Batman is an ongoing American comic book series featuring the DC Comics hero of the same name. The character first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (cover dated May 1939). Batman proved to be so popular that a self-titled ongoing comic book series began publication with a cover date of Spring 1940. It was first advertised in early April 1940, one month after the first appearance of his new sidekick, Robin, the Boy Wonder.
Though the Batman comic book was initially launched as a quarterly publication, it later became a bimonthly series through the late 1950s, after which it became a monthly publication and has remained so since. The original series ended in 2011 and was relaunched with a new first issue.
Using the end of the New 52 initiative as a launching point, DC Comics began a second relaunch of its entire line of titles called DC Rebirth in 2016. Batman (vol. 3) #1 (August 2016) was the debut bimonthly relaunch of the comic book series.The Golden Age
The character of Batman made his first appearance in the pages of Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. In Spring of 1940, Batman #1 was published and introduced new characters into Batman’s pantheon, most notably those of Catwoman and Batman’s eventual nemesis, the Joker. Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family butler, was introduced in issue #16 (April–May 1943).
Editor Whitney Ellsworth assigned a Batman story to artist Dick Sprang in 1941. Anticipating that Bob Kane would be drafted to serve in World War II, DC inventoried Sprang’s work to safeguard against delays. Sprang’s first published Batman work was the Batman and Robin figures on the cover of Batman #18 (Aug.-Sept. 1943), reproduced from the art for page 13 of the later-published Detective Comics #84 (Feb. 1944). Sprang’s first original published Batman work, and first interior-story work, appeared in Batman #19 (Oct.-Nov. 1943), for which he drew the cover and the first three Batman stories, and penciled the fourth Batman story, inked by Norm Fallon. Like all Batman artists of the time, Sprang went uncredited as a ghost artist for Kane.
Villains which debuted during this early era included the Mad Hatter in issue #49 (October 1948) and Killer Moth in issue #63 (February 1951). In 1953, Sheldon Moldoff became another one of the primary Batman ghost artists who, along with Win Mortimer and Dick Sprang, drew stories credited to Bob Kane, following Kane’s style and under Kane’s supervision. Bill Finger and Moldoff introduced Ace the Bat-Hound in #92 (June 1955).
The Silver Age
The early part of the era known to comics fans and historians as the Silver Age of Comic Books saw the Batman title dabble in science fiction. New characters introduced included Mr. Freeze and Betty Kane, the original Bat-Girl.
In 1964, Julius Schwartz was made responsible for reviving the faded Batman titles. He jettisoned the sillier aspects that had crept into the series such as Ace the Bathound and Bat-Mite and gave the character a “New Look” that premiered in Detective Comics #327 (May 1964). Schwartz’s first issue of the Batman title was #164 (June 1964) which was written by France Edward Herron and drawn by Sheldon Moldoff. The Riddler returned after an eighteen-year absence in #171 (May 1965). Among the new villains introduced during this period was Poison Ivy in #181 (June 1966). In the 1960s, Batman comics were affected by the popular Batman television series, with campy stories based on the tongue-in-cheek premise of the series. After the Batman television program’s influence had died down, writer Frank Robbins and artist Irv Novick sent Dick Grayson off to attend college and moved Batman out of Wayne Manor in issue #217 (December 1969).
In 1971, writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams came aboard the title and re-infused it with the darker tones of the 1940s. O’Neil and Adams introduced a new villain named Ra’s al Ghul, and would also revitalize the Joker by bringing him back to his roots as a homicidal maniac who murders people on a whim. Batman #237 (December 1971) featured a metafictional story by O’Neil and Adams which featured several comics creators appearing in the story and interacting with Batman and Robin at the Rutland Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont. O’Neil said his work on the Batman series was “simply to take it back to where it started. I went to the DC library and read some of the early stories. I tried to get a sense of what Kane and Finger were after.” Comics historian Les Daniels observed that Batman’s interpretation of Batman as a vengeful obsessive-compulsive, which he modestly describes as a return to the roots, was actually an act of creative imagination that has influenced every subsequent version of the Dark Knight.” Issues #254 (Jan.–Feb. 1974) to #261 (March–April 1975) of the series were in the 100 Page Super Spectacular format. The series reached its 300th issue with a June 1978 cover date and featured a story by writer David Vern Reed and artists Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano. Len Wein became the writer of the series with issue #307 (January 1979) and in his first issue, created Wayne Foundation executive Lucius Fox, later portrayed by Morgan Freeman in the movies Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. Julius Schwartz ended his tenure as editor of the series with issue #309 (March 1979).
Marv Wolfman briefly wrote Batman and co-created the Electrocutioner in issue #331 (Jan. 1981). Roy Thomas had a brief sting on the series as well. Writer Gerry Conway and artist Don Newton introduced Jason Todd in Batman #357 (March 1983). Todd would assume the costumed identity of Robin in issue #368 (February 1984). Writer Doug Moench began his run on the title with issue #360 and he and artist Tom Mandrake created the Black Mask character in Batman #386 (August 1985). Moench’s longtime collaborator, artist Paul Gulacy made his DC Comics debut with a two-part story in issues #393 and #394. The title reached its 400th issue in October 1986 and featured work by several popular comics artists and included an introduction by novelist Stephen King.
Due to the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the continuity of DC Comics was altered. Established characters were given the opportunity to be reintroduced in new ways. While the Batman series was not rebooted, writer Frank Miller, who had previously worked on the limited series The Dark Knight Returns, and artist David Mazzucchelli retold the character’s origin story for the new continuity in the monthly pages of Batman issues 404–407 (February–May 1987). The story, Batman: Year One, garnered high critical acclaim for its realistic interpretation of Batman’s genesis, and its accessibility to new readers who had never followed Batman before. IGN Comics ranked Batman: Year One at the top of a list of the 25 greatest Batman graphic novels, saying that “no other book before or since has quite captured the realism, the grit and the humanity of Gordon and Batman so perfectly.” Notable comic book creators Greg Rucka, Jeph Loeb, and Judd Winick have cited Year One as their favorite Batman story. Following “Year One”, writer Max Allan Collins and artist Chris Warner crafted a new origin for Jason Todd. Jim Starlin became the writer of Batman and one of his first storylines for the title was “Ten Nights of The Beast” in issues #417-420 (March–June 1988) which introduced the KGBeast. During Starlin’s tenure on the title, DC Comics was becoming aware of the fanbase’s growing disdain for the character of Jason Todd, Following a cliffhanger in which the character’s life hangs in the balance, DC set up a 900 number hotline which gave callers the ability to vote for or against Jason Todd’s death. The kill option won by a narrow majority, and the following month the character was shown dying from wounds inflicted in the previous issue’s cliffhanger. The story, entitled “A Death in the Family,” received high media exposure due to the shocking nature in which a familiar character’s life had ended. Writer Marv Wolfman and artist Pat Broderick created Tim Drake in issue #436 in the “Batman: Year Three” story and the character became the third version of Robin in the “A Lonely Place of Dying” storyline culminating in issue #442.
Partially impacted by the tone of Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman, the comics of the 1990s took a darker tone. The Tim Drake version of Robin was given a new costume designed by Neal Adams in issue #457 (December 1990) in a story by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle. The main writers of the Batman franchise in the 1990s were Grant, Doug Moench, and Chuck Dixon. Moench and Dixon masterminded the Knightfall crossover arc, which saw Batman’s back being broken by the super strong villain Bane. A new character, Jean-Paul Valley, takes up the Batman mantle in Bruce Wayne’s absence. Valley is driven mad with power, and Wayne forcefully reclaims it after his recovery. Moench and artist Kelley Jones co-created the Ogre in Batman #535 (Oct. 1996).
The Batman titles in 1999 were dominated by the large crossover “No Man’s Land”, which sees Gotham City ravaged by a large earthquake, leading to the U.S. government’s order to evacuate the city and abandoning and isolating those who choose to remain behind. Writer Greg Rucka adapted the story into a prose novel published in 2000.
After the conclusion to “No Man’s Land” and Greg Rucka’s move to Detective, the Batman title was handled for seven issues by writer Larry Hama and artist Scott McDaniel. At issue #582, Ed Brubaker became the writer of the series and kept a trend of gritty crime drama that included more grounded villains such as the Penguin, Brubaker’s new villain Zeiss, and Deadshot. Brubaker’s run received a short interruption with an arc title “Officer Down”, which depicted Commissioner Gordon being shot in the line of duty and ultimately retiring from the Gotham police force. From there, writer Brian K. Vaughan did a three-issue arc that focused on Batman’s created crime persona Matches Malone before Brubaker returned. The next crossover, masterminded by Brubaker and Rucka and titled “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?” saw Bruce Wayne framed for the murder of his girlfriend and nearly abandoning his civilian identity altogether.
For the #600 issue, the series moved into the next phase of Wayne’s frame-up and featured three backup stories, which were presented as lost issues never before published from iconic eras in Batman’s history. “Mystery of the Black Bat” is presented in the style of Dick Sprang and “Joker Tips His Hat!” is an homage to the 1960s stories by artists such as Gil Kane and Carmine Infantino. “The Dark, Groovy, Solid, Far-out, Right-on, and Completely With-it Knight Returns” is a humorous spin on Batman’s character trying to update himself into the eighties, and featured stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt’s comic writing debut. After the frame-up story concluded, Brubaker closed his run with two issues co-written with Geoff Johns
Writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee crafted a year-long story which began with issue #608, The “Hush” storyline was a murder mystery that delved through numerous periods in Batman’s history. Introducing a new character that was the story’s namesake, as well as redefining the Riddler, healing Harvey Dent, and calling into question the events surrounding Jason Todd’s death, Following the conclusion of Hush, the creative team of the Vertigo series 100 Bullets came aboard for a six-issue arc titled “Broken City”. Writer Judd Winick became the ongoing writer for the series and in a story titled “Under the Hood”, explained that Jason Todd had actually returned from the dead long ago, and became an anti-hero in Gotham under the guise of the Red Hood.
After the Infinite Crisis series, all the regular monthly titles of the DC Universe jumped forward in time by one year, depicting the characters in radically different situations and environments then they were in the preceding issues. “Face the Face”, was written by James Robinson and saw Batman returning from a year-long overseas journey that retraced the steps he took after initially leaving Gotham City in his youth and featured the return of James Gordon to the role of Gotham City Police Commissioner.
Grant Morrison began his long-form Batman narrative in issue #655. The first story, “Batman and Son,” reveals that Wayne is the father of a child named Damian, and attempts to steer the child away from the machinations of his mother, Talia al Ghul. From there, Morrison began an arc that saw an evil influential organization known as the Black Glove attempt to destroy everything Batman is and what he stands for. This culminated in the storyline Batman R.I.P., where the Black Glove initially succeeds in doing so, but is thwarted by Bruce Wayne’s ability to preserve his sane mind while an erratic, alternate personality takes over. After stopping the Black Glove, Morrison moved Batman into his event series Final Crisis, where Batman appears to be killed by Darkseid. In actuality, he was transported to the distant past and stranded there. Neil Gaiman wrote issue #686, which was the first part of a story titled Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? It served as a quasi-send off to a generation of Batman stories, much the same way as Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? did for Superman, and continued into an issue of Detective Comics.
After this, the main Batman series went on hiatus while the Battle for the Cowl mini-series would have Dick Grayson assume the role of Batman in the wake of Bruce Wayne’s disappearance from the present-day DC Universe. Grant Morrison stayed involved in writing Batman, but moved to a new series titled Batman and Robin, which followed the exploits of Grayson as Batman and Damian Wayne as the new Robin. Writer Judd Winick temporarily returned to the title for Grayson’s first solo arc as Batman, before handing the writing and art duties off to Tony Daniel.
Daniel remained the main writer on the series until issue #699. The title reached a milestone with the publication of Batman #700 (August 2010), which saw the return of Grant Morrison to the title and a collaboration with an art team that consisted of Daniel, Frank Quitely, Andy Kubert, and David Finch. The separate stories tied together to illustrate that the legacy of Batman is unending, and will survive into the furthest reaches of time. Morrison stayed on as writer on the series through issue #702, while simultaneously writing the Batman and Robin series and the The Return of Bruce Wayne mini-series. Tony Daniel resumed writing and art duties with issue #704. Even after Bruce Wayne’s return, Dick Grayson remained the star of this title through its final year, as well as being the main character in Batman and Robin and Detective Comics. Bruce Wayne starred in two new titles, Batman Incorporated and Batman: The Dark Knight.
On June 1, 2011, it was announced that all series taking place within the shared DC Universe would be either canceled or relaunched with new #1 issues, after a new continuity was created in the wake of the Flashpoint event. Batman was no exception, and the first issue of the new series was released on September 21, 2011.
The New 52
DC Comics relaunched Batman with issue #1 in September 2011, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo, as part of DC’s company-wide title relaunch, The New 52. As with all of the books associated with the DC relaunch, Bruce Wayne appears to be about five years younger than the previous incarnation of the character. Superheroes at large have appeared only in the past five years, and are viewed with, at best, suspicion, and, at worst, outright hostility. All of the characters that have served as Robin, except Stephanie Brown, have been accounted for as still having served at Batman’s side in the new continuity. The stories build on recent developments, with most of the character’s previous history remaining intact, and Bruce Wayne is again the only Batman, with Dick Grayson having returned to his role as Nightwing.
The first story arc of the title, “The Court of Owls”, focuses on Batman’s discovery of a secret society in Gotham City that he had never known about before, dating back to the time of Gotham’s founding and his ancestor Alan Wayne, and his battles against the Talons, the agents of the Court of Owls. This led to the first major New 52 crossover, “Night of the Owls”. The finale of the story sees Thomas Wayne Jr. as the head Talon of the Court of Owls in Gotham.
The second arc was named “Death of the Family”, a name-play on the “Batman: A Death in the Family”. It picked up on the cliffhanger involving the Joker from Tony Daniel’s run on Detective Comics.
Talon, a spin-off of the “Court of Owls” storyline, launched in September 2012 and focused on a rogue Talon from the Court.
After a storyline involving Clayface and a one shot dealing with the aftermath of “Death of the Family”, Snyder’s next arc was “Batman: Zero Year”. This followed up on Batman #0 and retold how Bruce Wayne became Batman, not done since Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One”. The “Endgame” storyline ran from October 2014 to April 2015, and concluded with the apparent deaths of both Batman and the Joker. James Gordon, having taken on the Batman mantle, became the main character of the series in June 2015.
In the “Superheavy” storyline, James Gordon encounters a new super villain, Mr. Bloom, who is distributing various seed-like devices that grant its user extraordinary superpowers at the cost of their lives to select few individuals. It is also revealed the Bruce Wayne is alive and has started a new life at the Lucius Fox Center for Gotham Youth alongside Julie Madison who Bruce has started a relationship with. Gordon is able to subdue Bloom but multiple Mr. Bloom doppelgangers arrive and begin their attack on Gotham City. During an encounter with Duke Thomas, Bruce begins to regain his memories and realizes that he is Batman. He returns to Wayne Manor and forces Alfred to bring Batman back. Using a machine that Batman planned to use to implant his memories into clones to continue his lineage, Bruce tries to regain his memories but fails repeatedly whenever he reaches the point of near-brain death. He decides to invoke brain death so that his old memories can be returned to him. He is then revived with his original memories. Bruce dons a new Batsuit and heads out to face Bloom. Batman arrives and dispatches the Bloom doppelgangers and cuffs Gordon to a helicopter, not wanting him to risk further injury. Duke Thomas discovers that Daryl Gutierrez is the original Mr. Bloom, having created the seeds to give Gotham’s citizens the power to protect themselves until one of his ‘victims’ took his seeds and identity, becoming Mr. Bloom. Duke dispatches Daryl just as Bruce using a giant mecha Batsuit and Jim in his own mecha Batsuit battle Mr. Bloom and defeat him. Jim Gordon is made the Commissioner of the GCPD once again and Bruce thanks him for protecting Gotham in his stead. Bruce approaches Duke Thomas with an offer and soon returns to watching over Gotham once more.