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1939
Fifty Years Ago

May 2024
1min read


The immediate success National Comics enjoyed in 1938 with Superman inspired its editor to introduce another costumed superhero in the May 1939 issue of Detective Comics . The new character was a crime-fighting avenger called the Batman, and like Superman, he was an instant sensation.

Early sketches of Batman too closely resembled Superman, so the editors added bat ears and a hood to his costume. They need not have worried about comparisons. Batman was a complete original. As drawn by Bob Kane and written by Bill Finger, the first Batman comics evoked the atmosphere of the era’s gangster films, presenting its hero as a ruthless vigilante who hounded criminals by exploiting psychological weaknesses, especially fear of the night. An orphan driven to crime fighting by memories of the murder of his parents, the early Batman was not above simply gunning down a lawbreaker.

Huge success in the comics and a whimsical 1960s television show sanitized Batman’s original image, but they also popularized some of the most inventive villains in the comic genre, among them the Penguin, the Joker, and the Riddler.

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