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BATMAN the caped crusader, the Dark Knight DC Comics superhero

BATMAN the caped crusader, the Dark Knight DC Comics superhero

 Detective_Comics_27 (1)

Batman is truly a superhero across ages and genders. There is something about the Dark Knight that keep his fans coming back for more. On the back of my mind, the one thing that stands out the most about this caped crusader is the fact that he is well, just human. He is a superhero who does not really have any superpowers, but appeals to the everyday common man who has been putting up a lot with the harsh realities of every day life.

He is a man who is unlucky in love, life and not only that….fate has kept pushing him down every now and then, but he keeps coming back and hits harder.

He is the ultimate superhero who does not need to be the ‘good guy’ every time!

INTERESTING & Controversial Facts about BATMAN’s origin:

  • In early 1939, the success of Superman in Action Comics prompted editors at the comic book division of National Publications (the future DC Comics) to request more superheroes for its titles.
  • Batman was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. They made their first official appearance in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) (IMAGE given above)

Collaborator Bill Finger recalled “Kane 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.” The bat wing like cape was suggested by Bob Kane; who was inspired by seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketch of an ornithopter flying device as a child. (See img below)

da vinci Leonardo Da Vinci's sketch of an ornithopter flying device

Bill Finger offered suggestions for BATMAN as to give the character:

  • A cowl instead of a simple domino mask
  • A cape instead of wings and gloves
  • Removing the red sections from the original costume.

Other facts:

  • Batman is the secret identity of (fictional) Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire, industrialist, and philanthropist:
  • The story behind BATMAN’s BRUCE WAYNE: Bill Finger quoted that “Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Bruce, 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.”
    • BRUCE WAYNE’s Birthday:
      • February 19th (As per Modern day birthday)
      • May 27, 1939 ( from Detective Comics #27 when Batman was ‘born’)
      • October (according to Bruce in ‘The Batman’)
      • November (according to Frank Miller)

FANS across the globe argued that owing to his vengeful ferocious nature coupled with grit, fearlessness and tremendous mood swings, his complete disregard of social protocols and authority while choosing to be a loner most of the time, that he most probably should be a scorpion! But then again, modern day birthday argued it’s view points and established it to be on February. His age as of date is estimated to be around 55 years.

  • In his 1989 autobiography, Kane detailed Finger’s contributions to Batman’s creation which he had never openly accepted before. Kane revisited Finger’s situation, recalling in an interview “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).
  • Batman’s characteristic utility belt was introduced in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939)
  • BATMAN’s boomerang-like ‘batarang’ and the first ‘bat-themed’ vehicle, the Batplane was introduced in #31 (Sept. 1939)
  • In the story “The Mightiest Team in the World” in Superman #76 (June 1952), Batman teams up with Superman for the first time and the pair discovers each other’s secret identity.
  • By 1964, sales on Batman titles had fallen to such an extent that DC was planning to kill Batman off altogether.
  • In 1964, editor Julius Schwartz introduced changes designed to make Batman more contemporary, and to return him to more detective-oriented stories. He brought in artist Carmine Infantino to help overhaul the character. The Batmobile was redesigned, and Batman’s costume was modified to incorporate a yellow ellipse behind the bat-insignia.
  • 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.
  • Then came Frank Miller’s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (February–June 1986). This tells the story of a 55-year old Batman coming out of retirement. The Dark Knight Returns was a massive financial success (I have discussed a Review of the Book in this post below too)

BATMAN’s arch villains: The Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face, Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman.

BATMAN’s allies: (Just few of them named here): Alfred Pennyworth, Robin, Batgirl, Gordon

BATMAN – Few other notable controversies:

  • Wertham’s attacks—on Batman and on numerous comics and publishers eventually led to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority (CCA), a “voluntary” form of self-censorship akin to the Motion Picture Association of America. (Image)
  • BRUNO: Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman & Robin, where the dynamic duo’s arch nemesis The Joker enlists a new female henchman, Bruno. She is a half naked Neo-Nazi villain who wore only red Swastikas to obscure her private area.
  • BATMAN Using a GUN to KILL: In his debut in the comics, the Batman wasn’t the merciful hero he is today. Back then, he used a gun alongside other brutal means to kill criminals.
  • BATMAN’s son – Damian Wayne is a fictional character in the DC Comics universe. He is the son of Batman and Talia al Ghul (the origin of how this happened – The Dark Knight was drugged) created a tremendous stir among fans across the globe). Talia al Ghul is Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter.
  • The Death of ROBIN
  • The Death of ALFRED
  • BATMAN & the steamy scene with CATWOMAN…..
  • US Postal Stamp Controversy and finally….. of course, the ever controversial….
  • THE DEATH OF BATMAN himself!

batman-first-appearance

I have been a fan of BATMAN since early childhood  – (link 1) Batman – After two years, why I celebrated BATMAN 75 today and (link 2) BATMAN 75 has been celebrated worldwide.

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I have always been a comic book fan and with the advent of digital comic books (it’s still a little difficult to buy international comic books from stores in India, because, well, there hardly are any…wait, I think there are none even as of date!) anyway with the access to purchase books online, I started my collection of DC Comics beginning with BATMAN – Year One, BATMAN – The Killing Joke, BATMAN – The Dark Knight Returns and so on…… On a weekend, you would catch me wearing a Batman Tee on my way to the morning run in Mumbai……

And yes, of course I purchased the Official BATMAN Stamps on day one from US Postal Service as soon as they arrived. (Get yours here: BATMAN US Postal Service Official BATMAN 75 Stamps)

batman stamps
BATMAN Stamps

Well, these were reasons enough for me to engross myself in these amazing comic books during this weekend. So I thought of also making this comic book fan post, not only about the Dark Knight but also share few insights and review of few of these BATMAN comic books. I believe  that these are for sure among the top 5 comic books of all time.

1. BATMAN – Year One

DC Comics BATMAN Year ONE Frank Miller
BATMAN Year ONE Frank Miller

Batman Year One Comic Book Frank Miller

“Batman: Year One”, is an American comic book story written by Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, colored by Richmond Lewis, and lettered by Todd Klein.

For the regular BATMAN Movie fans, this Comic book would be very different than what they would have come to expect after seeing scores of BATMAN movies, including the epic iconic series by Nolan. BATMAN Year ONE is as much about Bruce Wayne and BATMAN as it is about the story of Jim Gordon. In fact, Gordon shares equal or may be even more screen-time in these comic book pages than the caped crusader himself.

Brilliant use of the Tiers, panels, splash and wide screen styles have been used in illustrating this epic comic book in a way, that one feels as though, you too are a part of this journey. The expressions, intensity showcased through the call-outs, illustrations, the use of contrast and dark colors throughout this book, makes it an unbelievably amazing feast to comic book fans and readers across ages.

This book runs across chapters and as each page progresses the connect between Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon begins, but not in a friendly way, might I add. In fact, it’s almost in the end chapter section panels that Gordon and Batman are shown to trust each other.

There are epic scenes in this comic book which showcase the transformation of BRUCE WAYNE to Batman – It shows the death of his parents, his training, his vengeance and the “SIGN and SYMBOL” that makes him, BATMAN.

Batman year one Bruce wayne DC Comics comic books Frank miller
Bruce Wayne BATMAN

Selina Kyle is depicted in an extremely different circumstances, she is shown in a role in which the average BATMAN fan cannot fathom and Gordon is shown to be a great fighter,a strong cop who faces and fights scores of people on his own. Most importantly, BATMAN is shown to be more human than we have ever seen him to be. This comic book, shakes the very foundation in which this amazing superhero story was built, especially for fans of BATMAN in today’s world.

Batman Dark Knight Year One
BATMAN

This comic book, if not yet read, should be in your list for “Read RIGHT NOW” without a doubt and according to me, “BATMAN YEAR ONE” makes it to the list of Top 5 comic books in the world till date for sure.

There are also special sections wherein the artist and writer showcase their brilliance in terms of a very special “AFTERWORD”, BATMAN comic book sketches, pencil artworks (original ones scanned by the artists) and of course, the amazing scores of POSTERS released for the many editions and advertisements of this COMIC BOOK over the years.

DC Comics AFTERWORD BATMAN YEAR ONE
AFTERWORD BATMAN YEAR ONE

It is a spectacular comic book, brilliantly written, flawlessly created in terms of artwork and brilliantly put together to make it an iconic comic book for fans and readers across the globe.

BOOK Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

You can get this book here – BATMAN YEAR ONE

2. BATMAN – The Killing JOKE

BATMAN The Killing JOKE DC Comics
BATMAN The Killing JOKE

Without a doubt, this comic book is the GREATEST COMIC BOOK of all time – “BATMAN – The KILLING JOKE”

Batman: The Killing Joke is a graphic novel written by English author Alan Moore and drawn by English illustrator Brian Bolland published in the United States by DC Comics in 1988.

Batman The Killing Joke JOKER DC Comics Comic books
JOKER

Right from the very first page, the details of the Arkham asylum, the UNKNOWN name plate where the JOKER is kept captive (or what seems so!), Gordon putting his faith on the caped crusader to do the questioning ‘by the rules’, the cell block with the JOKER in view in silhouette all this time and with that, the entry of the DARK KNIGHT, in silhouette of course, creates an amazing cinematic scene in front of you.

BATMAN Killing JOKE DC Comics
BATMAN JOKER

In those very moments, you almost forget that this isn’t a movie, but a comic book. Plus, this one being the SPECIAL DELUXE Edition of the comic book, the coloring and the details are truly flawless and impeccable through each and every panel and tier of the comic book pages.

The first conversation, between JOKER and BATMAN are not something that you would expect, though the scene would bring back the epic movie experience from NOLAN’s – The Dark Knight Rises where BATMAN meets The JOKER in the jail cell.

There are scenes throughout the comic book wherein, as a Tier panel and page ends, the next panel continues in the same style or creative as the earlier one as though with an attempt to soothe readers into the changes in the plots and scenes. It’s like the intention of the artist is, for the readers of this comic book to read it as though they are watching the movie and the camera angles are providing the best views so as to ensure the viewers sights blend into each scene smoothly from one plot to another.

This is one of my most favorite scenes in the comic book where you can see, you can almost feel the clown prince at the edge of ‘sanity’ as he is then pushed beyond those lines in the coming panels that drives him to become THE JOKER. Also, the panel before this scene (showcased below), was yet another brilliant way of creating the link and connect from one plot to another by the artists. In the earlier scene, there is an exact same body language and structure shown, except, in the place of the clown, we can see the JOKER’s wife with her arm extended as she smilingly expresses her love towards her husband.

DC Comics JOKER BATMAN

JOKER BATMAN

This Comic Book,as the name suggests, is about the origin story of the JOKER. The whole book revolves around this one tag line – “ONE BAD DAY” and how that day transformed this ‘common man’ to become BATMAN’s greatest nemesis and the super-villain as we all know him to be.

It also takes a powerful twist as it showcases The JOKER inflicting chaos, pain, suffering like we have never seen before and that too on Gordon and his daughter. Readers should note that this is no ordinary Comic book – It comes with a special text – For Mature Audiences only and yes, the illustrations in the book really mean it!

In this, the Clown Prince of Crime, The JOKER, takes things to an extremely personal level, more than we could imagine him to. He is simply vicious and has only one clear goal in mind – To make people experience ONE BAD DAY, break them and drive them insane! What’s more, he wants them to embrace that insanity with flair too!

This graphic novel won the Eisner Award for ‘Best Graphic Album’ and garnered Alan Moore the ‘Best Writer’ award in 1989.

Even though this book has been rated as one of the greatest comic books of all time (only to follow BATMAN Year ONE), I personally would rate this as the Greatest Comic Book of all time. May be it is the ferocity in the pages, may be it is the story of a common man, or rather, two regular men, just living their lives, facing death of loved ones, being the victim through no fault of their own, but two people, who take very different paths to deal with their pain.

The intense sketches, powerful graphic illustrations that showcases blood, gruesome fights and mature scenes inflated with a dose of insane genius, coupled with an amazingly brilliant story-line creates the greatest COMIC BOOK of all time. That too, when I view the pages of this DELUXE Edition of the comic book, it’s simply out of this world.

Another important fact to note is that, this book has been one of the serious discussions in the subjects of FEMINISM, for depicting the violence towards the way Gordon’s daughter is treated by the Joker in this comic book. Yes, I felt that too, at times, as I flipped through the pages, I definitely questioned the reason behind depicting so much violence on Barbara Gordon and the answer is no, no…. it was definitely not necessary. It hurts me to say that about this epic book, but all I can quote here is that, I can merely hope for the writers of this book to come up with a perfect story that showcases Barbara surfacing as the Batgirl (Though the debate ensues for her either as the ORACLE or the BATGIRL, I would like for her to recover from the paralysis due to the bullet from The JOKER gushing through her spine and for her to return as the awesome BATGIRL) and doing some power packed kickin’ as she brings justice in the coming years side by side with the caped crusader.

Then there are these spectacular scenes too, inside the circus (The freak circus). The confrontation between the BATMAN and the Joker here are simply amazing. You can feel the insanity of the Clown prince in these scenes as he speaks through the microphone as though trying to build a relationship and connect with the BATMAN on why they both are the way they are.

BATMAN the Killing JOKE DC Comics
BATMAN the Killing JOKE

At the end, there is the AFTERWORD by the artist himself, the sketches, few of the original artworks scanned, the story and illustration of the “INNOCENT GUY”, the real story behind the re-coloring, story-line etc of BATMAN – The Killing JOKE, all of which are brilliantly showcased through these amazingly spectacular comic book pages.

Have a blast reading this epic book some day soon if you haven’t already.

Looking forward to more such brilliant masterpieces in the near future from these artists and (yes, for the sake of our very own sanity) do showcase a story with Barbara as the BATGIRL……..SOON!

BOOK Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

You can get this book here – BATMAN The Killing JOKE

3. BATMAN – The Dark Knight Returns – 1 May 1997

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns  1 May 1997
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

If there was ever a reason of why Comic book fans across the globe believe that BATMAN can defeat any foe in the world, this comic book is the reason why!

This edition – BATMAN  – The Dark Knight Returns May 1997 is without a doubt the reason why this iconic caped crusader became the LEGEND of the DC universe and of course, across superheroes!

This four-issue miniseries showcases Batman a decade after his retirement. Every superhero is shown to have gone into hiding except for the MAN of Steel who is shown serving American Government, in fact he is shown merely as a tool of the government who does their bidding without questioning how it would affect humanity.

BATMAN The Dark Knight Returns Frank Miller
BATMAN The Dark Knight Returns

This book showcases the battle Bruce Wayne takes up after he is forced from retirement. He fights the corrupt system and his dreaded foe, the Mutant gang to save his favorite GOTHAM and in this battle, he fights the Man of Steel himself.

There are epic confrontation scenes between both of these iconic superheroes who talk to each other, but one can clearly see from Bruce’s response, that BATMAN will not stay down.

Bruce to Clark: “And when that happens Clark, may the best man win.”

This puts Superman in a clear sense of discomfort as he makes it very clear to Bruce that, “somebody’s going to order me to bring you in, somebody with authority.”

Bruce’s response makes it very clear that BATMAN will die fighting, but will not stay down.

This is without a doubt one of the most influential stories ever written in comic book history that has inspired filmmakers across the globe.

Meanwhile, this epic comic book introduces Carrie Kelly who is a teenager. She joins BATMAN as female Robin in this fight to end the war that the mutant gangs seems to have declared in the beloved city of Gotham.

It is the political stand and point of view that Miller has offered in this ground-breaking novel that truly makes it to stand out of every other comic book till date. Miller stresses using this book of how using legitimate use of force, the state exercises their power over helpless citizens.

Throughout this book, one can see that the story is narrated by a series of news broadcasts and television interviews.

The power of media is shown to act as being indubitable, wherein the citizens of Gotham silently face the beating from all sides and are shown to be completely helpless.

BATMAN The Dark Knight Returns Frank Miller
BATMAN The Dark Knight Returns

Another very interesting aspect is the one in which Miller illustrates the scenario that we actually see in real life, especially during political conflicts. Different people expressing contrasting opinions about the same person. Citizens of GOTHAM are shown expressing contrasting opinions of Batman, for eg. in a scene where two individuals are being interviewed  and when asked about BATMAN, one says “Batman is a ruthless, monstrous vigilante, striking at the foundations of our democracy” and the other says “Surprised there aren’t a hundred like him out there – a thousand people are fed up with terror – with stupid laws and social cowardice. He’s only taking back what’s ours.”

comic books dc comics

Then of course, there is my personal favorite, the scene where he is watching Zorro and dreams about the “Horrible night” and the symbolic pearls……

Frank Miller Comic book DC Comics BATMAN the Dark Knight Returns

The scene above is an important part of the BATMAN series and its interpretations are many. Some say, its his mother….i.e the pearls, in the mind of Bruce (little Bruce), some have argued that the pearls symbolize his own eyes viewing the crime committed for merely….. money and petty theft. This is an important scene and as we have seen even in the NOLAN masterpiece, The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce finally gets out of hiding when he goes hunting for his mother’s missing pearls stolen by Catwoman, Selina Kyle in Wayne Manor. Even at the end of the movie, the only thing that Bruce has taken with him during his disappearance with Selina is the PEARLS while he leaves the rest to Robin, Alfred and the orphans of the city of Gotham.

Now, here is another funny scene, well, its actually a fight scene where we are shown The Return of BATMAN and the BAT back kickin’ the bad guys after the long gap. He searches one of the bad guys and finds cigarettes and says, “Cigarettes, no wonder you are slow.” Hahah, loved it!

BATMAN Returns

Nice message: So NO TO DRUGS Kids!

This comic book without a doubt reiterates the aspect of what truly defines a Superhero at the end of the day.

It is his or her devotion to justice that can even override his devotion to the law when the time is right and when the city and their people really need him / her to stand by their side.

This Comic book is well, ground-breaking!

BOOK Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

You can get this book here – BATMAN – The Dark Knight Returns

Who is your favorite comic book superhero? Which Comic book did you enjoy reading the most till date?

Do share your views with me here.

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Ananth V

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