It’s odd to think of a world before Batman. He’s the greatest fictional character ever created, and holds that title by such a margin that it’s really hard to even think of who might come second. Sherlock Holmes? Wonder Woman? Jesus? Either way, it’s Batman at number one.
And amazingly, this month marks 80 years since he first hit shelves, in Detective Comics #27, dated May 1939 but on sale in March. It took a little while for the character to properly form - to see him at his greatest, take a look at our best Batman graphic novels guide - but eventually everything was in place: the billionaire with the public-facing playboy persona and secret vigilante lifestyle, powered by his fierce intelligence, incredible skills and unending anger at injustice.
He’s gone through a lot of iterations - straight-up pulp hero, campy pop-art pinup, grim’n’gritty brooder - and he’s died a few times, been lost in time, had his spine broken, all sorts. He’s gone through a few sidekicks, had both Bat-Cow and Ace the Bat-Hound, and been in both some of the best and some of the stupidest films ever made. He’s Batman, he’s flippin’ brill.
DC and Warner Bros are celebrating eighty years of thumpin’ in the name of justice with a series of events. On March 15th, one and a half million bats (ONE AND A HALF MILLION BATS, ONE AND A HALF MILLION BATS, WHAT A WORLD-ENDING NIGHTMARE THAT SOUNDS LIKE, ONE AND A HALF MILLION BATS) will be released (CONSIDER NOT RELEASING THE BATS, THE ONE AND A HALF MILLION BATS, IT IS SO MANY BATS, MUST THESE BATS BE RELEASED?) in Austin, Texas, flying over the city’s Congress Bridge.
Various commemorative products, exhibitions and events will be launched using the hashtag #LongLiveTheBat, with celebrations lasting most of the year - at least until Batman Day on September 21st.
March 27th sees the publication of Detective Comics #1000, an oversized 96-page behemoth featuring an incredible lineup of comics talent (Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Tony Daniel, Tom King, Paul Dini, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Steve Epting and more) and an ace Jim Lee cover, of which this is part:
One eight-page story from it, a nice little tale by Brian Michael Bendis, is available in preview form here. Jim Lee also shared a sneaky preview of some of the art from a story he’s drawing from a Kevin Smith script:
Lovely stuff. You’re the best, Batman. You’re awesome when you;re a tubby leotarded Adam West, and you’re awesome when you’re a gravel-voiced showy-offy Christian Bale. You’re awesome when you’re in beautiful prestige-format hardbacks, and awesome when you’re in dog-eared poor-quality mass-market reprints. You’re awesome on your own, and awesome with your Bat-family, awesome when engaged in a decades-long will-they-won’t-they with Catwoman, awesome when punching the Joker in the mush for the 600th time. You’re awesome in the Game Boy version of the 1989 film, and completely fucking brilliant in the Arkham games.
You’re Batman, god damn it. Happy birthday.
(Pics: Getty Images, DC)