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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Batman - Characterization

Batman's primary character traits can be summarized as "wealth; physical prowess; deductive abilities and obsession". The details and tone of Batman's characterization have varied over the years due to different interpretations. Dennis O'Neil noted that character consistency was not a major concern during early editorial regimes: "Julie Schwartz did a Batman in Batman and Detective and Murray Boltinoff did a Batman in the Brave and the Bold and apart from the costume they bore very little resemblance to each other. Julie and Murray did not coordinate their efforts, did not pretend to, did not want to, were not asked to. Continuity was not important in those days".

A main component that defines Batman as a character is his origin story. Bob Kane said he and Bill Finger discussed the character's background and decided that "there's nothing more traumatic than having your parents murdered before your eyes." Batman is thus driven to fight crime, sometimes employing illegal and morally dubious tactics (like torture and intrusive surveillance), in order to avenge the death of his parents. While details of Batman's origin have varied from version to version, the "reiteration of the basic origin events holds together otherwise divergent expressions" of the character. The origin is the source of many of the character's traits and attributes, which play out in many of the character's adventures.

Batman is often treated as a vigilante by other characters in his stories. Frank Miller views the character as "a dionysian figure, a force for anarchy that imposes an individual order." Dressed as a bat, Batman deliberately cultivates a frightening persona in order to aid him in crime fighting.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Batman - Modern Batman

After the 12-issue limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics rebooted the histories of some major characters in an attempt at updating them for contemporary audiences. Frank Miller retold Batman's origin in the storyline Year One from Batman #404-407, which emphasizes a grittier tone in the character. Though the Earth-Two Batman is erased from history, many stories of Batman's Silver Age/Earth-One career (along with an amount of Golden Age ones) remain canonical in the post-Crisis universe, with his origins remaining the same in essence, despite alteration. For example, Gotham's police are mostly corrupt, setting up further need for Batman's existence. While Dick Grayson's past remains much the same, the history of Jason Todd, the second Robin, is altered, turning the boy into the orphan son of a petty crook, who tries to steal the tires from the Batmobile. Also removed is the guardian Phillip Wayne, leaving young Bruce to be raised by Alfred. Additionally, Batman is no longer a founding member of the Justice League of America, although he becomes leader for a short time of a new incarnation of the team launched in 1987. To help fill in the revised backstory for Batman following Crisis, DC launched a new Batman title called Legends of the Dark Knight in 1989 and has published various miniseries and one-shot stories since then that largely take place during the "Year One" period. Various stories from Jeph Loeb and Matt Wagner also touch upon this era.

Bane breaks Batman's back in a splash page from Batman #497 (July 1993). Art by Jim Aparo.

In 1988's "Batman: A Death in the Family" storyline from Batman #426-429 Jason Todd, the second Robin, is killed by the Joker. Subsequently Batman begins exhibiting an excessive, reckless approach to his crime fighting, a result of the pain of losing Jason Todd. Batman works solo until the decade's close, when Tim Drake becomes the new Robin. In 2005 writers resurrected the Jason Todd character and have pitted him against his former mentor.

Many of the major Batman storylines since the 1990s have been inter-title crossovers that run for a number of issues. In 1993, the same year that DC published the "Death of Superman" storyline, the publisher released the "Knightfall" storyline. In the storyline's first phase, the new villain Bane paralyzes Batman, leading Wayne to ask Azrael to take on the role. After the end of "Knightfall", the storylines split in two directions, following both the Azrael-Batman's adventures, and Bruce Wayne's quest to become Batman once more. The story arcs realign in "KnightsEnd", as Azrael becomes increasingly violent and is defeated by a healed Bruce Wayne. Wayne hands the Batman mantle to Dick Grayson (then Nightwing) for an interim period, while Wayne trains to return to his role as Batman.

The 1994 company-wide crossover Zero Hour changes aspects of DC continuity again, including those of Batman. Noteworthy among these changes is that the general populace and the criminal element now considers Batman an urban legend rather than a known force. Similarly, the Waynes' killer is never caught or identified, effectively removing Joe Chill from the new continuity, rendering stories such as "Year Two" non-canon.

Batman once again becomes a member of the Justice League during Grant Morrison's 1996 relaunch of the series, titled JLA. While Batman contributes greatly to many of the team's successes, the Justice League is largely uninvolved as Batman and Gotham City face catastrophe in the decade's closing crossover arc. In 1998's "Cataclysm" storyline, Gotham City is devastated by an earthquake. Deprived of many of his technological resources, Batman fights to reclaim the city from legions of gangs during 1999's "No Man's Land." While Lex Luthor rebuilds Gotham at the end of the "No Man's Land" storyline, he then frames Bruce Wayne for murder in the "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" and "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive" story arcs; Wayne is eventually acquitted.

DC's 2005 limited series Identity Crisis, reveals that JLA member Zatanna had edited Batman's memories, leading to his deep loss of trust in the rest of the superhero community. Batman later creates the Brother I satellite surveillance system to watch over the other heroes. Its eventual co-opting by Maxwell Lord is one of the main events that leads to the Infinite Crisis miniseries, which again restructures DC continuity. In Infinite Crisis #7, Alexander Luthor, Jr. mentions that in the newly rewritten history of the "New Earth", created in the previous issue, the murderer of Martha and Thomas Wayne – again, Joe Chill – was captured, thus undoing the retcon created after Zero Hour. Batman and a team of superheroes destroy Brother Eye and the OMACs.

Following Infinite Crisis, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Tim Drake retrace the steps Bruce had taken when he originally left Gotham City, to "rebuild Batman". In the "Face the Face" storyline, Batman and Robin return to Gotham City after their year-long absence. Part of this absence is captured in during Week 30 of the 52 series, which shows Batman fighting his inner demons. Later on in 52, Batman is shown undergoing an intense meditation ritual in Nanda Parbat. This becomes an important part of the regular Batman title, which reveals that Batman was reborn as a more effective crime fighter while undergoing this ritual, having "hunted down and ate" the last traces of fear in his mind.

At the end of the "Face the Face" story arc, Bruce adopts Tim as his son. The follow-up story arc in Batman, "Batman & Son", introduces Damian Wayne, who is Batman's son with Talia al Ghul. Batman, along with Superman and Wonder Woman, reforms the Justice League in the new Justice League of America series, and is leading the newest incarnation of the Outsiders.

Grant Morrison's 2008 storyline, "Batman R.I.P.", featuring Batman being physically and mentally broken by the enigmatic "Black Glove", garnered much news coverage in advance of its highly-promoted conclusion, which would supposedly feature the death of Bruce Wayne. The intention was, in fact, not for Batman to die in the pages of "R.I.P." but for the story to continue with the current DC event Final Crisis, and have the death occur there. However, out of desire to give the storyline of "R.I.P." a suitable conclusion in an of itself, Batman appeared to die in the final chapter of the story, only to turn up alive in the very next issues as a prisoner of "Crisis" villain Darkseid. The death came a month later, in the limited series Final Crisis, during which Batman confronts the story's villain Darkseid. Making rare exception, Batman uses a gun, loaded with a Radion (which is poisonous to the New Gods) bullet, to shoot Darkseid's shoulder, just as Darkseid unleashes his Omega Sanction, the "life that is death", upon Batman and his charred corpse is recovered by Superman. However, the Omega Sanction does not kill its victims: instead, it sends their consciousness travelling through parallel worlds, and at the conclusion of Final Crisis, it is made clear that this is the fate that has befallen the still-living Batman, as he watches the passing of Anthro in the distant past.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Batman - Silver Age

The Silver Age of comic books in DC Comics is sometimes held to have begun in 1956 when the publisher introduced Barry Allen as a new, updated version of The Flash. Batman is not significantly changed by the late 1950s for the continuity which would be later referred to as Earth-One. The lighter tone Batman had taken in the period between the Golden and Silver Ages led to the stories of the late 1950s and early 1960s that often feature a large number of science-fiction elements, and Batman is not significantly updated in the manner of other characters until Detective Comics #327 (May 1964), in which Batman reverts to his detective roots, with most science-fiction elements jettisoned from the series.

Detective Comics #327 (May 1964), debut of the "New Look" Batman. Cover art by Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella.

After the introduction of DC Comics' multiverse in the 1960s, DC established that stories from the Golden Age star the Earth-Two Batman, a character from a parallel world. This version of Batman partners with and marries the reformed Earth-Two Catwoman, Selina Kyle (as shown in Superman Family #211) and fathers Helena Wayne, who, as the Huntress, becomes (along with the Earth-Two Robin) Gotham's protector once Wayne retires from the position to become police commissioner, a position he occupies until he is killed during one final adventure as Batman. Batman titles however often ignored that a distinction had been made between the pre-revamp and post-revamp Batmen (since unlike The Flash or Green Lantern, Batman comics had been published without interruption through the 1950s) and would on occasion make reference to stories from the Golden Age. Nevertheless, details of Batman's history were altered or expanded upon through the decades. Additions include meetings with a future Superman during his youth, his upbringing by his uncle Philip Wayne (introduced in Batman #208, Jan./Feb. 1969) after his parents' death, and appearances of his father and himself as prototypical versions of Batman and Robin, respectively.[62][63] In 1980 then-editor Paul Levitz commissioned the Untold Legend of the Batman limited series to thoroughly chronicle Batman's origin and history.

Batman meets and regularly works with other heroes during the Silver Age, most notably Superman, whom he began regularly working alongside in a series of team-ups in World's Finest Comics, starting in 1954 and continuing through the series' cancellation in 1986. Batman and Superman are usually depicted as close friends. Batman becomes a founding member of the Justice League of America, appearing in its first story in 1960s Brave and the Bold #28. In the 1970s and 1980s, Brave and the Bold became a Batman title, in which Batman teams up with a different DC Universe superhero each month.

In 1969, Dick Grayson attends college as part of DC Comics' effort to revise the Batman comics. Additionally, Batman also moves from Wayne Manor into a penthouse apartment atop the Wayne Foundation building in downtown Gotham City, in order to be closer to Gotham City's crime. Batman spends the 1970s and early 1980s mainly working solo, with occasional team-ups with Robin and/or Batgirl. Batman's adventures also become somewhat darker and more grim during this period, depicting increasingly violent crimes, including the first appearance (since the early Golden Age) of the Joker as a homicidal psychopath, and the arrival of Ra's al Ghul, a centuries-old terrorist who knows Batman's secret identity. In the 1980s, Dick Grayson becomes Nightwing.

In the final issue of Brave and the Bold in 1983, Batman quits the Justice League and forms a new group called the Outsiders. He serves as the team's leader until Batman and the Outsiders #32 (1986) and the comic subsequently changed its title.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Batman - Golden Age

Bruce Wayne is inspired to become Batman. Detective Comics #33 (Nov. 1939). Art by Bob Kane.

In Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics #27, he is already operating as a crime fighter.[54] Batman's origin is first presented in Detective Comics #33 in November 1939, and is later fleshed out in Batman #47. As these comics state, Bruce Wayne is born to Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, two very wealthy and charitable Gotham City socialites. Bruce is brought up in Wayne Manor, with its wealthy splendor, and leads a happy and privileged existence until the age of eight, when his parents are killed by a small-time criminal named Joe Chill while on their way home from a movie theater. Bruce Wayne swears an oath to rid the city of the evil that had taken his parents' lives. He engages in intense intellectual and physical training; however, he realizes that these skills alone would not be enough. "Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot", Wayne remarks, "so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible..." As if responding to his desires, a bat suddenly flies through the window, inspiring Bruce to assume the persona of Batman.

In early strips, Batman's career as a vigilante earns him the ire of the police. During this period Wayne has a fiancée named Julie Madison. Wayne takes in an orphaned circus acrobat, Dick Grayson, who becomes his sidekick, Robin. Batman also becomes a founding member of the Justice Society of America, although he, like Superman, is an honorary member, and thus only participates occasionally. Batman's relationship with the law thaws quickly, and he is made an honorary member of Gotham City's police department. During this time, butler Alfred Pennyworth arrives at Wayne Manor, and after deducing the Dynamic Duo's secret identities joins their service.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Batman - Fictional character history

Batman's history has undergone various revisions, both minor and major. Few elements of the character's history have remained constant. Scholars William Uricchio and Roberta E. Pearson noted in the early 1990s, "Unlike some fictional characters, the Batman has no primary urtext set in a specific period, but has rather existed in a plethora of equally valid texts constantly appearing over more than five decades."

The central fixed event in the Batman stories is the character's origin story. As a little boy, Bruce Wayne is horrified and traumatized to see his parents, the physician Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, being murdered by a mugger in front of his very eyes. This drives him to fight crime in Gotham City as Batman. Pearson and Uricchio also noted beyond the origin story and such events as the introduction of Robin, "Until recently, the fixed and accruing and hence, canonized, events have been few in number," a situation altered by an increased effort by later Batman editors such as Dennis O'Neil to ensure consistency and continuity between stories.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Batman - The Dark Knight Returns and later

The first issue of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which redefined Batman in the 1980s. Pencils by Frank Miller.

Frank Miller's 1986 limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which tells the story of a 50-year-old Batman coming out of retirement in a possible future, reinvigorated the character. The Dark Knight Returns was a financial success and has since become one of the medium's most noted touchstones. The series also sparked a major resurgence in the character's popularity.

That year Dennis O'Neil took over as editor of the Batman titles and set the template for the portrayal of Batman following DC's status quo-altering miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths. O'Neil operated under the assumption that he was hired to revamp the character and as a result tried to instill a different tone in the books than had gone before. One outcome of this new approach was the "Year One" storyline in Batman #404-407 (Feb.-May 1987), in which Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli redefined the character's origins. Writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland continued this dark trend with 1988's 48-page one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the Joker, attempting to drive Commissioner Gordon insane, cripples Gordon's daughter Barbara, and then kidnaps and tortures the commissioner, physically and psychologically.

The Batman comics garnered major attention in 1988 when DC Comics created a 900 number for readers to call to vote on whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, lived or died. Voters decided in favor of Jason's death by a narrow margin of 28 votes (see Batman: A Death in the Family). The following year saw the release of Tim Burton's Batman feature film, which firmly brought the character back to the public's attention, grossing millions of dollars at the box office, and millions more in merchandising. In the same year, the first issue of Legends of the Dark Knight, the first new solo Batman title in nearly fifty years, sold close to a million copies.

The 1993 "Knightfall" story arc introduced a new villain, Bane, who critically injures Bruce Wayne. Jean-Paul Valley, known as Azrael, is called upon to wear the Batsuit during Wayne's convalescence. Writers Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant worked on the Batman titles during "Knightfall", and would also contribute to other Batman crossovers throughout the 1990s. 1998's "Cataclysm" storyline served as the precursor to 1999's "No Man's Land", a year-long storyline that ran through all the Batman-related titles dealing with the effects of an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City. At the conclusion of "No Man's Land", O'Neil stepped down as editor and was replaced by Bob Schreck.

In 2003, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee began a "Batman: Hush", a 12-issue run on Batman that introduced a new villain, Hush, guest-starred every major supporting character and Batman villain, and laid the groundwork for the return of Jason Todd. Lee's first regular comic book work in nearly a decade, the series became #1 on the Diamond Comic Distributors sales chart for the first time since Batman #500 (Oct. 1993). Lee then teamed with Frank Miller on All-Star Batman and Robin, which debuted with the best-selling issue in 2005, as well as the highest sales in the industry since 2003. Starting in 2006, the regular writers on Batman and Detective Comics were Grant Morrison and Paul Dini, respectively.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Batman - "New Look" Batman and camp

By 1964, sales on Batman titles had fallen drastically. Bob Kane noted that, as a result, DC was "planning to kill Batman off altogether." In response to this, editor Julius Schwartz was assigned to the Batman titles. He presided over drastic changes, beginning with 1964's Detective Comics #327 (May 1964), which was cover-billed as the "New Look". Schwartz introduced changes designed to make Batman more contemporary, and to return him to more detective-oriented stories. He brought in artist Carmine Infantino to help overhaul the character. The Batmobile was redesigned, and Batman's costume was modified to incorporate a yellow ellipse behind the bat-insignia. The space aliens and characters of the 1950s such as Batwoman, Ace, and Bat-Mite were retired. Batman's butler Alfred was killed off, and replaced with Aunt Harriet, who came to live with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.

Batman #227 (Dec. 1970). An example of Batman's return to a Gothic atmosphere, in an homage to the cover of 1939's Detective Comics #31. Art by Neal Adams.

The debut of the Batman television series in 1966 had a profound influence on the character. The success of the series increased sales throughout the comic book industry, and Batman reached a circulation of close to 900,000 copies. Elements such as the character of Batgirl and the show's campy nature were introduced into the comics; the series also initiated the return of Alfred. Although both the comics and TV show were successful for a time, the camp approach eventually wore thin and the show was canceled in 1968. In the aftermath, the Batman comics themselves lost popularity once again. As Julius Schwartz noted, "When the television show was a success, I was asked to be campy, and of course when the show faded, so did the comic books."

Starting in 1969, writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams made a deliberate effort to distance Batman from the campy portrayal of the 1960s TV series and to return the character to his roots as a "grim avenger of the night". O'Neil said his idea was "simply to take it back to where it started. I went to the DC library and read some of the early stories. I tried to get a sense of what Kane and Finger were after".

O'Neil and Adams first collaborated on the story "The Secret of the Waiting Graves" (Detective Comics #395, Jan. 1970). Few stories were true collaborations between O'Neil, Adams, Schwartz, and inker Dick Giordano, and in actuality these men were mixed and matched with various other creators during the 1970s; nevertheless the influence of their work was "tremendous". Giordano said: "We went back to a grimmer, darker Batman, and I think that's why these stories did so well . . . Even today we're still using Neal's Batman with the long flowing cape and the pointy ears." While the work of O'Neil and Adams was popular with fans, the acclaim did little to help declining sales; the same held true with a similarly acclaimed run by writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers in Detective Comics #471-476 (Aug. 1977 - April 1978), which went on to influence the 1989 movie Batman and be adapted for Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted in 1992. Regardless, circulation continued to drop through the 1970s and 1980s, hitting an all-time low in 1985.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Batman - The 1950s and early 1960s

Batman was one of the few superhero characters to be continuously published as interest in the genre waned during the 1950s. In the story "The Mightiest Team in the World" in Superman #76 (June 1952), Batman teams up with Superman for the first time and the pair discovers each other's secret identity. Following the success of this story, World's Finest Comics was revamped so it featured stories starring both heroes together, instead of the separate Batman and Superman features that had been running before. The team-up of the characters was "a financial success in an era when those were few and far between;" this series of stories ran until the book's cancellation in 1986.

Batman comics were among those criticized when the comic book industry came under scrutiny with the publication of psychologist Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. Wertham's thesis was that children imitated crimes committed in comic books, and that these works corrupt the morals of the youth. Wertham criticized Batman comics for their supposed homosexual overtones and argued that Batman and Robin were portrayed as lovers. Wertham's criticisms raised a public outcry during the 1950s, eventually leading to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. The tendency towards a "sunnier Batman" in the postwar years intensified after the introduction of the Comics Code. It has also been suggested by scholars that the characters of Batwoman (in 1956) and Bat-Girl (in 1961) were introduced in part to refute the allegation that Batman and Robin were gay, and the stories took on a campier, lighter feel.

In the late 1950s Batman stories gradually become more science fiction-oriented, an attempt at mimicking the success of other DC characters that had dabbled in the genre. New characters such as Batwoman, Ace the Bat-Hound, and Bat-Mite were introduced. Batman's adventures often involved odd transformations or bizarre space aliens. In 1960, Batman debuted as a member of the Justice League of America in The Brave and the Bold #28 (February 1960), and went on to appear in several Justice League comic series starting later that same year.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Batman - Early years

Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Cover art by Bob Kane.

The first Batman story, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate," was published in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Finger said, "Batman was originally written in the style of the pulps", and this influence was evident with Batman showing little remorse over killing or maiming criminals and was not above using firearms. Batman proved a hit character, and he received his own solo title in 1940, while continuing to star in Detective Comics. By that time, National was the top-selling and most influential publisher in the industry; Batman and the company's other major hero, Superman, were the cornerstones of the company's success. The two characters were featured side-by-side as the stars of World's Finest Comics, which was originally titled World's Best Comics when it debuted in fall 1940. Creators including Jerry Robinson and Dick Sprang also worked on the strips during this period.

Over the course of the first few Batman strips elements were added to the character and the artistic depiction of Batman evolved. Kane noted that within six issues he drew the character's jawline more pronounced, and lengthened the ears on the costume. "About a year later he was almost the full figure, my mature Batman," Kane said. Batman's characteristic utility belt was introduced in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939), followed by the boomerang-like batarang and the first bat-themed vehicle in #31 (Sept. 1939). The character's origin was revealed in #33 (Nov. 1939), unfolding in a two-page story that establishes the brooding persona of Batman, a character driven by the loss of his parents. Written by Finger, it depicts a young Bruce Wayne witnessing the death of his parents as part of a street robbery. Days later, at their grave, the child vows that "by the spirits of my parents [I will] avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals".

The early, pulp-inflected portrayal of Batman started to soften in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) with the introduction of Robin, Batman's kid sidekick. Robin was introduced, based on Finger's suggestion Batman needed a "Watson" with whom Batman could talk. Sales nearly doubled, despite Kane's preference for a solo Batman, and it sparked a proliferation of "kid sidekicks". The first issue of the solo spin-off series Batman was notable not only for introducing two of his most persistent antagonists, the Joker and Catwoman, but for a story in which Batman shoots some monstrous giants to death. That story prompted editor Whitney Ellsworth to decree that the character could no longer kill or use a gun.

By 1942, the writers and artists behind the Batman comics had established most of the basic elements of the Batman mythos. In the years following World War II, DC Comics "adopted a postwar editorial direction that increasingly de-emphasized social commentary in favor of lighthearted juvenile fantasy." The impact of this editorial approach was evident in Batman comics of the postwar period; removed from the "bleak and menacing world" of the strips of the early 1940s, Batman was instead portrayed as a respectable citizen and paternal figure that inhabited a "bright and colorful" environment.

Thursday, February 19, 2009



Second printing cover of Batman #608 (Oct. 2002).
Pencils by Jim Lee and inks by Scott Williams.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Detective Comics #27
(May 1939).
Created by Bob Kane (concept)
Bill Finger
In-story information
Alter ego Bruce Wayne
Team affiliations Batman Family
Justice League
Wayne Enterprises
Partnerships Robin
Notable aliases Matches Malone

Batman (originally referred to as the Bat-Man and still referred to at times as the Batman) is a fictional character, a comic book superhero co-created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger (although only Kane receives official credit), appearing in publications by DC Comics. The character first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939)

Batman's secret identity is Bruce Wayne, a wealthy industrialist, playboy, and philanthropist. Witnessing the murder of his parents as a child, Wayne trains himself both physically and intellectually and dons a bat-themed costume in order to fight crime.[1] Batman operates in the fictional American Gotham City, assisted by various supporting characters including his sidekick Robin and his butler Alfred Pennyworth, and fights an assortment of villains influenced by the characters' roots in film and pulp magazines. Unlike most superheroes, he does not possess any superpowers; he makes use of intellect, detective skills, science and technology, wealth, physical prowess, and intimidation in his war on crime.

Batman became a popular character soon after his introduction, and gained his own comic book title, Batman, in 1940. As the decades wore on, differing takes on the character emerged. The late 1960s Batman television series utilized a camp aesthetic associated with the character for years after the show ended. Various creators worked to return the character to his dark roots, culminating in the 1986 miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, by writer-artist Frank Miller. The successes of director Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman and Christopher Nolan's 2005 reboot Batman Begins also helped to reignite popular interest in the character.[2] A cultural icon, Batman has been licensed and adapted into a variety of media, from radio to television and film, and appears on a variety of merchandise sold all over the world.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Superman - Influences

An influence on early Superman stories is the context of the Great Depression. The left-leaning perspective of creators Shuster and Siegel is reflected in early storylines. Superman took on the role of social activist, fighting crooked businessmen and politicians and demolishing run-down tenements. This is seen by comics scholar Roger Sabin as a reflection of "the liberal idealism of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal", with Shuster and Siegel initially portraying Superman as champion to a variety of social causes. In later Superman radio programs the character continued to take on such issues, tackling a version of the KKK in a 1946 broadcast. Siegel and Shuster's status as children of Jewish immigrants is also thought to have influenced their work. Timothy Aaron Pevey has argued that they crafted "an immigrant figure whose desire was to fit into American culture as an American", something which Pevey feels taps into an important aspect of American identity.

Siegel himself noted that the many mythic heroes which exist in the traditions of many cultures bore an influence on the character, including Hercules and Samson. The character has also been seen by Scott Bukatman to be "a worthy successor to Lindberg ... (and) also ... like Babe Ruth", and is also representative of the United States dedication to "progress and the 'new'" through his "invulnerable body ... on which history cannot be inscribed." Further, given that Siegel and Shuster were noted fans of pulp science fiction, it has been suggested that another influence may have been Hugo Danner. Danner was the main character of the 1930 novel Gladiator by Philip Wylie, and is possessed of same powers of the early Superman.

Because Siegel and Shuster were both Jewish, some religious commentators and pop-culture scholars such as Rabbi Simcha Weinstein and British novelist Howard Jacobson suggest that Superman's creation was partly influenced by Moses, and other Jewish elements. Superman's Kryptonian name, "Kal-El," resembles the Hebrew words קל-אל, which can be taken to mean "voice of God". The suffix "el", meaning "(of) God" is also found in the name of angels (e.g. Gabriel, Ariel), who are flying humanoid agents of good with superhuman powers. Jewish legends of the Golem have been cited as worthy of comparison, a Golem being a mythical being created to protect and serve the persecuted Jews of 16th century Prague and later revived in popular culture in reference to their suffering at the hands of the Nazis in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. Superman is often seen as being an analogy for Jesus, being a saviour of humanity.

Whilst the term Superman was initially coined by Nietzsche, it is unclear how influential Nietzsche and his ideals were to Siegel and Shuster. Les Daniels has speculated that "Siegel picked up the term from other science fiction writers who had casually employed it", further noting that "his concept is remembered by hundreds of millions who may barely know who Nietzsche is." Others argue that Siegel and Shuster "could not have been unaware of an idea that would dominate Hitler's National Socialism. The concept was certainly well discussed." Yet Jacobson and others point out that in many ways Superman and the Übermensch are polar opposites. Nietzsche envisioned the Übermensch as a man who had transcended the limitations of society, religion, and conventional morality while still being fundamentally human. Superman, although an alien gifted with incredible powers, chooses to honor human moral codes and social mores. Nietzsche envisioned the perfect man as being beyond moral codes; Siegel and Shuster envisioned the perfect man as holding himself to a higher standard of adherence to them.

Siegel and Shuster have themselves discussed a number of influences that impacted upon the character. Both were avid readers, and their mutual love of science fiction helped to drive their friendship. Siegel cited John Carter stories as an influence: "Carter was able to leap great distances because the planet Mars was smaller that the planet Earth; and he had great strength. I visualized the planet Krypton as a huge planet, much larger than Earth". The pair were also avid collectors of comic strips in their youth, cutting them from the newspaper, with Winsor McKay's Little Nemo firing their imagination with its sense of fantasy. Shuster has remarked on the artists which played an important part in the development of his own style, whilst also noting a larger influence: "Alex Raymond and Burne Hogarth were my idols — also Milt Caniff, Hal Foster, and Roy Crane. But the movies were the greatest influence on our imagination: especially the films of Douglas Fairbanks Senior." Fairbanks' role as Robin Hood was certainly an inspiration, as Shuster admitted to basing Superman's stance upon scenes from the movie. The movies also influenced the storytelling and page layouts, whilst the city of Metropolis was named in honor of the Fritz Lang motion picture of the same title.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Batman - Creation

In early 1938, the success of Superman in Action Comics prompted editors at the comic book division of National Publications (the future DC Comics) to request more superheroes for its titles. In response, Bob Kane created "the Bat-Man". Collaborator Bill Finger recalled Kane

...had an idea for a character called 'Batman', and he'd like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane's, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of ... reddish tights, I believe, with boots ... no gloves, no gauntlets ... with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign ... BATMAN.

Finger offered such suggestions as giving the character a cowl instead of a simple domino mask, a cape instead of wings, and gloves, and removing the red sections from the original costume. Finger said he devised the name Bruce Wayne for the character's secret identity: "Bruce Wayne's first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock ... then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne".

Various aspects of Batman's personality, character history, visual design and equipment were inspired by contemporary popular culture of the 1930s, including movies, pulp magazines, comic strips, newspaper headlines, and even aspects of Kane himself. Kane noted especially the influence of the films The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Bat Whispers (1930) in the creation of the iconography associated with the character, while Finger drew inspiration from literary characters Doc Savage, The Shadow, and Sherlock Holmes in his depiction of Batman as a master sleuth and scientist.

Kane, in his 1989 autobiography, detailed Finger's contributions to Batman's creation:

One day I called Bill and said, 'I have a new character called the Bat-Man and I've made some crude, elementary sketches I'd like you to look at'. He came over and I showed him the drawings. At the time, I only had a small domino mask, like the one Robin later wore, on Batman's face. Bill said, 'Why not make him look more like a bat and put a hood on him, and take the eyeballs out and just put slits for eyes to make him look more mysterious?' At this point, the Bat-Man wore a red union suit; the wings, trunks, and mask were black. I thought that red and black would be a good combination. Bill said that the costume was too bright: 'Color it dark gray to make it look more ominous'. The cape looked like two stiff bat wings attached to his arms. As Bill and I talked, we realized that these wings would get cumbersome when Bat-Man was in action, and changed them into a cape, scalloped to look like bat wings when he was fighting or swinging down on a rope. Also, he didn't have any gloves on, and we added them so that he wouldn't leave fingerprints.

Kane signed away ownership in the character in exchange for, among other compensation, a mandatory byline on all Batman comics. This byline did not, originally, say "Batman created by Bob Kane"; his name was simply written on the title page of each story. The name disappeared from the comic book in the mid-1960s, replaced by credits for each story's actual writer and artists. In the late 1970s, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster began receiving a "created by" credit on the Superman titles, along with William Moulton Marston being given the byline for creating Wonder Woman, Batman stories began saying "Created by Bob Kane" in addition to the other credits.

Finger did not receive the same recognition. While he had received credit for other DC work since the 1940s, he began, in the 1960s, to receive limited acknowledgment for his Batman writing; in the letters page of Batman #169 (Feb. 1965) for example, editor Julius Schwartz names him as the creator of the Riddler, one of Batman's recurring villains. However, Finger's contract left him only with his writing page rate and no byline. Kane wrote, "Bill was disheartened by the lack of major accomplishments in his career. He felt that he had not used his creative potential to its fullest and that success had passed him by". At the time of Finger's death in 1974, DC had not officially credited Finger as Batman co-creator.

Jerry Robinson, who also worked with Finger and Kane on the strip at this time, has criticized Kane for failing to share the credit. He recalled Finger resenting his position, stating in a 2005 interview with The Comics Journal:

Bob made him more insecure, because while he slaved working on Batman, he wasn't sharing in any of the glory or the money that Bob began to make, which is why... [he was] going to leave [Kane's employ]. ... [Kane] should have credited Bill as co-creator, because I know; I was there. ... That was one thing I would never forgive Bob for, was not to take care of Bill or recognize his vital role in the creation of Batman. As with Siegel and Shuster, it should have been the same, the same co-creator credit in the strip, writer and artist.

Although Kane initially rebutted Finger's claims at having created the character, writing in a 1965 open letter to fans that "it seemed to me that Bill Finger has given out the impression that he and not myself created the ''Batman, t' [sic] as well as Robin and all the other leading villains and characters. This statement is fraudulent and entirely untrue." Kane himself also commented on Finger's lack of credit. "The trouble with being a 'ghost' writer or artist is that you must remain rather anonymously without 'credit'. However, if one wants the 'credit', then one has to cease being a 'ghost' or follower and become a leader or innovator".

In 1989, Kane revisited Finger's situation, recalling in an interview,

In those days it was like, one artist and he had his name over it [the comic strip] — the policy of DC in the comic books was, if you can't write it, obtain other writers, but their names would never appear on the comic book in the finished version. So Bill never asked me for it [the byline] and I never volunteered — I guess my ego at that time. And I felt badly, really, when he [Finger] died.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Superman - Critical reception and popularity

The character Superman and his various comic series have received various awards over the years. The Reign of the Supermen is one of many storylines or works to have received a Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award, winning the Favorite Comic Book Story category in 1993. Superman came at number 2 in VH1's Top Pop Culture Icons 2004. In the same year British cinemagoers voted Superman as the greatest superhero of all time. Works featuring the character have also garnered six Eisner Awards and three Harvey Awards, either for the works themselves or the creators of the works. The Superman films have, as of 2007, received a number of nominations and awards, with Christopher Reeve winning a BAFTA for his performance in Superman. The Smallville television series has garnered Emmys for crew members and various other awards. Superman as a character is still seen as being as relevant now as he has been in the seventy years of his existence.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Superman - Literary analysis

Superman has been interpreted and discussed in many forms in the years since his debut. The character's status as the first costumed superhero has allowed him to be used in many studies discussing the genre, Umberto Eco noting that "he can be seen as the representative of all his similars". Writing in Time Magazine in 1971, Gerald Clarke stated: "Superman's enormous popularity might be looked upon as signalling the beginning of the end for the Horatio Alger myth of the self-made man." Clarke viewed the comics characters as having to continuously update in order to maintain relevance, and thus representing the mood of the nation. He regarded Superman's character in the early seventies as a comment on the modern world, which he saw as a place in which "only the man with superpowers can survive and prosper." Andrew Arnold, writing in the early 21st century, has noted Superman's partial role in exploring assimilation, the character's alien status allowing the reader to explore attempts to fit in on a somewhat superficial level.

Clark Kent, argued by Jules Feiffer to be the most innovative feature of Superman

A.C. Grayling, writing in The Spectator, traces Superman's stances through the decades, from his 1930s campaign against crime being relevant to a nation under the influence of Al Capone, through the 1940s and World War II, a period in which Superman helped sell war bonds, and into the 1950s, where Superman explored the new technological threats. Grayling notes the period after the Cold War as being one where "matters become merely personal: the task of pitting his brawn against the brains of Lex Luthor and Brainiac appeared to be independent of bigger questions", and discusses events post 9/11, stating that as a nation "caught between the terrifying George W. Bush and the terrorist Osama bin Laden, America is in earnest need of a Saviour for everything from the minor inconveniences to the major horrors of world catastrophe. And here he is, the down-home clean-cut boy in the blue tights and red cape".

Scott Bukatman has discussed Superman, and the superhero in general, noting the ways in which they humanize large urban areas through their use of the space, especially in Superman's ability to soar over the large skyscrapers of Metropolis. He writes that the character "represented, in 1938, a kind of Corbusierian ideal. Superman has X-ray vision: walls become permeable, transparent. Through his benign, controlled authority, Superman renders the city open, modernist and democratic; he furthers a sense that Le Corbusier described in 1925, namely, that 'Everything is known to us'."

Jules Feiffer has argued that Superman's real innovation lay in the creation of the Clark Kent persona, noting that what "made Superman extraordinary was his point of origin: Clark Kent." Feiffer develops the theme to establish Superman's popularity in simple wish fulfilment, a point Siegel and Shuster themselves supported, Siegel commenting that "If you're interested in what made Superman what it is, here's one of the keys to what made it universally acceptable. Joe and I had certain inhibitions... which led to wish-fulfillment which we expressed through our interest in science fiction and our comic strip. That's where the dual-identity concept came from" and Shuster supporting that as being "why so many people could relate to it".

Superman's immigrant status is a key aspect of his appeal. Jeff McLaughlin saw the character as pushing the boundaries of acceptance in America. the extraterrestrial origin was seen by McLaughlin as challenging the notion that Anglo-Saxon ancestry was the source of all might. Gary Engle saw the "myth of Superman with total confidence and a childlike innocence the value of the immigrant in American culture." He argues that Superman allowed the superhero genre to take over from the Western as the expression of immigrant sensibilities. Through the use of a dual identity, Superman allowed immigrants to identify with both their cultures. Clark Kent represents the assimilated individual, allowing Superman to express the immigrants cultural heritage for the greater good. Timothy Aaron Pevey has argued other aspects of the story reinforce the acceptance of the American dream. He notes that "the only thing capable of harming Superman is Kryptonite, a piece of his old home world." David Jenemann has offered a contrasting view. He argues that Superman's early stories portray a threat: "the possibility that the exile would overwhelm the country."

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