Last year was a big one for Batman. Thanks to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, the caped crusader went from being a supporting character in a comedy to being the star of his own solo movie in just three years. But Nolan’s films weren’t the only ones to acknowledge Batman’s star quality. In fact, 2016 was a big year for everyone involved with the character. From the TV show Gotham to the upcoming Batman & Robin, the Batman universe grew by one more dimension. The character now has the potential to be much more than a movie star—he can be a cultural icon.

The Rise Of Social Media And Online Reviews

Before the dawn of social media, movie critics would mostly read magazines for reviews and columnists would write about films in books. In those days, it was hard to find out what movies were becoming popular and which were tanking at the box office. But all of that changed with the invention of the internet. Suddenly, anyone with a laptop and an SD card had the ability to become their own mini-critic, posting their thoughts on blogs and websites.

This led to a new phenomenon known as ‘blogging,’ where people would post daily or weekly reviews on their personal websites or blogs. It began on a small scale with personal experiences and witty asides, but in the 2000s, the form took off with independent film and music fans posting their thoughts on movies and album reviews. Some of the most influential and popular blogs include The Ringer, Always Amazing, and Birthright Films.

Wade Williams On The Batman Phenomenon And Influences

Even those who weren’t into film would know who Wade Williams is. Though he’s mostly famous for his work on Marvel Comics’ Deadpool, his talents go far beyond just drawing funny comics. Williams has been working in the film industry for almost two decades, having previously worked on The Dark Knight and Sharknado 2. It was while working on the latter of the two that he decided to go indie, releasing the first volume of his graphic novel series The Batman Chronicles in 2014.

While discussing the recent Batman & Robin teaser with USA Today, Williams sounded fairly optimistic about the future of the character: “I think it’s a great fit, honestly, and I think it’s a character that people are hungry to see more of. I think it’s pretty exciting, actually.”

But what does the acclaimed artist think about the current state of the Batman franchise?

On The Dark Knight Rises

As a longtime fan of Batman and Christian Bale’s acting efforts in the role, it’s no surprise that Williams had plenty to say about Nolan’s final installment of the trilogy. The artist discussed the film at length with Screen Rant, going into great detail about Bane and offering some interesting insights into the making of the movie.

“I think that Bane is a great villain and I can’t say that enough,” said Williams. “I think, as an actor, Christian [Bale] really brought that villain to life… Bane has a great screen presence. He’s not one of those villains that really walks and talks and acts. He’s more of a force of nature. You don’t really see him, you just see what he does. I love that about him.”

Williams went on to discuss how he approached designing Bane’s prison, The Pit, which he described as “an ode to the designs of the ‘70s… It has this wonderful, wonderful, thick steel side, which is completely plated with thick glass. It has this wonderful old-school ‘70s feel to it.”

The artist also talked about how he took inspiration from real-life serial killers for Batman’s rogue’s gallery in The Dark Knight Rises, including Jack the Ripper, who he said “was all white, which I thought was a great contrast to the Batman character. He also enjoyed mutilating his victims. I thought that was a great touch.”

Williams went on to explain that he wanted to evoke the “essence of what makes a psychopath,” adding, “I’ve always been a big fan of the ‘60s sitcom ‘The Honeymooners,’ and there’s a line in that show where Ralph says, ‘Psychopaths don’t feel bad about what they do. They enjoy their work.’ So, I think I channeled that with the Joker and Bane.”

On The Avengers Assemble

The Avengers Assemble may not be the best movie ever made, but it’s certainly one of the most popular. With record-breaking box office numbers, it’s clear that moviegoers aren’t just into superheroics these days. But aside from being just another superhero movie, what is the appeal?

Like many of the other films discussed on this list, the film adaptation of the Marvel Comics team-up features plenty of cameos by famous faces. Williams was just one of the many creators who contributed art to the movie. But one of the most prominent was Stan Lee, who appears in a scene with Robert Downey Jr. The two briefly converse about the ‘70s sitcom Three’s Company, to which Lee jokingly claims to have contributed a joke. Lee also makes a cameo in the film’s final scene, which sees Tony Stark/Ironman congratulate Steve Rogers/Captain America on making it to the end of the movie and sharing a laugh with Nick Fury/Vision before the credits roll.

While many might see the scene as a homage to one of the most iconic scenes in movie history, Williams is more circumspect. “It was just a really cool moment,” he said. “I’ve never met [Robert Downey Jr.] and I’ve never talked to Stan [Lee]. So it was kind of a surreal experience. I was sitting there drawing with my headphones on and I looked up and saw [Downey Jr.] and thought, ‘I hope I’m doing this right.’ And then I heard Stan’s voice and thought, ‘This is amazing!’ It was an amazing moment.”

The acclaimed artist had some words of praise for the film as well. “I like the way they approached the ‘70s,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I like how they had a ‘70s feel to the costumes and the sets.”

The Future Of The Batman Franchise

While Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy revitalized the Batman franchise, it’s still up to the next generation to carry the torch. And as it turns out, it might not be a bad idea. With the first of the three-part Batman vs. Superman film hitting theaters this Friday, much has been made about the future of the shared universe. But while Man of Steel is unlikely to be the final installment of the Batman vs. Superman story, it’s still a pretty big deal.

In celebration of the upcoming film, let’s dive into the rich history of the Dark Knight and how he’ll appear in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman. Prepare to be shocked—this is how Batman has evolved over the years.

The Dark Knight: Influences And Creators

The Dark Knight gets its start in the comics almost 70 years ago, in February of 1939. And at a time when the Great Depression was still firmly in the rear-view mirror, the story of a billionaire who donates his money and time to fight crime became one of the comic industry’s biggest hits. Inspired by the unsolved murder of a department store owner in Manhattan, the graphic novel—later made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson—launched an ‘80s franchise that’s still going strong.

The Dark Knight had a pretty massive impact on both comics and cinema. The influence of the groundbreaking book is still evident today, especially in films such as the Batman series and Deadpool. Let’s take a look at how the Dark Knight has evolved through the years:

1939-1943: The Golden Years

In the original comics, the caped crusader is a self-styled vigilante who hunts down criminals in his home town of Gotham. Driven by a strong sense of justice and the desire to avenge his family, he uses his resources—including an armored car and a pet tiger—to fight crime. While the character had been kicking around in the comics for years, it was in these early years that he became definitively established as an ‘80s icon.