It’s Bat Appreciation Day today, and what better time to celebrate America’s favorite bat-like costumed crimefighter, Batman! What makes Batman so appealing? What is it that keeps him forever in the justice-seeking hearts of millions of fans world-wide? Well, your individual bat-mileage may vary, but here are just a few things that keep Batman at the top of the belfry…
Number One: Weird Villains
Batman has effectively made his name on the strength of his broad, varied and often absurd gallery of rogues and rascals. Ever since the Joker debuted all the way back in the first issue of the Caped Crusader’s first eponymous series (in 1940!), villains have been Batman’s main claim to fame.
To name just a few of his best and weirdest: The Polka-Dot Man, Calendar Man, Killer Moth (he’s a moth --- but he kills!), Crazy Quilt (he’s blind, and crazy!), The Ten-Eyed Man (he’s also blind - Batman sure beats up on a lot of blind guys), Kite Man, Condiment King and so many more.
A personal favorite is The Eraser, pictured above, who holds the honor of being one of the few supervillains to have discerned Batman’s dual identity. How did he do it? Well, during a fight with the Dark Knight Detective, The Eraser catches a whiff of Batman’s cologne. Scent being the strongest trigger to memory, it sends the Eraser back to college, in which he sat next to Bruce Wayne in class. He figured out Batman’s secret identity by smelling him. That’s the weirdest thing ever. Also, he dressed like a pencil.
Number Two: Even Weirder Monsters
The villains are a handful, but they’re nothing compared to the weird alien and monster villains Batman has faced during his tenure as the world’s greatest crime fighter.
Despite his gothic origins, Batman makes the shift to outer-space superhero and monster-mashing basher pretty seamlessly. That might explain why he’s able to make short work of the fuming Time Creature, his pal Superman’s seemingly harmless but hulked out alien pet, the bug-eyed Alien From Beyond, an assortment of giant disembodied hands bent on causing crimes, a creature named Golanth who can fire deadly rays and flames from his tentacle feet, the Sorcerer from the Stars and his monstrous Zelaphod, the titanic Creature from Planet X, and literally dozens more.
The Rainbow Creature (above) was able to pull strange tricks on Batman and Robin – changing the very shape of their bodies and twisting them beyond recognition. The weirdest thing? It wasn’t the first time an alien villain transmogrified the Dynamic Duo into bizarre shapes. If anything, he was a Rainbow Creature-come-lately.
Number Three: The Weird Weapons
You can’t imagine Batman without thinking of his famous Utility Belt, a collection of pouches, cylinders and hooks which stores Batman’s increasingly complex array of crime fighting gadgets. Looking for a handheld flame thrower? Need a snap-on gas filter? Does an impossible task call for a loop of unbreakable steel twine or a powerful hand-held laser? Don’t worry, Batman’s got one in his belt!
Probably the most iconic weapon hanging from Batman’s belt loops is the Batarang, a loosely bat-shaped boomerang which Batman and Robin fling with wild abandon, knocking guns out of hands, slugging crooks unconscious and, when the situation calls for it, slicing ropes and such with special razor-edged batarangs. You have to hope that they never accidentally grab a razor-sharp batarang when they’re reaching for the club-a-crook-unconscious batarangs.
The much-beloved 1966 motion picture which spun off from the Batman television show of the time introduced another of Batman’s most famous accoutrements: Bat-Anti-Shark-Repellant! It worked a treat, but don’t forget that he also had backup sprays for dealing with manta rays, barracudas and whales!
Number Four: The Sidekicks
What is Batman without Robin? Well, he’s still Batman, but the association of Batman with his sidekicks is so strong that it just doesn’t seem right to see him operating solo. That’s probably why Batman has loaded up on Robins – first, orphaned circus performer Dick Grayson, then another orphaned circus performer Jason Todd, then Tim Drake (eventually orphaned), Stephanie Brown (not orphaned, but her father is a jerk), and Damian Wayne (not orphaned...in fact, that’s Batman’s son!). And then there are all the Robins portrayed in speculative futures, and in alternate timelines. A plethora of Robins!
But Robins aren’t everything! There’s been a few Batwomen, some Batgirls, a Batwing, a Blackbat, a whole passel of Outsiders, and assorted heroes who briefly operated under Batman’s tutelage.
But more important than any of those are the bat-animal sidekicks! Besides the ever-popular Ace the Bat-Hound, there’s always Mogo the Bat-Gorilla and even the Bat-Cow! It’s weird that he’s never trained any bats as sidekicks, but there’s always the future!
Number Five: The Movies
Since Batman’s second motion picture outing in 1989, there has hardly been more than a few years between Batman on film. There have been two films directed by Tim Burton (Batman and Batman Returns), two by Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever and, very likely the enjoyably low point of the franchise, Batman and Robin), a trio of films directed by Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), and one from the auspices of Zack Snyder (Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice). Seven movies over twenty-eight years means that there has been a Batman movie on average every four years – and that’s not even counting the Lego Batman movies or the direct-to-DVD animated features!
And that number is only going to increase, with Justice League debuting later this year and a rumored four additional Batman movies to follow (plus a cameo appearance in Suicide Squad). Before long, there’ll be enough movies for a premium all-Batman cable channel. Be sure to tune in – same bat-time, same Bat-Channel (438 on your cable guide).