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Other Surprisingly Relatively Quite Recent Additions to the Batman Mythos

Earlier today, I noted how it was surprising how relatively quite recent the addition of Batman vanishing on Commissioner Gordon was to the Batman mythos, coming in 1973 in the pages of Swamp Thing, of all places.

So I figured I’d feature some other surprisingly relatively quite recent additions to the Batman mythos, things you figure must have been around much earlier than they actually became part of the Batman mythos.

It was not until 1969’s Batman #216 that Alfred first got the name Pennyworth…

It was not until 1974 that Arkahm Asylum first showed up in Batman #258…

(As you can see, Two-Face was the first Bat-villain to escape from Arkham)

It was not until 1976’s Detective Comics #457 that the area where Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered was dubbed “Crime Alley” (it was also the first appearance of Leslie Thompkins, but that’s not all that surprising)…

It was not until 1986’s The Dark Knight Returns that Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace broke…

It was not until 1972 that Matches Malone first showed up in Batman #242…

He dies in that issue…

And the Matches Malone identity began to be used later in that same issue…

(the Batman in the scene is a dummy equipped with a radio transmitter – Bat-Ventriloquism would have been cooler, no?)

Can you think of any other interesting examples of surprisingly relatively quite recent additions to the Batman mythos? There’s a good one involving Alfred that I’m holding off for a different feature, so if you don’t mind, please don’t suggest any examples involving Alfred.

108 Comments

Harley Quinn didn’t exist until the Animated Series in, what, 1992? Or are you looking more for Batman “tropes”?

Yeah, I guess tropes is more what I’m looking for. Stuff that is so closely related to Batman’s mythos that you can’t believe it wasn’t introduced in his first three decades of existence.

People like Renee Montoya, Harley Quinn, Bane and Harvey Bullock are important figures, but it is not surprising that they showed up when they did. That Alfred was not Alfred Pennyworth until 1969 is quite surprising. Or that it took until 1985 for Martha Wayne’s pearls to break is a surprise.

When was his parents killer named Joe Chill? When was the Batarang first introduced?

Well, Lucius Fox never appeared until 1979, but I don’t know if that would be very surprising, all things considered. Robin’s staff first appeared in 1991, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of him without it.

I think I read somewhere that the Riddler never wore his suit and hat and tie outfit until Gaiman’s Secret Origin issue.

On the other end of things, Deadshot’s debut in 1950 is surprising to me for being so early. Of course, his design has changed much since then. But I would’ve thought that the name itself would’ve been a little too much for DC back then.

When was it deceided that Bruce Wayne traveled the world to learn his crime fighting skills. And when did he start his hatred of Guns?

batman discovering the batcave as a kid vs adult, maybe? i only know it from the films and i think both christian bale and val kilmer find it as a kid, but wikipedia says he originally found it as an adult in comics published in 1954. and he bought that house originally!

I think The Mark of Zorro as the movie the Wayne’s were watching came from Year One but, like the pearls, seems such an important part of the origin now.

I was doing annotations for Leviathan Strikes and the Monarch Theatre seems to have come from the Tim Burton movie and then made the transition to the comics (where its currently appearing in Batman Inc vol 2) and not vice versa as you might expect.

One more – Mr. Freeze’s origin from the animated show (cryogenically frozen wife etc. etc.) in the early 90’s. Judging by his mid-80’s Who’s Who entry, the poor guy had literally no back story, or even a real name, prior to Heart of Ice.

b2quared – Was Gaiman putting the Riddler in a suit and hat a nod to the 60’s TV show? Vaguely recall Frank Gorshin sporting a similar look.

One more, though it’s a not that relevant these days. Didn;t realize until I happened on it the other day that the ‘send Dick to college, shutter the Manor, move to a penthouse on top of Wayne Enterprises and drive a Corvette’-era lasted for 13 years! Bruce moved out of Wayne Manor in Batman #217 (1969) and didn’t move back in until the early 80’s.

When was it deceided that Bruce Wayne traveled the world to learn his crime fighting skills

Ohhh good one!

One more, though it’s a not that relevant these days. Didn;t realize until I happened on it the other day that the ‘send Dick to college, shutter the Manor, move to a penthouse on top of Wayne Enterprises and drive a Corvette’-era lasted for 13 years!

The penthouse era was over a decade long?!

Batman’s world-traveling was established during the 1950s, so I think that’s probably a bit too early to be a surprise.

The penthouse era was over a decade long?!

Yeah, pretty much the entire decade of the 1970s and the start of the 1980s.

Wow, I read about the penthouse era secondhand but always just assumed it was a short-lived status quo change, like Matt Murdock’s Jack Batlin phase. Even the comments section can be informative on these posts!

I’m definitely surprised by Crime Alley.

I knew that Arkham showed up in the mid-70s, but didn’t know that it was originally identified as being in New England! Of course, we don’t know how far Gotham is from New England, but the implication certainly seems to be that Arkham isn’t right outside Gotham City. I’m surprised by that; when did that change?

And batarangs go wayback, though they were originally called “baterangs.”

Anyone find kinda weird that Two-Face made the “wrong” choice depend on the clean side of the coin. Maybe I’m misremembering, but isn’t the clean face always the “right and good” side of the choices?

How about the first time Batman pulled off a Mission: Impossible mask and was wearing his cowl underneath?

At the time, Two-Face and Joker WERE the best of friends — so the clean side represented friendship and loyalty, maybe?

Batman didn’t start saying “-tt-” and “-hh-” until Morrison’s JLA. Then again, nobody really writes him like that except Morrison.

A few suggestions:
* Mister Zero first taking on the name Mister Freeze (not until 1968)
* The revelation that the Earth-Two Batman married Catwoman. Actually they did this backwards: Batman became a widow in DC Super-Stars 17, 1977, the first appearance of Huntess; the wedding was depicted in Superman Family #211 1981; the courtship was depicted in Brave and the Bold #197 1983.
* I’m pretty sure the love-hate relationship Batman and Superman have started with Dark Knight and only made it into modern continuity with the final issues of World’s Finest. Prior to that they were usually depicted as getting along quite well

How about when it was established that Thomas, Martha and Bruce were leaving a movie theater then they were mugged? Actually, how did did it take for them to be named? Did they start out as simply ‘Batman’s parents’?

One more I just thought of: the debut of the Matches Malone identity (apparently not until 1972)

What about the Matches Malone identity? When did that first appear?

Or how about the idea that Alfred worked for the Waynes when they were murdered, instead of joining the household when Bruce was an adult and already Batman? I believe that didn’t become part of the mythos until after the Crisis.

Jacob, to the best of my knowledge, the first time Arkham appeared in a DC comic was 1968’s THE SPECTRE #2. In it the bad guy visits the demon-haunted streets of Arkham to absorb mystic energy:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_qZK742rc1hc/TO2tg9BJXcI/AAAAAAAAcgU/fbvEzAe-3Nc/s1600/Spectre02-23.jpg

This is the original Arkham, the New England city invented by HP Lovecraft for his Mythos. Later, in the first mention of Arkham Asylum, this institute was also in New England and I have no doubt was meant to be in Lovecraft’s city. That it was in (or outside) Gotham City and named after a person called Arkham was a later embellishment.

The Spectre story (with great Neal Adams art) was by Gardner Fox, who was no stranger to the Cthulhu Mythos, having mentioned the Necronomicon in the very first Felix Faust/Demons Three story in JLA #10 (1962).

The Mutt, the disguise thing, I think, originated with Jim Aparo. Certainly he showed Bats unmasking that way, showing he had the full cowl underneath, many times. Whether it was while as Matches Malone or whoever.

I can’t confirm this for sure, but some online sources say Matches Malone first appeared in Batman #242, 1972 (one source says Detective Comics #242 but Batman #242 sounds more accurate).

It occurs to me it might also be fun to look at the reverse: things that happened in the Batman mythos EARLIER than you might think. For example, Two-Face first reforms in Detective Comics #80, 1943

Fine suggestion, Andy, about Matches Malone! I edited it into the piece.

First of all, your grammar is impeccable. Congratulations.

Second… it seems like actually NAMING Blackgate Prison took a long time– longer than Arkham, I’m pretty sure. It was just “the Gotham state penitentiary” or “the state pen” or even just “prison, upstate” for a long time. Too lazy to go look it up but I seem to remember it becoming “Blackgate” in the 90s.

While you mention that Leslie Thompkins’ first appearance was in the 1976 Crime Alley story, if I’m not mistaken, it wasn’t until 11 years later (Detective Comics 574, 1987) that it was first revealed that Leslie Thompkins is a doctor. I also believe it was the first time it was revealed (or retconned, depending on hw you look at it) that Leslie knew Bruce Wayne was Batman.

One for the other side of the equation: When I first read Michael Eury and Michel Kronenberg’s THE BATCAVE COMPANION, I was very suprised to learn that Harvey Bullock was actually introduced in a single-issue appearance back in the 70s before he became a prominent supporting player in the early 80s.

Oh, I just thought of a very recent addition to the Bat-mythos: The Batcave underneath the Wayne Foundation Building wasn’t introduced until Steve Englehart & Walt Simonson’s story in 1977’s DETECTIVE COMICS #469. Before that, Batman just operated out of the Wayne Foundation penthouse, only occasionally going back to the Batcave underneath Wayne Manor when he needed the specialized equipment there, like in the first Ra’s Al Ghul story in 1971’s BATMAN #232.

Oh, and the Red Hood/face bleached in chemicals backstory for the Joker was not introduced until 1951’s “The Return of the Red Hood” in DETECTIVE COMICS #168 — over a decade after the Joker was first introduced! :)

It occurs to me it might also be fun to look at the reverse: things that happened in the Batman mythos EARLIER than you might think. For example, Two-Face first reforms in Detective Comics #80, 1943

Great suggestion.

When was his parents killer named Joe Chill?

“The Origin of Batman”, BATMAN #47, 1948, the same story where Batman first caught him. The Lew Moxon “Joe Chill was actually a hired killer” backstory came from “The First Batman” in 1956’s DETECTIVE COMICS #235.

When was the Batarang first introduced?

Very early on, in “Batman Versus the Vampire” in DETECTIVE COMICS #31, 1939. The same issue that introduced his autogiro. :)

On the other end of things, Deadshot’s debut in 1950 is surprising to me for being so early.

He didn’t appear again until 1978’s “The Deadshot Ricochet” in Englehart & Roger’s DETECTIVE COMICS #474 (You can see calendars dated from 1950 & up in his prison cell). That was where his revamped look was introduced.

I think The Mark of Zorro as the movie the Wayne’s were watching came from Year One but, like the pearls, seems such an important part of the origin now.

Frank Miller first referenced the movie being Zorro in DARK KNIGHT #1 (corrected to THE MARK OF ZORRO in the trade paperback). I suppose you could say that YEAR ONE was the first in-continuity mention, though.

That it was in (or outside) Gotham City and named after a person called Arkham was a later embellishment.

I’m pretty sure that was the Len Wein-written Arkham Asylum entry in 1985’s WHO’S WHO #1. Grant Morrison later used it as the basis for the flashbacks in ARKHAM ASYLUM graphic novel.

I don’t know if this is a “major” part of the Batman mythos, but wasn’t Batman: Year One the first time Batman used sonar devices to get actual bats to attack someone? I know it’s not something he does a lot, but until I heard somewhere (probably this very site) that Year One was the first time he did it, I always assumed it was something he used to do more often “back in the day” (possibly because he does it in a story that’s suposed to be set “back in the day”).

@John Trumbull: I’m actually surprised at how early the Joker as Red Hood thing happened. I always assumed that Moore had added it in The Killing Joke.

I also agree with whoever suggested the gun aversion. It’s such a huge part of the character now, but everyone has seen the early issues in which he actually used one. It changed pretty quickly because masked heroes stopped using guns in general, but when did “no guns” become such a core aspect of his character?

Aaron Scott Johnson

November 4, 2012 at 5:23 am

I second the Mister Freeze origin/motivation not coming until the animated series. I always thought of that as being much more integral to the character and was surprised to find out it came from Dini.

When did Batman start using a small launching system for the batarangs and swing line. Instead of just throwing the batarang?

When was Batman first a jerk to (respectively) Robin, Alfred, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.

There was a Detective story in the early Seventies where a writer talked his way into being “Batman for a week” or something like that — this was when George Plimpton was doing things like Paper Lion, where he would try out for quarterback on an NFL roster.

At one point, the writer — in costume — grabs a thug’s gun and threatens him with it. The thug laughs him off as not being the real thing. Bats proceeds to rip the writer a new one — something about the only decent weapons being outrage and morality. So “The Batman NEVER uses a gun!” goes back that far, at least.

@Rollo Tomassi

I’m pretty sure that started after the Burton Batman movie.

When did Batman start using a small launching system for the batarangs and swing line. Instead of just throwing the batarang?

Like kalorama, I don’t recall ever seeing Batman using a grappling gun before the 1989 Tim Burton movie. He would just throw it by hand and it would secure to his target. It was just one of those things we never even questioned.

This is probably minuscule, but I notice that the first Arkham appearance from Batman #258 only refers to it as Arkham Hospital (at least in the sample pages). Yes, the narration says it’s a polite name for an asylum, but it doesn’t seem like “Arkham Asylum” is the official name in this issue. When did Arkham Asylum become the official name? When did the gold sign on the gate outside first read Arkham Asylum instead of Arkham Hospital?

Again, minuscule, but I’m curious.

Andy E: I think that Batman & Superman were “introduced” to each other post-Crisis/ Post Dark Knight Returns in the 80s, for a multi-part story in Action Comics and Superman, and they weren’t sure how they felt about working together at first. By the end, they acknowledge their differences and establish a sort of “you look after your city and I’ll look after mine” detente, but Superman felt good enough about Batman to trust him with a chunk of Kryptonite in case S ever turned rogue.

I’ve seen that bit repeated every once in a while since. Was that the first time that ever happened?

I’m pretty sure it was Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle that introduced the launching system for the swing line before the movie came out.

I’m pretty sure it was Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle that introduced the launching system for the swing line before the movie came out.

I’m very sure the movie created it. I remember because I was avidly reading Batman comics at the time as were many of my friends and we all thought it was ingenious, and it was new to all of us. Then we started seeing it ll over the comics soon after.

Although it’s a more subtle landmark, to me the most astounding thing about The Dark Knight Returns is that, to me, it appears to be the first time it was suggested that Batman is the only reason Joker is motivated to do crime. Before then it seemed that the challenge of Batman as an adversary was a major motivation behind Joker’s crimes, but not that he was THE primary reason, that the crimes are more just an excuse to antagonize Batman rather than the idea that Joker would be committing crime regardless of Batman’s existence and that Batman was just his focus for what he’d be doing anyway. Now it’s taken as a given. In fact, Snyder’s whole Joker crossover is all about crimes the Joker is doing to teach some kind of lesson to Batman.

I think it’s a horrible implication for Batman as a concept by the way. It gives the implication that Batman’s existence may be doing more harm than good to consider that the mass murder who has killed hundreds would easily stop if Batman would just retire.

Hm… the only ones I can think of right offhand are Alred-related, so I’ll just keep them to myself.
The “new look” Batman emblem with the yellow oval is well-known among comics readers, but I’m sure the general public would eb surprised that he spent his first 25 years oval-less.
A strong case could be made for the popular grim, tight-lipped, stoic interprettion of Batman not existing until the character was several decades old; even in his early gun-toting days, he frequently traded quips with thugs and unloaded a constant barrage of bad puns. That’s not the popular image of Batman anymore, and hasn’t been for some time, but its how he was for almost fifty years.

Ganky: Yeah, I know all that but what I was trying to point out that there was in fact a pre-Crisis example of Superman/Batman animosity, albeit after Dark Knight (actually ithis instance came out while Crisis was in progress but it was set on pre-Crisis Earth-1): The final issue of the first World’s Finest Comics series (#323, Jan. 1986) did in fact end with Batman telling Superman to stay out of his city.

Not sure when the “trust with kryptonite” bit was first used, but the “stay out of my city” bit was definitely World’s Finest, prior to the example you mentioned (the post-Crisis Superman and Batman first met in Man of Steel#3, Aug. 1986).

I remember the animosity between Superman & Batman towards the end of World’s Finest’s run. No doubt it was an attempt to help the sales and spare it from cancellation. It always seemed forced, considering their history at that point. I much preferred them as old friends. I remember a scene from that era where a tired Batman nods off while they were having a late night talk at Wayne Manor and Superman simply smiles and slips out the window. They were almost an old married couple at that point!

The most fun from this era, for me anyway, was playing “where’s that swipe from” in the art. Ah, Rich Buckler…

“One more – Mr. Freeze’s origin from the animated show (cryogenically frozen wife etc. etc.) in the early 90?s. Judging by his mid-80?s Who’s Who entry, the poor guy had literally no back story, or even a real name, prior to Heart of Ice.”

I just read the third Grant Morrison ‘Animal Man’ trade, and it references Mr. Freeze existing in character limbo, and he complains that he was one of Batman’s major villains and that he shouldn’t be cast aside and forgotten like this. If not for the animated series, I think he’d likely still be there.

I remember Priest taking the credit for introducing Bruce Wayne training with ninjas…
And here it is, in his review of Batman Begins http://digitalpriest.com/legacy/viewpoint/begins.html

“And a side note: I mentioned here that the notion of Bruce Wayne travelling afar to learn from a secret Ninja group was my creation (I need to look up that issue number, it’s Batman 4xx). Well, it was. But major liberties have been taken here, so, much as I’d like to take credit for the first hour of this brilliant film, the writing is far superior to most anything I came up with.”

And a quick googling leads me to Batman 431 with a cover date of March 1989

[…] The Story at COMIC BOOK RESOURCE Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

T., there’s a story in one of the Batman Black and White books that sort of takes up that concept: Everybody the Joker kills is his revenge on Batman, a failure the Bat has to live with. The story also suggests the Joker’s actually sane but faking it to escape the death penalty (which doesn’t fit glimpses we’ve seen of his mind, though).

For some reason in the late 80s we suddenly got a whole rash of stories about the years that Bruce Wayne travelled the world for his training. There was John Byrne & Jim Aparo’s three-parter where all his trainers were getting killed, Denny O’Neil’s SECRET ORIGINS story, Mark Waid’s DETECTIVE COMICS Annual with a post-Crisis version of the Harvey Harris backstory, and probably a few others I’m forgetting.

I’d like to see mention of the Frank Miller Catwoman: basically, how before Miller Catwoman was a sort of stock-issue animal-themed supervillain, and only after Dark Knight (and well after the debut of Spider-Man’s “Black Cat”) did she take on the much sexier/dangerous role.

I disagree Darkhawk. Catwoman was played as sexy from the early days–that and her flirting with Batman were what made her stand out. To the extent she’s changed, I’d say that’s at least as much the way women in general are portrayed differently and how comics (and culture) handles Bad Girls.

Does only getting named as Selina Kyle in the 1950s count as surprisingly late though?

Does anyone know the timeline for the whole “Batman is an urban legend” thing? I thought I recall he was chillin’ out in the open during the whole Legends miniseries, and sometime around Knightfall I seem to recall “the public outside Gotham thinks Batman is only a myth” was firmly in place, but I don’t know more specifically how it came to be (although IIRC the fact the Batman was proven to be true was a big part of the War Games series)…

The urban legend thing was a Denny O’Neil idea, so I dunno, 1990 or so?

“The Batman Nobody Knows” from Batman 250 sort of foreshadows the idea: Bruce Wayne listens to three kids tell their stories about what Batman is like and they’re all wildly off. But it’s a long way from the later form of course (but a very fun story).

Darkhawk.

No, she was actually introduced as a jewel thief, (without a costume) In Batman #1. She was also portrayed as a potential love interest from the beginning…highlighting sparks between them, and her refusal to be a killer.
In fact, Batman actually lets her go at the end of his first adventure, much to Robins confusion.

Brian,

What about Hugo Strange being a Psychiatrist? He was introduced as a mad scientist in the 30’s…”died” Ressurected in the 70’s as a “medical Doctor” (With the monster created aspect still intact) and killed again…

Came back in the 80’s with the origin that he was a Psychiatrist.

Actually Strange was a lot more than a mad scientist when he debuted–he was introduced as an infamous international criminal mastermind and crimelord. It reads like they’d thought of making much more of him than they did–but of course the Joker being in the same issue where Strange debuted clearly showed a better candidate for arch-enemy.

It might be so well-known as to not include it here, but I think a lot of people are surprised to learn that the Barbara Gordon Batgirl actually started in the ’60 TV series and then came over to the comics. “Recent” in relative terms, but she seems as integral to the mythos as Dick Grayson, yet came to the series almost 30 years later.

Does anyone know the timeline for the whole “Batman is an urban legend” thing?

It was created in Zero Hour as a retcon, although like Brian said it was a Denny O’Neil idea. That was in 1994.

How about this: When did Two-face’s face become half-purple instead of half-green as it was originally?

Huh, Batman as urban legend was done in Zero Hour? I read those 0 issues a little over a year ago, but I don’t remember that bit. Like I said, though, it was over a year ago.

I thought that was (one of) the dumbest bits about War Games. How could Batman possibly have not been seen before that? And that was post-NML too, right? Jeez. That whole War Games storyline was dumb.

Barbara Gordon didn’t start on the TV show and then come to the comics, did she? Or do I not know my Bat lore enough?

Gavein:
“I remember the animosity between Superman & Batman towards the end of World’s Finest’s run. No doubt it was an attempt to help the sales and spare it from cancellation.”

Possible, but since it really came to a head in the final story and since Man of Steel came out not long answer, it’s also possible that it was written as a way to conclude the series. I agree though that it wasn’t the most fun way they could have ended it.

T:
“Barbara Gordon didn’t start on the TV show and then come to the comics, did she? Or do I not know my Bat lore enough?”

Depends on how you look at it. Barbara Gordon (and thus Batgirl; no previous civilian appearances) appeared in the comics first, but only because she was going to appear on the show.

Psst, Andy, I’m Travis, not T. T’s that other guy here. The smart one ;)

But thanks for the info.

I’m sure I’ve just missed a CBLR that covered Barbara Gordon’s intro. I haven’t read ‘em all! (Yet…)

Oh, I’ve thought of one: The Scarecrow. When he appeared back in the Golden Age, he was just a straight extortionist. No fear gas, no gimmicks. It wasn’t until the Silver Age revival (Batman 189) that he actually adopted his fear MO as we know it.

I should specify, it didn’t happen in Zero Hour the SERIES but during Zero Hour the event. All the Batman books had a #0 issue tying in to Zero Hour, each filling in a different aspect of the new post-Zero Hour status quo for Batman’s origin. One aspect was that Joe Chill was no longer the killer of the Waynes and Bruce Wayne had never caught the murderer of his parents. (Denny O’Neil’s rationale, flawed I thought, was that Bruce Wayne would quit being Batman if he ever caught the murderer of his parents). One of the other things established in one of the Batcomic #0 issues was the idea that most people thought Batman was an urban legend.

The real surprising thing was how many fans accepted such an insanely stupid idea. There used to be lots of arguments online about how dumb it was, and at least 50% of the fans on the Internet didn’t think it was dumb at all. If you pointed out that the cops were still using the Batsignal in the books, which should be a major clue to the public Batman was real, the fans would argue that it’s part of the cops propaganda campaign to encourage belief in an urban legend. If you pointed out that the criminals he arrests have seen him and their court testimonies as well as the testimonies of cops under oath at their trials would be public record and serve as proof of Batman’s existence, they’d just say “The DC public just doesn’t care to follow trials.” If you’d ask how he could still be driving the Batmobile, a mini-tank, all around a crowded dense metropolis without being spotted by significant amounts of people, they’d defend that too, saying people just think it’s the cops doing propaganda again. I think that was the big change to the Batman mythos that weeded out a lot of the more rational Batman fans and left behind a majority of nuts who would accept any ridiculous Batman status quo.

So I guess I shouldn’t note that I was cool with the idea?

Personally, I was fine with the development; when you’re just a guy in a suit hanging out with beings who can shrug off mortar rounds, you do everything in your power to ensure your survival . . . and starting with a basis that you don’t even exist would work fine.

Personally, I would’ve tempered it along the lines of, “Sure, in Gotham there are some vigilantes who respond to the urban legend that there is a ‘Batman’ by capturing criminals. And there have been reports from unreliable drug-crazed maniacs — or much more insane individuals — who claim to have interacted with this entity. Plus, given Gotham’s continued budget problems, we find it useful to have a beacon reminding both citizens to be aware and criminals to beware.” Given this is an era where Batman has the intellect and technological wherewithal to neutralize the entire JLA, I think “keeping myself a secret” is a relatively minor feat.

Plus I enjoyed the “keeps to the shadows, away from the public” feel of the character better than the “hangs out behind police tape looking for clues in front of countless witnesses, then testifies in court wearing a FLIPPIN’ MASK” era.

I think why I glossed over that in reading those 0 issues is because I don’t think they made a huge deal out of it — they said “he’s an urban legend”, but they didn’t go into specifics, I don’t think. It seemed like one of those things where it sounds cool but if you think about the specifics of it, it drives you crazy. I’ll have to dig those 0 issues out.

The War Games thing about it was where it really grated — Batman had had 4 Robins at that point (go Steph!), been around presumably for 10 or so years, and had NEVER been caught on camera before?

Of course, that story also had a stupid newscaster guy say “the camera doesn’t lie” about some story element or other. Really? Go the hell back to high school where someone might believe that. You’re on the news in Gotham City, grow up for god’s sake. Camera doesn’t lie…jeez.

I think the best handling of the urban-legend angle was in the World’s Finest miniseries from some years back. Gordon admits that people know Batman is real, but they have no real idea what he’s like or what his powers are. Keeping to the shadows makes him seem more than a man.
That being said, it’s still ridiculous–I remember one letter column (I forgot what book) where the editors admitted it was absurd for Batman to be both a JLA member and someone people think might not exist.

Ehh… that entire era is filled with cognitive dissonance if you try to work in Batman in to the larger DCU.

“Gotham is in ruins. One of the largest cities in the United States has been turned into a feudal wasteland of warring criminals. It’s an unending nightmare for millions of people.”

“Batman, I speak for the entire JLA when I say we’re here to help.”

“MY TOWN!!! BACK OFF!!!”

Just the idea that the federal government will decide not to rebuild a New York-size city hit by a disaster was enough dissonance for me.

How about this: When did Two-face’s face become half-purple instead of half-green as it was originally?

I always assumed that it was to make him look more like the movie version in Batman Forever, but I don’t know that for a fact. All I know is that I remember him being green up to that point. (The various non-Harvey Dent Two-Faces over the years tended to be purple, though.)

I thought the belief that Batman was an urban legend was more about his earliest career (and “untold” stories set in that era) than when he was an established member of the Justice League. After that, he was an established fact, like the moon landing or the lone assassin of JFK.

T. –

In the real world, there are stupid people that don’t believe the moon landings were real, that believe Paul McCartney died in a car crash in the 1960s, or that the Beatles records really had subliminal messages that made Manson a killer, and that Bush and Osama were actually buddies who teamed-up to bring down the towers, and that Obama is a Muslim. People believe evolution isn’t real, but believe the Illuminati are real.

There is no shortage of stupid people believing things that obviously are untrue or not believing things that obviously are true.

People in the DCU not believing Batman is real is really stupid of them, but not unrealistic.

It reminds me also of the Stan Lee Marvel comics always with some bystanders believing all the superheroes in NYC were somehow a giant publicity stunt with special effects. It might be argued that, if something obviously supernatural happened in the real world, a lot of people would not believe it until they could see it for themselves, and some wouldn’t believe even them.

Personally, I don’t like the idea. But it isn’t the most stupid I’ve heard of in comic book lore.

Buttler said the same thing as I, but with humour. :)

Ha! That is a pretty funny coincidence.

Buttler, the times I’ve seen the “urban legend” it’s been presented as something consistently true, not as “People initially thought Batman was a myth, but …”

@Rene and Buttler:

Coincidence?

Or part of the conspiracy?

All I know is I’m keeping my tinfoil hat on at all times while reading this site….

Buttler, the times I’ve seen the “urban legend” it’s been presented as something consistently true, not as “People initially thought Batman was a myth, but …”

Yes, that’s the way I read it. That it wasn’t a case where Batman was once believed to be an urban legend but that he was believed to be one for his whole 10-year career. Yes, the cops were shining a giant spotlight in the sky for an urban legend. 10 years of a mini-tank patrolling the streets yet he was considered to be an urban legend. A member of the Justice League, various incarnations, and 10 years of busting crooks, including a whole insane asylum dedicating to housing his mortal enemies, yet the average person in Gotham thought he was an urban legend. There was also all the things that had to be retconned as a result of the Zero Hour change but were never explained, like what happened to when Bane broke Batman’s back and then threw him off a roof in front of a giant crowd? In fact, if the general public believed Batman was an urban legend, why would an ultralogical person like Bane travel to Gotham and set his sights on an urban legend. It would be like a criminal genius deciding to test his wits against the ultimate enemy, the lochness monster. Also, did the cops who testified at the hearings of criminals Batman captured perjure themselves and say they were the ones who captured Batman or did they admit Batman’s involvement? If they did admit Batman’s involvement, did the general public in the DCU just refuse to believe the cops? If so, why? And if it’s the former, where the cops covered up Batman’s involvement during court testimonies, why would they bother doing that if their boss is shining a giant Bat signal in the sky? Also, being that Batman has rescued so many people in his ten years of operation, wouldn’t those people talk about the fact that Batman saved them, especially when testifying at their own trials? So what, does the general public distrust not only the criminals, the police, but also even their own terrorized fellow citizens?

It’s just beyond dumb.

In the real world, there are stupid people that don’t believe the moon landings were real, that believe Paul McCartney died in a car crash in the 1960s, or that the Beatles records really had subliminal messages that made Manson a killer, and that Bush and Osama were actually buddies who teamed-up to bring down the towers, and that Obama is a Muslim. People believe evolution isn’t real, but believe the Illuminati are real.

Yes, but none of those beliefs are held by a majority of the public. In the DCU post-Zero Hour, the idea that Batman wasn’t real 10 years after his debut was CONVENTIONAL WISDOM OF THE MASSES, not a fringe belief like those things you describe. I could totally understand if they say there was a small, but rabid group of people who were Batman-deniers much like there are Holocoust deniers and truthers today. But the scenario in the Bat-books was that it was fringe who believed Batman existed and the normal, everyday sane person thought he was an urban legend. That’s very different (and dumber) than the situations you describe.

People in the DCU not believing Batman is real is really stupid of them, but not unrealistic.

A minority of them believing it is not unrealistic, sure. Just like a minority of people believe the things you described above like evolution being a lie, Paul McCartney dying in a plane crash, etc. But none of those things you describe are mainstream beliefs. Batman as an urban legend however WAS depicted as a normal, mainstream belief. Big difference.

I thought the belief that Batman was an urban legend was more about his earliest career (and “untold” stories set in that era) than when he was an established member of the Justice League. After that, he was an established fact, like the moon landing or the lone assassin of JFK.

See, that would totally make sense, the idea that Batman was once believed to be an urban legend, but at some point his existence became an accepted fact, although still shrouded in mystery. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. The idea was that no one believed Batman was real until he was finally caught on camera during War Games, after ten years into his career and multiple tenures in the JLA.

Personally, I would’ve tempered it along the lines of, “Sure, in Gotham there are some vigilantes who respond to the urban legend that there is a ‘Batman’ by capturing criminals. And there have been reports from unreliable drug-crazed maniacs — or much more insane individuals — who claim to have interacted with this entity. Plus, given Gotham’s continued budget problems, we find it useful to have a beacon reminding both citizens to be aware and criminals to beware.”

No offense, but I think that explanation actually makes the Batman as urban legend premise sound even worse. That’s the problem with it, any attempt to explain it just makes it sound wore.

Given this is an era where Batman has the intellect and technological wherewithal to neutralize the entire JLA, I think “keeping myself a secret” is a relatively minor feat.

Well, that’s a whole other can of worms, but I think that premise is almost as dumb as Batman being an urban legend. Back in the days, it was incredibly impressive for the nonpowered guy to simply hold his own with people who were practically living gods. And that’s the way it should be. Even in Dark Knight Returns, Batman had to pull out all the stops, recruit help, use armor and do a bunch of cheats to go toe-to-toe with Batman and he still barely eked out a win. And even then, it was highly implied that Superman was holding back and that helped him. Now in the DCU there is this weird conceit that it’s not enough to show that nonpowered people are impressive just for being able to compete with the superpowered. Now we have to believe that they can easily beat every superpowered people put together with one arm tied behind their backs while simultaneously filing their taxes. It doesn’t make the nonpowered person look good after a certain point, it just starts making the superpowered community look stupid, sloppy and incompetent. See for example the stupid fight moves the JLA had to do in Identity Crisis to make Deathstroke beat them. The excess handicap in favor of nonpowered combatants is one of the things I hated about post-Crisis DC.

Buttler said the same thing as I, but with humour.

I’m confused, maybe it’s me, but it seems to me you and Buttler actually said different things. You said it’s not so dumb for a majority of the public to believe Batman was an urban legend for 10 years. Buttler on the other hand said the public only believed he was an urban legend early in his career but soon learned otherwise.

I think the best handling of this was in the Bruce Timm Batman cartoon, where it was explained that people know Batman exists but he’s so shrouded in mystery no one can agree exactly what he is. Is he a guy in a costume, a superhuman, something other than human altogether? A much more reasonable compromise.

T., I wholeheartedly agree on the inflation of Batman’s abilities. I found Batman doing the impossible much more impressive when people treated it as if something impossible, not something routine that Of Course Batman can do.

I just realized that what Fraser described above from World’s Finest is the same as how Batman was treated in that BTAS episode where everyone tells ghost stories about batman but describes him differently. That sounds cool, definitely the best way to handle the urban legend angle if you’re going to go there.

The silliest aspect of the urban legend thing was how no one else at DC thought it was a good idea except O’Neil. Think about it this way, they had to FIGHT to get Batman in the JLA. Just roll that over in your brain and shake your head.

T, I’m pretty sure the BTAS was based in part on that old story. And yes, that does work better–after all, how is the underworld (or the public in general) to know Batman doesn’t have healing factor (“I pumped six bullets into him, it didn’t slow him down!”) or some kind of special powers?

RE: CATWOMAN and FRANK MILLER:

http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/Corndogburglar/news/?a=45160

“At first glance, [Black Cat] sounds almost exactly like Selina Kyle’s Catwoman. However, at that time in Batman comics, Catwoman was only known as “The Cat” and she was nothing more than a pickpocket in a green dress with no mask. It was not until 1987 in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, almost a decade AFTER Black Cat’s appearance in comics, that Catwoman became the tight leather and mask wearing, clawed cat burglar that we know her as today. So if either of these characters are guilty of copying the other, one would have to say its Catwoman that is the copy-CAT. (See what I did there, again? I’m on a roll!) Mostly because at the time that Black Cat was created, she had almost no resemblance to the Catwoman in comics at that time. Presently both characters are identical. They are both high profile cat burglars that operate in tight leather, are extremely agile, and they are both love interests in their respective do-gooders lives. Pretty interesting, would you not agree?”

Darkhawk, check out the cover of Batman 197. Selina’s not in black, but it’s a solidly skintight outfit, with mask. And she was never just a pickpocket–she was a jewel thief, gang boss and capable of wielding gadgets and weapons just as effectively as Bat’s other villains. You may be right about claws, as she used a cat o’nine tails (not a particular favorite of pickpockets that I’m aware of) for much of her career.
As far as a love interest goes, that’s been an element of her character from before Black Cat was ever born.

Heck, not to summon the same cut-and-pasted comments we’ve seen in other threads, but the Catwoman from the 1960s TV show had the slinky black outfit and the claws and the slyly seductive attitude, too. It’s not a new thing. Nor is the quasi-romance with Batman, which goes wayyyyyy back, even if they weren’t shown rutting on rooftops till recently. Heck, all through the late 1960s and 1970s she spent as much time trying to get Batman to marry her as she did committing crimes. (http://www.lonelygods.com/w/bat3.html) I could see the Black Cat influencing Selina’s increasingly low-cut tops, though thank goodness she didn’t adopt Felicia’s Christmas-decoration fringe.

Re the Black Cat, I know she was originally intended to debut as a Spider-Woman villain. Given how enjoyably bizarre the early issues were, I wonder how different she’d have been?

Ooh, I think I may know another “surprisingly relatively quite recent” addition!

For as long as I remember Batman in the modern era, it’s always been clear that “Batman is the ‘real person,’ and Bruce Wayne is the ‘mask.'” However, I know that’s pretty darn modern, since the comics from the 1970s seem to treat that as reversed (including, IIRC, Batman #300, where there’s a “future tale” of Bruce having given up the mantle to run for public office).

Does anyone know when “Bruce Wayne is the ‘mask'” took root?

Stephen: while it is indeed a recent development, to most comic fans that’s a commonly known thing. I don’t think it counts as “surprising”

If anything, the Black Cat was a pretty clear ripoff of Catwoman, not the other way around.

Well, right in the first story, it’s obvious that Bruce Wayne is the mask. It’s not said right out, but the bored playboy shrugging as Gordon asks him along on a case is a mask for the perceptive crime fighter who actually goes along.

The Black Cat debuted in the July ’79 issue of ASM (hey, I like that date!), but by that time, had it been established that Batman and Catwoman marry on Earth 2?

I’m not so sure about the first story Travis–it’s true Bruce Wayne is putting on a bored act, but “Bruce Wayne is the mask” always seems to mean (at least as I’ve seen it used) that Bruce isn’t simply an act, he isn’t real at all, any more than Matches Malone.
By way of comparison, Percy Blakeney is clearly acting as an idle fop in Scarlet Pimpernel, but “Percy poses as a fool” is not the same as “Percy is a mask.” He’s real and his life as Percy matters.
I know the idea was around by the post-Crisis eighties, though, because Max Collins talked about how he didn’t buy it, IIRC.

Something other commentators mentioned as a relatively recent (and unwelcome according to above comments) addition is the “Rogues Gallery – particularly Joker – only exist because Batman exists” trope.
I think it predates the 90s post-Crisis period. I remember a Doug Moench-era issue mentioning this theme: the cover drawn by Giordano with the Rogues as a “mural” effect.
It’s around the mid-80s, possibly around Tec issue #565/Batman 370. Not got time to find it at the moment.

Fraser

November 17, 2012 at 6:53 am

I’m not so sure about the first story Travis–it’s true Bruce Wayne is putting on a bored act, but “Bruce Wayne is the mask” always seems to mean (at least as I’ve seen it used) that Bruce isn’t simply an act, he isn’t real at all, any more than Matches Malone.
By way of comparison, Percy Blakeney is clearly acting as an idle fop in Scarlet Pimpernel, but “Percy poses as a fool” is not the same as “Percy is a mask.” He’s real and his life as Percy matters.
I know the idea was around by the post-Crisis eighties, though, because Max Collins talked about how he didn’t buy it, IIRC.

====================================================================================

Collins said this in Amazing Heroes#119.

That was probably where I heard it.

Well, right in the first story, it’s obvious that Bruce Wayne is the mask. It’s not said right out, but the bored playboy shrugging as Gordon asks him along on a case is a mask for the perceptive crime fighter who actually goes along.

That’s a fair point. Never looked at it that way.

I understand what you mean, Fraser, and was more just thinking about the first story, but in the ’90s and ’00s I think if the notion of “Bruce as the mask” is that Bruce’s life doesn’t matter or whatever, there have been stories where Bruce’s philanthropy and business dealings were put as an important element of his life and therefore disagree with that notion. I’m thinking there’s a Devin Grayson “day in the life” story like that.

Probably because if you think about it too hard, the notion that Bruce could be a CEO and be such a playboy fop without the company running completely into the ground doesn’t hold water. Even with a Lucius Fox running day to day operations, you’ve got to have some business acumen to make things work.

And of course, with Batman Incorporated, the notion of Bruce and Waynecorp working in tandem with Batman’s war on crime means that Bruce has to operate a little more as a real person (see the apparently reviled Batman Inc 8, with Bruce in a virtual board meeting gone wrong).

As I believe our pal T has said before, Bruce Wayne’s money could do more good in the war on crime than what Batman does. Things like when Batman gives the girl Ellie an opportunity to be a Waynecorp receptionist fairly early on in the Morrison run — one thing I like a lot is that we’ve seen her again once or twice and see she’s made something of herself. YAY Batman!

@Fraser: You had to bring up MAC, huh? ;)

But of course.
I agree that Bruce Wayne’s money can do as much good as the bat-suit. Collins’ point, I think, is that Batman tackles the symptoms of a troubled city, Bruce works at curing them.

Travis:
The Black Cat debuted in the July ’79 issue of ASM (hey, I like that date!), but by that time, had it been established that Batman and Catwoman marry on Earth 2?

Yes. It’s understandable that you missed it because there’s more Comments than usual on this thread but here’s what I wrote on November 3 on this very thread:
* The revelation that the Earth-Two Batman married Catwoman. Actually they did this backwards: Batman became a widow in DC Super-Stars 17, 1977, the first appearance of Huntess; the wedding was depicted in Superman Family #211 1981; the courtship was depicted in Brave and the Bold #197 1983.

So the wedding was wasn’t fully depected in 1979 but it was certainly established.

As for the above conversation about the Joker (and others) only existing because Batman exists, I would love to read a story where Batman is gone, and the Joker still commits crimes half-heartedly. Not one of the many “Batman is dead?” hoaxes, or just him being out of Gotham for a while. Like an “Elseworlds”-style story where Batman is dead or gone and is not coming back.

I think it’s way more interesting if the Joker doesn’t quit, nor does he squeal with glee that he can get away with whatever he wants now, he just stops caring. He still robs banks, but just because he wants money. He still kills people, but he doesn’t dress up as Pagliacci and hijack a performance at the Gotham Opera, he just joylessly shoots people in the back of the head.

I guess the idea would be that the Joker is, in fact, worse without Batman. Instead of being a lunatic with a bizarre and dangerous concept of humor, he would just be a murderer. I would love to read that. Hell, I would love to WRITE that.

As I believe our pal T has said before, Bruce Wayne’s money could do more good in the war on crime than what Batman does.

I think Greg Burgas and others have said that. i actually argued the opposite. While it’s helpful, I don’t think money alone does much to solve social ills. It’s a start, but I actually think the fear Batman incites in criminals does a lot more good.

TJCoolguy: Great story idea, but I just can’t see anyone in the current DC climate creating a story that nuanced and smart. Anything that strays too far from the Miller playbook seems to get shot down for the most part.

Depends on the era. I could see that with today’s Joker–the 1940s original I think loved his bizarre games for their own sake.

Fraser: That would actually be a really interesting thing to go into. Following the Joker from his early career, when he was just putting on insane spectacles because his warped mind thought they were funny, and slowly watching it become something he does just to impress the Bat.

The more I think about this, the more I like it. I guess this is how fanfics get started, huh?

TJ, that’s not bad at all.

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