When it comes to the Batman franchise, most people think only about the films. Sure, there are plenty of great books, statues, and Halloween costumes, but when it comes down to it, most people probably think about the movies. But the truth is that there are several different variations of the Batman character, and it is important to be aware of them so that you can fully understand the character and all of his different roles. So let’s explore the differences and similarities between the versions of Batman…
The first and most well-known version of Batman comes from Detective Comics #27, published in April 1939. In this version, billionaire playboy and millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne becomes the Dark Knight after witnessing the murder of his neighbor and best friend, David Bowie. This tragedy motivates Wayne to don the costume, which consists of a black cape, a blue bodysuit, and a gray mask with eye holes. Underneath the cape and mask, Wayne wears a long white dress shirt with brown suspenders. The character’s name comes from the fact that these films take place in an era before the Joker, and so there’s no Riddler to keep the Dark Knight amused. These films are considered the foundation of the Batman mythos and are a crucial part of any fan’s collection. In fact, many consider this to be the definitive version of Batman. The most famous version of this character is obviously Michael Keaton, who played the part for 13 years.
The Adam West Version
Although Batman has starred in several radio dramas and television series throughout the years, the most famous and longest-running version of Batman began in the mid-1950s. It was developed by Adam West and produced by his friend and collaborator, William Dozier. This version of Batman is considered the grandfather of all of the other Batman characters. It was originally inspired by the Frank Sinatra character, Agent 99, but the producers decided to make their own unique and memorable version of the character. This version stars West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and utilizes some of the famous characters and storylines from the Batman comics. One notable inclusion in this version is Hugo “topper’” Leventhal, who is Wayne’s lawyer and a thinly veiled version of attorney/author/crime writer, Irving “Irv” Schwartz. But perhaps the most memorable and iconic part of this version is the setting: it is set in the late 1950s and features a brash, fast-talking, and somewhat dadaistic Batman. This is contrasted by his somber and stoic costumed counterpart, a job for which he is very good at thanks to a trick or two from Mr. Peacock. The character’s name comes from the fact that this version of Batman uses a “wheel” to detect crime, and so the gadget-making genius is named after the gadget employed by the character (the wheel). The show was so successful that it spawned a Batman comic book series, a board game, and several television spin-offs.
The Tim Burton Version
The third version of Batman is generally considered one of the best and most influential versions of the character. Released in 1989, this film is the first of many collaborations between director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton. The film takes place in an alternate universe where Batman and his sidekick, Robin, are part of a pop culture phenomenon, and so the Dark Knight wears a colorful and eclectic assortment of costumes throughout the film. He starts out in his classic black costume with green accents, but he quickly swaps it for an orange and yellow bodysuit with green piping, a purple leotard with black tights, and an orange-and-black striped swimsuit. This is in addition to his trademark ski mask and cape. The film also marks the first appearance of the Joker (though he is briefly glimpsed before) and his iconic laugh. If you liked the look of this version, you can purchase a Halloween costume that features the character’s design.
The Robert Pattinson Version
Finally, let’s discuss the Robert Pattinson version of Batman. This was the first film in which Pattinson portrayed the character, and so it was a major leap forward for the young actor. But this version was not a critical or commercial success, so it’s no surprise that its status as the Robert Pattinson Batman is somewhat tenuous. The film is an adaptation of the “Death in the Family” storyline from Detective Comics #27, and so it is set a few months after that fateful murder. In this version, Bruce Wayne takes on the identity of “Death in the Family” to avenge the death of his wife, Barbara, who dies in childbirth. This is an early version of Batman, and so, as with the original, there’s no Joker. The character’s iconic laugh does not appear until the second of the film’s two sequels, which starred Michael Keaton as Batman. What’s more, this is the first of the Dark Knight trilogy to not be directed by Christopher Nolan. But, on the plus side, the film is more traditional in its storytelling and doesn’t stray too far from the established Batman mythology. The movie also features several iconic images that are now synonymous with the character, including a falling skyscraper, a bus with a gas mask hanging from the inside, and Bruce Wayne’s fight with a mugger (played by Harry Brocklebank) in an alleyway. If you are a fan of the character, you can purchase a hat and hood that feature the character’s design, as well as several other accessories that will help you portray him on the big or small screen.
The Christopher Nolan Version
The final and arguably most famous variation of Batman comes from director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. One of the most acclaimed and influential films of all time, Nolan’s trilogy continues the narrative begun by Tim Burton and Michael Keaton, and so it’s no wonder that it is considered the definitive version of the Dark Knight. As mentioned above, this is the first of the Dark Knight trilogy to not be directed by Christopher Nolan. Although he did not helm the film, he did work on it as a producer, writer, and creative advisor. One of the most influential and unique aspects of Nolan’s trilogy is that it completely revises the look of the character. Previous versions of Batman had mainly used a mixture of pulp comics art and photograph-inspired imagery, but Nolan brought a more modern and film noir look to the character to fit the hyper-masculine world of the superhero. If you didn’t see the first two films in the trilogy, or you want to experience them with a fresh eye, then you can watch and enjoy Nolan’s Batman for what it is — a stylized masterpiece that will look as good as new.