Batman Turns Seventy-Five


July 23, 2014 will be the day that DC Entertainment character Batman will turn seventy-five years old and the celebration will be kicking off with a bang. On the celebration day, the city of San Diego, CA will be honoring the beloved character at the annual Comic-Con event which celebrates comic books, movies and television shows. While earlier on June 26, 2014 in Burbank, CA, Warner Bros. Studios, who distributes the films based on the character, unveiled their Batman Exhibit that is a part of their studio tour.

Batman first made his way into the comic book world in 1939 in issue No. 27 of Detective Comics. The character was created by DC Comics artist Bob Kane after gaining inspiration from the films The Bat Whispers and The Mark of Zorro. Unlike fellow super hero Superman, he had no super powers and did not wear a brightly colored costume. He was simply an ordinary human being with an extraordinary mind and impressive fighting skills. In a sense, he was brought up to be the darker opposite of Superman.

In the origin, a young boy named Bruce Wayne is out on a family outing to the cinema with his parents, millionaire Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne. As the family walks home in the city streets of Gotham, a man with a gun attempts to rob them. In his desperation, the gunman then shoots the couple before running off into the darkness. Helpless Bruce is left sitting on his knees as his parents die. Through his tears, he makes a determined vow to avenge them.

As the years went by, Bruce journeyed the world to acquire the needed skills to keep his vow. He studies consisted of criminology, forensics, and criminal psychology in addition to various fighting styles. In time, Bruce shaped his mind and body into a living weapon to wage war on crime. When he finally returned to Gotham, he made his first attempt at being a masked vigilante. Wearing only plain clothes and a ski mask, he did not succeed on his first night out. Beaten physically and mentally, he returned to his mansion and as he sat bleeding in his study, he pondered over what was needed to first strike fear in the hearts of his enemies. Just then, a bat crashed through the study window, which gave him the inspiration he needed. He must take on the guise of a bat.

Constructing a secret headquarters in the underground caves below his mansion, Bruce created Batman, a watchful protector to the people of Gotham. To keep his identity a secret, he would spend his time playing the role of Bruce Wayne, the wealthy philanthropist. Becoming his assistant and most trusted confidant was Wayne family butler and possibly only friend, Alfred Pennyworth.

With his black and grey suit and cape and clever theatrics, Batman became a somewhat supernatural figure that had the criminals of the city afraid to remain out at night. He found a friend in James Gordon, a Gotham City police officer who became his trusted ally. Batman’s arsenal of villains grew to include a flock of bizarre criminals, such as the Joker, Catwoman, Two-Face and the Penguin. And as he turns the big seventy-five, Batman is now a world-wide icon.

Bob Cane’s creation not only gained success in comic books, but also in television and movies. Starting in the 1940s, movie theater audiences were treated to the weekly adventures of the Batman serials. Most famously though, the caped crusader gained mainstream success in the 1960s television series Batman, starring actor Adam West. The series was more of a parody of comic book culture, yet became a success though it only lasted for three seasons. To this day, West is the only actor to portray the character on television, while five other actors would take on the role in the film franchise distributed by Warner Bros. Studios.

The franchise first took off in 1989 with the film titled Batman, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, the most famous of the Batman villains. Both Burton and Keaton returned for the sequel, Batman Returns in 1992. When director Joel Schumacher took over for the next film, Batman Forever, the actor to take over the suit and cape was Val Kilmer. When the time came to work on the fourth installment, Batman & Robin, Kilmer could not commit to it due to scheduling conflicts. Schumacher then casted actor George Clooney, who had just left the television series ER to pursue his film career. Unfortunately, the movie was not well received and it nearly put the franchise on death row.

After the failure of Batman and Robin it seemed that the Batman franchise was a dead issue. Countless scripts were thrown around, from a futuristic take to a treatment that had Clint Eastwood as an aging Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Returns, which would be based on the successful comic book story from the late 1980s. Many filmmakers were rumored to have been contacted, but it would be Memento director Christopher Nolan who would resurrect the winged warrior in Batman Begins in 2005. Nolan envisioned a re-imagining of Batman that would have the audience care for Bruce Wayne. Begins chronicles the origins of Batman and how Bruce Wayne ultimately decided to serve as a force against the dark agents of Gotham.

Nolan also assembled the most solid group of actors for a comic book film, starting with Christian Bale portraying an emotionally troubled Bruce Wayne and Michael Caine playing butler Alfred. Included in the cast are Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, and Cillian Murphy. Actress Katie Holmes served her duty as attorney Rachel Dawes but was replaced for the 2008 sequel, The Dark Knight, by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

After the massive success of The Dark Knight, Nolan did not think that there was any real reason to do a third film. But after some thinking he realized that there was. He wanted audiences to have a strong connection to Bruce Wayne and his motives of taking on the responsibility of protecting the people of Gotham. With Bale returning as Batman, Nolan gave audiences The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, which was a box office success.

Since he first swung his way into the pages of comics, the character has become one of the top three most successful superheroes. There has and will always be people of all ages around the world who know of him. His comic book titles are still selling well, a handful of animated shows are currently on television, and the upcoming film titled Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, starring Ben Affleck as the caped crusader is set for release in 2016. For a guy who turns seventy-five this year, Batman is looking pretty good.

By Andrew Cerecedes

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