Batman's secret identity is Bruce Wayne, a wealthy industrialist, playboy, and philanthropist. Witnessing the murder of his parents as a child, Wayne trains himself both physically and intellectually and dons a bat-themed costume in order to fight crime. Batman operates in the fictional American Gotham City, assisted by various supporting characters including his sidekick Robin and his butler Alfred Pennyworth, and fights an assortment of villains influenced by the characters' roots in film and pulp magazines. Unlike most superheroes, he does not possess any superpowers; he makes use of intellect, detective skills, science and technology, wealth, physical prowess, and intimidation in his war on crime.
Batman became a popular character soon after his introduction, and gained his own comic book title, Batman, in 1940. As the decades wore on, differing takes on the character emerged. The late 1960s Batman television series utilized a camp aesthetic associated with the character for years after the show ended. Various creators worked to return the character to his dark roots, culminating in the 1986 miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, by writer-artist Frank Miller. The success of director Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman also helped to reignite popular interest in the character. A cultural icon, Batman has been licensed and adapted into a variety of media, from radio to television and film, and appears on a variety of merchandise sold all over the world.
...had an idea for a character called 'Batman', and he'd like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane's, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of ... reddish tights, I believe, with boots ... no gloves, no gauntlets ... with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign ... BATMAN.Finger offered such suggestions as giving the character a cowl instead of a simple domino mask, a cape instead of wings, and gloves, and removing the red sections from the original costume. Finger said he devised the name Bruce Wayne for the character's secret identity: "Bruce Wayne's first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock ... then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne".
Various aspects of Batman's personality, character history, visual design and equipment were inspired by contemporary popular culture of the 1930s, including movies, pulp magazines, comic strips, newspaper headlines, and even aspects of Kane himself. Kane noted especially the influence of the films The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Bat Whispers (1930) in the creation of the iconography associated with the character, while Finger drew inspiration from literary characters Doc Savage, The Shadow, and Sherlock Holmes in his depiction of Batman as a master sleuth and scientist.
Kane himself, in his 1989 autobiography, detailed Finger's contributions to Batman's creation:
One day I called Bill and said, 'I have a new character called the Bat-Man and I've made some crude, elementary sketches I'd like you to look at'. He came over and I showed him the drawings. At the time, I only had a small domino mask, like the one Robin later wore, on Batman's face. Bill said, 'Why not make him look more like a bat and put a hood on him, and take the eyeballs out and just put slits for eyes to make him look more mysterious?' At this point, the Bat-Man wore a red union suit; the wings, trunks, and mask were black. I thought that red and black would be a good combination. Bill said that the costume was too bright: 'Color it dark gray to make it look more ominous'. The cape looked like two stiff bat wings attached to his arms. As Bill and I talked, we realized that these wings would get cumbersome when Bat-Man was in action, and changed them into a cape, scalloped to look like bat wings when he was fighting or swinging down on a rope. Also, he didn't have any gloves on, and we added them so that he wouldn't leave fingerprints.
Kane signed away ownership in the character in exchange for, among other compensation, a mandatory byline on all Batman comics. This byline did not, originally, say "Batman created by Bob Kane"; his name was simply written on the title page of each story. The name disappeared from the comic book in the mid-1960s, replaced by credits for each story's actual writer and artists. In the late 1970s, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster began receiving a "created by" credit on the Superman titles, along with William Moulton Marston being given the byline for creating Wonder Woman, Batman stories began saying "Created by Bob Kane" in addition to the other credits.
Finger did not receive the same recognition. While he had received credit for other DC work since the 1940s, he began, in the 1960s, to receive limited acknowledgment for his Batman writing; in the letters page of Batman #169 (Feb. 1965) for example, editor Julius Schwartz names him as the creator of the Riddler, one of Batman's recurring villains. However, Finger's contract left him only with his writing page rate and no byline. Kane wrote, "Bill was disheartened by the lack of major accomplishments in his career. He felt that he had not used his creative potential to its fullest and that success had passed him by". At the time of Finger's death in 1974, DC had not officially credited Finger as Batman co-creator.
Jerry Robinson, who also worked with Finger and Kane on the strip at this time, has criticized Kane for failing to share the credit. He recalled Finger resenting his position, stating in a 2005 interview with The Comics Journal:
Bob made him more insecure, because while he slaved working on Batman, he wasn't sharing in any of the glory or the money that Bob began to make, which is why... [he was] going to leave [Kane's employ]. ... [Kane] should have credited Bill as co-creator, because I know; I was there. ... That was one thing I would never forgive Bob for, was not to take care of Bill or recognize his vital role in the creation of Batman. As with Siegel and Shuster, it should have been the same, the same co-creator credit in the strip, writer and artist.
Although Kane initially rebutted Finger's claims at having created the character, writing in a 1965 open letter to fans that "it seemed to me that Bill Finger has given out the impression that he and not myself created the ''Batman, t' [sic] as well as Robin and all the other leading villains and characters. This statement is fraudulent and entirely untrue." Kane himself also commented on Finger's lack of credit. "The trouble with being a 'ghost' writer or artist is that you must remain rather anonymously without 'credit'. However, if one wants the 'credit', then one has to cease being a 'ghost' or follower and become a leader or innovator".
In 1989, Kane revisited Finger's situation, recalling in an interview,
In those days it was like, one artist and he had his name over it [the comic strip] — the policy of DC in the comic books was, if you can't write it, obtain other writers, but their names would never appear on the comic book in the finished version. So Bill never asked me for it [the byline] and I never volunteered — I guess my ego at that time. And I felt badly, really, when he [Finger] died.
The first Batman story, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate," was published in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Finger said, "Batman was originally written in the style of the pulps", and this influence was evident with Batman showing little remorse over killing or maiming criminals and was not above using firearms. Batman proved a hit character, and he received his own solo title in 1940, while continuing to star in Detective Comics. By that time, National was the top-selling and most influential publisher in the industry; Batman and the company's other major hero, Superman, were the cornerstones of the company's success. The two characters were featured side-by-side as the stars of World's Finest Comics, which was originally titled World's Best Comics when it debuted in fall 1940. Creators including Jerry Robinson and Dick Sprang also worked on the strips during this period.
Over the course of the first few Batman strips elements were added to the character and the artistic depiction of Batman evolved. Kane noted that within six issues he drew the character's jawline more pronounced, and lengthened the ears on the costume. "About a year later he was almost the full figure, my mature Batman," Kane said. Batman's characteristic utility belt was introduced in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939), followed by the boomerang-like batarang and the first bat-themed vehicle in #31 (Sept. 1939). The character's origin was revealed in #33 (Nov. 1939), unfolding in a two-page story that establishes the brooding persona of Batman, a character driven by the loss of his parents. Written by Finger, it depicts a young Bruce Wayne witnessing the death of his parents as part of a street robbery. Days later, at their grave, the child vows that "by the spirits of my parents [I will] avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals".
The early, pulp-inflected portrayal of Batman started to soften in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) with the introduction of Robin, Batman's kid sidekick. Robin was introduced, based on Finger's suggestion Batman needed a "Watson" with whom Batman could talk. Sales nearly doubled, despite Kane's preference for a solo Batman, and it sparked a proliferation of "kid sidekicks". The first issue of the solo spin-off series Batman was notable not only for introducing two of his most persistent antagonists, the Joker and Catwoman, but for a story in which Batman shoots some monstrous giants to death. That story prompted editor Whitney Ellsworth to decree that the character could no longer kill or use a gun.
By 1942, the writers and artists behind the Batman comics had established most of the basic elements of the Batman mythos. In the years following World War II, DC Comics "adopted a postwar editorial direction that increasingly de-emphasized social commentary in favor of lighthearted juvenile fantasy." The impact of this editorial approach was evident in Batman comics of the postwar period; removed from the "bleak and menacing world" of the strips of the early 1940s, Batman was instead portrayed as a respectable citizen and paternal figure that inhabited a "bright and colorful" environment.
Batman comics were among those criticized when the comic book industry came under scrutiny with the publication of psychologist Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. Wertham's thesis was that children imitated crimes committed in comic books, and that these works corrupt the morals of the youth. Wertham criticized Batman comics for their supposed homosexual overtones and argued that Batman and Robin were portrayed as lovers. Wertham's criticisms raised a public outcry during the 1950s, eventually leading to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. The tendency towards a "sunnier Batman" in the postwar years intensified after the introduction of the Comics Code. It has also been suggested by scholars that the characters of Batwoman (in 1956) and Bat-Girl (in 1961) were introduced in part to refute the allegation that Batman and Robin were gay, and the stories took on a campier, lighter feel.
In the late 1950s Batman stories gradually become more science fiction-oriented, an attempt at mimicking the success of other DC characters that had dabbled in the genre. New characters such as Batwoman, Ace the Bat-Hound, and Bat-Mite were introduced. Batman's adventures often involved odd transformations or bizarre space aliens. In 1960, Batman debuted as a member of the Justice League of America in The Brave and the Bold #28 (February 1960), and went on to appear in several Justice League comic series starting later that same year.
The debut of the Batman television series in 1966 had a profound influence on the character. The success of the series increased sales throughout the comic book industry, and Batman reached a circulation of close to 900,000 copies. Elements such as the character of Batgirl and the show's campy nature were introduced into the comics; the series also initiated the return of Alfred. Although both the comics and TV show were successful for a time, the camp approach eventually wore thin and the show was canceled in 1968. In the aftermath, the Batman comics themselves lost popularity once again. As Julius Schwartz noted, "When the television show was a success, I was asked to be campy, and of course when the show faded, so did the comic books.
Starting in 1969, writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams made a deliberate effort to distance Batman from the campy portrayal of the 1960s TV series and to return the character to his roots as a "grim avenger of the night". 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.
O'Neil and Adams first collaborated on the story "The Secret of the Waiting Graves" (Detective Comics #395, Jan. 1970). Few stories were true collaborations between O'Neil, Adams, Schwartz, and inker Dick Giordano, and in actuality these men were mixed and matched with various other creators during the 1970s; nevertheless the influence of their work was "tremendous". Giordano said: "We went back to a grimmer, darker Batman, and I think that's why these stories did so well . . . Even today we're still using Neal's Batman with the long flowing cape and the pointy ears. While the work of O'Neil and Adams was popular with fans, the acclaim did little to help declining sales; the same held true with a similarly acclaimed run by writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers in Detective Comics #471-476 (Aug. 1977 - April 1978), which went on to influence the 1989 movie Batman and be adapted for Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted in 1992. Regardless, circulation continued to drop through the 1970s and 1980s, hitting an all-time low in 1985.
Frank Miller's 1986 limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which tells the story of a 50-year-old Batman coming out of retirement in a possible future, reinvigorated the character. The Dark Knight Returns was a financial success and has since become one of the medium's most noted touchstones. The series also sparked a major resurgence in the character's popularity.
That year Dennis O'Neil took over as editor of the Batman titles and set the template for the portrayal of Batman following DC's status quo-altering miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths. O'Neil operated under the assumption that he was hired to revamp the character and as a result tried to instill a different tone in the books than had gone before. One outcome of this new approach was the "Year One" storyline in Batman #404-407 (Feb.-May 1987), in which Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli redefined the character's origins. Writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland continued this dark trend with 1988's 48-page one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the Joker, attempting to drive Commissioner Gordon insane, cripples Gordon's daughter Barbara, and then kidnaps and tortures the commissioner, physically and psychologically.
The Batman comics garnered major attention in 1988 when DC Comics created a 900 number for readers to call to vote on whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, lived or died. Voters decided in favor of Jason's death by a narrow margin of 28 votes (see Batman: A Death in the Family). The following year saw the release of Tim Burton's Batman feature film, which firmly brought the character back to the public's attention, grossing millions of dollars at the box office, and millions more in merchandising. In the same year, the first issue of Legends of the Dark Knight, the first new solo Batman title in nearly fifty years, sold close to a million copies.
The 1993 "Knightfall" story arc introduced a new villain, Bane, who critically injures Bruce Wayne. Jean-Paul Valley, known as Azrael, is called upon to wear the Batsuit during Wayne's convalescence. Writers Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant worked on the Batman titles during "Knightfall", and would also contribute to other Batman crossovers throughout the 1990s. 1998's "Cataclysm" storyline served as the precursor to 1999's "No Man's Land", a year-long storyline that ran through all the Batman-related titles dealing with the effects of an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City. At the conclusion of "No Man's Land", O'Neil stepped down as editor and was replaced by Bob Schreck.
In 2003, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee began a "Batman: Hush", a 12-issue run on Batman that introduced a new villain, Hush, guest-starred every major supporting character and Batman villain, and laid the groundwork for the return of Jason Todd. Lee's first regular comic book work in nearly a decade, the series became #1 on the Diamond Comic Distributors sales chart for the first time since Batman #500 (Oct. 1993). Lee then teamed with Frank Miller on All-Star Batman and Robin, which debuted with the best-selling issue in 2005, as well as the highest sales in the industry since 2003. Starting in 2006, the regular writers on Batman and Detective Comics were Grant Morrison and Paul Dini, respectively.
Currently, Batman is in the midst of the ongoing Batman R.I.P. storyline which crosses over into every Batman-related title. The series purportedly covers the end of Bruce Wayne as Batman.
The central fixed event in the Batman stories is the character's origin story. As a little boy, Bruce Wayne is horrified and traumatized to see his parents, the physician Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, being murdered by a mugger in front of his very eyes. This drives him to fight crime in Gotham City as Batman. Pearson and Uricchio also noted beyond the origin story and such events as the introduction of Robin, "Until recently, the fixed and accruing and hence, canonized, events have been few in number," a situation altered by an increased effort by later Batman editors such as Dennis O'Neil to ensure consistency and continuity between stories.
In Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics #27, he is already operating as a crime fighter. Batman's origin is first presented in Detective Comics #33 in November 1939, and is later fleshed out in Batman #47. As these comics state, Bruce Wayne is born to Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, two very wealthy and charitable Gotham City socialites. Bruce is brought up in Wayne Manor, with its wealthy splendor, and leads a happy and privileged existence until the age of eight, when his parents are killed by a small-time criminal named Joe Chill while on their way home from a movie theater. Bruce Wayne swears an oath to rid the city of the evil that had taken his parents' lives. He engages in intense intellectual and physical training; however, he realizes that these skills alone would not be enough. "Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot", Wayne remarks, "so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible..." As if responding to his desires, a bat suddenly flies through the window, inspiring Bruce to assume the persona of Batman.
In early strips, Batman's career as a vigilante earns him the ire of the police. During this period Wayne has a fiancée named Julie Madison. Wayne takes in an orphaned circus acrobat, Dick Grayson, who becomes his sidekick, Robin. Batman also becomes a founding member of the Justice Society of America, although he, like Superman, is an honorary member, and thus only participates occasionally. Batman's relationship with the law thaws quickly, and he is made an honorary member of Gotham City's police department. During this time, butler Alfred Pennyworth arrives at Wayne Manor, and after deducing the Dynamic Duo's secret identities joins their service.
After the introduction of DC Comics' multiverse in the 1960s, DC established that stories from the Golden Age star the Earth-Two Batman, a character from a parallel world. This version of Batman partners with and marries the reformed Earth-Two Catwoman, Selina Kyle (as shown in Superman Family #211) and fathers Helena Wayne, who, as the Huntress, becomes (along with the Earth-Two Robin) Gotham's protector once Wayne retires from the position to become police commissioner, a position he occupies until he is killed during one final adventure as Batman. Batman titles however often ignored that a distinction had been made between the pre-revamp and post-revamp Batmen (since unlike The Flash or Green Lantern, Batman comics had been published without interruption through the 1950s) and would on occasion make reference to stories from the Golden Age. Nevertheless, details of Batman's history were altered or expanded upon through the decades. Additions include meetings with a future Superman during his youth, his upbringing by his uncle Philip Wayne (introduced in Batman #208, Jan./Feb. 1969) after his parents' death, and appearances of his father and himself as prototypical versions of Batman and Robin, respectively. In 1980 then-editor Paul Levitz commissioned the Untold Legend of the Batman limited series to thoroughly chronicle Batman's origin and history.
Batman meets and regularly works with other heroes during the Silver Age, most notably Superman, whom he began regularly working alongside in a series of team-ups in World's Finest Comics, starting in 1954 and continuing through the series' cancellation in 1986. Batman and Superman are usually depicted as close friends. Batman becomes a founding member of the Justice League of America, appearing in its first story in 1960s Brave and the Bold #28. In the 1970s and 1980s, Brave and the Bold became a Batman title, in which Batman teams up with a different DC Universe superhero each month.
In 1969, Dick Grayson attends college as part of DC Comics' effort to revise the Batman comics. Additionally, Batman also moves from Wayne Manor into a penthouse apartment atop the Wayne Foundation building in downtown Gotham City, in order to be closer to Gotham City's crime. Batman spends the 1970s and early 1980s mainly working solo, with occasional team-ups with Robin and/or Batgirl. Batman's adventures also become somewhat darker and more grim during this period, depicting increasingly violent crimes, including the first appearance (since the early Golden Age) of the Joker as a homicidal psychopath, and the arrival of Ra's al Ghul, a centuries-old terrorist who knows Batman's secret identity. In the 1980s, Dick Grayson becomes Nightwing.
In the final issue of Brave and the Bold in 1983, Batman quits the Justice League and forms a new group called the Outsiders. He serves as the team's leader until Batman and the Outsiders #32 (1986) and the comic subsequently changed its title.
In 1988's "Batman: A Death in the Family" storyline from Batman #426-429 Jason Todd, the second Robin, is killed by the Joker. Subsequently Batman begins exhibiting an excessive, reckless approach to his crime fighting, a result of the pain of losing Jason Todd. Batman works solo until the decade's close, when Tim Drake becomes the new Robin. In 2005 writers resurrected the Jason Todd character and have pitted him against his former mentor.
Many of the major Batman storylines since the 1990s have been inter-title crossovers that run for a number of issues. In 1993, the same year that DC published the "Death of Superman" storyline, the publisher released the "Knightfall" storyline. In the storyline's first phase, the new villain Bane paralyzes Batman, leading Wayne to ask Azrael to take on the role. After the end of "Knightfall", the storylines split in two directions, following both the Azrael-Batman's adventures, and Bruce Wayne's quest to become Batman once more. The story arcs realign in "KnightsEnd", as Azrael becomes increasingly violent and is defeated by a healed Bruce Wayne. Wayne hands the Batman mantle to Dick Grayson (then Nightwing) for an interim period, while Wayne trains to return to his role as Batman.
The 1994 company-wide crossover Zero Hour changes aspects of DC continuity again, including those of Batman. Noteworthy among these changes is that the general populace and the criminal element now considers Batman an urban legend rather than a known force. Similarly, the Waynes' killer is never caught or identified, effectively removing Joe Chill from the new continuity, rendering stories such as "Year Two" non-canon.
Batman once again becomes a member of the Justice League during Grant Morrison's 1996 relaunch of the series, titled JLA. While Batman contributes greatly to many of the team's successes, the Justice League is largely uninvolved as Batman and Gotham City face catastrophe in the decade's closing crossover arc. In 1998's "Cataclysm" storyline, Gotham City is devastated by an earthquake. Deprived of many of his technological resources, Batman fights to reclaim the city from legions of gangs during 1999's "No Man's Land." While Lex Luthor rebuilds Gotham at the end of the "No Man's Land" storyline, he then frames Bruce Wayne for murder in the "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" and "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive" story arcs; Wayne is eventually acquitted.
DC's 2005 limited series Identity Crisis, reveals that JLA member Zatanna had edited Batman's memories, leading to his deep loss of trust in the rest of the superhero community. Batman later creates the Brother I satellite surveillance system to watch over the other heroes. Its eventual co-opting by Maxwell Lord is one of the main events that leads to the Infinite Crisis miniseries, which again restructures DC continuity. In Infinite Crisis #7, Alexander Luthor, Jr. mentions that in the newly rewritten history of the "New Earth", created in the previous issue, the murderer of Martha and Thomas Wayne – again, Joe Chill – was captured, thus undoing the retcon created after Zero Hour. Batman and a team of superheroes destroy Brother Eye and the OMACs. Following Infinite Crisis, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Tim Drake retrace the steps Bruce had taken when he originally left Gotham City, to "rebuild Batman". In the "Face the Face" storyline, Batman and Robin return to Gotham City after their year-long absence. At the end of the story arc, Bruce adopts Tim as his son. The follow-up story arc in Batman, "Batman & Son", introduces Damian Wayne, who is Batman's son with Talia al Ghul. Batman, along with Superman and Wonder Woman, reforms the Justice League in the new Justice League of America series, and is leading the newest incarnation of the Outsiders.
A main component that defines Batman as a character is his origin story. Bob Kane said he and Bill Finger discussed the character's background and decided that "there's nothing more traumatic than having your parents murdered before your eyes. Batman is thus driven to fight crime, sometimes employing illegal and morally dubious tactics (like torture and intrusive surveillance), in order to avenge the death of his parents. While details of Batman's origin have varied from version to version, the "reiteration of the basic origin events holds together otherwise divergent expressions" of the character. The origin is the source of many of the character's traits and attributes, which play out in many of the character's adventures.
Batman is often treated as a vigilante by other characters in his stories. Frank Miller views the character as "a dionysian figure, a force for anarchy that imposes an individual order. Dressed as a bat, Batman deliberately cultivates a frightening persona in order to aid him in crime fighting.
Writers of both Batman and Superman stories have often compared the two within the context of various stories, to varying conclusions. Like Superman, the prominent persona of Batman's dual identities varies with time. Modern-age comics have tended to portray "Bruce Wayne" as the facade, with "Batman" as the truer representation of his personality (in counterpoint to the post-Crisis Superman, whose "Clark Kent" persona is the 'real' personality, and "Superman" is the 'mask').
Batman utilizes a large arsenal of specialized gadgets in his war against crime, the designs of which usually share a bat motif. Batman historian Les Daniels credits Gardner Fox with creating the concept of Batman's arsenal with the introduction of the utility belt in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939) and the first bat-themed weapons the batarang and the "Batgyro" in Detective Comics #31 and #32 (September; October, 1939). Batman's primary vehicle is the Batmobile, which is usually depicted as an imposing black car with large tailfins that suggest a bat's wings. Batman's other vehicles include the Batplane (aka the Batwing), Batboat, Bat-Sub, and Batcycle.
In proper practice, the "bat" prefix (as in batmobile or batarang) is rarely used by Batman himself when referring to his equipment, particularly after some portrayals (primarily the 1960s Batman live-action television show and the Super Friends animated series) stretched the practice to campy proportions. The 1960s television series Batman has an arsenal that includes such "bat-" names as the bat-computer, bat-scanner, bat-radar, bat-cuffs, bat-pontoons, bat-drinking water dispenser, bat-camera with polarized bat-filter, bat-shark repellent bat-spray, and bat-rope. The storyline "A Death in the Family" suggests that given Batman's grim nature, he is unlikely to have adopted the "bat" prefix on his own.
Batman keeps most of his field equipment in a utility belt. Over the years it is shown to contain a virtually limitless variety of crime fighting tools. Different versions of the belt have these items stored in either pouches or hard cylinders attached evenly around it.
In various incarnations, most notably the 1960s Batman TV series, Commissioner Gordon also has a dedicated phone line, dubbed the Bat-Phone, connected to a bright red telephone (in the TV series) which sits on a wooden base and has a transparent cake cover on top. The line connects directly to Batman's residence, Wayne Manor, specifically both to a similar phone sitting on the desk in Bruce Wayne's study and the extension phone in the Batcave.
Batman's interactions with the characters around him, both heroes and villains, help to define the character. Commissioner James "Jim" Gordon, Batman's ally in the Gotham City police, debuted along with Batman in Detective Comics #27 and has been a consistent presence since then. Later on, Batman gained Alfred as his butler and Lucius Fox as his business manager and apparently unwitting armorer. However, the most important supporting role in the Batman mythos is filled by the hero's young sidekick Robin. The first Robin, Dick Grayson, eventually leaves his mentor and becomes the hero Nightwing. The second Robin, Jason Todd, is beaten to death by the Joker but later returns as an adversary. Tim Drake, the third Robin, first appears in 1989 and has gone on to star in his own comic series. Alfred, Bruce Wayne's loyal butler, father figure, and one of the few to know his secret identity, "[lends] a homey touch to Batman's environs and [is] ever ready to provide a steadying and reassuring hand" to the hero and his sidekick.
Batman is at times a member of superhero teams such as the Justice League of America and the Outsiders. Batman has often been paired in adventure with his Justice League teammate Superman, notably as the co-stars of World's Finest and Superman/Batman series. In pre-Crisis continuity, the two are depicted as close friends; however, in current continuity, they have a mutually respectful but uneasy relationship, with an emphasis on their differing views on crime fighting and justice.
Batman is involved romantically with many women throughout his various incarnations. These range from society women such as Vicki Vale and Silver St. Cloud, to allies like Sasha Bordeaux, to even villainesses such as Catwoman and Talia al Ghul, the latter of whom he sired a son, Damien. While these relationships tend to be short, Batman's attraction to Catwoman is present in nearly every version and medium in which the characters appear. Authors have gone back and forth over the years as to how Batman manages the 'playboy' aspect of Bruce Wayne's personality; at different times he embraces or flees from the women interested in attracting "Gotham's most eligible bachelor".
Other supporting characters in Batman's world include former Batgirl Barbara Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's daughter who, now confined to a wheelchair due to a gunshot wound inflicted by the Joker, serves the superhero community at large as the computer hacker Oracle; Azrael, a would-be assassin who replaces Bruce Wayne as Batman for a time; Cassandra Cain, an assassin's daughter who became the new Batgirl, Huntress, the sole surviving member of a mob family turned Gotham vigilante who has worked with Batman on occasion, Ace the Bat-Hound, Batman's pet dog; and Bat-Mite, an extra-dimensional imp who idolizes Batman.
Batman faces a variety of foes ranging from common criminals to outlandish super-villains. Many Batman villains mirror aspects of the hero's character and development, often having tragic origin stories that lead them to a life of crime. Batman's "most implacable foe" is the Joker, a clown-like criminal who as a "personification of the irrational" represents "everything Batman [opposes]." Other recurring antagonists include Catwoman, the Penguin, Two-Face, the Riddler, Scarecrow, Mister Freeze, Poison Ivy, Ra's al Ghul, and Bane, among many others.
The character of Batman has appeared in various media aside from comic books. The character has been developed as a vehicle for newspaper syndicated comic strips, books, radio dramas, television and several theatrical feature films. The first adaptation of Batman was as a daily newspaper comic strip which premiered on October 25, 1943. That same year the character was adapted in the 13-part serial Batman, with Lewis Wilson becoming the first actor to portray Batman on screen. While Batman never had a radio series of his own, the character made occasional guest appearance in The Adventures of Superman starting in 1945 on occasions when Superman voice actor Bud Collyer needed time off. A second movie serial, Batman and Robin, followed in 1949, with Robert Lowery taking over the role of Batman. The exposure provided by these adaptations during the 1940s "helped make [Batman] a household name for millions who never bought a comic book."
The Batman television series, starring Adam West, premiered in January 1966 on the ABC television network. Inflected with a camp sense of humor, the show became a pop culture phenomenon. In his memoir, Back to the Batcave, West notes his dislike for the term 'camp' as it was applied to the 1960s series, opining that the show was instead a farce or lampoon, and a deliberate one, at that. The series ran for 120 episodes, ending in 1968. In between the first and second season of the Batman television series the cast and crew made the theatrical release Batman (1966). The popularity of the Batman TV series also resulted in the first animated adaptation of Batman in the series The Batman/Superman Hour; the Batman segments of the series were repackaged as Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder which produced thirty-three episodes between 1968 and 1977. From 1973 until 1984, Batman had a starring role in ABC's Super Friends series, which was animated by Hanna-Barbera. Olan Soule was the voice of Batman in all these series, but was eventually replaced during Super Friends by Adam West, who voiced the character in Filmation's 1977 series The New Adventures of Batman.
Batman returned to movie theaters in 1989, with director Tim Burton's Batman starring Michael Keaton. Burton's film was a huge success; not only was it the top-grossing film of the year, but at the time was the fifth highest-grossing film in history. The film spawned three sequels: Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997), the last two of which were directed by Joel Schumacher instead of Burton, and replaced Keaton with Val Kilmer and George Clooney, respectively.
In 1992 Batman returned to television in Batman: The Animated Series, which was produced by Warner Bros. and was broadcast on the Fox television network until 1997. After that point it moved to The WB Television Network and was reworked into The New Batman Adventures. The producers of Batman: The Animated Series would go to work on the animated feature film release Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), as well as the futuristic Batman Beyond and Justice League series. Like Batman: The Animated Series, these productions starred Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman/Bruce Wayne. In 2004, a new animated series titled The Batman made its debut with Rino Romano as the title character.
In 2005 Christopher Nolan directed Batman Begins, a reboot of the film franchise starring Christian Bale as Batman. Its sequel, The Dark Knight (2008), set the record for the highest grossing opening weekend of all time in the U.S., earning approximately $158.4 million, and became the fastest film to reach the $400 million mark in the history of American cinema (eighteenth day of release). An animated anthology feature set between the Nolan films, Batman: Gotham Knight, was released the same year.
There has been some controversy over various sexual interpretations made regarding the content of Batman comics. Homosexual interpretations have been part of the academic study of Batman since psychologist Fredric Wertham asserted in Seduction of the Innocent that "Batman stories are psychologically homosexual". He claimed, "The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies, of the nature of which they may be unconscious". Wertham wrote, "Only someone ignorant of the fundamentals of psychiatry and of the psychopathology of sex can fail to realize a subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism which pervades the adventures of the mature 'Batman' and his young friend 'Robin'".
Andy Medhurst wrote in his essay "Batman, Deviance, and Camp" that Batman is interesting to gay audiences because "he was one of the first fictional characters to be attacked on the grounds of his presumed homosexuality," "the 1960s TV series remains a touchstone of camp," and "[he] merits analysis as a notably successful construction of masculinity.
Creators associated with the character have expressed their own opinions. Writer Alan Grant has stated, "The Batman I wrote for 13 years isn't gay. Denny O'Neil's Batman, Marv Wolfman's Batman, everybody's Batman all the way back to Bob Kane... none of them wrote him as a gay character. Only Joel Schumacher might have had an opposing view". Writer Devin Grayson has commented, "It depends who you ask, doesn't it? Since you're asking me, I'll say no, I don't think he is ... I certainly understand the gay readings, though". While Frank Miller has described the relationship between Batman and the Joker as a "homophobic nightmare", he views the character as sublimating his sexual urges into crime fighting, concluding, "He'd be much healthier if he were gay". Burt Ward, who portrayed Robin in the 1960s television show, has also remarked upon this interpretation in his autobiography Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights; He writes that the relationship could be interpreted as a sexual one, with the show's double entendres and lavish camp also possibly offering ambiguous interpretation.
Such homosexual interpretations continue to attract attention. One notable example occurred in 2000, when DC Comics refused to allow permission for the reprinting of four panels (from Batman #79, 92, 105 and 139) to illustrate Christopher York's paper All in the Family: Homophobia and Batman Comics in the 1950s. Another happened in the summer of 2005, when painter Mark Chamberlain displayed a number of watercolors depicting both Batman and Robin in suggestive and sexually explicit poses. DC threatened both artist and the Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts gallery with legal action if they did not cease selling the works and demanded all remaining art, as well as any profits derived from them.