Well-heeled socialites who masked themselves to fight crime were a real fever in the late 1930s comics. Will Eisner’s Lady Luck and June Mills’s Ms. Fury were two examples of such characters. But the punisher from the high society that stood out the most was Batman, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger who turned 80 last Saturday (30).
A highlight of the 27th edition of Detective Comics magazine, the batman was the protagonist of an unpretentious story, The Case of the Chemicals Union, and its creators certainly did not expect him to become one of the main icons of pop culture, with an influence that it spreads beyond hero comics, spreading across television, cinema, games and all kinds of media.
In March, DC Comics celebrated the publication of the 1000th Detective Comics eight decades after the original appearance of the Gotham City guardian. In the comics, Batman has already gone through the skillful hands of creators like Frank Miller, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, going through several phases – more comical in the beginning, moving to darker tones, reaching stories with a strong psychological content and even, more recently, questioning his life dedicated to fighting crime, when, recently, the narrative arc written by Tom King subverted concepts of the hero, who abandoned the cover to try to be happy.
It didn’t take long for Batman to come out of the comics and invade the TV. In the 1960s, the character was played by Adam West, antagonized by the comic version of the Joker by Cesar Romero. There was also an animation started in 1968, the year in which the live-action series ended.
Since then, Bruce Wayne – and his supporting actors, like Harlequin, Joker, Catwoman, Bane and Robin – has appeared on several television shows, but the next step in his career would be cinema.
After a series of classic comic book stories like Alan Moore’s The Mortal Joke (1988), Frank Miller’s Dark Knight (1989), and Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum (1986), the character was definitely accredited to rise higher flights and guarantee the audience on the big screen.
The hero’s first film was directed by none other than Tim Burton, in 1989, and obtained excellent reception by mixing the darkest tones of comics with the extravagant colors and the comic relief of television.
However, the following films, released in the 1990s, disappointed and made the hero bitter a few years in the fridge. In fact, Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin (1997) was marked as one of the worst films of its kind ever – George Clooney has publicly apologized a few times for his performance in the feature.
Although in the comics Batman never lost his relevance, an important year for the hero’s revival in other media was 2005. With the release of Batman Begins, the trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan began.
Dark Knight (2008), which featured Heath Ledger’s impressive performance as the Joker, snatching awards such as the Oscar, Golden Globe, Bafta and the Actors Union award, was the film that practically consolidated the genre of superheroes as a viable format in theaters, in the same year that another masked billionaire, Tony Stark, won his first film and kicked off the Marvel cinematic universe.
If the Dark Knight echoes in the cinema today, in the previous year, in 2007, the hero definitely left his mark in games. Batman had already won games for various platforms, such as Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Playstation, Genesis and PC, since the 1980s.
But the adaptation of the Ark Asylum HQ to the electronic world by the Rocksteady studio was so successful in Batman: Arkham Asylum (2007), Arkham City (2011) and Arkham Knight (2015), that even today the action games have elements of combat and gameplay introduced in the hero series – including the recent 2018 Marvel’s Spiderman, which was heavily inspired by the competitor’s games.
Ben Affleck’s latest Batman incarnation in theaters may not have been the most auspicious, given the mixed reactions to films like Batman v. Superman (2016) and Justice League (2017), which forced DC to rethink its shared universe in cinema. However, at 80, Batman remains one of the publisher’s main characters, alongside Superman and Wonder Woman, and one of the most influential creations in all of pop culture.
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