e comic book Detective Comics on March 30, 1939. In the DC Universe continuity, Batman is the alias of Bruce Wayne, a wealthy American playboy, philanthropist, and industrialist who resides in Gotham City. Batman’s origin story features him swearing vengeance against criminals after witnessing the murder of his parents Thomas and Martha as a child, a vendetta tempered with the ideal of justice. He trains himself physically and intellectually, crafts a bat-inspired persona, and monitors the Gotham streets at night. Kane, Finger, and other creators accompanied Batman with supporting characters, including his sidekicks Robin and Batgirl; allies Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon, and Catwoman; and foes such as the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face, and his archenemy, the Joker.
Kane conceived Batman in early 1939 to capitalize on the popularity of DC’s Superman; although Kane frequently claimed sole creation credit, Finger substantially developed the concept from a generic superhero into something more bat-like. The character received his own spin-off publication, Batman, in 1940. Batman was originally introduced as a ruthless vigilante who frequently killed or maimed criminals, but evolved into a character with a stringent moral code and strong sense of justice. Unlike most superheroes, Batman does not possess any superpowers, instead relying on his intellect, fighting skills, and wealth. The 1960s Batman television series used a camp aesthetic, which continued to be associated with the character for years after the show ended. Various creators worked to return the character to his darker roots in the 1970s and 1980s, culminating with the 1986 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.
DC has featured Batman in many comic books, including comics published under its imprints such as Vertigo and Black Label. The longest-running Batman comic, Detective Comics, is the longest-running comic book in the United States. Batman is frequently depicted alongside other DC superheroes, such as Superman and Wonder Woman, as a member of organizations such as the Justice League and the Outsiders. In addition to Bruce Wayne, other characters have taken on the Batman persona on different occasions, such as Jean-Paul Valley / Azrael in the 1993–1994 “Knightfall” story arc; Dick Grayson, the first Robin, from 2009 to 2011; and Jace Fox, son of Wayne’s ally Lucius, as of 2021. DC has also published comics featuring alternate versions of Batman, including the incarnation seen in The Dark Knight Returns and its successors, the incarnation from the Flashpoint (2011) event, and numerous interpretations from Elseworlds stories.
One of the most iconic characters in popular culture, Batman has been listed among the greatest comic book superheroes and fictional characters ever created. He is one of the most commercially successful superheroes, and his likeness has been licensed and featured in various media and merchandise sold around the world; this includes toy lines such as Lego Batman and video games like the Batman: Arkham series. Batman has been adapted in live-action and animated incarnations, including the 1960s Batman television series played by Adam West and in film by Michael Keaton in Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), and The Flash (2023), Val Kilmer in Batman Forever (1995), George Clooney in Batman and Robin (1997), Christian Bale in The Dark Knight trilogy (2005–2012), Ben Affleck in the DC Extended Universe (2016–present), and Robert Pattinson in The Batman (2022). Kevin Conroy, Diedrich Bader, Jensen Ackles, Troy Baker, and Will Arnett, among others, have provided the character’s voice.
In early 1939, the success of Superman in Action Comics prompted editors at National Comics Publications (the future DC Comics) to request more superheroes for its titles. In response, Bob Kane created “the Bat-Man”. Collaborator Bill Finger recalled that “Kane had an idea for a character called ‘Batman,’ and he’d like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane’s, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of …reddish tights, I believe, with boots …no gloves, no gauntlets …with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign …BATMAN”. The bat-wing-like cape was suggested by Bob Kane, inspired as a child by Leonardo da Vinci‘s sketch of an ornithopter flying device.
Finger suggested giving the character a cowl instead of a simple domino mask, a cape instead of wings, and gloves; he also recommended removing the red sections from the original costume. Finger said he devised the name Bruce Wayne for the character’s secret identity: “Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert the Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock …then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne.” He later said his suggestions were influenced by Lee Falk‘s popular The Phantom, a syndicated newspaper comic-strip character with which Kane was also familiar.
Kane and Finger drew upon contemporary 1930s popular culture for inspiration regarding much of the Bat-Man’s look, personality, methods, and weaponry. Details find predecessors in pulp fiction, comic strips, newspaper headlines, and autobiographical details referring to Kane himself. As an aristocratic hero with a double identity, Batman had predecessors in the Scarlet Pimpernel (created by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, 1903) and Zorro (created by Johnston McCulley, 1919). Like them, Batman performed his heroic deeds in secret, averted suspicion by playing aloof in public, and marked his work with a signature symbol. Kane noted the influence of the films The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Bat Whispers (1930) in the creation of the character’s iconography. Finger, drawing inspiration from pulp heroes like Doc Savage, The Shadow, Dick Tracy, and Sherlock Holmes, made the character a master sleuth.
In his 1989 autobiography, Kane detailed Finger’s contributions to Batman’s creation:
One day I called Bill and said, ‘I have a new character called the Bat-Man and I’ve made some crude, elementary sketches I’d like you to look at.’ He came over and I showed him the drawings. At the time, I only had a small domino mask, like the one Robin later wore, on Batman’s face. Bill said, ‘Why not make him look more like a bat and put a hood on him, and take the eyeballs out and just put slits for eyes to make him look more mysterious?’ At this point, the Bat-Man wore a red union suit; the wings, trunks, and mask were black. I thought that red and black would be a good combination. Bill said that the costume was too bright: ‘Color it dark grey to make it look more ominous.’ The cape looked like two stiff bat wings attached to his arms. As Bill and I talked, we realized that these wings would get cumbersome when Bat-Man was in action and changed them into a cape, scalloped to look like bat wings when he was fighting or swinging down on a rope. Also, he didn’t have any gloves on, and we added them so that he wouldn’t leave fingerprints.
Subsequent creation credit
Kane signed away ownership in the character in exchange for, among other compensation, a mandatory byline on all Batman comics. This byline did not originally say “Batman created by Bob Kane”; his name was simply written on the title page of each story. The name disappeared from the comic book in the mid-1960s, replaced by credits for each story’s actual writer and artists. In the late 1970s, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster began receiving a “created by” credit on the Superman titles, along with William Moulton Marston being given the byline for creating Wonder Woman, Batman stories began saying “Created by Bob Kane” in addition to the other credits.
Finger did not receive the same recognition. While he had received credit for other DC work since the 1940s, he began, in the 1960s, to receive limited acknowledgment for his Batman writing; in the letters page of Batman #169 (February 1965) for example, editor Julius Schwartz names him as the creator of the Riddler, one of Batman’s recurring villains. However, Finger’s contract left him only with his writing page rate and no byline. Kane wrote, “Bill was disheartened by the lack of major accomplishments in his career. He felt that he had not used his creative potential to its fullest and that success had passed him by.” At the time of Finger’s death in 1974, DC had not officially credited Finger as Batman co-creator.
Jerry Robinson, who also worked with Finger and Kane on the strip at this time, has criticized Kane for failing to share the credit. He recalled Finger resenting his position, stating in a 2005 interview with The Comics Journal:
Bob made him more insecure, because while he slaved working on Batman, he wasn’t sharing in any of the glory or the money that Bob began to make, which is why …[he was] going to leave [Kane’s employ]. …[Kane] should have credited Bill as co-creator, because I know; I was there. …That was one thing I would never forgive Bob for, was not to take care of Bill or recognize his vital role in the creation of Batman. As with Siegel and Shuster, it should have been the same, the same co-creator credit in the strip, writer, and artist.
Although Kane initially rebutted Finger’s claims at having created the character, writing in a 1965 open letter to fans that “it seemed to me that Bill Finger has given out the impression that he and not myself created the ”Batman, t’ [sic] as well as Robin and all the other leading villains and characters. This statement is fraudulent and entirely untrue.” Kane himself also commented on Finger’s lack of credit. “The trouble with being a ‘ghost’ writer or artist is that you must remain rather anonymously without ‘credit’. However, if one wants the ‘credit’, then one has to cease being a ‘ghost’ or follower and become a leader or innovator.”
In 1989, Kane revisited Finger’s situation, recalling in an interview:
In those days it was like, one artist and he had his name over it [the comic strip] — the policy of DC in the comic books was, if you can’t write it, obtain other writers, but their names would never appear on the comic book in the finished version. So Bill never asked me for it [the byline] and I never volunteered — I guess my ego at that time. And I felt badly, really, when he [Finger] died.
In September 2015, DC Entertainment revealed that Finger would be receiving credit for his role in Batman’s creation on the 2016 superhero film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the second season of Gotham after a deal was worked out between the Finger family and DC. Finger received credit as a creator of Batman for the first time in a comic in October 2015 with Batman and Robin Eternal #3 and Batman: Arkham Knight Genesis #3. The updated acknowledgment for the character appeared as “Batman created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger”.
Silver and Bronze Ages
1950s and early 1960s
Batman was one of the few superhero characters to be continuously published as interest in the genre waned during the 1950s. In the story “The Mightiest Team in the World” in Superman #76 (June 1952), Batman teams up with Superman for the first time and the pair discover each other’s secret identity. Following the success of this story, World’s Finest Comics was revamped so it featured stories starring both heroes together, instead of the separate Batman and Superman features that had been running before. The team-up of the characters was “a financial success in an era when those were few and far between”; this series of stories ran until the book’s cancellation in 1986.
Batman comics were among those criticized when the comic book industry came under scrutiny with the publication of psychologist Fredric Wertham‘s book Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. Wertham’s thesis was that children imitated crimes committed in comic books, and that these works corrupted the morals of the youth. Wertham criticized Batman comics for their supposed homosexual overtones and argued that Batman and Robin were portrayed as lovers. Wertham’s criticisms raised a public outcry during the 1950s, eventually leading to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority, a code that is no longer in use by the comic book industry. The tendency towards a “sunnier Batman” in the postwar years intensified after the introduction of the Comics Code. Scholars have suggested that the characters of Batwoman (in 1956) and the pre-Barbara Gordon Bat-Girl (in 1961) were introduced in part to refute the allegation that Batman and Robin were gay, and the stories took on a campier, lighter feel.
The debut of the Batman television series in 1966 had a profound influence on the character. The success of the series increased sales throughout the comic book industry, and Batman reached a circulation of close to 900,000 copies. Elements such as the character of Batgirl and the show’s campy nature were introduced into the comics; the series also initiated the return of Alfred. Although both the comics and TV show were successful for a time, the camp approach eventually wore thin and the show was canceled in 1968. In the aftermath, the Batman comics themselves lost popularity once again. As Julius Schwartz noted, “When the television show was a success, I was asked to be campy, and of course when the show faded, so did the comic books.”
Starting in 1969, writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams made a deliberate effort to distance Batman from the campy portrayal of the 1960s TV series and to return the character to his roots as a “grim avenger of the night”. O’Neil said his idea 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.”
O’Neil and Adams first collaborated on the story “The Secret of the Waiting Graves” in Detective Comics #395 (January 1970). Few stories were true collaborations between O’Neil, Adams, Schwartz, and inker Dick Giordano, and in actuality these men were mixed and matched with various other creators during the 1970s; nevertheless the influence of their work was “tremendous”. Giordano said: “We went back to a grimmer, darker Batman, and I think that’s why these stories did so well …” While the work of O’Neil and Adams was popular with fans, the acclaim did little to improve declining sales; the same held true with a similarly acclaimed run by writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers in Detective Comics #471–476 (August 1977 – April 1978), which went on to influence the 1989 movie Batman and be adapted for Batman: The Animated Series, which debuted in 1992. Regardless, circulation continued to drop through the 1970s and 1980s, hitting an all-time low in 1985.
The Dark Knight Returns
Frank Miller‘s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (February – June 1986) returned the character to his darker roots, both in atmosphere and tone. The comic book, which tells the story of a 55-year-old Batman coming out of retirement in a possible future, reinvigorated interest in the character. The Dark Knight Returns was a financial success and has since become one of the medium’s most noted touchstones. The series also sparked a major resurgence in the character’s popularity.
That year Dennis O’Neil took over as editor of the Batman titles and set the template for the portrayal of Batman following DC’s status quo-altering 12-issue miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths. O’Neil operated under the assumption that he was hired to revamp the character and as a result tried to instill a different tone in the books than had gone before. One outcome of this new approach was the “Year One” storyline in Batman #404–407 (February – May 1987), in which Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli redefined the character’s origins. Writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland continued this dark trend with 1988’s 48-page one-shot issue Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the Joker, attempting to drive Commissioner Gordon insane, cripples Gordon’s daughter Barbara, and then kidnaps and tortures the commissioner, physically and psychologically.
The Batman comics garnered major attention in 1988 when DC Comics created a 900 number for readers to call to vote on whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, lived or died. Voters decided in favor of Jason’s death by a narrow margin of 28 votes (see Batman: A Death in the Family).
The 1993 “Knightfall” story arc introduced a new villain, Bane, who critically injures Batman after pushing him to the limits of his endurance. Jean-Paul Valley, known as Azrael, is called upon to wear the Batsuit during Bruce Wayne’s convalescence. Writers Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant worked on the Batman titles during “Knightfall”, and would also contribute to other Batman crossovers throughout the 1990s. 1998’s “Cataclysm” storyline served as the precursor to 1999’s “No Man’s Land“, a year-long storyline that ran through all the Batman-related titles dealing with the effects of an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City. At the conclusion of “No Man’s Land”, O’Neil stepped down as editor and was replaced by Bob Schreck.
Another writer who rose to prominence on the Batman comic series, was Jeph Loeb. Along with longtime collaborator Tim Sale, they wrote two miniseries (The Long Halloween and Dark Victory) that pit an early-in-his-career version of Batman against his entire rogues gallery (including Two-Face, whose origin was re-envisioned by Loeb) while dealing with various mysteries involving serial killers Holiday and the Hangman. In 2003, Loeb teamed with artist Jim Lee to work on another mystery arc: “Batman: Hush” for the main Batman book. The 12–issue story line has Batman and Catwoman teaming up against Batman’s entire rogues gallery, including an apparently resurrected Jason Todd, while seeking to find the identity of the mysterious supervillain Hush. While the character of Hush failed to catch on with readers, the arc was a sales success for DC. The series became #1 on the Diamond Comic Distributors sales chart for the first time since Batman #500 (October 1993) and Todd’s appearance laid the groundwork for writer Judd Winick‘s subsequent run as writer on Batman, with another multi-issue arc, “Under the Hood“, which ran from Batman #637–650 (April 2005 – April 2006).
All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder
In 2005, DC launched All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder, a stand-alone comic book miniseries set outside the main DC Universe continuity. Written by Frank Miller and drawn by Jim Lee, the series was a commercial success for DC Comics, although it was widely panned by critics for its writing and strong depictions of violence.
Starting in 2006, Grant Morrison and Paul Dini were the regular writers of Batman and Detective Comics, with Morrison reincorporating controversial elements of Batman lore. Most notably of these elements were the science fiction-themed storylines of the 1950s Batman comics, which Morrison revised as hallucinations Batman experienced under the influence of various mind-bending gases and extensive sensory deprivation training. Morrison’s run climaxed with “Batman R.I.P.“, which brought Batman up against the villainous “Black Glove” organization, which sought to drive Batman into madness. “Batman R.I.P.” segued into Final Crisis (also written by Morrison), which saw the apparent death of Batman at the hands of Darkseid. In the 2009 miniseries Batman: Battle for the Cowl, Wayne’s former protégé Dick Grayson becomes the new Batman, and Wayne’s son Damian becomes the new Robin. In June 2009, Judd Winick returned to writing Batman, while Grant Morrison was given their own series, titled Batman and Robin.
In 2010, the storyline Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne saw Bruce travel through history, eventually returning to the present day. Although he reclaimed the mantle of Batman, he also allowed Grayson to continue being Batman as well. Bruce decided to take his crime-fighting cause globally, which is the central focus of Batman Incorporated. DC Comics would later announce that Grayson would be the main character in Batman, Detective Comics, and Batman and Robin, while Wayne would be the main character in Batman Incorporated. Also, Bruce appeared in another ongoing series, Batman: The Dark Knight.
The New 52
In September 2011, DC Comics’ entire line of superhero comic books, including its Batman franchise, were cancelled and relaunched with new #1 issues as part of The New 52 reboot. Bruce Wayne is the only character to be identified as Batman and is featured in Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, and Batman: The Dark Knight. Dick Grayson returns to the mantle of Nightwing and appears in his own ongoing series. While many characters have their histories significantly altered to attract new readers, Batman’s history remains mostly intact. Batman Incorporated was relaunched in 2012–2013 to complete the “Leviathan” storyline.
With the beginning of The New 52, Scott Snyder was the writer of the Batman title. His first major story arc was “Night of the Owls“, where Batman confronts the Court of Owls, a secret society that has controlled Gotham for centuries. The second story arc was “Death of the Family“, where the Joker returns to Gotham and simultaneously attacks each member of the Batman family. The third story arc was “Batman: Zero Year“, which redefined Batman’s origin in The New 52. It followed Batman vol. 2 #0, published in June 2012, which explored the character’s early years. The final storyline before the Convergence (2015) storyline was “Endgame“, depicting the supposed final battle between Batman and the Joker when he unleashes the deadly Endgame virus onto Gotham City. The storyline ends with Batman and the Joker’s supposed deaths.
Starting with Batman vol. 2 #41, Commissioner James Gordon takes over Bruce’s mantle as a new, state-sanctioned, robotic-Batman, debuting in the Free Comic Book Day special comic Divergence. However, Bruce Wayne is soon revealed to be alive, albeit now with almost total amnesia of his life as Batman and only remembering his life as Bruce Wayne through what he has learned from Alfred. Bruce Wayne finds happiness and proposes to his girlfriend, Julie Madison, but Mr. Bloom heavily injures Jim Gordon and takes control of Gotham City and threatens to destroy the city by energizing a particle reactor to create a “strange star” to swallow the city. Bruce Wayne discovers the truth that he was Batman and after talking to a stranger who smiles a lot (it is heavily implied that this is the amnesic Joker) he forces Alfred to implant his memories as Batman, but at the cost of his memories as the reborn Bruce Wayne. He returns and helps Jim Gordon defeat Mr. Bloom and shut down the reactor. Gordon gets his job back as the commissioner, and the government Batman project is shut down.
DC Rebirth and Infinite Frontier
In June 2016, the DC Rebirth event relaunched DC Comics’ entire line of comic book titles. Batman was rebooted as starting with a one-shot issue entitled Batman: Rebirth #1 (August 2016). The series then began shipping twice-monthly as a third volume, starting with Batman vol. 3 #1 (August 2016). The third volume of Batman was written by Tom King, and artwork was provided by David Finch and Mikel Janín. The Batman series introduced two vigilantes, Gotham and Gotham Girl. Detective Comics resumed its original numbering system starting with June 2016’s #934, and the New 52 series was labeled as volume 2, with issues numbering from #1-52. Similarly with the Batman title, the New 52 issues were labeled as volume 2 and encompassed issues #1-52. Writer James Tynion IV and artists Eddy Barrows and Alvaro Martinez worked on Detective Comics #934, and the series initially featured a team consisting of Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Clayface, led by Batman and Batwoman.
DC Comics ended the DC Rebirth branding in December 2017, opting to include everything under a larger DC Universe banner and naming. The continuity established by DC Rebirth continues across DC’s comic book titles, including volume 1 of Detective Comics and volume 3 of Batman.
After the conclusion of Batman vol. 3 #85 a new creative team consisting of James Tynion IV with art by Tony S. Daniel and Danny Miki replaced Tom King, David Finch and Mikel Janín. Following Tynion’s departure from DC Comics, Joshua Williamson, who previously wrote the backup story in issue #106, briefly became the new head writer in December 2021 starting with issue #118. Chip Zdarsky then became the head writer with artist Jorge Jimenez returning after having previously illustrated parts of Tynion’s run. Their run begun with issue #125, which was released on July 5, 2022 and starts with “Failsafe”, a six-issue story arc