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’.