He strikes fear into the heart of criminals that preys on the vulnerable, for he is the night: the one known as Batman.
Since 1939, the Caped Crusader has spent his nights battling arch-villains the Joker, the Riddler, Two-Face, the Penguin, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, and other forces of evil that have plagued Gotham City. As a child, Bruce Wayne lost his parents due to a brutal, senseless murder. He has spent years traveling around the world — training his mind, body, and soul, as he seeks the means to fight injustice against those that would harm the innocent.
To some, Bruce Wayne is a shallow, jet-setting billionaire playboy. But underneath that mask lies an incorrupt symbol of justice and vengeance. Whereas Superman is “the white knight”, Batman is the Dark Knight Detective: defending the people of the night, the ones that no one sees. Though being written as a tragic, brooding loner, Batman has found a confidant within trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth; an ally within honest cop James Gordon; on/off romantic antagonism with Selena Kyle/Catwoman; becoming mentor and father figure to fellow superheroes Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl, as he soon finds himself being surrounded with a surrogate family.
Batman has gone through several interpretations in the world of DC Comics and on film and television: from the family-friendly ABC series starring Adam West from 1966-68; Sin City‘s Frank Miller bringing the character back to his roots with 1986’s The Dark Knight Returns; an award-winning animated series on FOX from 1992-95, and the WB’s The Batman (2004-08), which shows the Caped Crusader’s early years.
In 1989, director Tim Burton made the surprising choice of casting Michael Keaton in the titular role of Batman. The risk paid off, as the film was that year’s biggest hit — grossing $250 million dollars in the U.S. Keaton and Burton returned for 1992’s Batman Returns, which made enough to green light another sequel. 1995’s Batman Forever lighten the mood with director Joel Schumacher and Val Kilmer taking over the role. However, 1997’s Batman & Robin was panned by critics and fans due to their notorious “nipple effect” on the Bat suit with George Clooney.
However, Memento and The Prestige director Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale resurrected both the franchise and the superhero onscreen with 2005’s Batman Begins and last summer’s The Dark Knight. Both were huge critical and commercial blockbusters — especially The Dark Knight, which became one of the all-time box office giants. With Nolan, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight focus on how and why Bruce Wayne became the Batman: exploring the themes of justice and revenge, moral ambiguity, and questioning the concepts of good and evil. They bring a sense of realism, as they explore more into the emotional and mental psyche of Batman, who wonders if he does more harm than good; is he a hero or a vigilante?
The pathos of Batman may have been influenced by The Shadow, another dark avenger from the comic world, who made his debut in 1930 – nine years before the Dark Knight Detective. The Shadow has the ability to “cloud men’s minds” – knowing “what evil lurks in the hearts of men.”
A spin-off from Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Angel (1999-2004) tells of a vampire cursed with an conscience seeking to make amends for his evil acts by helping the helpless in Los Angeles, a city filled with moral depravity and decay, where he fights to regain his humanity back by saving lost souls.
Walking the thin line between justice and revenge, Batman starts to look beyond his own pain to go from a crime victim into the hero that is meant to be. In a broken, fallen, and cynical world, he remains a watchful guardian and protector: bringing hope back on the streets, continuing his lone crusade against evil, for he is the night: The Dark Knight Detective called Batman.