It’s been a big month for everyone’s favorite Caped Crusader, with details being released about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice such as the title and our first look at Batfleck’s costume. In the printed world, Batman – or rather Batman Beyond – takes center stage in Futures End, DC’s current flagship event book. Both of these however seem trivial compared to the fact that he also celebrated his 75th Birthday thismonth.
Last week was 75 years since the release of Detective Comic #27 and, DC Comics have previously announced plans to celebrate the occasion throughout this year.
But what are the most momentous occasions within those 75 years? Being one of comics – if not pop culture’s – most iconic characters, it is hard to judge. Being such an enduring character that crosses media boundaries, there are numerous permutations of the character, each with it’s own fan base.
That’s why here at Big Comic Page we crunched the numbers, looked over the files and taken a closer look to judge our Greatest 7.5 moments in 75 years of Batman.
7) The Joker Gets Violent (1988)
Bruce Wayne’s life was shattered in the year of 1988 as long time rival The Joker demoralized him with two acts of brutality that not only cemented his [The Joker’s] role as Batman’s nemesis but also had repercussions within the main Batman continuity for years to come.
The first one that we will look at is “A Death in The Family” which as you will probably know was the 4 part miniseries in which DC Comics left the fate of Jason Todd aka Robin II to the public [a decision made by editor Dennis O’Neil.], The character who was created to fill Dick Grayson’s role was met with a mixed response with his personality and back story rubbing some readers the wrong way.
The results were in favor of the characters death at the hands of The Joker, these results have since been questioned with rumors of redialing being rife during the phone in poll. But at the time his fate was sealed and issue 428 seen the end [… well for nearly 2 decades] of Batman’s second ward.
The story paved the way for a revolving door of further Bat Family members to join Batman’s side [and be taken from it], and had beats played on in further series such as Hush (2003) when a return was teased as Clayface pretended to be Jason. Following that he of course returned and found more fan favour in the roll of the Red Hood who was a more dark and troubled character.
7.5) The Killing Joke (1988)
The earlier yet equally brutal act to happen that same year was within the Alan Moore and Brian Bolland graphic novel – The Killing Joke. Intended to be outside of canon, DC took the decision to make it part of the main continuity and so for years to come Batman, Barbara, The Joker and Commissioner Gordon were irrevocably changed.
Batman for one of the first times in his life failed someone close to him since the death of his parents, of course as you will know from above this would later happen further to the point that virtually everyone that Bruce forms a bond with will be brutalized or killed. Barbara would be re-imagined as slick DCU information broker and hacker extraordinaire in spite of paralysis though often the character would struggle with the trauma of the event – until the character was given the use of her legs again prior to DC launching the New 52. The Joker had a distinctly sadistic edge ever since Batman #251 in the early/mid seventies but this hardly impacted upon Bruce aside from his crime fighting career but with his shooting of Barbara the lines were blurred and for Gordon it was one of his greatest failures as a cop and Father – though his morals endured they would be tested again further such as the death of his second with Sarah Essen [at the conclusion to No Mans Land.]
Outside of its impact on the characters and the canon itself, the series is to this day often debated. As we recently discussed ambiguous topics surrounding the series include just how far the attack on Barbara went to whether or not it was intended to book end The Jokers story.
The prestige format story is light on page count but possibly the weightiest of stories.
6) Arkham Asylum Reaches Consoles (2009)
Licensed games can be a tough sell, for every Goldeneye there is a dozen more licensed games that suck. Some infamously so like ET which has gained myth like status. More recently games like Iron Man have sought to cash in their namesake’s name value but have been exremely lacking in any quality of gameplay. As one of the big players in DC – Bat’s has always (every few years or so [either on his own, through a film or an animated show] had a video game produced and largely they fall between categories, generally they have been nothing truly terrible but nothing special.
Yet Arkham Asylum bucked the trend, gaining applauds from players and critics alike. Most notably that in gameplay, voice acting and storytelling it excelled… a common phrase among them is that it is the greatest superhero game ever – though the stops short of the best game ever.
Selling in excess of 4 and half million copies – the game spawned sequels the latest of which Arkham Knight is due for release this October.
5) Breaking the Bat (1993)
During the 90’s most top level characters were given radical changes to move them inline with trends from the time. Edgy titles reigned supreme and indy houses such as upstart company Image were selling hundreds of thousands if not millions of copies in what was a speculator boom… even before that the Cable led team of X-Force’s debut title sold in the millions. Diana Prince would later relinquish the title of Wonder Woman, Superman would die and return, Green Lantern would become a villain and for Batman…
He would be broken, as part of the huge and sprawling Knightfall saga. If 1988 was the year Batman’s spirit was broken then this would be the year he would be physically broken. As the recently introduced character of Bane would move one step ahead of Batman for a sustained period before moving in and defeating him by breaking his back – leaving Bruce to wallow in despair and hanging up his cowl.
Following this an interim Batman was chosen in the form of Jean Paul Valley aka Azreal – who had the antithesis of Batmans coda, he was less stable and would beat foes with shear brawn in the most violent of ways. Eventually Bruce recuperated with not entirely convincing hand waving, his return saw him face the Batman more in line with 90’s tastes and he proved victorious just as he would with Bane thus proving that as tastes change the core character of Bruce Wayne is the most potent part of that mix.
The series is very much of it’s time – where radical changes were introduced to keep the bubble going. Even as the bubble burst and the character changes were gradually uretconned it made further stories possible, Most notably Batman’s death at the end of Final Crisis which again seen someone else take the cowl only for it to be the more apt Dick Grayson.
The story itself and Banes feud with Batman is as relevant as ever with both butting heads in recent New 52 continuity likely as a result of the Christopher Nolan ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ – itself underpinned by Bane’s breaking of the Batman within Knightfall.
4) The Release of The Dark Knight (2008)
OK so I am sure this may split decision as to whether it actually constitutes on of Batman’s greatest moments, after all it wasn’t the first Batman movie and some people are still on the fence as to which is the definitive movie – this or the culture craze of 1989’s Batman – but this bucked so many trends. Traditionally genre films were destined to only ever to achieve technical academy awards like best sound editing etc. etc. – yet Heath Ledgers posthumous award for Supporting actor showed this wasn’t the case at least superficially [it is debatable whether his death played a part in the decision. It became most crowd pleasing films of Warner Bro’s DC Movies to hit cinemas since the proliferation of comic book movies – Both Man of Steel and Superman Returns received mixed criticism, whereas others like Catwoman or Jonah Hex infamously flopped and others like The Loser received modest attention but were largely unnoticed.
Currently the film has an aggregated score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed an estimated $533,345,358 domestically and $469,700,000 internationally at the box office. Common among its criticisms is that it is too pseudo intellectual, that it has too much exposition and simply that it has been over rated – personally I feel these were rather harsh but the film set an unprecedented benchmark. One that was only surpassed by it’s successor The Dark Knight Returns and various Marvel Studios films the most obvious being The Avengers in terms of comic book movies. Leaving aside the fact it is a comic book movie in a scale of adjusted grosses it is within the top 30 of all time, non-adjusted it is within the top 4 domestically only surpassed by Marvel Studio’s The Avengers and James Cameron’s Titanic and Avatar.
It’s hard to argue that after reaching so many cultural milestones the release of this film isn’t one of Batman’s greatest moments, whether it is the greatest comic book movie isn’t relevant to this but will no doubt be argued for years to come.
3) The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
What can be said here that hasn’t been said en masse before, Standing out as one of the defining miniseries of all time, this cynical tale was released around about the same time as Watchmen and similarly was set outwith of DC’s main continuity. Receiving positive reviews within mainstream circles and extremely healthy sales as both were later collected in trades – this really helped set out the trade paperback as a viable format.
Often imitated the series has inspired other media such as Christopher Nolan’s take on the bat, as we are led to believe also Zack Snyder and more directly with a the recent two part animated movie series.
There is debate about whether this is Frank Miller’s greatest piece of work with other strong contenders being his Daredevil run, but setting that argument aside what can be said is that as far Batman stories go this is the probably the strongest.
Standout moments from the series include; The much aged Bruce Wayne rebuilding his very body and psyche to fight for Gotham’s soul in a fight against the mutant leader, Joker meeting his demise and Batman taking on Superman in a drawn out battle.
2) “Two Face” Batman: TAS – Series one episodes 10-11(1992)
It is often said that it takes a TV shows around ten episodes to find it’s feet, in the case of of Batman: The Animated Series that is a hard case to make with previous episodes being of such a high caliber but this sure was a game changing two part epsiode. Overall the series has remained one of the definitive versions of the caped crusader in external media as it appeals to adults and the young alike, It’s success saw a makers roll out further spin-offs and sequels that would make up the DCAU which in turn seeped into main continuity.
Future episodes like Heart of Ice are also notable for having weighty themes and a huge following. But it was this two part episode that was the first in the series to really break new ground as it took an often misrepresented character of Harvey Dent [Guy with a gimmick/ Multiple personalities/Bipolar?] and streamlining it into a compelling story.
In it DA Harvey Dent is slowly corrupted as he is blackmailed about his past mental health problems by mobster Rupert Thorne. This leads to his downfall as the inevitable happens and he is hideously disfigured.
The characterization is complex – cementing the series’s cross age appeal and for many showed Batman for what it could be, during their formative years.
1) Detective Comics #38 (1940)
Where Batman goes so to does his “little chum” Robin…
The creation of Robin set the archetype for the role of sidekick which has largely remained unchanged to this day, other companies quickly followed suit and within a matter of 2 years Timely Comics introduced Bucky and Toro where as Fawcett introduced Captain Marvel Jnr.
Although this is an issue largely very few of us will ever read or own [save for the occasional reprint] it is probably the most crucial to the overall mytho’s. Not to diminish the debut of Batman himself in the earlier Detective Comics #27… it was lacking in many of the familial elements we now take for granted weren’t there Batman was a dark character whose well established moral code wasn’t quite as developed. This was countered by giving the young readership a character they could identify more with and it worked.
Since that point the lone figure of Batman is a fantasy as since then tales have given the caped crusader a wide supporting cast of ally’s with Robin being chief among them regardless of whether it is the original Dick Grayson version, The more recent Damien Wayne or even out of continuity versions like Carrie Kelly.
It is hard to even say sidekick without imagining Robin just as it is hard to say Batman with again also associating the name with Robin.
But what would you rate as your favorite milestones in the past 75 years of the Bat?, Sound off in the comment or Facebook and let us know!
The Writer of this piece was:
with contributions from Stewart Duff, Alan Shields and Craig Nielson.
You can find Gary on Twitter @Kanoclassic