When we were recently counting down the worst things that Batman has ever done, one of the very top spots was devoted to the fact that he allowed Jean-Paul Valley to take over as Batman while he was recovering from a broken back. The reason that it was so particularly egregious is the fact that Batman first met Jean-Paul Valley when Valley was brainwashed into becoming the assassin known as Azrael. Batman helped him defeat his programming, and then took it upon himself to train Jean-Paul as a vigilante, sans the programming.
There are a few aspects of Batman that remain consistent. He is the secret identity of the wealthy Bruce Wayne, (usually now called a billionaire because of inflation). He has a butler, Alfred, who knows his identity and who took part in raising Bruce after the murder of his father and mother. Batman has no superpowers, but he’s intellectually gifted and makes use of gadgets, science and well-honed fighting skills and physical strength to defeat his enemies.
The Batman television series, starring Adam West, premiered in January 1966 on the ABC television network. Inflected with a camp sense of humor, the show became a pop culture phenomenon. In his memoir, Back to the Batcave, West notes his dislike for the term 'camp' as it was applied to the 1960s series, opining that the show was instead a farce or lampoon, and a deliberate one, at that. The series ran for 120 episodes; ending in 1968. In between the first and second season of the Batman television series, the cast and crew made the theatrical film Batman (1966). The Who recorded the theme song from the Batman show for their 1966 EP Ready Steady Who, and The Kinks performed the theme song on their 1967 album Live at Kelvin Hall.
Gay interpretations of the character have been part of the academic study of Batman since psychologist Fredric Wertham asserted in Seduction of the Innocent in 1954 that "Batman stories are psychologically homosexual ... The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies, of the nature of which they may be unconscious." Andy Medhurst wrote in his 1991 essay "Batman, Deviance, and Camp" that Batman is interesting to gay audiences because "he was one of the first fictional characters to be attacked on the grounds of his presumed homosexuality". Professor of film and cultural studies Will Brooker argues the validity of a queer reading of Batman, and that gay readers would naturally find themselves drawn to the lifestyle depicted within, whether the character of Bruce Wayne himself were explicitly gay or not. He also identifies a homophobic element to the vigor with which mainstream fandom rejects the possibility of a gay reading of the character. In 2005, painter Mark Chamberlain displayed a number of watercolors depicting both Batman and Robin in suggestive and sexually explicit poses, prompting DC to threaten legal action.
Despite this, Batman has proved to have a great love for humanity, which was instilled by his parents. His father was a doctor, while his mother was a crusader against child abuse. Indeed, Batman's oath of vengeance is tempered with the greater ideal of justice. He refrains from killing, as he feels this would not make him any better than the criminals he fights. He is also a very prominent member of the Justice League and the founder of the Outsiders.
Batman is often treated as a vigilante by other characters in his stories. Frank Miller views the character as "a dionysian figure, a force for anarchy that imposes an individual order". Dressed as a bat, Batman deliberately cultivates a frightening persona in order to aid him in crime-fighting, a fear that originates from the criminals' own guilty conscience. Miller is often credited with reintroducing anti-heroic traits into Batman's characterization, such as his brooding personality, willingness to use violence and torture, and increasingly alienated behavior. Batman, shortly a year after his debut and the introduction of Robin, was changed in 1940 after DC editor Whitney Ellsworth felt the character would be tainted by his lethal methods and DC established their own ethical code, subsequently he was retconned as having a stringent moral code. Miller's Batman was closer to the original pre-Robin version, who was willing to kill criminals if necessary.
The driving force behind Bruce Wayne's character is his parents' murder and their absence. Bob Kane and Bill Finger discussed Batman's background and decided that "there's nothing more traumatic than having your parents murdered before your eyes". Despite his trauma, he sets his mind on studying to become a scientist and to train his body into physical perfection to fight crime in Gotham City as Batman, an inspired idea from Wayne's insight into the criminal mind.
The thing I loved about this series was the cliffhanger episodes. Batman and Robin would be put in a seemingly inescapable trap and then in the next episode Batman would manage to reach into his utility belt and pull out a convenient device. In one episode Batman was about to be dropped in acid when he suddenly remembered that Alfred the Butler had acid proofed his costume. How funny is that?
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By 1964, sales of Batman titles had fallen drastically. Bob Kane noted that, as a result, DC was "planning to kill Batman off altogether". In response to this, editor Julius Schwartz was assigned to the Batman titles. He presided over drastic changes, beginning with 1964's Detective Comics #327 (May 1964), which was cover-billed as the "New Look". Schwartz introduced changes designed to make Batman more contemporary, and to return him to more detective-oriented stories. He brought in artist Carmine Infantino to help overhaul the character. The Batmobile was redesigned, and Batman's costume was modified to incorporate a yellow ellipse behind the bat-insignia. The space aliens, time travel, and characters of the 1950s such as Batwoman, Ace, and Bat-Mite were retired. Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred was killed off (though his death was quickly reversed) while a new female relative for the Wayne family, Aunt Harriet, came to live with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.