Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's the Bat-Man!

In a previous post I argued that all superheroes are variations on the theme established by Superman.  I made this point, in passing, to a professor friend who despite being a very intelligent woman answered me by asking: "Even Batman?"

Perhaps no superhero is as straightforwardly defined by Superman as Batman is.

Batman is dark because Superman is light.  Batman has no powers because Superman does.  They each reside in the same city: since Metropolis and Gotham are both transparent analogues for New York City.  Symbolically,  Superman is a transcendent figure of divine intervention and Batman is a figure of the moral imperative to work out that salvation ourselves.

Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and debuted in Detective Comics, in May 1939.  Superman's appearance in Action Comics #1 was just under one year earlier, in June of 1938.  Both Detective Comics and Action Comics were published by a publication company called National Allied Publications, which would eventually change its name in honour of the comic starring Batman: DC Comics would become one of what people in the comics industry call "The Big Two" (the other being Marvel).  Because Batman is rather conspicuously an anti-Superman, as well as a Superman clone, he represents the capability of replication in the genre of superheroes.  The success of Batman showed that superheroes were repeatable.  In this sense, Batman, just as much as Superman, is the reason why people kept making superhero comics.

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