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75 Years of The Batman


Well, who would have guessed it! Batman has been around for 75 years – and still looking good! I am sure we’d all love to live in comic land where no one gets any older despite the passing of time. Even though he may roughly be the same age as when he first appeared in Detective Comics no.27 in May 1939, he has certainly gone through many different incarnations. Even the artwork has grown from the original ‘cartoon’ images of the thirties and forties, to the amazing definition and shading that artists are performing presently. More and more these days comics feel more like a film on paper.

As with all things, the great man had to evolve with the ever-changing times. I am sure Batman has had just as many re-incarnations over the last 75 years as Ras Al Ghul – but without the help of a Lazarus Pit! Today Batman is a different beast than the one I knew and came to love as a kid back in the late seventies.

For me, Batman will always be at his most menacing under the pencils of greats like Neal Adams and Jim Aparo. They matured Batman from the caricature of the cult sixties TV series which DC hated, but in recent times have embraced via Batman ‘66. Adams and Aparo plus many others gave Batman a new menace that could be felt amongst those thin pages in every monthly issue of Batman, The Brave and the Bold and most particularly, Detective Comics.

Not only is Batman a man of action, but one of intelligence. He is the wise one everyone goes to. Batman has never been the warm, cuddly type and isn’t easy to approach, but anyone seeking his advice knew it would be worth its weight in gold. Many times Batman would be armed with a pair of tweezers, placing items left at a crime scene in small plastic bags for later analysis. And this was decades before CSI!

Batman has also been known as ‘The Dark Detective’. Throughout the years his nemesis, The Joker has often been compared to Sherlock Holmes’ own enemy, Moriarty. Throughout the decades, these two monoliths of the DC Universe have pitted wits against each other time and again. The Joker cannot commit any crime without sending Batman a clue in the vane hope that the great detective will fail to figure out his plan.

The relationship of Batman and The Joker is so entwined that it is borderline obsessive. The Joker feels he cannot function, does not have a place in the world without feeding off his obsession of Batman. Their ‘relationship’ is part symbiotic and part love; a dangerous cocktail that drives this volatile duet, making the two men’s 'pas de deux' even more macabre.

And Joker has been involved with some huge storylines. In 1988’s ‘Death in the Family’ saw The Joker murder Jason Todd, who was Batman’s Robin after Dick Grayson took up the mantle of Nightwing. This classic was also drawn by the brilliant Jim Aparo. Twenty-five years later, fans are enjoying ‘Death of the Family’ which takes place a year after Joker vanished, literally leaving his face on a wall in Arkham (having had it surgically removed by The Dollmaker) as a sign of his ‘re-birth’.

But I can’t leave without looking at Batman’s great menagerie of criminals. Besides Joker you have The Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, The Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Ras Al Ghul, Two-Face and that other master of puzzles, The Riddler. And I could go on as even today there are new villains who are just as colourful, if not as insane who feel brave enough to go up against Batman (including Professor Pyg, Mister Toad and the White Rabbit to name a few of the new gang).

With Christopher Nolan’s recent films which broke box office after box office record, Batman is well established in the psyche of the whole world. Even now we are enjoying the amazing series, ‘Gotham’ which brings the city Batman defends, to the fore and with such startling clarity. As with Two-Face’s coin, there is a good and a bad side to Gotham, but the good will always triumph, even if sacrifices have to be made. This new TV series has given so much back story to so many characters as well as the city of Gotham itself.

I really can’t see Batman ever falling out of fashion. As he changes with the times he will continue to appeal to the kids (and the big kids) of the present time. He will evolve
again and again. Long may he reign and long may he continue to protect Gotham.

Happy 75th, Batman. Here’s looking forward to your hundredth!

 

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