It’s no secret, I admire the Batman. Like many people, I grew up watching James Bond movies, the Batman television series, Speed Racer, and Dick Tracy. What was the allure? What intrigued us? For me, it was the cool cars and gadgets. They made the characters timeless and interchangeable, through a parade of actors and story interpretations.
We all believed we had a chance at being these icons when we dug out decoder rings and spy glasses from cereal boxes and Cracker Jack boxes. Today, in these modern times, in essence, we all are Batman. We all have cool cars with cool technology. Homes with computers we can talk to not only exist, they’re normal. Mini-communication devices in our pockets and on our wrists are commonplace. Yet, how come I still don’t feel like the iconic hero? What is it about Batman that makes him different from us?
Sure, if we practiced 12 hours a day, had unlimited financial resources and an undying will to fight injustice, we all could be Batman — Or could we? I don’t think anyone could be Batman other than Bruce Wayne. But why? After all the versions, after all the protégés, why is it that Bruce Wayne is the one and only Batman we can relate to?
So, in honor of his 80th anniversary, let’s discuss Bruce Wayne/Batman. Let’s talk about what makes him above and beyond all other vigilantes. What are the most popular tools that makes the Batman, Batman?
1. Intimidation (the Costume, the Cape and the Cowl)
Created in 1939 as the antithesis of Superman and influenced by the 1936 Bat Man and the Black Bat. Using drawings inspired by the Man of Steel, sketches by Leonardo Di Vinci, and The Mark of Zorro, The Bat Whispers, etc; Bob Kane and Bill Finger created a man who was more than just a man. The long ears and the batwing styled cape were the beginning of a comic book career of intimidation that has no rival.
I mean, think about what intimidates and scares us. Bugs? Really? Once you create a human-sized bug suit, how intimidating is that? A large dog or wolf? Again, supersize a costume like that, and it becomes laughable. Now consider a giant, black flying bat; well, you can see how scary that can be. Just knowing someone who would have the Chutzpah to dress like that would be off-putting, don’tcha think?
2. Code of Honor
Batman’s code of honor rivals all supers. His strength of purpose and focus is intimidating, but I decided to place it here. In the early years, Batman carried a gun, but eventually, in the comic books, he gave up the gun for more productive tools. Unlike in the modern movies, everyone knows that Batman refuses to kill. His rivals and colleagues all know this, and they are still scared of him!
This, coupled with his obsessive drive to train and learn everything he can to be the greatest crime fighter and detective. It’s all inspired by the death of his parents, and it shows phenomenal dedication that is often imitated but can never truly be recreated.
Boomerangs have been historically used for hunting, as well as sport and entertainment. They are commonly thought of as an Australian icon and come in various shapes and sizes.
No one character has made the boomerang a more popular and modernized tool more than Batman with his Bat-a-Rang. Come on, who wouldn’t love a weapon you could use to waylay villains and have it come back to you leaving no evidence of your existence, except Batman of course?
4. Bat repelling and grappling devices
Most of us are afraid of heights. Batman is not one of those people. After hours of practice and sacrifice, and honing his steel will, I’m pretty sure the man who causes fear has overcome all his own fears. In the early comics, the tool was a wrapped repelling cord or rope that was thrown by hand. But over the years, the device has become more of a gun with a pulley device in various forms. My favorite ones have been the Tim Burton and Bruce Timm inspired versions.
5. The Batmobile, Bat-Tank, Bat-Cycle, Bat-Wing (Plane), Bat-Copter, etc. etc.
Batman has gotta get around. How do you cover long distances in a short amount of time? Why jump from rooftop to rooftop when you can use other, cooler, modes of transportation? The depths of creativity from artist to artist and movie to movie is astounding when it comes to the creation of the Bat-Vehicles through the years. Especially when compared to the first incarnation. Basically, the Batmobile is a spaceship combined with a race car.
All cool heroes have cool vehicles: firefighters, police officers, and Batman. The Dark Knight has an unbelievable supply of cars, bikes, and air-bound vehicles to help him get through and around Gotham and the DC Universe. My favorites are the Tim Burton Batmobile, the Bruce Timm version, and Christopher Nolan’s Bat-Tank and Bat-Pod. What’s yours?
6. The Bat-Cave
The ultimate Man-cave, the ultimate garage, the ultimate technology room and the ultimate tool shop all in one big guano filled secret cave. Need I say more?
7. Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth (the Epitome of Loyalty)
There is no greater loyalty than that of Alfred. He has managed to raise two personalities living in one body and keep that individual on task with all his hopes and dreams and not lose his own sanity in the process.
Alfred, an ex MI6 agent, Special Forces of the British Army, medical technician, computer systems expert and mechanic in his own right, has on many occasions donned the cape and cowl. He has driven the menagerie of vehicles. He’s kept track of all the women, wards and protégés and has never divulged anything to anyone who was not in the private circle of the Wayne/Batman Empire.
Alfred’s depth of fidelity rivals the greatest stories of friendship and love throughout history. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob Kane and Bill Finger hadn’t considered dropping a bomb on their readers revealing that Alfred was Bruce’s blood in some way. Maybe they abandoned the idea, making Alfred’s loyalty the greatest mystery in the history of literature.
We all wish we could find that kind of loyalty. I can tell you this: if it weren’t for Alfred, Batman would not have lasted 80 years. It has been said that Alfred is known as “Batman’s Batman.”
Most of us have the tools and the tech and the cool stuff, a few of us may even have the money, but to be honest, after 80 years, there is only one Batman, and his name is Bruce Wayne.