Comic book companies often look at costume design as "the more changes, the better." Batman is a character who had one of the most famous costume changes in comic book history (albeit just by adding a simply yellow oval), but otherwise managed to only go through a handful of looks in the 20th Century. In the 21st Century, though, Batman has gone through as many costumes as he had in the first 50 years of his existence, and more new looks are undoubtedly coming in the future!
The early, pulp-inflected portrayal of Batman started to soften in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) with the introduction of Robin, Batman's junior counterpart.[30] Robin was introduced, based on Finger's suggestion, because Batman needed a "Watson" with whom Batman could talk.[31] Sales nearly doubled, despite Kane's preference for a solo Batman, and it sparked a proliferation of "kid sidekicks".[32] The first issue of the solo spin-off series Batman was notable not only for introducing two of his most persistent enemies, the Joker and Catwoman, but for a pre-Robin inventory story, originally meant for Detective Comics #38, in which Batman shoots some monstrous giants to death.[33][34] That story prompted editor Whitney Ellsworth to decree that the character could no longer kill or use a gun.[35]
Starting in 1969, writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Neal Adams made a deliberate effort to distance Batman from the campy portrayal of the 1960s TV series and to return the character to his roots as a "grim avenger of the night".[49] O'Neil said his idea was "simply to take it back to where it started. I went to the DC library and read some of the early stories. I tried to get a sense of what Kane and Finger were after."[50]

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In Tim Burton's Batman Returns, Selina (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) seems to be the true love of Bruce's life, as not only their costumed identities but also their disturbed psyches are described as similar. Their relationship becomes intensely dramatic toward the end of the movie, to the point where Bruce actually implores her to abandon her vendetta against Max Shreck and come and live with him in Wayne Manor, to no avail.

Batman met juvenile delinquent and presumed orphan, Jason Todd, when the boy literally tried to steal the tires right off the Batmobile. With original partner Dick Grayson having given up the role of Robin, Batman decided to take Jason in and offer him both a home and a purpose. Jason began the same training regimen Grayson once undertook to become the Dark Knight's partner. However, Jason was a troubled soul who lacked maturity and was quick to anger.

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Grant Morrison's 2008 storyline, "Batman R.I.P." featured Batman being physically and mentally broken by the enigmatic villain Doctor Hurt and attracted news coverage in advance of its highly promoted conclusion, which would speculated to feature the death of Bruce Wayne.[146] However, though Batman is shown to possibly perish at the end of the arc, the two-issue arc "Last Rites", which leads into the crossover storylines "Final Crisis", shows that Batman survives his helicopter crash into the Gotham City River and returns to the Batcave, only to be summoned to the Hall of Justice by the JLA to help investigate the New God Orion's death. The story ends with Batman retrieving the god-killing bullet used to kill Orion, setting up its use in "Final Crisis".[147] In the pages of Final Crisis Batman is reduced to a charred skeleton.[148] In Final Crisis #7 Wayne is shown witnessing the passing of the first man, Anthro.[149][150] Wayne's "death" sets up the three-issue Battle for the Cowl miniseries in which Wayne's ex-proteges compete for the "right" to assume the role of Batman, which concludes with Grayson becoming Batman,[151] while Tim Drake takes on the identity of Red Robin.[152] Dick and Damian continue as Batman and Robin, and in the crossover storyline "Blackest Night", what appears to be Bruce's corpse is reanimated as a Black Lantern zombie,[153] but is later shown that Bruce's corpse is one of Darkseid's failed Batman clones. Dick and Batman's other friends conclude that Bruce is alive.[154][155]
Additionally, members of the group Batman, Incorporated, Bruce Wayne's experiment at franchising his brand of vigilantism, have at times stood in as the official Batman in cities around the world.[60] Various others have also taken up the role of Batman in stories set in alternative universes and possible futures, including, among them, various former proteges of Bruce Wayne.
The central fixed event in the Batman stories is the character's origin story.[85] As a young boy, Bruce Wayne was horrified and traumatized when he watched his parents, the physician Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, murdered with a gun by a mugger named Joe Chill. Batman refuses to utilize any sort of gun on the principle that a gun was used to murder his parents. This event drove him to train his body to its peak condition and fight crime in Gotham City as Batman. Pearson and Uricchio also noted beyond the origin story and such events as the introduction of Robin, "Until recently, the fixed and accruing and hence, canonized, events have been few in number",[85] a situation altered by an increased effort by later Batman editors such as Dennis O'Neil to ensure consistency and continuity between stories.[124]
The 1993 "Knightfall" story arc introduced a new villain, Bane, who critically injures Batman after pushing him to the limits of his endurance. Jean-Paul Valley, known as Azrael, is called upon to wear the Batsuit during Bruce Wayne's convalescence. Writers Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant worked on the Batman titles during "Knightfall", and would also contribute to other Batman crossovers throughout the 1990s. 1998's "Cataclysm" storyline served as the precursor to 1999's "No Man's Land", a year-long storyline that ran through all the Batman-related titles dealing with the effects of an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City. At the conclusion of "No Man's Land", O'Neil stepped down as editor and was replaced by Bob Schreck.[59]

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