The DC universe is one of the most expansive and varied mediums in all of comics. It almost feels like there’s an entire world inhabited solely by superheroes and supervillains. To honor the 75th anniversary of the legendary Batman, let’s dive into the comparison of his personality in the comics and how he has evolved in other mediums.
The Caped Crusader In The Comics
Anyone who has even a casual interest in Gotham City and its infamous inhabitants knows that Batman is one of the most recognizable and influential superheroes of all time. His adventures have graced millions of comic book pages and been made into countless popular films. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Caped Crusader, let’s compare his life and times in comics with those in other mediums.
Comic Book Versions Of Batman
The Caped Crusader first hit comics shelves in April 1938 with the publication of Batman Adventures. Since then, there have been 33 official ongoing series’ dedicated to the adventures of the Dark Knight. While the story arcs and characters have changed over the years, there has always been one constant: Batman. In order to honor this milestone anniversary and to celebrate the rich history of the Dark Knight, let’s take a look back at the various comics series and their depictions of Batman.
1938-1941: The Golden Age Of Comic Books
The first few years of the existence of the modern Batman were, quite frankly, tumultuous. The Great Depression was still fresh in the minds of the American public, and most were inclined to look on the dark side of the world, resulting in a surge of interest in occult topics, spooky stories, and of course, superheroes. In order to capture the imagination of readers and keep them coming back for more, the editors at the time decided to amp up the drama and excitement of their stories, and they did so by introducing us to characters like the Joker and the Riddler. These were the first two comics issues of the legendary Batman in which his main adversaries were criminals rather than the police. The stories were exciting, compelling, and dealt with themes that are as relevant today as they were 70 years ago: the effects of the Great Depression and the struggles of the common man.
1942-1945: The Second World War And Batman’s Resolve
The Second World War was, of course, a significant event in the history of both comics and society in general. Many of the classic stories from this era focused on heroic characters doing their part to fight fascism, racism, and other kinds of oppressive forces. One of the best examples is Batman’s role in the eponymous series during this time. Working with commissioner Gordon and the resources of the GCPD, Batman took on the monstrous caped crusader known as the Joker, battled the deadly vigilante known as the Scarecrow, and battled the rising tide of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. While the world focused on the fight against the Nazis and the Japanese, the message of these comics was just as relevant as it was 70 years ago: unity against tyranny.
After the end of the Second World War in 1945, superheroes in general, and Batman in particular, would not be the same. The world had changed, and Batman could no longer exist in isolation, tinkering away in his fortress, occasionally showing up to fight crime. He had to adapt to the world around him and join in the fight to create a better future for all.
1946-1957: The Bronze And Silver Ages Of Comic Books
For the next few decades, Batman would be a crucial part of the American cultural landscape. Comic books, movies, and other forms of media would focus on his every facet, from his utility belt and cowl to his famous mask and catchphrase. However, it was during this time that Batman experienced some significant changes, both in and out of continuity. In order to examine these changes and their significance, let’s take a quick trip back in time.
Before The Flash: Silver Strippage And Recruitment
One of the most significant changes that happened during this period was the increasing role that girls played in comics. During the war, many men had been called away to fight, leaving behind a generation of mostly young men. This resulted in a massive surge of interest in dating, marriage, and family, themes that were given much more emphasis in these comics. One of the best and most significant examples of this change is Batman’s sidekick, Catwoman. Way back in 1946, Bob Kane and Bill Finger created a character they named after their beloved cat. Since then, the feline Felicia has been featured in countless comics stories and has proven to be as popular as her male counterpart, Robin. However, it wasn’t until the late 1950s that Catwoman would actually become a playable character in a video game, further establishing her identity as an independent and capable woman.
Along with Catwoman, another great example of the change in emphasis during this period is the character of Dick Grayson, better known as the actor and artist Dick Grayson. While still working with Batman, Dick would eventually take over as the crime fighter known as the Nightwing, which was the name of his first solo series. Dick Grayson’s stories during this time were more focused on his relationships with women than his work with Batman and were often very suggestive, even by today’s standards. Notable works from this time period include Batman’s war against the KKK, Zodiac Killer, and organized crime in general. One of the best parts of this era is how true to life the stories felt. Kane and Finger captured the spirit of the times so well that many people, even today, believe that these stories took place in an alternate history rather than in a fantasy world.
The Post-War World: Villains, Tragedy, And Rebirth
After the end of the Second World War, comics would focus less on political themes and more on providing escapism and fantasy. It was during this time that many superheroes changed their names, abandoned their secret identities, and either retired or were written out of the ongoing stories; this is mainly due to the increasing stigma that surrounded mental health issues. However, there were also significant changes that happened that would forever alter the way Batman would live his life and the stories he would tell. This was the period that saw the invention of the first green kryptonite, which caused Superman’s heart to become weak, eventually leading to his death.
1948: Death Of The Franchise
One of the biggest problems that the Batman franchise had experienced was the increasing absence of the legendary caped crusader himself in the comics. This was a result of his self-imposed retirement during World War II. However, it wasn’t until 1948 that Batman finally decided to accept his role as Gotham City’s protector and mentor. Despite his best efforts, he would never quite be able to shake the stench of scandal that surrounded him. The Batman of 1948 was a different animal from the one we had come to know and love. He would be significantly less frolicious and more dark and brooding. The stories of the era were also marked by tragedy: the death of many of Batman’s closest friends and allies. The aftermath of the war also saw significant changes in the justice system as well, with a new emphasis on rehabilitation and redemption.
1949: The Gray And Dark Ages Of Comic Books
The early 1950s were, as we mentioned above, a time of significant change for Batman. While World War II had ended, the Korean War was about to begin, dramatically altering the political and social landscapes of both Korea and the world in general. However, what’s important for our purposes here is that this was also the era where Batman’s rogues gallery grew by leaps and bounds. The Dark Knight’s foes got darker, more grotesque, and more terrifying. Many of the stories from this era are still terrifying, even 70 years later.