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November 23, 2014

9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Batman

Batman has been around since 1939, but judging by box office returns, DVD sales, and the kids who come knocking on my door at Halloween, the caped crusader is just hitting his prime. For whatever reason, the story of a grown man who dresses up like a flying mammal to fight crime really resonates with people. Don’t get me wrong, I love Batman. The issues dealt with in the comics and films—justice, anger, revenge, mercy, love, hate, good, evil—are timeless and universal. I’m especially fond of the latest film treatments of the DC Comics stalwart, which place these universal themes front and center—and then blow everything up. It’s just that, you have to admit, the concept is a little weird. Right? A guy dressed up like a bat? But I guess, in the end, the fact that we’ve been willing to accept this unusual premise for over 70 years is a testament to the power of the story. So in honor of everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic masked vigilante, here’s a list of 9 things you may not have known about the one, the only: Batman.

9. Batman First Appeared in “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate”

In the aftermath of the success of Superman in Action Comics, the bigwigs at the comic book division of National Publications (later DC Comics) requested more superheros. So artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger came up with “the Bat-Man,” who made his debut in Detective Comics No. 27 in 1939. Instead of superpowers, Batman would rely on his sharp mind, scientific methods, a frightful persona, and natural but above-average brawn. Kane took visual inspiration for Batman from films The Mark of Zorro and The Bat Whispers, while Finger’s early stories drew on such inspirations as Sherlock Holmes.

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8. At First Batman Was a Combination of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Rambo

This is to say, Batman wasn’t originally the compassionate vigilante he is today. In the early days the Dark Knight threw villains off rooftops, strangled them with his lasso, or mowed them down with machine guns. In his debut, in Detective Comics No. 27, Batman punches a bad guy into a vat of acid and says, “a fitting end for his kind.” In another issue, Batman kicks a villain so hard he breaks his neck. Sounds kind of like the JCVD classic Bloodsport, doesn’t it?

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7. Batman Wasn’t Born in Gotham City

For the first two years, Batman’s hometown was New York City. However, writer Bill Finger came to feel that Batman should not live in a real town, but in a more generic town anyone anywhere could identify with. So in 1941 he came up with the fictional Gotham City, the quintessential American metropolis. And Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, has called it home ever since.

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6. Batman Met Hitler—Twice!

The funny thing is, Batman isn’t so special in this regard. During World War II, every comic book hero made a habit of beating up on Hitler and his Nazi chums. In fact, as you can see from this photo, sometimes superheros would gang up on the evil bastard…and throw tennis balls at him.

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5. TV Batman Came to Dominate Comic Book Batman

To comic book purists, the campy 1960s Batman television show starring Adam West was an abomination. But it happened, and it was a huge hit. It was so popular, in fact, that the producers of the show began influencing the direction of Batman comics. For instance, when they decided the show needed a new female character, producers came up with “Batgirl,” who was Commissioner Gordon’s librarian daughter, Barbara Gordon. The comic book version of Batman was thus forced to introduce Batgirl into their storyline or else ruin the synergy between the two mediums. Also, in the comics Alfred the butler had kicked the bucket, but because he was alive on TV they brought him back to life. So no, nothing is sacred.

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4. Robin: American Idol of Death

Robin first came into Batman’s life in Detective Comics No. 38 in 1940. His introduction was pretty much just a ploy to attract a younger audience, as early on Robin was just boy. When the Robin issue sold twice as well as regular issues, they decided to keep young Dick Grayson on indefinitely. Eventually, Dick Grayson grew up and retired from his position as Boy Wonder. The position was then filled by Robin 2, Jason Peter Todd. But Robin 2 was never popular with readers. That’s probably why, when DC had a promotion allowing readers to vote whether Todd lived or died by calling a 900 number, readers voted 5343 to 5271 in favor of death.

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3. Batman May Be a Perv

Okay, it’s on everyone’s mind, so let’s go back to that whole, “Robin got replaced when he got too old” thing for just a minute. Yes, there have been allegations since the early days of Batman and his Boy Wonder that their relationship is a little homoerotic. The debate certainly wasn’t quelled when the two were shown sharing a bed in Batman No. 84, “Ten Nights of Fear!” It also didn’t help that the issue was titled “Ten Nights of Fear!” Yikes.

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2. Batman and Porn

Regardless of what goes on between him and Robin, poor Batman has been fodder for unlicensed porno parodies for a long, long time. During the 1930s and 40s, he and other famous comic book stars appeared in these black market porno comics called “Tijuana Bibles.” And, it almost goes without saying, but Batman has also been the subject of modern pornographic. For example, Batman: A XXX Porn Parody.

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1. Batman’s Guinness Record

If there is any remaining doubt that Batman is the most beloved super hero of all time, this fact will remove it: there have been a Guinness Record 314 different Batman actions figures (i.e. dolls for boys) created over the years. The next-closest superhero? Spiderman, with 200. Case closed.

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