Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Batman Begins (The 1939 Edition)

With this year’s recent release of the anticipated blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it is incredible to look back at the longevity of these superheroes. This year will mark the 77th anniversary of Batman’s creation. And parallel to many of Marvel’s famous creations, such as the Hulk, Thor, or Captain America, the creation of Batman did not fall on the shoulders of just one man. It was due to the collaborative work of Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

Kane and Finger originally met at a party, and began their working relationship with a comic strip, “Rusty and his Pals.” Both men shared a love of comics and newspaper strips, which can be traced to their motivation for creating Batman. The creation was due in part to the success of Superman. Kane, who worked for DC in 1939, was tasked, along with other writers, to create new and exciting heroes. Traditionally, Bob Kane is credited with the creation of Batman, and his name is solely found on every edition of the comic as well as appearances in other media. However, had Bob Kane’s original design for Batman become published, he would be a completely different superhero.

The two versions hardly compare. Kane showed his original concept of “the Bat-Man” to Finger, who worried that the hero looked far too similar to Superman. It was Finger who advised Kane to add a cape and cowl, add gloves, and change the color scheme to a darker gray-and-black, rather than bright red. In their early work, the men were not driven by a desire for fame or fortune. They simply enjoyed comics and wanted to make a hero that reflected that love and would be well received by the audience. The design for Batman has a number of different inspirations, and it is a combination of characters such as Douglas Fairbanks, Sherlock Holmes, and The Shadow that helped to create a unique Batman.
In its time, Batman was a fairly radical character. Though it took several comics to create his entire background, Kane and Finger pioneered a new style of comic books. Their unconventional personalities allowed for them to step outside of traditional boundaries on comic heroes and create a dark, gothic background. They also created a flawed superhero, who suffered early on in his childhood through the deaths of his parents. This started a trend in many other superheroes, such as Spider-man, the protagonist faces the death of a close family member and have to struggle with feelings of loss and failure. This was unique to audiences reading the comic in the 1940s.
However, there is a dark side to the origins of the Caped Crusader. Years after both men have passed away, details are beginning to surface that Kane was not the same man that the rest of the world perceived him as. While he initially created Batman because of his love for comics, it seems that at some point in his career, Kane had a shift in motivation. He became fixated on the extrinsic rewards of his craft. Early on, he signed an exclusive contract with DC, crediting him as the sole creator of the majority of the elements seen in Batman comics, despite the fact that Finger arguably played a greater role in shaping the superhero into the face we are familiar with today. It was not until the later years of his life that Bob Kane credited Finger for his work, and it was not for another 30 years that DC has finally given Finger the official credit that he deserved, by including his name in upcoming Batman features, such as Batman v Superman, and the hit television show Gotham.

            There is no denying that Batman has become a cultural icon. And in recent years, we have seen an influx of superhero movies being released at high frequencies. Despite the success of Marvel and The Avengers, Batman remains the number one highest grossing superhero movie franchise of all time. Many different comic book writers, editors, as well as directors, have taken their own unique twists on the character, but through all the different versions of the hero, Batman remains rooted in the image created by Kane and Finger.  While they may not have realized it at the time, their “bat-man” hero would go on to become one of the most well recognized characters throughout the world. 



  1. I think that it is interesting that batman helped inspire a trend in a darker sort of super hero. With characters such as superman who seemed relatively lacking in flaws it is interesting that DC may have pioneered such a concept. I also find it interesting that it is through a collaborative effort that they were able to come up with the character of batman rather than the product of one persons imagination. I think that comic books as a whole are interesiting in this way because one person will create a character and over the years other writers for the comic will come up with new ideas for the character extending their stories for more than 70 years.

  2. Batman is an interesting contrast to other well-known DC comic heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Unlike these characters, who were more or less born with power, Batman's origin comes as a reaction to his vulnerability. I think the resounding success of Batman as both a character and a cultural icon comes from this. While Superman represents the unattainable heroic ideal , Batman with his humble origins (relatively speaking) and his constant struggle to live up to his own ideals, the pursuit of justice with natural and self-imposed limitations which his foes don't have, is more of a represents reality, both of an individual and society.

  3. I found it interesting how DC and Marvel parallel each other, with Stan Lee also being mainly credited for the majority of Marvel's characters, when it was truly a collaborative effort. Comic book characters have become increasingly popular in recent years, and its important to look back on their origins to see how that is influencing how we view them today. Batman was highly influential, and I wonder what comics would look like today if he wasn't introduced.


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