Batman Through the Ages (or WOW He Looks Good for 75)

By  Phil Perich for Before the Bat: The Gotham Podcast


Bonjour Batfans!  I was thinking today that I haven’t talked specifically about Batman in this blog since week 1.  With this being Batman’s 75th year and the mini-poster DC comics put out with Batman history on it a week or so ago in some of its comics, I figured we’d have a Batman history lesson this week (and maybe longer).  Our Batman class begins in the year 1939.  With the success DC comics experienced with Superman, they wanted another superhero to sell.  The creators went the opposite way and the world got the very much human Batman in Detective Comics #27.                                                 

While not in this first story, The Batman of this first era was quite different than what we know today.  In some of the early stories, this Batman carried a gun.  1940 was the debut of Dick Grayson, Robin #1, in Detective Comics #38 (see week #5 of this blog for more details).  This year also had Batman #1 with the first appearances of the Joker and Catwoman.  1941 was the appearance of the Batmobile for the first time.

1941 also had the first appearance of the Penguin (we’ll go into more detail on him once the TV show Gotham starts September 22).

1942 had the first appearances of the Bat-signal and Two-Face.

1943 was the first time we saw Alfred Pennyworth, but not the slender butler we know today.  This Alfred also had a dream of becoming an amateur detective.

1944 was the year Batman’s headquarters got it’s name “The Batcave”.  1947 saw the debut of Robin solo stories in Star Spangled Comics.  In 1948 a new criminal called the Riddler hit Gotham City in Detective Comics #140.  1952 was the first Team-Up of Batman and Superman.  1959 had the first appearances of Mr. Freeze (who we’ll also talk more about once Gotham starts) who originally went by the name of Mr. Zero, and Batmite.  1964 saw a new hero team formed by Robin, called the Teen Titans.  1966 was the debut of the Batman TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

In 1967, Barbara Gordon, daughter of Police Commissioner James Gordon, becomes Batgirl.  1970 saw scientist Kurt Langstrom experiment on himself and become the Man-Bat.  1971 was the first appearance of maybe Batman’s deadliest enemy, Ra’s al Ghul.

1974 gave many of Batman’s enemies their “home”, Arkham hospital, which later became more famously known as Arkham Asylum.  1983 was a year of change with new Batman villain Killer Croc and Jason Todd as Robin #2 (keep your eyes peeled to this blog in the future for more on him).  1984 had Dick Grayson’s first appearance as Nightwing (again see week #5 of this blog).  In 1986 Writer Frank Miller redefined and modernized Batman and set a tone that would stay with Batman in varying degrees to this day with his stories Batman: the Dark Knight Returns which saw an older Bruce Wayne in the future come out of retirement, and a modernization of Batman’s origin in Batman: Year One.

1988 had Alan Moore’s take on the Joker’s origin (or as the Joker remembered it that day. The Joker is so insane, even he doesn’t remember his past) in The Killing Joke which had the Joker shooting Barbara Gordon crippling her until her recovery in 2011.  

1989 was a big year for Batman.  Not only did Tim Burton’s Batman movie starring Michael Keaton debut, but Batman #426-#429 had the Death in the family storyline wherein The Joker brutally beat and detonated a bomb on Jason Todd (Robin #2).  Readers were invited to call a 1-800 telephone number and vote on whether Todd lived or died.  The vote was close with 5,343 people voting for death and 5,271 people voting for his survival.  So the result was this:                                                                                                        

(Don’t worry, he returns in 2005 as a new Red Hood, but we’ll get there.)  That’s all the time we have this week.  Next week we’ll move onto the 1990’s and a young man named Tim Drake.

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Until next week, be good. Remember, class is dismissed…for now.

Posted on August 25, 2014 .