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Who is Batman?

Catwoman was featured in the Batman comics.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Image By: Cici Wong
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2014
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Batman is a comic book superhero character created in 1939 by the writer/illustrator team of Bill Finger and Bob Kane. He is a DC Comics character, first appearing in the Detective Comics #27. He has many features that differ from other comic book superheroes, including an extremely dark personality that tends to show little remorse when he exacts vigilante justice on various villains. Also, so many people have “recreated” Batman over the years that there are significant inconsistencies in the way the character behaves, is perceived, and looks, and there are also many different takes on the degree or lack thereof of participation that Batman’s sometimes sidekick Robin is involved in his story.

There are a few aspects of Batman that remain consistent. He is the secret identity of the wealthy Bruce Wayne, (usually now called a billionaire because of inflation). He has a butler, Alfred, who knows his identity and who took part in raising Bruce after the murder of his father and mother. Batman has no superpowers, but he’s intellectually gifted and makes use of gadgets, science and well-honed fighting skills and physical strength to defeat his enemies.

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All Batman origin stories tend to agree that the character was deeply wounded by witnessing the death of his parents at an early age. In many renditions the murderer was simply a mugger. Tim Burton’s film Batman differs in this respect to suggest it was the Joker who killed Batman’s parents. The loss of Bruce’s parents and the corrupt nature of Gotham City where Bruce lives, makes him seek a way of dispatching villains. Gotham City is often depicted as intensely corrupt in almost every aspect of its society. Not even the police force can be trusted, since many of them are on the take.

Batman’s origin story is the departure point for many different renditions of the character. In initial versions, he’s the inscrutable almost anti-hero, and in others, such as the 1960s television series, he’s a much more levelheaded guy living in a much less corrupt city. The 1960s series leaned heavily on camp, and prompted some to think of killing off the character forever. However, interest in this superhero revived in the 1980s, first with famous graphic novelist Frank Miller’s limited comic book series The Dark Knight Returns and then with the 1989 Tim Burton film. Both Miller and Burton were resolved on dispatching the image of the law-abiding television series superhero to return to his much darker beginnings, though Burton did so with considerable humor.

A series of films followed Burton’s first, most of them lessening in quality. Interest in the character revived and led to several television animated series too. Once again, though, interest in Batman appeared to die off, particularly with the lessening success of the films. However, interest again surged with the 2005 film, Batman Begins, an attempt to restart the series and cast it in possibly its darkest tone as of yet. It focuses much more on Bruce Wayne’s athletic training, search for redemption of his corrupt city, but also on a character that is more morally sound than the Burton films, in some ways echoing the television character of the 60s, minus the camp. For fans of the character, this recreation has been very satisfying, and fans eagerly awaited the sequel to Nolan’s first film, The Dark Knight which premiered in the summer of 2008.

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