Batman the superhero at 85

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Batman

For generations of comic book enthusiasts and collectors, Batman has served as a consistent figure of thrill and entertainment.

This year marks the 85th anniversary since the first time the superhero character appeared way back in March 1939 on issue number 27 of Detective Comics (DC Comics).

“That’s 85 years of solving mysteries, upholding justice and kicking butt. And to think, it all began with a simple six-page story in 1939’s Detective Comics #27. Those six pages have led to multiple video games, blockbuster films, TV shows and so much more,” DC writes in a tribute, adding that, “today, Batman’s iconic yellow oval bat-logo is recognised around the world.”

Batman, as a character, is described as one of the most iconic fictional characters in the world. He dedicated his life to fighting crime after the tragic murder of his parents (Thomas and Martha Wayne), which led him down a dark, brooding path.

“Since that tragic night, he has trained his body and mind to near physical perfection to be a self-made superhero. He’s developed an arsenal of technology that would put most armies to shame. And he’s assembled teams of his fellow DC Super Heroes, like the Justice League, the Outsiders and Batman Incorporated,” a character profile on DC reads in part.

Batman is the alias of Bruce Wayne, a playboy billionaire by day who lives in Gotham City. He comes across as mysterious but is also selfless and brave.

Charactour, a character-focused platform notes that Bruce uses the cover of being a superficial and irresponsible spendthrift to shield his identity as Batman. 

Detective Comics #27 contained many other stories, but DC notes that none of them can claim to have half of Batman’s cultural impact.

“Batman has had a significant cultural impact on pop culture and entertainment. The superhero’s popularity has spawned numerous comic book series, TV shows, movies, and video games,” Shamarie Knight writes on Medium.

Evolution

Batman hit the big screen less than five years after its comic debut, in a self-titled film serial produced by Columbia Pictures.

“Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft portrayed Batman and Robin as they go up against criminal mastermind Dr. Daka (J. Carrol Naish), a villain created specifically for the 15-chapter serial,” Forbes reports on Batman (1943).

There was Batman (1966) after that, and in 1981, Joker was released, becoming one the highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time and the only R-rated movie to ever crack $1 billion (over Sh 129 billion).

Joker is about Batman’s biggest nemesis, a failed comedian who spirals mentally and becomes a violent criminal.

Joker takes place in one of the seediest versions of Gotham City we’ve ever seen, circa 1981. Aspiring comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) slowly slips into madness and kickstarts a criminal revolution that culminates in the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne,” Forbes reports.

A live-action Batman television show that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1968 brought the franchise a wave of fandom and love.

IMDB ranks the best Batman films of all time, listing The Dark Knight (2008), Batman Begins (2005), Batman (1989), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Batman Returns (1992) and Justice League (2017).

The Dark Knight is described by film website Vulture as epic, magisterial and still intensely relevant. It is directed by Christopher Nolan and tells the story of how the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, with Batman having to accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.

“And of course, there’s Heath Ledger’s Joker, a menace so terrifying and unknowable that it feels like Nolan and the actor dug up something from so deep within that it was almost too much to handle,” Vulture notes as it places the film at the top of its list, Batman movies, Ranked.

The report adds: “This remains the best comic book movie of all time. Everyone’s still trying to make this movie, for better and for worse.”

In its bio of the franchise, DC praises Batman as an iconic figure that has stood the test of time.

“When you take a step back, it’s amazing to think about how far Batman has come. There are plenty of 1939 pulp characters that have been forgotten,” DC notes.

“Think about how different all our lives would be if those six pages hadn’t been included in Detective Comics #27. How different would the last 85 years have been? What would a world without Batman even look like? Batman is so engrained into our cultural identity that it’s hard to even consider.”

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