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What Broke the Bat? – Part 1

Batman has always been a darker character than most. Even in his early days when he was more jovial, the noir detective style crimes he was out to solve were much grittier than the sun soaked, high flying tasks that were faced by Superman. Nowadays Batman is even darker than most of his competing heroes and heroines, which is impressive for saying his books remain the best seller month after month alongside Marvel’s lighter Spiderman titles.

But why is this vigilante so intense and how did he get this way?

Well as mentioned he didn’t start off as the blackened caped crusader we know today, he even cracked a smile on a regular basis. But as comics and attitudes changed, so did the characters behind the masks (or in Superman’s case the glasses). To level out their brand DC kind of leaned into the attitudes of their characters a little more, though already formed somewhat they gradually turned up the volume on each one. Big highly powerful and righteous heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern fought big villains on big battlefields and were driven by an overall sense of good rounded justice. Batman’s form of justice was slightly different however, constantly teetering the lines of revenge, all the while he fought dirty criminals in the shadows of Gotham City, getting into scraps with the lowest of the low. This is how Batman formed his darker nature.

As far as the general public were concerned however Batman was a fun guy, or at least he was when he was being portrayed by Adam West in the popular 1966 TV series. This over the top cartoonish comic book show saw Batman in colourful garb, accompanied by a fast talking Robin (played by Burt Ward) in ridiculous situations. A lesser known element of the series is that this approach was spitefully created by one of the show runners who actually hated comics and used this as a way to get back at them. Regardless the series was incredibly popular and had kids and adults singing the repetitive theme tune for many years afterwards. But this was not an accurate portrayal of the Batman from the comics. In an attempt to separate itself from the show, the comics began to show an even darker Batman who brooded harder, fought more aggressively and dealt with crimes that simply wouldn’t have been shown on TV. Though the comics code disallowed completely gratuitous scenes in the pages, its code of conduct slowly lapsed as creators decided to take more risks with their work. Independent comics had gone the route of hyper violent in order to make themselves stand out from the mainstream labels, and the big hitters were starting to notice. Almost twenty years after the TV show had ended, the writer of the 80’s did their best to add more darkness to Gotham. In the late 80’s a pair of comics added incredible stories to the Batman mythos and neither showed a lighter side of the hero. This is where the Dark Knight truly began.