Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Birthday To The Only Man I Could Ever Love

One of my great loves in life that I never talk about on here (even though I should, and it's totally stupid that I don't) is more than just a man, he's a hero. He's dark, he's brooding, he has an alter ego and he could kick Superman's ass. He goes by Batman, and I love him. 

Today has been declared Batman Day by DC Comics, and today is the day that we celebrate 75 years of the Dark Knight. Most people think of Batman as the guy who dresses all in black, uses a scraggly voice and hates jokes, but he's so much more than that. Today I want to focus on that, as Batman has not only been someone to entertain me, but he has literally brought me out of depression and put a smile on my face when life was darkest. 

Batman was first brought to the public eye in 1939. Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane (and I put them in that order for a reason), he was intended to capitolize on the superhero craze that was created by Superman in 1938. When Batman was first introduced he was nothing like we know him today, he used guns, he killed (Batman's big no-no these days) and he was not the dark and physical embodiment of fear that we know him to be today. While he is largely credited to be a creation of Bob Kane, it was Bill Finger who molded Batman and the mythos that surrounded him. While Kane came up with the name, he placed him in red tights with a domino mask (closely resembling Superman). It was Finger who gave him the cowl, the purple gloves, and the dark tights. Instead of wings attached to his arms, Finger gave him a cape so as to ease the restriction of movement, and from here the Batman was born in what is known as the Golden Age of Batman. 

Over the years, Batman has undergone more character growth than one could possibly imagine. While Finger not only gave Batman his image, he gave him his greatest super-villains including: Riddler, Penguin, Scarecrow, The Calendar Man and the most infamous of all, The Joker. We also saw the birth of Robin the Boy Wonder in 1940. After the Golden Age came the Silver Age in the mid-50's. While sales of superhero comics in the fifties began to wane, Batman sales were never higher. The storylines began to become heavily influenced by the sci-fi genre that was prevalent in film at the time. In the Sixties, when sales reached an all time low, his image was revamped and the iconic yellow Batsymbol was introduced. Following the success of the wildly popular television show starring Adam West, the comics took on a campy tone which sent sales through the roof. 

However, this was short lived and in 1968, the television show was cancelled and Batman was brought back to his gritty roots. The camp was dropped and in 1969 Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, two of the most important players in Bat-history, brought Batman out of the camp and portrayed him once again as the gritty avenger of the night. His look was once again re-imagined in the iconic blue and gray Batsuit which he kept through the 70's into the 80's. His physique was much stronger, and his villains began to evolve with a more sinster presence, however one thing that remained the same: Batman did not kill. He always found another way.

Possibly the biggest landmark for Batman's evolution was in 1986, when Frank Miller took Batman out of the Silver Age and into the Modern Age. The Dark Knight Returns, one of the most iconic Bat stories of all time, was released and took the comic world by storm. Featuring a retired and battle-worn (not to mention gigantic and terrifying) Bruce Wayne, the elseworld story introduced the Batman that the generation of today has come to know and love. A dark, brutal and violent Batman, Miller's interpretation introduced pyschological aspects of the Dark Knight's persona in ways that had never been explored. While the Dark Knight grew darker, as did his villains and this was a theme that went on to be explored through the years and up until today. 

As Batman entered the film world in 1989 with Tim Burton's Batman, love for the character grew and flourished and he became DC's most popular hero. Since then, we've seen 4 actors take on the cowl and we wait in anticipation for a 5th to take it on in 2016. In the comic world he was reinvented in 2011 yet again. In the new line of New 52 comics for DC, Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder are writing the best Bat stories yet, and I am always left sitting in anticipation for what the next issue may entail. Batman is 75 years old, yet he has never been stronger or better. 

Batman has become more than a character for many people, myself included. He has not only reminded me what it was like to be 5 years old with my mask and cape, but he has shown me what it means to be a better person. He was a source of hope and joy when my grandmother passed, he was there for me when I was lost and afraid to go on when times seemed their darkest. He has always been there when I needed something to hold onto and something to show me that times can always be darker and they will always get better. He has been a friend and a mentor, and I love him. 

To Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Dennis O'Neill, Neal Adams, Frank Miller, Jim Lee, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and the countless others who have brought the Bat to the eager masses, I thank you. We thank you, and we can't wait for the next 75 years. You have brought a joy into our lives that will never be forgotten. There is so much more that could be written about the history of the Bat, his psychology and his growth, but I've already written a novel and want to get out to the celebration so I'll leave you with this: Go to your local comic book store, get your free Batman comic and read up. You won't regret it. 

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