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.
Sure enough, Batman is called THE Batman in this issue.
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.
E. Nelson Bridwell retells the origin of Robin with a panel where Batman introduces himself as THE Batman.
Frank Robbins (also well known for his awesome art on Marvel's The Invaders) has a criminal use the phrase The Batman.
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: