Holy birthday best, Batman

00:22, Jul 25 2014

In a world gone mad, we need our superheroes to stand between us and the tyranny of evil. For 75 years, Batman has been the rock star of superheroes, a comic book character who strode manfully into the public consciousness from the turmoil and terror of the dawn of World War II. This week marks his 75th year of fighting crime in Gotham City, and to celebrate DC Comics declared yesterday Batman Day.

The Caped Crusader was the invention of comic book artist Bob Kane, in collaboration with Bill Finger. He debuted in Detective Comics (later DC Comics) issue No 27 in May 1939, following in the giant footsteps of Superman, the son of Krypton who first appeared in 1938. Both were immediate hits for the publishers, spawning an endless string of weirder and more wonderful larger-than-life characters.

There have been countless comic book superheroes, most of them imbued with fantastical non-human superpowers. But it is the granite-jawed, psychologically flawed man in the bat costume who has resonated strongest over the generations. Behind the mask, he could be any one of us who secretly dreams of righting society's wrongs - if only we had the James Bond-like array of cool toys that he does.

It is the fact that Batman is written as a real, damaged person with a tragic back story that allows us to empathise. An only son who saw his parents murdered, he is emotionally scarred by his loss and is on an eternal quest to make the bad guys pay. But he's no glory seeker. His heroic acts are carried out behind a mask that prevents the world from knowing that he is really the wealthy playboy industrialist Bruce Wayne. So his motivation is pure, if somewhat dark and obsessive.

He has appeared in popular culture in many guises over the years, from the parody character played for laughs by Adam West in the farcical 1960s TV show, to Christopher Nolan's dark and disturbing Dark Knight movie trilogy starring the menacing Christian Bale in the armour.

But throughout his many reinventions and reboots, Batman's code has never wavered. He is protector of the weak, disciple of decency and pursuer of justice. He remains the quintessential crimefighter in tights. We could use more like him on our streets.

Happy 75th birthday, Batman.


The Southland Times