legendary comic books created by Bob Kane and the talented team of illustrators that worked with him back in the day. 

The collection is a feast for the eyes, with many stunning pieces crafted with meticulous attention to detail, down to the finest of granular paint applications and the most authentic materials. Weighing in at a hefty seven inches tall, the full-sized collectibles based on the 1989 classic are absolutely breathtaking, capturing the aesthetic grace and power of the Dark Knight in meticulous detail. One can only imagine the level of detail and passion that went into creating these magnificent items.

The Birth Of Batman

It is generally agreed that Batman was first published in All Star Comics in May 1939, created by artist Bob Kane and writer Harry Peter. The character was inspired by British comic book hero Rupert Dexter, which in turn was based on a character that appeared in a series of novels written by Alfred A. Novel (pseudonym for author Algernon Blackwood). While the exact date of construction of the first Batman model is uncertain, it is known that the first officially licensed Batman item was the “Detective’s Polo Shirt,” which was worn by Kane in the 1940 film serial The Adventures of Batman and Robin. This item is now part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Popular Culture in San Francisco.

A History Of Batman

While the above links are not advertisements, we think it is only fair to point out that the Museum of Popular Culture (SFPCC) is entirely funded by donations, which means that any kind of advertisement would be viewed as a form of support.

Anyway, back to the history lesson. Batman first appeared in a television show called Checkmate, which was created by Bill White and Fred Newmeyer. The series aired from 1949 to 1954, and featured Richard Wenk as the hero, whose real name was Dick Wilson.

One of the more memorable episodes was called “The Return of the Dynamic Duo,” which was based on a pair of detective novellas by Erle Stanley Gardner that were also the basis for the William Freirella and the Bob Kane films. The episode first aired on January 16, 1954, and is often cited as the first time that Batman and Robin were portrayed as a team. The Dynamic Duo became an instant American classic and is currently available for viewing on YouTube.

The success of the show led to a new Batman television series in 1966, which starred Adam West and Burt Ward. The show was a hit and, in fact, is still entertaining viewers today. In addition to being memorable, the show featured many popular culture references that are now considered mainstream, such as Tom and Jerry (check out the episode “Tijuana Bibles”), Popeye, James Bond, and even President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The show also inspired a feature film released in 1968, also starring Adam West, which was a box office success and a cult film classic. The film is known for its innovative use of color and striking graphic design.

The next big thing to hit the small screen was The New Batman Adventures, starring Christopher Nolan, which first aired in 1997 and is still one of the most popular series on Netflix today. It is considered a masterpiece for having introduced a more mature take on the Batman character, emphasizing character development and psychological horror over action and campy humor. It’s also worth noting that the first season of The New Batman Adventures is dedicated to examining the events of the 1995 cartoon Batman Forever, and bringing the character into the 21st century.

The Dark Knight Returns, Part I

The Dark Knight Returns, Part I is the first of a two-part adaptation of the Frank Miller classic that, as the title suggests, returns the Batman to his “dark” and brooding roots. The adaptation was first published in 1986 and won the Eisner Award for best Graphic Album. It was directed by Sam Weisman and stars Liam Neeson as Batman and Michael Keaton as the Joker. The film’s set design is breathtaking, and it’s easy to see why it is considered one of the greatest Batman films of all time.

The Joker, as many of you may know, is one of Batman’s most infamous adversaries and is credited with putting the Dark Knight in “The Batman.” The character first appeared in The Joker (1954), by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and has since become one of the most recognizable faces in pop culture. It is estimated that there are over 150 different interpretations of the Joker. While the character’s appearance has changed over the years, his trademark laugh has been present in every adaptation. Interestingly, the original Joker did not laugh, which is why his laugh has been retrofitted into later versions of the character. Nonetheless, the Joker is one of the most recognizable faces in popular culture, which is impressive considering he was first created as an antagonist. In addition to being memorable, the Joker has also been portrayed by many talented actors, including Jack Nicholson, who gained an Oscar for his portrayal in 1989’s comedy-drama The Two Jakes. What is also interesting is that Michael Caine’s character in the 1975 James Bond film Live And Let Die is inspired by the Joker.

The Dark Knight Returns, Part II

Two years after the first adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, a second part was released in theaters. The story continues the saga of Batman but moves it to a dystopian future where corporations have overtaken the world and turned the majority of the population into zombies. The zombies in turn have created an environment where almost no one can live a normal life, leading up to the main conflict of the film. The film was directed by Jim Miller and stars Jim Carey as Batman and Marlon Wayans as the Joker. The plot focuses heavily on social justice issues and questions regarding the existence of a middle class. Interestingly, the sequel was not well received by audiences or critics, and many consider it to be one of the weaker entries in the Batman film series.

One of the reasons for the film’s underperformance at the box office may have been that the film was released the same year as another comic book movie called Dick Tracy, which itself was based on comic books. Another factor may have been that the film’s strong social message got in the way of the campy fun that many expect from a Batman movie. Ultimately, The Dark Knight Returns, Part II struggled to find an audience and only made around $50 million at the box office.

Batman On Screen

With the ongoing success of the Netflix series, it is important to keep in mind that, although it is based on comics, the movies are entirely different and you should approach them as such. 

The first television show to feature Batman was a weekly series called Batman (1946-1951), which evolved from a radio program of the same name that began in 1932. It was created by comedian Fred Allen and was one of the first television shows to integrate live audience reaction into the programming. The show was extremely popular and ran for seven seasons. In fact, many of the episodes are still available for viewing on YouTube. In addition to starring the Dark Knight, the show also featured many other famous faces of the era, including Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Alexander Woolcott, and Gloria DeBernardo among others. The show’s leading lady was Bebe Daniels, who played Vicki, the ex-girlfriend of Batman’s sidekick, Robin. The show’s tagline was “For Your Protection and Felony Commission,” which is now the official slogan for the real-life “Bruce Wayne Federal Employment Agency.”

The Adventures of Batman and Robin (1949-1954) was one of the first television shows to feature the Dynamic Duo as a regular, continuing, and integral part of the series’ premise. It followed the adventures of two private detectives, William Freirella and Bob Kane, as they aided the fictional Secret Service in tracking down various criminals and preventing terrorism. While the show was low budget and had some campy elements, it was very influential in helping to establish the format for many crime shows that followed.