Batman is not only one of the most popular, influential and relevant characters in the history of the superhero genre, but quite likely the most famous in these modern times. The character has become extremely popular in the last couple of years through multiple successful videogames, movies and a lot more, turning into a pop culture icon all around the world.
So, it’s extremely logical to ask yourself how Batman was created and how he came to be. Interestingly enough, Batman has one of the more complex origins and it makes for a very fascinating story. So here it is: the story of how Batman was created.
The Early Origins
Back in 1939, in a time where the Great Depression was at full swing and Hitler was already at the peak of his powers in Nazi Germany, Superman had arrived the year before in DC Comics and he had become a monumental revolution in the medium, with the concept of the superhero becoming more and more prominent in the market.
As we can imagine, when a product becomes very popular, it is very common to find many business executives wanting to create their own version of said product and tap into that trend to get a lot more sales–that is how Captain Marvel, who was later renamed Shazam at DC Comics, was created. And that was the reason why DC wanted to have another hit in the market, with Batman becoming their next big success.
For a very long time, the story of Batman’s creation and conception was that Bob Kane had an idea of a bat-themed superhero that was heavily inspired by the pulp stories of the 1930s, having a more noir theme than Superman’s extreme powers. But the reality was actually a lot different.
The reality was that Kane was struggling with the deadline that DC had established for him to create this character, which resulted in him reaching a colleague and friend at the time, Bill Finger, who, throughout the years, has become much more prominent as the figure that truly created the Dark Knight.
One of the main aspects that needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that Kane had signed a contract with DC where he was going to take full credit as the creator and since Finger was not part of that original deal, he worked anonymously, which resulted in him not getting credit for the character for a very long time. It wasn’t until later on, in 1965, where Finger stated in a public speech that he did a lot of work with the creation of the character and that resulted in Kane lashing out through the media, which started to give the former the type of relevance he deserved.
If we focus on the creative aspects of the Dark Knight, Bob Kane had a much more different concept for Batman: red tights, black trunks, a domino mask, stiff wings and overall a much more different design to what was going to be the unique and iconic look that we all know, but once Kane got the project to Bill Finger, who was very adamant about changing the design, quickly establishing the classic look that we’re much more familiar with since he wanted a lot more emphasis on the bat-themed elements of the character.
Another aspect in which Finger played a very monumental role was in the conception of the character’s civil persona, Bruce Wayne, and he added a lot of elements of the playboy illusion that the character created to avoid people discovering his secret identity.
Themes and Influences
As far as the themes of the character of Batman went, both Kane and Finger collaborated regularly on the title for some time and added the famous pulp element that has defined Batman throughout the years. For example, the Shadow, a pulp comic book hero who came before the Dark Knight, was a huge influence on Kane and that is why the original version of Batman, before being developed in the modern version we know these days, had a lot more to do with the Shadow–one could even argue that he was a huge rip-off of the Shadow.
That is why the early stories were showing Batman killing and using guns, which is something that later on would become something that the modern and classic version of Batman would never do. Also, the classic origin story of Thomas and Martha Wayne getting murdered on Crime Alley would not be developed until later on.
Another major influence on the character (and one that is actually quite clear once we think about it) is Zorro. Bob Kane was very surprised and amazed by the movie Mark of Zorro (which actually became the movie that the Waynes were watching the night Thomas and Martha died), so he decided to add a few of those elements to his character, which, along with the Shadow, truly defined Batman as a vigilante that defended the weak and protected the innocent, slowly establishing the Dark Knight that we all know.
Despite Kane getting a lot of criticism in recent times about the creation of Batman (Finger had a lot to do with the design and the first stories), he was the one that came up with the notion that if Superman had a lot of super powers, then Batman was going to be very human and that is something that has become quite important: the fact that Batman is a mortal and normal man in a world of gods, trying to help everybody as much as he can.
There is no denying that Batman is one of the most important fictional characters in the history of Western pop culture, so the history of Bob Kane and Bill Finger, with all their respective problems, lies and manipulations throughout the years, is a very important element of our culture, establishing the Batman as a symbol of justice and good.