Caped, ominous and a force for good, superhero Batman was the brainchild of cartoonist Bob Kane.
The Batman character first appeared in Detective Comics in 1939, and was such a hit that Batman comics remained in print in one form or another into the 21st century. Batman is the “caped crusader,” the crimefighting alter-ego of millionaire Bruce Wayne. Wayne inherited a fortune as a boy after his parents were killed by robbers; when Wayne grew up he dedicated himself to fighting crime and chose the guise of a bat in order to strike fear into the hearts of criminals.
Unlike Superman and Spider-Man, Batman is a human with no supernatural powers. He lives in Gotham City and operates out of his secret crime laboratory, the Bat Cave. He battles exotic supervillains including the Joker, Two-Face, Catwoman and the Penguin, and is often aided by a sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder.
Over the years Batman has appeared in many media and with various levels of seriousness. The 1960s live-action TV series was played for laughs, with a deadpan Adam West as Batman and nutty celebrity villains including Zsa Zsa Gabor as Minerva and Roddy McDowall as the Bookworm. (The series also featured Yvonne Craig as Batgirl.)
Two decades later Batman was reinvigorated by the 1986 publication of Frank Miller‘s gloomy, acerbic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. Miller’s work inspired a darkly popular Batman feature film, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton as the caped crusader and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. (Val Kilmer and George Clooney played Batman in sequels.)
Batman: The Animated Series began a long run on TV in 1992, with Kevin Conroy as Batman and well-known voices like Mark Hamill as the Joker and Adrienne Barbeau as Catwoman. The film series was revived in 2005 with Batman Begins, starring Christian Bale as Batman and Michael Caine as his faithful butler, Alfred. Another sequel, The Dark Knight, again starring Bale and with the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, was released in July 2008, and followed by even more sequels in all genres.
Batman’s first home, Detective Comics, later became better known as D.C. Comics.