I was wondering what special topic I could write about for my 100th article. It was then that I thought about Batman. The character is instantly recognisable to people all around the world. Even those who aren't fans of the genre know who Batman is. There are many well-known superheroes out there but very little of them are as widely recognised as the Dark Knight. I grew up with Batman as a presence in my life and as I continue to branch out to other genres and superheroes, there is no replacing Batman as my favorite superhero. I am only one of millions who feel this way.
Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939 and has since gone on to star in over seven decades of iconic comic books, a legendary TV series, 2 live-action serials, 9 live-action films, countless award-winning animated series and films, a prequel TV series and an award-winning video game series. The character has been adapted into every medium possible and at 77 years old, shows no signs of ever slowing down. Batman is without a doubt the greatest superhero of all time, but the question is: Why? Well, allow me to show you.
"If You Make Yourself More than Just a Man...You Become a Legend"
Batman has been around for almost eight decades. In that time, the character has adapted and evolved. While many other superheroes remained the same (it worked for them), Batman changed with the times. Starting off grim and dark, he eventually evolved into the colourful caped crusader of the 1960s which spawned the incredibly successful Batman TV series. 50 years on and Adam West's iconic role is still adored by fans - and it should be, the series popularity helped save the comic book and thus, the character. It even led to a big screen adventure in Batman: The Movie. After the ratings decline and subsequent cancellation of the series, Batman once again reverted back to his dark ways in the 1970s.
Remaining afloat as the dark avenger once again, it was the release of Batman in 1989 that re-launched him into the stratosphere. Michael Keaton's incredible portrayal of Batman in Tim Burton's film helped the character to become the Batman we all know and love today. It also once again solidified his status as a cultural phenomenon. This was further built upon by Batman: The Animated Series (1992) and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012). Thus, the key to Batman's success has been his ability to adapt and evolve over time. So whether you prefer Adam West or Christian Bale, it doesn't matter because it's still Batman. The character has always been able to reinvent himself to stay relevant. And if he remained one way for a little too long, he would instantly evolve to become something else entirely - and he became "A Legend".
"I seek the means to fight Injustice"
Like everyone, Batman has his critics. Many people do not consider him a superhero because he has no superpowers. But on the contrary, this is exactly why Batman is perhaps the greatest superhero. The best written characters are always the ones with a deep backstory. Despite Batman's strength as a superhero, it is the story behind his crime-fighting that makes people empathise with him - he's not impervious to emotional pain. His parents' murder is what drove him to eradicate crime in Gotham City and because of that, he is not just a superhero clearing up the streets - he's fighting for something. No matter how many times we have seen it portrayed, whether it be in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005) or Fox's Gotham (2014), seeing a young Bruce Wayne lose his parents is equally as heartbreaking each time. And no matter how many times Batman is rebooted, people are keen to see his origin story told again and again. His journey to becoming a hero is one of the most compelling things about Batman. Furthermore, his lack of superpowers humanizes him and this puts him in a completely different league than the rest of the superheroes. He may be human, but in a way, he's stronger than any superhuman.
"Two Sides of the Same Coin"
They say a great superhero is measured by how great their supervillains are. Well, if that's true, then Batman excels here. No other superhero's collection of villains are as iconic as the Caped Crusader's. Just as everybody knows who Batman is, they also all know who the Joker is. Whether it's Cesar Romero's enigmatic portrayal or Heath Leader's Oscar-winning performance, the Joker has become a pop-culture icon. But it doesn't stop there. The Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face, the Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow: these names are synonymous with Batman, and that list only scratches the surface. Batman's rogues are among the most widely-recognized bad guys in comic-book, TV and film history.
I am Vengeance, I am the Night..."
Nobody can use fear and mind games like Batman. While many superheroes stand for peace and justice (great ideals), Batman uses fear as his symbol. The sheer image of a giant Bat is enough to inspire fear into the heart of criminals in Gotham City. The larger than life persona of Batman has translated incredibly well to the big screen too. As seen in The Dark Knight (2008), Gordon leaves the Bat-Signal on just to remind criminals that Batman is out there. Furthermore, the iconic image of Batman's sihouette from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (1986) compounds this further. Few superheroes' outfits or symbols are quite as iconic as the Bat's.
Everything about Batman's persona is fine-tuned to perfection. Between his symbol, Bat-Family, gadgets and Batmobile, Batman embodies his own childhood fear and unleashes it on the criminals of Gotham.
Since 1939, Batman has been responsible for some of the most compelling and renowned comic-book storylines in history. These stories have not only added depth to his character, but they've created a universe that is so iconic, it almost feels like a real world. Batman's story is never finished as each new comic adds more to the lore. Frank Miller's Batman: Year One told a new, grim version of Batman's beloved origin story while Batman: Hush introduced us to a brand new villain that is now equally as iconic as the veteran rogues. Batman: A Death In The Family is widely-regarded as one of the most chilling stories of all-time as it saw the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd. The Dark Knight Returns saw an older, darker Batman come out of retirement to once again save Gotham City. These storylines and characters are complex, well-written and add further layers to the Batman.
Like the character, the phrase "I'm Batman" has transcended the genre. The two words evoke so much power that it has become a popular "comeback" in arguments. No other comic book phrase inspires the powerful feelings that "I'm Batman" evokes. At the beginning of Batman (1989), Michael Keaton's Batman pulls his victim close and emphatically but calmly states those two words. In that moment, the audience knew they were in for one hell of a thrill-ride.
Likewise, in 2005's Batman Begins, Christian Bale's Dark Knight drags crime boss Falcone to the roof of his limo and chillingly growls those same two words. It is not only an awe-inspiring moment, but it signals the changing of the guard in Gotham City. Bale's version is different but equally as awe-inspiring.
In conclusion, Batman is the one of the most iconic superheroes of all time. His legacy, persona, storylines and characters have led to the character taking over every possible media platform imaginable. Whether you grew up with the colourful and fun Batman (1966) or the darker, Emmy-winning Batman: The Animated Series, the character has played a significant role in our lives. With his film adaptations accumulating a combined gross of over $4 billion, Batman's legacy continues to live on in today's day and age. With Ben Affleck most recently having portrayed the character in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, expect to see the actor reprise his role in next year's Justice League. Furthermore, the Bat's legacy lives on on the small screen, with David Mazouz providing us with strong, powerful performances as a young Bruce Wayne on Gotham, which heads into its third season this fall. After 77 years, Batman is still alive and well, and thoroughly deserves his title as the World's Greatest Superhero. Why? Because he's Batman!