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The Dark Knight – From The Page, To The Small and Big Screen and Everywhere In Between

Batman; the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, the World’s Greatest Detective.

However you know him, he is one of the most enduring figures in comic book history since his humble beginnings in 1939, voted second (after Superman) on IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of all time.

With the up-coming release of a Batman vs Superman, let’s look back over his time in paper, on television and on the big screen.


The Beginnings

The first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics

Originally named the Bat-Man, the character was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and first appeared in Detective Comics #27. Taking inspiration from Sherlock Holmes, Zorro and The Phantom, they created a pulp hero who showed little remorse about taking the lives of villains, and incorporated contemporary popular culture from the thirties to design a modern superhero. In The Case of the Chemical Syndicate and for years after, he was portrayed as a ruthless vigilante but in the years following World War II there was an effort to make the comics seem softer, upbeat and colourful.

Hitting the Screens

In 1966 the Adam West TV series hit the small screens, making a profound effect on the future of the character as well as the figures of Batgirl and Bruce’s butler Alfred. Later in 1966 a film was released which is famous to this day for its camp, novelty approach the character, but after two years of the series it began to wear thin with audiences and the show was cancelled, leading to a fall in Batman comic sales.

From the 1966 Batman film: Batman is always prepared

The Dark Avenger
In 1969, writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams collaborated in their mission to strip Batman of his camp appearance and bring him back to the “grim avenger” of the first few comics, and in 1986 Frank Miller’s seminal run of The Dark Knight Returns helped the character seem legitimate once more. Miller’s Batman was a 55 year old, coming out of retirement to take back the cowl and the 1987 Batman: Year One rewrote his origins story. 1988 marked an important move forward in the relationship between comic readers and producers – a 900 number was set up for readers of the Death In The Family storyline to vote on whether the second Robin, Jason Todd, would live or die.

Since then there have been a number of films revolving around the character. The 1989 Batman and 1992 Batman Returns were directed by Tim Burton with the title role played by Michael Keaton, and were integral to the popularisation of Batman in non-camp popular culture by using twee humour mixed with Burton’s gothic style. The 1995 Batman Forever saw Val Kilmer take the mantle, and then in 1997 George Clooney starred in Batman and Robin.

Batman for the Modern Child

The 1992 Batman: The Animated Series became the first in a long line of gritty cartoons, leading to the film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman Beyond and The Batman, all of which featured the vocal talents of Kevin Conroy as the caped crusader. Most recently there has been a CGI version named Beware the Batman, which began in 2013, and an animated film version of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns which was released in two parts from 2012-2013.

Inspiration was taken from Frank Miller’s story in the character development for the third in the most recent of the Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises; although there were many similarities, the upcoming Batman vs Superman film in 2015 should be more faithful to the comic in the portrayal of an older, grizzled Batman, who will be played by Ben Affleck. With four Batman live action films in ten years and a hugely successful live stage show, the Dark Knight even has its own slots game to keep avid fans involved.

What have we got to look forward to then? Batman vs Superman in 2015, where Ben Affleck will face off against Henry Cavill’s Superman; the third of the Rocksteady video games in Batman: Arkham Origins and the continuation of the Batman: Zero Year which will redefine his origin story within the newly-rebooted DC Universe. It’s a good time to be a Batman fan.

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