NA-NA-NA-NA BATMAN!1 of 12
Today DC is celebrating the 80th anniversary of Batman's debut with the not-co-coincidentally timed Detective Comics #1000. He's no second-stringer, as he is the ultimate example of human potential – physically proficient, mentally powerful, determined beyond belief, and altruistic to a fault in his crusade – which resonates to this day as one of the greatest superheroes of all time.
But he had help getting to that point - namely from 80 years of creators who have defined, redefined, broken, built, and rebuilt Batman, making him one of the most enduring superheroes (and fictional characters) ever.
Newsarama is looking back at the Bat's biggest icons, as we prep for the next 80 years.
SCOTT SNYDER2 of 12
Over the last several years, Snyder redefined Batman’s place in Gotham City, pitting him against the Court of Owls – a group of aristocrats pulling the city’s strings, and turned the Joker into a homicidal menace on a level he’s never been before.
Snyder’s greatest achievement may be the year long “Zero Year” arc that retold Batman’s origin and earliest crime-fighting days, weaving the Caped Crusader into the very fabric of Gotham City, and rebuilding him, and his world, from the ground up.
Though Snyder left the main Batman title with "Rebirth," he continued to work on redefining his classic villains in All-Star Batman. And of course, Snyder and longtime Batman collaborator Greg Capullo reunited for the Batman-centric event Dark Nights: Metal and then this week's intro story to Detective Comics #1000.
GRANT MORRISON3 of 12
Grant Morrison’s trippy Batman may have been alienating to some, with writer’s aim of integrating all versions of Batman from all media into one unified vision taking him to some strange places. But Morrison also put in place elements that helped shape the core of Batman’s character in the last decade.
Chief among Morrison’s accomplishments were bringing back Damien Wayne – a character that was largely a footnote in Batman lore – as Bruce Wayne’s biological son, and the latest Robin. This development truly redefined the relationship between Batman and Robin, which had always been that of a surrogate father and son, and made that connection literal.
Morrison also introduced the concept of Batman, Inc., a global network of crimefighters inspired by Batman. Morrison also oversaw the “death” of Bruce Wayne, an event that lead to Dick Grayson’s brief (second) stint in the cape and cowl.
GARDNER FOX4 of 12
Gardner Fox is one of the most prolific comic book writers of all time, with historians estimating he wrote over 4,000 in his long career. While Fox worked on numerous high profile characters from the Golden Age through the 1980’s – creating the Justice League of America, and pioneering the concept of the Multiverse – he also helped define numerous iconic elements of the Batman mythos, starting in his earliest days.
In the late 1930’s, just after Batman’s debut, Fox wrote several stories which introduced the concept of Batman’s utility belt, the Batarang, and the Batgyro, which later evolved into the Batcopter. When Fox returned to Batman in the 1960’s, he revitalized numerous long-lost Batman villains, including the Riddler and the Scarecrow, and in one of his final Batman stories, introduced Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, one of the most iconic characters in Batman lore.
CHUCK DIXON5 of 12
For most of the 1990’s, Chuck Dixon shepherded the adventures of the Caped Crusader, returning him from a public superhero to the status of a vigilante and “urban legend” on the streets of Gotham. While most of Dixon’s creative contributions center more on peripheral characters such as the Birds of Prey and Oracle – characters that grew out of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s seminal The Killing Joke - the fan-favorite writer was the architect of several of Batman’s greatest stories.
Dixon was behind “Knightfall,” the iconic story in which Bruce Wayne’s back is broken by Bane (Dixon creation himself, both major elements in The Dark Knight Rises), and replaced by Jean Paul Valley. Dixon also co-wrote “Contagion,” in which Gotham City is quarantined from the rest of the DC Universe, and was one of the main authors of “No Man’s Land,” considered to be one of the definitive Batman stories of the ‘90’s. Both arguably also served as inspiration for The Dark Knight Rises.
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN6 of 12
Tim Burton may have brought Batman back into the darkness in the public eye, but Christopher Nolan took realism to another level and is as responsible as anyone for today’s superhero movie boom.
By bringing Batman back to his roots on the big screen and telling a part of his origin most casual fans had never seen, Nolan’s Batman Begins revitalized the dormant Batman film franchise with unlikely success after the dismal Batman and Robin made it radioactive.
But Nolan’s contributions go beyond bringing Batman back to multiplexes and IMAX screens. How many superhero directors can claim an Oscar-winning performance under their guidance? Only Nolan, with Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight being awarded a posthumous Academy Award.
LORENZO SEMPLE, JR.7 of 12
Most readers are probably wondering who Lorenzo Semple, Jr. is right about now.
A television screenwriter and producer in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, Semple is best known for creating and writing the 1966 Batman TV series at the behest of producer William Dozier, who also served as the show’s uncredited narrator.
Though Semple original envisioned his Batman as a stylish, hip take on the Dark Knight, the show quickly evolved into its well-known campy and colorful style. Semple wrote the pilot, the film adaptation, and the first four episodes of the show, while also serving as Executive Story Editor throughout its run.
Thanks to Semple’s campy Batman, the public impression of the Caped Crusader changed for decades. Though it only ran for two years, Batman changed the way the world saw its hero until the late 1980’s, when Frank Miller and Tim Burton finally brought him back to his roots – something other comic book creators had been endeavoring towards for years in the interim.
The legacy of ABC’s Batman lives on to this day, with DC publishing a recently a comic book title based on its continuity, and its stars Adam West and Burt Ward reuniting with one of the show's Catwoman actresses Julie Newmar for a pair of animated movies set in the world of the show.
PAUL DINI / BRUCE TIMM8 of 12
Batman: The Animated Series was, for a generation of fans, the definitive Batman continuity. Entering the door opened by Tim Burton's return to a darker Dark Knight, Batman: TAS balanced the edginess of Burton's Gotham with the colorful roots of its comic book source code.
Batman: The Animated Series was the brainchild of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, longtime animators who finally struck gold by combining Dini’s succinct vision of the Caped Crusader with Timm’s immediately recognizable visual style.
Not only did Batman: TAS distill Batman’s mythos into a one-size-fits all take on the Dark Knight and his enemies, it introduced wholly original concepts into Batman’s world, such as Harley Quinn, a revamped take on Clayface, and a revitalized Mr. Freeze.
But the real importance of Batman: TAS was its presentation of a unified vision of the many disparate takes on the Dark Knight from throughout his history, giving rise to an entire animated DC Universe.
DENNIS O'NEIL / NEAL ADAMS9 of 12
Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams were two of the biggest names in DC Comics in the ‘70’s, creating and redefining multiple properties with stories that still resonate to this day. But some of their greatest work as a team came when they turned their attention to Batman.
Adams and O’Neil’s Batman came hot on the heels of the ‘60’s TV show, which cast Batman in a campy, cartoonish light. But Adams and O’Neil’s vision took the Dark Knight back to his roots as a grim avenger, sloughing off the kid-friendly stories of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, and making Batman once again a down to Earth detective and less of a sci-fi super-adventurer.
Adams and O’Neil created numerous elements of Batman’s mythology, but perhaps more than any other contribution, Adams and O’Neil are responsible for introducing Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins to the world of the Caped Crusader, creating what many people consider Batman’s true arch foe.
FRANK MILLER10 of 12
In the late ‘80’s, Frank Miller did the seemingly impossible. He fully wrested Batman from the campy grip he’d been in since the late ‘60’s. Sure, other creators had paved the way for Miller’s renaissance, but it was Miller’s hardboiled vision of Batman that put the nail in the cartoonish comic book coffin.
Between Batman: Year One, and The Dark Knight Returns, Miller redefined Batman as a street-level scrapper and the most determined man alive. Eschewing the more superheroic elements of Batman’s character, he created a version of the Dark Knight that ushered in an era of grim’n’gritty comic books from the big two publishers.
Miller’s Batman thrived in his own bubble, through a sequel to The Dark Knight Returns, and a prequel in the form of All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. Then, Miller's Dark Knight returned again in Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
BOB KANE / BILL FINGER11 of 12
Who else could land at number one on this list but the men who created the very idea of Batman, inventing numerous aspects of his world, creating some of his most iconic enemies, and defining an entire archetype of superhero comic books?
Though Bob Kane took sole credit for the creation of Batman for decades, Bill Finger is considered the co-creator of the Dark Knight, helping Kane develop the Batman concept from his initial illustrations and writing numerous early Batman stories.
Kane’s Batman bridged the gap between the pulp mystery men of the early ‘30’s and the rapidly burgeoning superheroes that popped up in the wake of Superman’s introduction. He was grim, gritty, and toted guns in his war on crime. Kane’s Batman was a sullen figure, ruthless in his crusade against threats both mundane, like Gotham’s criminal underworld, and more supernatural, such as the Monk.
While Kane’s Batman was closer to superheroes than previous masked men, it was Finger who added color to Batman’s world. Finger was instrumental in the creation of characters such as the Joker, Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face, Scarecrow, and countless other villains and supporting characters. Finger is also credited with creating Robin, the Boy Wonder, whose presence truly brought Batman out of the shadows and into the world of superheroics.
It would be easy to separate these two on our list – after all, it is only in recent memory that Finger has begun to receive proper credit as one of Batman’s co-creators. But the fact is, Finger and Kane worked closely together in Batman’s earliest days, combining the disparate elements of pulp crime fiction, superhero fantasy, and newspaper strip pop art into one of the most iconic and enduring characters of all time.
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