Sunday, November 8, 2015

Who Put the THE back in The Batman?


Reading the classic Night of the Hunter from Detective Comics 439, a panel where a criminal referred to Batman as THE Batman caught my attention.

I had always assumed that was sort of a modern addition to the character's name, but in looking it up on the web I discovered that using the article THE was originally how the character was called in the Golden Age.


This got me to wondering, when did THE disappear from Batman's name and when did it reappear?

Discussing this with FBU contributor Trey Causey, he directed me to OverthinkingIt.com which has a good article on the use of the Definitive Article THE in superhero names. As interesting as this article is, it didn't really answer my question. So, I decided to do some random sampling to see when the THE showed back up.

Here's what I determined. The article disappeared sometime during the period when Robin became a regular. While it would show up sometimes early on, as the 40's gave way to the 50's The Batman and Robin just got shortened down to Batman and Robin.


This stuck with Batman all during the Atomic Age stories as Batman was less a creature of the night and more an adventurer dealing with strange aliens.


My first assumption was that the article got added back sometime around the 70's, possibly when DC got rights to publish The Shadow. So, I checked out Batman 259 where the Shadow makes a guest appearance:


Sure enough, Batman is called THE Batman in this issue.

Still, I wondered if the use of the article hadn't been one of the changes that occurred as a result of the New Look Batman era. What I found is that during this era, a lot of stories featured Batman dealing with socially relevant issues:


So, without a real criminal element to the stories, for the most part of this era Batman is just called Batman.

However, around issue 213, E. Nelson Bridwell retells the origin of Robin with a panel where Batman introduces himself as THE Batman.

Shortly thereafter, in Batman 224, current Batman writer Frank Robbins (also well known for his awesome art on Marvel's The Invaders) has a criminal use the phrase The Batman.

Two things may have precipitated this:
1) This is near the time that Frank Robbins was also drawing The Shadow
2) This also happens to coincide with the time that Robin has left the comic as Batman's sidekick.

The combination of no sidekick and the original pulp avenger floating around DC may have caused Robbins to reintroduce the THE into Batman's name. This is also a period when DC Editorial (Julius Schwartz) gives Robbins the freedom to move away from the socially relevant stories and return Batman to darker story lines.

While we may never know the exact catalyst, the result is that from this point on, the THE continues on into modern usage.

And despite some creators attempts to put a new spin on his name:

The Batman is still with us.

- Jim


7 comments:

Trey said...

Good detective work, Jim. Worthy of the Batman.

Britt Reid said...

The return to "The" Batman occured as the tv series was cancelled in 1969 and DC decided to go back to the darker version.
The turning point is Detective Comics #389 (July 1969)"Batman's Evil Eye" written by Frank Robbins and illustrated by Bob Brown and Joe Giella under a great Neal Adams cover.
In the story, Batman (no "The" at this point) muses about the fact criminals no longer fear him as they did in "the early days".
But over the next few days, criminals start freaking out more and more when he shows up, with one screaming "It's the--the--B-B-B-Batman!" and collapsing in a moaning heap!
SPOILER: The Scarecrow is behind the whole thing, hoping to cause Batman (excuse me, THE Batman) to frighten himself to death.
But the plan backfires, and, after capturing the Scarecrow, The Batman decides to once more capitalize on using the fact that "criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot" and use the psychological tool of the bat imagery to his advantage.
From then on, THE Batman was back!

Jim Shelley said...

@Britt Reid - Thank you Britt! I didn't cross compare Detective Comics against Batman but your finding confirms my belief that it was Frank Robbins who reinstituted the article THE before Batman.

If you don't mind, I would like to update this article with your comments (giving you full credit.)

I was also considering adding a side note about Robbin's character, The Spook in the article which I left out in my original draft.

Britt Reid said...

Please feel free to use any of the info I presented.
Unfortunately, I don't have scans of the interiors of Detective #389.
Note: Robbins illustrated several issues of The Shadow (Mike Kaluta, though absolutely amazing, had serious deadline problems), but Michael Uslan (who produced the Batman movies) and Denny O'Neil wrote the tales.
Robbins wrote and illustrated stories in both Batman and Detective, but, IIRC, never did both scripting and art in any issue!
BTW, Denny O'Neil wrote both of The Shadow's appearances in Batman, which you can read here...
http://heroheroinehistory.blogspot.com/2011/05/reading-room-batman-shadow-who-knows.html
and here...
http://crimeandpunishmentcomics.blogspot.com/2012/01/batman-shadow-night-of-shadow-part-1.html
Additional trivia:
Neither the two Batman/Shadow crossovers nor any of the Frank Robbins-illustrated Shadow stories has been reprinted!
I posted one of Robbins' Shadow stories here...
http://crimeandpunishmentcomics.blogspot.com/2012/03/shadow-night-of-neptunes-death-part-1.html

Guadalupe Williamson said...

There are so many cartoon series but batman is one of the most famous series and people like it watch it much even they wait for their episodes and get time to watch it even they are very busy in working with essay service reviews and this effort shows their love for this cartoon series.

Guadalupe Williamson said...

We know that batman are very interesting and famous cartoons that's why we see it in in different language in different countries according to demand that's why i like to see it when i feel tired because of too much ninja essays writing job and this is very useful way to relax.

Britt Reid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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