As comic books have evolved over the years, their stories and characters have grown as well. Golden age superheroes have been given sleek new looks, and darker storylines as comics move into the modern, or dark age. Out of all of the golden age heroes, it seems as though Batman has undergone the most change, which can be most seen in his film adaptations. Because film is so closely related to the comic book world, it is useful to examine how Batman has been translated onto the big screen, throughout multiple adaptations. We first begin with the original Batman comic from 1939. Here, Batman looks fairly similar to the Batman we all know today. He is dark, with a bat mask covering his face, and he wears a cape resembling bat wings. Most people would agree that this iconic image embodies Batman as a character. His original design however, lacked his famous utility belt. This design would be released soon after the first Batman comic. In 1940, Robin, Batman’s famous sidekick was introduced, giving us the now iconic “Dynamic Duo.” The two went hand in hand for awhile, and were even the prime focus of the 1966 film based on the successful television show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. This film is known for its comedic and downright campy tone, just like its predecessor television series. This was a turning point for Batman’s character because it brought comedy to a previously darker character. Because this was the silver era of comics, and the CCA had regulated the content of these books, the then updated design was translated into the TV and film medium. In addition to the overall ridiculousness of the film, Batman’s character design was also changed to be more exaggerated. His coloring is lighter, and his face mask contains particularly prominent eyebrows, giving him a more comical appearance than his original, dark look.
Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” marked a return to a more serious titular character, while still keeping some of the cheesy and campy elements. Batman’s design harkens back to its original look, with a sleek suit, and an intimidating air about it. This film also left out Robin’s character, making Batman a solo act again. Robin wouldn’t return until the 1997 flop, “Batman and Robin,” which in some ways, could be seen as a return to camp. However instead of a ridiculous looking outfit, this Batman simply wears all black, right down to the utility belt. The final film to look at in Batman’s development is actually a trilogy of films directed by Christopher Nolan. These films are notorious for their darkness, released in the heart of the “dark ages.” They are more based off of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight comic, which is also known for its dark interpretation of Batman. This version is easily the most intimidating of all the Batmans looked at. He, like the 1997 Batman, wears all black, right down to the utility belt and small intricate detailing on his suit. Speaking of detailing, this Batman has the most of any character model all over his mask and armor, already setting him aside from the pack. But it’s his face and expressions that really give him that intimidating air that he’s known for. His already frightening glare is magnified by the design of his mask. So what do all of these models say about Batman? Well for one, he is a character that is always changing. His pattern however goes back and forth between extremely dark, and extremely campy. Perhaps it is because he is such an extreme character, that he cannot rest in the middle. The closest he came to this was Tim Burton’s film, but even Burton ended up making him far darker than not. Whatever Batman is, it is safe to say that he will continue to evolve as a character, whether it be funny o serious.