Batman is an ongoing comic book series featuring the DC Comics hero of the same name. The character first appeared in Detective Comics #27, published in May 1939. Batman proved to be so popular that a self-titled ongoing comic book series began publication in the spring of 1940. It was first advertised in early April 1940, one month after the first appearance of his new sidekick, Robin, the Boy Wonder.
Though the Batman comic book was initially launched as a quarterly publication, it later became a bi-monthly series through the late 1950s, after which it became a monthly publication and has remained so since. The initial run ended with issue #713.
The Batman saga takes place primarily in the fictional municipality of Gotham City, a city overrun with crime, graft, and corruption. Its citizens live in perpetual fear from the vast number of criminals, gangs and common thugs. In an effort to combat the cancerous infection of crime, billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne creates the costumed persona of the Batman to prey on the superstitous and cowardly criminals’ fears. Wayne, a young socialite who witnessed his parents’ murder during a mugging when he was a small child, used his trauma and vast personal wealth to travel the world and gain the skills needed to wage his war on crime. Batman utilizes his keen analytical mind and sophisticated technology and gadgetry, as well as outstanding physical agility, power and stamina to ensure that criminals never feel safe in Gotham, and are always afraid of the dark. In the eyes of the public, the Batman is believed to be both an urban legend and something more than human: an indeterminable black specter that represents terror. Wayne reasoned that fear was his weakness as a child, but as a man, it became his weapon.
The character of Batman made his first appearance in the pages of Detective Comics #27 in May 1939, less than a year after Superman’s introduction. Garnering a great deal of popularity, National Allied Publications decided that the character was worthy of, and could support, his own self-titled series, much the same way the Superman title made its way into publication. In Spring of 1940, Batman #1 was published and introduced new characters into Batman’s pantheon, most notably those of Catwoman and Batman’s eventual archnemesis, the Joker.
The mid-1950s saw the title dabble in more popular types of comic stories at the time, including many stories set in outer space with an undertone of science fiction. In the 1960s, Batman comics were affected by the popular Batman television series, with campy stories based on the tongue-in-cheek premise of the series. By the time the show’s influence had died down in the early 1970s, writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams came aboard the title and re-infused it with the darker tones of the 1940s. O’Neil and Adams would also introduce a new villain named Ra’s al Ghul, and would also revitalize the Joker by bringing him back to his roots as a homicidal maniac who murders people on a whim, while enjoying battles of wits with Batman. 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.”
Crisis impact, 1980s
Batman continued an uninterrupted run into the mid 1980s, and unlike the other two flagship characters of the DC Universe (namely Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman’s title was the only one not to receive a second volume in the wake of the universe shattering Crisis on Infinite Earths event. Because the DCU was revamped after the events of Crisis, the previous continuity before that series (colloquially referred to as “pre-Crisis”) was voided. Because of this, old established characters were given the opportunity to be reintroduced in new ways. While Batman wasn’t rebooted in the traditional sense, in 1987 writer Frank Miller (who’d previously made a name for himself with his series The Dark Knight Returns) and artist David Mazzucchelli retold the character’s origin story for the new continuity in the monthly pages of Batman issues 404-407. The story, Batman: Year One, garnered high critical acclaim for its realistic interpretation of Batman’s genesis, and its accessibility to new readers who’d never followed Batman before. IGN Comics ranked Batman: Year One at the top of a list of the 25 greatest Batman graphic novels, saying that “no other book before or since has quite captured the realism, the grit and the humanity of Gordon and Batman so perfectly.” Notable comic book creators Greg Rucka, Jeph Loeb, and Judd Winick have also cited Year One as their favorite Batman story.
The remainder of the 1980s saw runs on the main title by such writers as Max Allan Collins, Marv Wolfman, and Jim Starlin. During Starlin’s tenure on the title, DC Comics was becoming aware of the fanbase’s growing disdain for the character of Jason Todd, who had taken over as the second Robin following Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing. Following a cliffhanger in which Jason’s life hangs in the balance, DC set up a 1-900 number one-dollar hotline giving callers the ability to vote for or against Jason’s death. The calls were made after the publication of the issue in which Jason and his mother are trapped in the warehouse. The kill option won by a narrow majority, and the following month Jason was shown dying from wounds inflicted in the last issue’s cliffhanger. The story, entitled “A Death in the Family,” received high media exposure due to the shocking nature in which a familiar character’s life had ended.
Partially impacted by the tone of Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman, the comics of the 1990s took a darker tone, reflected in the hiring of artists like Todd McFarlane, Kelley Jones, and Joe Quesada. The two dominant Batman writers of the 90s were Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon. Both writers masterminded the Knightfall crossover arc, which saw Batman’s back being broken by the super strong villain Bane. A new character, Jean-Paul Valley, takes up the Batman mantle in Bruce Wayne’s absence. Valley is driven mad with power, and Wayne forcefully reclaims it after his recovery.
The end of the 90s were dominated by the large crossover No Man’s Land, which sees Gotham City ravaged by a large earthquake, leading to the U.S. government’s official order to evacuate of Gotham, then abandoning and isolating those who choose to remain in the city. The story, spearheaded by writer Greg Rucka, would begin his long association with the character into the 2000s. Rucka wrote the issues of this title that tied into No Man’s Land, before moving on to becoming the regular writer of Detective Comics.
After the conclusion to No Man’s Land and Greg Rucka’s move to Detective, the Batman title was handled for seven issues by writer Larry Hama and new ongoing artist Scott McDaniel. At issue #582, Ed Brubaker stepped on as the new, ongoing writer. Brubaker, a well documented fan of classic pulp magazines, kept a trend of gritty crime drama that included more grounded villains like the Penguin (functioning as a mob boss), Brubaker’s new villain Zeiss, and Deadshot. Brubaker’s run received a short interruption with an arc called Officer Down, which depicted Commissioner Gordon being shot in the line of duty and ultimately retiring from the Gotham police force. From there, then-little known writer Brian K. Vaughan did a short three-issue arc that focused on Batman’s created crime persona Matches Malone before Brubaker returned. The next crossover, masterminded by Brubaker and Rucka and entitled Bruce Wayne: Murderer? saw Bruce Wayne framed for the murder of his girlfriend and nearly abandoning his civilian identity altogether.
For the #600 issue, the series moved into the next phase of Wayne’s frame-up and featured three backup stories, which were presented as lost issues never before published from iconic eras in Batman’s history. “Mystery of the Black Bat” is presented in the style of Dick Sprang comics, and “Joker Tips His Hat” is an homage to the sixties stories by artists like Gil Kane and Carmine Infantino. “The Dark, Groovy, Solid, Far-Out, Right-On and Completely With-It Knight Returns” is a humorous spin on Batman’s character trying to update himself into the eighties, and featured stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt’s comic writing debut. After the frame-up story concluded, Brubaker closed his run with two issues co-written with Geoff Johns, and then left the title to focus on writing a new Catwoman series. Writer Jeph Loeb and superstar artist Jim Lee then came aboard for a new year-long story.
Loeb and Lee’s story began with issue #608, immediately following the departure of Ed Brubaker. The story, Hush, was a murder mystery that delved through numerous periods in Batman’s history. Introducing a new character that was the story’s namesake, as well as helping redefine the Riddler, heal Harvey Dent, and call into question the events surrounding Jason Todd’s death, Hush was met with widespread sales success and critical acclaim, reflected in the publication of an Absolute Edition hardcover in October, 2005. Following the conclusion of Hush, the creative team of the Vertigo series 100 Bullets came aboard for a six-issue arc entitled “Broken City”. From there, writer Judd Winick became the ongoing writer for the series and in a controversial story entitled Under the Hood, explained that Jason Todd had actually returned from the dead long ago, and became an anti-hero in Gotham under the guise of the Red Hood.
After the universe-altering event Infinite Crisis, all the regular monthly titles of the DC Universe jumped forward in time by one year, depicting the characters in radically different situations and environments then they were in the issues preceding the jump known as “One Year Later”. Face the Face, the Batman story of the event, was written by James Robinson and saw Batman returning from a year-long overseas journey that retraced the steps he took after initially leaving Gotham City in his youth, and also featured the return of James Gordon to the role of Gotham City Police Commissioner. From there, the next long-form ongoing writer was ready to begin.
Grant Morrison began his long-form Batman narrative in issue #655. The first story, “Batman & Son,” reveals that Wayne is the father of a child named Damian, and attempts to steer the obnoxious child away from the machinations of his natural mother, Talia al Ghul. From there, Morrison began an arc that saw an evil influential organization known as the Black Glove attempt to destroy everything Batman is and what he stands for. This culminated in the storyline Batman R.I.P., where the Black Glove initially succeeds in doing so, but is thwarted by Bruce Wayne’s ability to preserve his sane mind while an erratic, alternate personality takes over. After stopping the Black Glove, Morrison moved Batman into his event series Final Crisis, where it appears that Batman was killed by the Apokoliptian New God Darkseid. In the finale of that series, it is instead revealed that he was transported to the distant past and stranded there. Writer Neil Gaiman came aboard for issue #686, which was part 1 of a story entitled Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? It served as a quasi-send off to a generation of Batman stories, much the same way as Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? did for Superman, and continued into an issue of Detective Comics.
After this, the main Batman series went on hiatus while the Battle for the Cowl mini-series would reveal that Dick Grayson would assume the role of Batman in the wake of Bruce Wayne’s disappearance from the present-day DC Universe. Grant Morrison stayed involved in writing for Batman, but moved to a new title called Batman and Robin, which followed the exploits of Grayson as Batman and Damian Wayne as the new Robin. Writer Judd Winick temporarily returned to the title for Grayson’s first solo arc as Batman, before handing the writing and art duties off to Tony Daniel, Grant Morrison’s artistic collaborator on R.I.P. Daniel closed the 2000s as the writer and artist of the Batman title.
Into the beginning of 2010, Daniel remained the main writer on the series until issue #699. The title reached another milestone in the summer with the publication of Batman #700, which saw the return of Grant Morrison to the title’s writing duties and a collaboration with a large art team that consisted of Daniel, Frank Quitely, Andy Kubert, and David Finch. The separate stories tied together to illustrate that the legacy of Batman is unending, and will survive into the furthest reaches of time. Morrison stayed on as writer on the series through issue #702, while simultaneously remaining the writer of Batman and Robin as well as the mini-series The Return of Bruce Wayne. Tony Daniel will resume writing and art duties with issue #704. Even after Bruce Wayne’s return, Dick Grayson will remain the star of this title, as well as being the main character in Batman and Robin and Detective Comics. Bruce Wayne will star in two new titles, Batman Incorporated and Batman: The Dark Knight for the time being. Batman group editor Mike Marts said that the division is temporary: “You know, that’s a loose line-up. Moving forward, we’ll definitely have the flexibility to play with that a little bit. But at least at the onset, in November, that’s the way we’re dividing things up.”
On June 1, 2011, it was announced that all DC Comics would be either canceled or rebooted at #1. For the first time since 1940, Batman will be rebooted at issue #1.
As part of DC Comics’s September 2011 relaunch the Batman series restarts at #1, initially written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo.
Maturity of content
The first stories appearing in the Batman comic were written by Bill Finger and illustrated by Bob Kane, though Finger went uncredited for years thereafter. These early stories depicted a vengeful Batman, not hesitant to kill when he saw it as a necessary sacrifice. In one of the early stories, he is depicted using a gun to stop a group of giant assailants. The Joker, a psychopath who is notorious for using a special toxin that kills and mutilates his victims, remains one of the most prolific and notorious Batman villains created in this time period. Following the desire of creator Jerry Robinson that the Joker not be a character who gets away with murder, for many years the Joker was changed from cold-blooded murderer to playful trickster. Later, during the Silver Age, this type of super-villain changed from disturbing psychological assaults to the use of amusing gimmicks.
Typically, the primary challenges that the Batman faced in this era were derived from villains who were purely evil; however, by the 1970s, the motivations of these characters, including obsessive compulsion, child abuse and environmental fanaticism, were being explored more thoroughly. Batman himself also underwent a transformation and became a much less one-dimensional character, struggling with deeply rooted internal conflicts. Although not canonical, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns introduced a significant evolution of the Batman’s character in his eponymous series; he became uncompromising and relentless in his struggle to revitalize Gotham. The Batman often exhibited behavior that Gotham’s elite labeled as excessively violent as well as antisocial tendencies. Miller portrayed him with an anti-heroic and near villainous characterization. This aspect of the Batman’s personality was also toned down considerably in the wake of the DC-wide crossover Infinite Crisis, wherein Batman experienced a nervous breakdown and reconsidered his philosophy and approaches to his relationships. Currently, the Batman’s attributes and personality are said to have been greatly influenced by the traditional characterization by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams’ portrayals during the 1970s, although hints of the Miller interpretation appear in certain aspects of his character.
Over the years 28 annuals have been released in association with the Batman title; though not consistently. Trends in Comic Book annuals usually lead to them either being published or overlooked on any given year, an example being the gap between the late nineties annuals and the early/late 2000s.