The world’s greatest detective can also, at times, be the world’s greatest mystery.
Batman: A Brief Overview
Batman (Bruce Wayne) is arguably the most popular superhero in modern times. Originally a gun-using vigilante actively fighting against police corruption, over time he’s evolved from the world’s greatest detective to an urban ninja with an extended family.
Originally a loner, he soon found a sidekick in the orphaned Robin (Dick Grayson), whose garishly-coloured outfit and happy-go-lucky attitude perfectly complement Batman’s dark oufit and broody outlook.
Throughout the decades, many more Gotham heroes would swarm to Batman’s side, such as multiple Robins, Nightwing (the original Robin), Batgirl, Batwoman.
Batman’s greatest challenge isn’t facing his foe, Joker. It’s not even facing the still-extant trauma of watching his parents die in front of him. It’s something a lot of people can relate to: Knowing when to accept help from others.
Batman was formed from the long-term unresolved trauma experienced by a young Bruce Wayne watching his parents being murdered by a petty thief, and was born when he realised that fear would do more to control criminals than the law ever could.
Sitting alone in the dark, dwelling on these thoughts, Bruce Wayne only needed a framing device for his crime-fighting antics – as he was pondering which theme to use, a bat broke through a nearby window, answering the question for him.
Batman only has two powers, which all of his other abilities stem from: His mental discipline, and his vast fortune – both inherited from his parents.
Batman is prepared for almost any occasion – he even known hows to take the Justice League down if needed. Constantly in peak physical condition due to his strict training regimen, and trained in both forensics and crime scene analysis, Batman truly is the world’s greatest detective.
Batman is also a master of several martial arts, combining them all to make his own unique fighting style. He’s also a student of psychology, using his knowledge to frighten and capture criminals.
Bruce Wayne utilises his billions of dollars to research and develop bat-themed equipment, from his protective Batsuit to his constantly redesigned Batmobile.
Although there are many different eras (and universes!) in which Batman is active, he usually has a grappling hook, a cape which enables him to glide, and bat-shaped boomerangs known as batarangs.
Another, less well-known (but arguably more socially responsible) use of his money can be seen in his funding of several free medical clinics throughout Gotham, as well as his many social programs, mainly geared toward at-risk youths and ex-offenders.
Batman’s group of close and extended allies are often referred to as the Batfamily.
There have been at least 5 Robins, all of whom are still allies to this day (although the second Robin had a stint as a villain). There’s also Batgirl and Batwoman, who are two different characters (and not two phases of the same character).
Information and research is usually done by Oracle (a former Batgirl) and/or Alfred (Bruce’s butler and father figure).
Being one of the founders of the Justice League, Batman can count them among his allies as well.
Back in the early days, when the Gotham City Police Department was almost overrun by corruption, Batman formed an uneasy alliance with the only honest cop he could find, a policeman named James Gordon. Over time their uneasy alliance turned into trust (if not friendship).
Batman also has an on-again/off-again romantic relationship with the anti-heroine known as Catwoman.
Batman: Rogues Gallery
Batman has a wide array of villains set against him. Moreso than any other superhero, Batman’s foes are often reversals of his heroic traits.
Let’s look at his most famous foe, Joker.
Batman’s super-human levels of discipline and dedication to non-lethal takedowns is mirrored by Joker’s love of chaos and murder. While Batman has trust issues and has slowly gathered allies to surround himself with, Joker trusts nobody (not even himself) and creates a gang every time he escapes from prison. Batman believes in the inherent good in people (hence his non-lethal takedowns), whereas Joker believes that everybody is just one bad day away from becoming unhinged (as seen in the classic Batman graphic novel, ‘The Killing Joke’).
Oswald Cobbleplot, the villain known as Penguin, is a reversal of Bruce’s willingness to use his wealth to improve society. Both Batman and Penguin inherited their family’s wealth, but Penguin just wants to collect more and more money. Although he rarely admits it, Penguins main goal appears to be that he wants to own more money than Batman.
And then there’s Edward Nigma, The Riddler, who is the polar opposite of Batman in that he uses his vast intellect to commit crimes, whereas Batman uses his to solve them. One thing that they both have in common is that they’re psychologically incapable of not using their thematic gimmicks: Batman’s not going to stop being bat-themed anytime soon, just as The Riddler can’t stop leaving riddles at a crime scene – usually for Batman himself.
Batman has many other (in)famous foes as well, such as Bane, Mr Freeze, Poison Ivy, Man-Bat, Black Mask, and Clayface.
Although many of his foes have a deep hatred of Batman, some – such as The Riddler and Clayface – have actually joined him (albeit temporarily) in his fight against crime.
Batman: Common Themes
The most common theme in the most popular Batman stories is psychology. It’s long been said that the only way that Bruce will retire from being Batman is if he gets help and learns to move on from his past (i.e. dealing with the trauma his parents death caused him).
In his early days, police corruption was a major theme of the comic. This is the reason Batman even exists, after all – realising that the police are unwilling to do their job due to being paid off by criminals, he decided to step up to the plate and do it himself.
Another common theme dealt with by Batman is that of horror – especially in storylines featuring Scarecrow and other similar characters.
Batman: Cultural Impact
It could be argued that Batman has had more of a social impact than any other superhero, possibly because of the Batfamily. While Superman is probably the most well known superhero of all time, and Spiderman is probably the most beloved, the Batfamily run the whole gamut of demographics. If you’re a young female, there’s Batgirl. If you’re a young male, there’s Robin. If you’re a young adult, there’s Nightwing and Batgirl – and so on.
Superman is notoriously difficult to write for (and therefore rarely gets good modern storylines, either in comics or onscreen), and many fans view Spider-Man as being for teens and young adults. This, of course, doesn’t make either character inferior to Batman – it just means that their social impact isn’t as far-reaching, because it’s not as likely to resonate with as many people.
The Batman: Arkham series also made superheroes a viable videogame genre – before Batman: Arkham Aslyum, superhero videogames were considered poor at worst, derivative at best.
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight film trilogy also created an entire generation of Batfans, as did Batman: The Animated Adventures decades earlier.
Batman has been around for over 80 years, and – being just as relevant as he ever was – he shows no signs of slowing down.