Understanding the Character: Batman

To best understand who Batman is, you must first go to the man behind the mask: Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is often seen as an “irresponsible and superficial playboy” who lives off the inheritance of his family’s private technology firm, Wayne Enterprises, when in essence he has created this childish persona to hide his secret identity. The facade includes being a dim-witted alcoholic, when in reality he is incredibly clever, pretending that the ginger ale in his glass is liquor. It is an ironic reality that the man behind the mask is indeed the mask itself.

There are several variations of origin stories that have been told for “The Caped Crusader.” However, the most commonly told storyline is based on the 1939 Detective Comics series created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. The comic book tells us how Bruce was born into immense wealth as the child of Gotham City socialites Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha. Tragically, his parents were both gunned down in front of his eyes, traumatizing the young boy and planting the seed in him to grow into the crime-fighting “Dark Knight.” He swore an oath to avenge his parents by ridding Gotham City of corruption and evildoers, and took on the disguise of a giant bat to strike terror into his enemies, thus becoming Batman.

Read more on Batman after the jump.

 Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27, in a story titled “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate.” He rapidly grew in popularity through this series, and as a result the character expanded to his very own comic book franchise in 1940, simply titled Batman. As the character developed, so did his fun little gadgets that made him famous. The utility belt, batarang, and Batplane were three of his early toys, while the Batcave – located in the caves beneath Wayne Mansion – serves as his secret headquarters.

Batman is a rare breed of comic book superhero, as he does not have any superpowers. He is simply a brilliant detective with the financial means and physical abilities to thwart crime. He is an expert in martial arts, while his suit, which contains the properties of both Kevlar and Nomex, aids in his defense. Per Bill Finger (creator), Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot, while his surname was derived from Mad Anthony Wayne, the colonist. The character was influenced by comic strip and movie characters including The Phantom, Zorro, and Sherlock Holmes. In fact, Robin was brought in to be Batman’s sidekick to add the Watson-like companion.

Batman is the very definition of a character with “inner demons,” as he is constantly battling between the grief of the loss of his parents and the guilt he bears for feeling that their murder was his fault. He is a vigilante whose mission often seems to be more obsession than purpose.

In 1960, Batman debuted as a member of the Justice League of America in an issue titled The Brave and the Bold #28 (three and a half years before Marvel countered with The Avengers series). The Justice League was made up of several super heroes from the DC comic books, and among others included Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, The Green Lantern, and Aquaman. In 1966 the Batman television series premiered. And while I can best describe the show as a deliberately campy lampoon, there is no denying that its success helped rejuvenate the comic book industry. This achievement, however, was short lived, and the show reached a premature end in 1968, which in return took a hit on the popularity of the comic books.

The comic book market reached its biggest lull from that period until Tim Burton resurrected the character in his film Batman, which would go on to be the highest grossing film of 1989. The film spawned three sequels before being put back on the shelf. After an eight year hiatus, Christopher Nolan rebooted the series with Batman Begins. The first sequel, The Dark Knight, is considered by many to be the greatest comic book movie ever made, while the final installment of the series, The Dark Knight Rises, hits theatres July 20th. In the comic books, Batman meets his demise at the hands of Bane – the central antagonist in Nolan’s final Batman film. Bane breaks Batman’s back, rendering him a paraplegic. Bruce Wayne then passes the mantle of Batman to Jean-Paul Valley, the “new” Batman. Will the film series follow the path of the comic books? Will Batman end up with a broken back… or worse? Tune in next week. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel July 20th.