... BATMAN  

This summer just gone, Batman celebrated his sixtieth year as a comic book character, and his tenth year since returning to the cinemas in Tim Burton’s gothic Batman. Though the character has undergone many face lifts over the years, from naive crusader, to camp clown, to gritty detective, and post-modern anti-hero, he remains one of the icons of our age, second only to our Lord Jesus Christ and the man off the Daddy’s Sauce bottle.

Though the movie franchise has seemingly been run into the ground by Joel “Misguided Evil” Schumacher, and his neon directing wand, the comic series is undergoing something of a revival; DC Comics has shaken the Batman mythos on its head, destroying Gotham City with its ongoing No Man’s Land story arc, and enlisting - ironically - the likes of screenwriter Bob Gale to take the character to new heights. What’s more, Warner Brothers - and specifically producer Paul Dini - continue to impress with Batman: The Animated Series, and current futuristic spin-off, Batman Beyond. Bubblegun’s long-overdue tribute to this most enduring of tight-wearing thugs, begins right here.

  1. Batman was created by Bob Kane, and first appeared in Detective Comics 27, in May 1939. He was joined, eleven issues later, by Robin, The Boy Wonder, who was introduced because Kane, and co-writer Bill Finger, felt Batman needed another character to play against.

  2. Batman remained a fairly straight character throughout the 1940s, spawning a run of live action movie serials. However, from 1950 onwards, his comicbook adventures became increasingly outlandish. The surreal slapstick peaked during the 1960s, when the comics reflected the absurd 1966 Batman TV series, starring Adam West as Batman, and Burt Ward as Robin.

  3. When the show started, Batman was the third most popular comic character in America, behind Superman and Dick Tracy. By the time it had finished in 1968, he was number one.

  4. The idea for a TV show came from producer William Dozier. Seen as a potential saviour for ailing US network ABC, Batman was designed to appeal to both adults and kids. Batman adopted a ground-breaking pop-art look, taking advantage of the colour TV boom, using bright design and pop-up sound effects. 

  5. ABC spent a small fortune marketing the show before it debuted. The network even went so far as to hire a skywriter to spell out the words “Batman is coming” during a high profile baseball final. 

  6. The show’s Batcave set cost an unprecedented $800,000 in 1966 money. Back then, the average episode of Batman cost around $75,000. 

  7. The infamous TV Batmobile was a modified 1957 Ford Futura, with some pipes stuck on the back.  

  8. Cesar Romero, who played the TV version of The Joker, refused to remove his moustache for the role. Instead, make-up artists were forced to plaster it down using oil-based face paint.  

  9. Between the first and second season of Batman, the show’s makers filmed a movie, starring a host of enemies, and new vehicles the Batcopter and Batboat.  

  10. ABC continually found itself defending allegations that Batman and Robin were gay. The show’s producers introduced the characters of Batgirl and Aunt Harriet in order to dispel the rumours. A romance between Batman and Batgirl was planned, but the show was axed before it could be fully developed.  

  11. Broson Cavern, in Hollywood, doubled for the entrance to the Batcave. The cavern was also seen in the original Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers movie.  

  12. Batman shared many props, gadgets and sets with Lost In Space, Land Of The Giants, Time Tunnel and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea.  

  13. By the end of the show’s run, Robin had uttered “Holy SOMETHING” no fewer than 352 times.  

  14. Following the axing of the series by ABC, after some 120 episodes, rival network NBC expressed an interest in purchasing Batman. When studio executives learned that the standing sets had already been torn down, they changed their minds.  

  15. In the wake of the TV series, and changing tastes, DC Comics reinvented the Batman comics. It dropped the high camp attitude in favour of more gritty stories, written and drawn by comic legend Neal Adams. 

  16. However, along with all of DC’s range - Superman included - Batman’s sales withered until the release of 1985’s classic four part Frank Miller series, The Dark Knight Returns. Along with Watchmen, Dark Knight reinvented comics as an adult medium, and began the graphic novel boom of the late 1980s. Dark Knight told the tale of a reflective and bitter 50 year old Batman coming out of retirement to save Gotham from the clutches of The Joker, and murderous mutant gangs.  

  17. At the time, Bob Kane disowned The Dark Knight Returns. He said: “I read it and there was a woman with swastikas on her breasts. I mean, what’s that about? I just don’t understand that at all.”  

  18. After telling the last ever Batman tale (chronologically speaking), Miller reinvented the character’s origins with the equally mature Batman: Year One. He would return to Batman a final time, during the mid-90s, for the godawful superhero crossover Batman/Spawn.  

  19. The success of The Dark Knight Returns led to a return to movie action for Batman, courtesy of gothic maverick Tim Burton. The film was heavily influenced by the darkness of the graphic novel, though it split the Batfans; many felt that Michael Keaton was too short to play the character, while others criticised the character’s murderous actions on screen. However, all were unanimous: Jack Nicholson stole the show as The Joker.  

  20. Three more Batman films followed; Batman Returns (with Danny Devito as The Penguin, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman), and Batman Forever (with Val Kilmer taking over the Bat-role, Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, Jim Carrey as Riddler, and Chris O’Donnell as Robin). However, a true nadir was reached with 1997’s Batman And Robin, the second film in the franchise directed by Joel “I Respect No-One” Schumacher. Starring George Clooney as Batman, the garish, neon-lit fiasco effectively throttled the series, with Clooney later disowning it. Many looked to the Batman animated series for genuinely mature Bat-action.  

  21. Bad as the movie series has become, Batman comics have gone from strength to strength. As well as Batman/Spawn, other inter-company Batman crossovers include Batman/Judge Dredd (three times!), Batman/Aliens, Batman/Predator (three times!), Batman/Spider-Man, Batman/Captain America, and Batman/Tarzan.  

  22. Clerks and Chasing Amy writer/director Kevin Smith was recently asked to write the first draft of a new Superman screenplay. The Tim Burton-directed flick was due to include a cameo from Michael Keaton’s version of Batman. However, it now looks unlikely to ever be made.  

  23. Currently, there are plans for two new Batman movies: one based upon Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One storyline, and another vaguely inspired by the futuristic Batman Beyond animated series.  

  24. Currently coming to the end of a year-long story arc, the Batman comics are set to re-boot in 2000, with a new-look for Gotham, Batman, the Batcave and Batmobile.  

  25. Batman is an anagram of “BT-AAMN” - a sort of sound effect.

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