Batman - The Complete History: The Life and Times of the Dark Knight

Batman - The Complete History: The Life and Times of the Dark Knight


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Batman - The Complete History: The Life and Times of the Dark Knight by Les Daniels

The super-powered trilogy that captured the world's greatest superhero triumvirate of all time is now available in paperback. Relive the adventures of Krypton's favorite son inside and outside the comic book world in Superman: The Complete History. Uncover the Caped Crusader's mysterious real-world origin and his evolution into a hugely successful TV and movie franchise in Batman: The Complete History. Follow the Amazon Princess as she evolves from curiosity to feminist icon in the Eisner Awardwinning Wonder Woman: The Complete History. Each book is filled with enough archival comic book art, photographs, and in-depth history to satisfy the most demanding fan—and is now priced to appeal to the most casual reader.

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and all related characters, names, and indicia are trademarks of DC Comics 2004.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780811842327
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date: 01/29/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 8.12(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.62(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Les Daniels is a renowned comic book expert. He's the author of DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Read an Excerpt


Batman came out of the darkness, out of the collective unconscious where visions of avenging angels dwell, but he also came out of the shadows cast by imaginary heroes who had gone before. A compelling synthesis of several figures lurking in the dark corners of popular culture, Batman would eventually outrun all of his inspirations to become an instantly recognizable icon, one of the most widely known fictional characters ever created. Alternately presented as redeemer, clown, and demon, Batman has transcended any simplistic explanation of his appeal, but the key to his success may lie in the very variety of the roles he has played. "Maybe every ten years Batman has to go through an evolution to keep up with the times," suggested Bob Kane, the artist who originated the hero. "I am Batman," Kane once proclaimed, yet many other artists, writers, editors, and actors have found something in the Caped Crusader that they could call their own, and so has an audience of untold millions that has developed over the past sixty years.

Born Robert Kahn in 1916, Bob Kane was the son of an engraver for the New York Daily News. His father regularly brought home the color comics sections and encouraged his son's ambition to be a cartoonist. A self-proclaimed "copycat," Kane taught himself to draw by imitating newspaper strips, and was creating ads for neighborhood merchants while still in high school. He worked briefly on Betty Boop cartoons for the Max Fleischer studios but devoted most of his efforts to the fledgling comic book industry. The first of these new ten-cent magazines reprinted old newspaper material, but experimentation and economics eventually brought new talent into the field. Kane tried his hand at everything from "Peter Pupp" to "Ginger Snap" (his first love was humor), then began to drift toward more serious stories. He sold "Rusty and His Pals" to Adventure Comics in 1938 and "Clip Carson" to Action Comics in 1939. Both strips were written by Bill Finger, two years Kane's senior, and also a graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. After an initial encounter at a party, the pair met at Edgar Allen Poe Park and decided to collaborate on comics.

Born in Denver, Bill Finger had hoped to be an artist, but his parents expected him to become a doctor. The financial crunch of the Depression had put an end to their ambitions, however, and Finger was working as a shoe salesman. A long childhood illness had encouraged him to become a voracious reader, and it was as a writer that he would finally make his mark. However, his work always retained a strong visual element, and artists who worked on his scripts considered him the best comic book writer of his generation. Finger was certainly the dreamer of the team, while Kane was the go-getter who had a head for business.

Vin Sullivan was an editor at DC Comics, publisher of both Adventure Comics and Action Comics. The company's most successful character was Superman, who became the lead feature in Action after his debut in 1938. Created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, Superman was an alien with amazing powers who battled oppression on his adopted planet, Earth. Dressing in Technicolor tights and a flowing cape, Superman had captured the imaginations of American kids, and Sullivan was looking for something similar for DC's Detective Comics. He said as much to Bob Kane, who credits Sullivan's suggestion with being "instrumental" in the creation of Batman. Kane returned to DC's Manhattan offices in a few days with some sketches, and shortly after getting Sullivan's okay he showed up with a complete story. "It started with an idea that he suggested," Sullivan recalled. "Then he came back with pages of this new character. And it looked pretty good to me, too. It seemed like an interesting character. I don't think anybody realized that it would develop into what it has become today. In fact, I'm sure they didn't."

What Sullivan missed was the process in which first Bob Kane and then Bill Finger ransacked their memories for ideas from the past that they could incorporate into a comic book hero. When Kane sat down at his drawing board in the Bronx, he immediately sketched in a figure similar to Superman's, complete with the tights and trunks that he instinctively seemed to feel were mandatory. Then he overlaid a piece of tracing paper and began experimenting with variations in the costume. He tried a pair of bird wings, perhaps inspired by an alien race in one of his favorite strips, Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon. Then Kane had a brainstorm. From his boyhood reading he recalled the ornithopter, a flying machine designed by Leonardo da Vinci. This device was essentially a glider, with wings built like those of a bat, and it sent Kane off in the right direction. By process of association, he was also reminded of one of his favorite films, The Bat Whispers (1930). Directed by Roland West in an early wide-screen process, and featuring Chester Morris as a detective who is secretly a costumed killer known as the Bat, the film was an adaptation of a classic thriller whose influence is still being felt today.

The character of the Bat was the creation of Mary Roberts Rinehart, who was one of the most successful mystery writers of her time. Her bestseller The Circular Staircase (1908) was turned into a smash Broadway play by Rinehart and Avery Hopwood in 1920 under the title The Bat. The play was filmed in 1920 under its own title in 1926 and 1958, in addition to the 1930 version. It also inspired innumerable similar plays about fiends in animal guise, including John Willard's The Cat and the Canary (filmed in 1927, 1930, 1939, and 1979), and Ralph Spence's The Gorilla (filmed in 1927, 1931, and 1939). The formula of shadows, thunderstorms, and masked men still influences horror films today, but Kane's inspiration lay in using this ambience to create the background for a slightly sinister good guy.

A third source of inspiration for Kane came from a movie he'd seen as a boy: The Mark of Zorro (1920). This film featured an athletic, flamboyant performance by Douglas Fairbanks, which turned him into the biggest action star of the silent screen; the story, about a wealthy fop who transformed himself at night into a masked crusader for justice in Old California, stuck with young Kane. Even such details as the hero entering his hideout through an old grandfather clock were carried over from the film. "It left a lasting impression on me. Later, when I created the Batman, it gave me the dual identity," said Kane. "You're influenced at one point by another character, but then you embellish and bring your own individuality into it."

At this point Kane had designed a hero with a black mask like Zorro's, stiff black wings like Leonardo's ornithopter, and red tights reminiscent of Superman's. He then called in Bill Finger for advice. With the reliance on visual references that would characterize his work from then on, Finger reached for a dictionary, found a picture of a bat, and called attention to its ears. Kane's simple mask was transformed into a black cowl with the distinctive points that were echoed in the wings and (eventually) in the design of the gloves that Finger suggested. The repetition of this triangular motif made for an immediately memorable image and may have helped to account for Batman's success. "Almost every famous character ever created had a kind of simplistic, definitive design that was easily recognizable, and that's what I was striving for with Batman," Kane recalled.

Excerpted by permission of Chronicle Books. BATMAN and all related characters, names, and indicia are trademarks of DC Comics © 1999.

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