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The Batman Filmography by Mark S. Reinhart Book

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Overview: This is a complete reference work to the history of Batman big screen works, from the 1940s serials through the campy 1960s TV show and film, and up through the series of Warner Bros. summer blockbusters that climaxed with Christopher Nolan's 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises. Chapters on each Batman feature include extensive film and production credits, a production history, and a critical analysis of the movie relative to the storied history of the Batman character. The book also examines the Batman-related works and events that took place in the years between the character's film exploits.

The Batman Filmography by Mark S. Reinhart Book Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
The Batman Filmography by Mark S. Reinhart Book

The Batman Filmography by Mark S. Reinhart Book Read Online Chapter One

The Creation of Batman and His World, 1939–1942

His appearance has changed little in his 70-plus years—he wears a dark cowl outfitted with pointed ears. The cowl attaches to a voluminous dark cape with scallops cut into the bottom. When he spreads his arms wide, the cape opens and he creates a frightening image that looks like a giant version of his namesake. He wears a gray, form-fitting acrobat-style bodysuit with a bat emblem on his chest, dark gloves and boots. Around his waist is a combat-style utility belt, outfitted with climbing gear (known as the Batrope), boomerang (known as the Batarang) and various other items such as infrared flashlight, smoke pellets and knockout gas. Only in his earliest adventures did he ever carry lethal weapons such as guns.

The colors and style of this basic costume have been subject to many revisions over the decades. Sometimes his cape, cowl, gloves and boots are blue, sometimes they are black. Sometimes his pointed ears are long, sometimes they are short. His bodysuit might be similar to regular clothing material, or it might be outfitted with heavy-duty body armor. Sometimes his eyes can be seen through his cowl, but often they appear as nothing more than eerie white slits. The bat emblem on his chest might just be a black bat silhouette, or it might be a black bat silhouette inside of a yellow oval. But in all of these incarnations, he is immediately recognizable as the master crimefighter Batman.

The history of Batman began with the publishing company that has always owned the rights to the character, DC Comics. “DC” was an acronym for Detective Comics, one of the company’s initial comic book titles first published in March 1937. The company would adopt several different official names as it grew during its first few decades of existence, but it was almost always popularly known as “DC”—in fact, its comic titles began carrying the “DC” logo on their covers as early as 1940. Consequently, we’ll refer to the company as DC Comics throughout this book.

Batman was created for DC in 1939 by Bob Kane, a 23-year-old artist from New York City. The success of Superman, who made his debut in DC’s Action Comics the previous year, was so great that the company was anxious to introduce new characters that might capitalize on their readers’ interest in costumed heroes. DC editor Vin Sullivan suggested to Kane that he ought to design such a character, which led Kane to come up with the idea of a costumed hero called “Batman.” Kane took his idea to Bill Finger, a writer with whom Kane had collaborated on several comic series published in 1938 and early 1939, and the two began to piece together Batman’s appearance and personality. Though Kane would receive a solo byline for creating Batman from DC, in reality the finished character was the result of his collaboration with Finger.1

In developing their hero, Kane and Finger were influenced by a number of diverse sources. The idea of Batman’s scalloped cape came from Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of a glider he had designed called the “ornithopter,” which was outfitted with bat-like wings. The idea of a heroic figure conversely clad in a dark, sinister-looking costume like a villain’s came from pulp magazine characters such as Johnston McCulley’s Zorro and Walter Gibson’s The Shadow. The concept of that hero being a seemingly idle socialite by day and a masked vigilante by night was drawn from the Zorro character as well. Zorro’s influence on Batman did not end there—Kane singled out the first Zorro film adaptation, the 1920 motion picture The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks in the title role, as being one of his biggest inspirations to create Batman.

The Mark of Zorro was not the only motion picture to shape Batman’s creation. The 1930 film The Bat Whispers was instrumental in helping Kane to formulate the idea of a bat motif for his character. The Bat Whispers was directed by Roland West, and based on the 1920 hit Broadway play The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood. The film’s plot revolved around a murderer known as “The Bat” who stalked his victims while wearing a black mask and cloak. The bat-like shadows that “The Bat” cast in a number of the film’s scenes would have an immediate and profound influence on the manner in which Kane would render Batman.2

Since Kane was an artist, he was primarily seeing Batman as a visual character. This meant that it was up to Finger the writer to flesh out just what going on inside Batman’s mind. Inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective character Sherlock Holmes, Finger decided to make Batman a master detective. Batman’s incredible investigative and deductive abilities would become as important to his persona as his cape and cowl.3

“The Bat-Man” in his comic book debut “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” Detective Comics #27, May 1939. Art by Bob Kane.

All of these different literary and visual elements were synthesized into Kane and Finger’s Batman. “The Bat-man,” as he was initially billed, first appeared in a story entitled “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” in Detective Comics #27, May 1939. Remarkably, from this very first appearance much of the Batman mythos that would endure for generations was already firmly in place. The opening panel of the story featured the Bat-man standing on a city rooftop, seen only in silhouette, with his arms outstretched so that his cape looked like giant bat wings. In “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” the Bat-man was portrayed as an ordinary man with no superhuman powers like Superman—he was simply a dark-costumed vigilante who was both a skilled fighter and detective. Commissioner Gordon appeared in the story as well, though he and the Bat-man were not yet confidants.

In the story, the Bat-man encounters Alfred Stryker, a crooked businessman who is murdering his fellow business partners in order to gain control of their jointly owned chemical corporation. The Bat-man thwarts Stryker’s scheme, and at the end of the story Stryker suffers a fatal fall into one of his own chemical tanks after being punched out by the cowled crimefighter. Upon Stryker’s death, the Bat-man says “a fitting end for his kind.” The last panels of “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” revealed that the man behind the cowl was secretly Bruce Wayne, a young socialite. The biggest difference between this early Bat-man and the character he would evolve into was that he was not opposed to seeing criminals killed.

As previously mentioned, the pulp magazine hero the Shadow was one of a number of characters that Kane and Finger drew on to create Batman. But Batman’s debut story owed its existence exclusively to the Shadow. As Finger went about writing “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” he borrowed liberally from writer Theodore Tinsley’s 1936 Shadow pulp story “Partners of Peril.” In “Partners of Peril,” the Shadow battles a crooked businessman who is trying to murder all of his fellow business partners in order to gain control of their jointly owned chemical corporation. In other words, most every key plot point found in “Partners of Peril” is in “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” with the Bat-man standing in for the Shadow!4

This fact might lead one to question just how original a character Batman ever really was. After all, we have seen that Batman was derivative of a number of literary and visual works, most of them classics in their own right. And now we see that his first story was an exact trace-over of one of these works. Perhaps the answer to this question is that Batman wasn’t all that original—but original or not, he was such a fascinating blend of diverse influences that comic audiences were instantly drawn to him. Batman’s quick success left no reason to debate his originality. The timeless appeal of the character seemed to be a forgone conclusion even as the ink was drying on his first few comic appearances. He was just, well, Batman, and that’s all there was to it.

Batman’s initial success let Kane, Finger and DC Comics know they were really on to something, and it was obvious that such a strong character needed an equally strong origin. Kane and Finger delivered the goods, providing Batman with a very memorable background story. The two-page “Legend—The Batman and How He Came to Be” served as a preface to the Detective Comics #33, November 1939 story “Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom.” It revealed that Batman was born from a horrific event—Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered by a thief right in front of Bruce’s eyes when he was just a boy.

Bruce, Thomas and Martha Wayne had just come out of a movie theater when a robber came up to them and demanded their valuables. He tried to take Martha’s necklace, and when Thomas Wayne tried to stop him, the robber shot both of them. Bruce was left an orphan, and the tragedy so traumatized him that he vowed to spend the rest of his life waging war on all criminals to avenge his parents’ deaths. Over the years, Bruce trained himself to physical and mental perfection, until he was a great athlete, scientist and detective. He decided to wear a costume when he was fighting crime because he felt that criminals were a “superstitious, cowardly lot” and a disguise would “strike terror into their hearts.” As he was sitting in his study thinking about what his costume should be, a bat flew in the open window. He said, “It’s an omen ... I shall become a bat!”

Batman’s success led Kane to bring in additional creative talent to help develop new Batman comic stories. The most notable of Kane’s assistants during Batman’s early years was artist Jerry Robinson. At first Robinson simply worked on adding lettering and backgrounds to Kane’s finished work. But Robinson’s work was so good that Kane soon entrusted him with the task of inking and embellishing most all of Kane’s rough pencil sketches. Since Robinson’s style of drawing was generally more realistic than Kane’s cartoonish renderings based on the look of newspaper strips such as Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, Batman comic stories began to evolve into more visually complex works.5

Kane’s willingness to allow Robinson to incorporate his own style of drawing into Batman comics was a decision that would have far-reaching implications for the visual appearance of the character. The task of plotting Batman’s adventures was a collaborative effort right from the start—Kane relied on DC Comics writers like Bill Finger and Gardner Fox to supply his visuals with a strong narrative. But the art in those first Batman comics was Kane’s. Once Kane let Robinson change his original image of Batman, it paved the way for numerous artists to develop their own distinctive interpretations of the character. Though well into the 1960s Batman stories would carry the sole byline of “Bob Kane,” in reality the character would grow into a visual icon not through the efforts of Kane, but the many uncredited artists who subsequently drew him. (We’ll be examining a number of these uncredited artists throughout this book.)

In Detective Comics #38, April 1940, Kane and company gave Batman a young sidekick. Robin made his debut in a story entitled “Robin—The Boy Wonder.” In the story, Robin wore a costume consisting of a red tunic emblazoned with a yellow “R,” a yellow cape, and a black mask. The costume also featured green short sleeves, short pants, gloves, and boots. The Robin costume would not be subjected to the same number of changes that the Batman costume would be over the years—amazingly, Robin would be depicted wearing this exact same costume in virtually all of his comic book appearances from 1940 up until the early 1990s!

In “Robin—The Boy Wonder,” a young circus performer named Dick Grayson suffers a tragedy much like the one that led Bruce Wayne to become Batman. Dick and his parents have a trapeze act called “The Flying Graysons,” and Dick’s parents are killed when their trapeze ropes fail during a performance. But their deaths are not an accident—the ropes were sabotaged by a group of gangsters demanding protection money from the owner of the circus. Bruce happens to be attending the circus the night of the Grayson murders; because Dick’s heartbreak so closely mirrors his own, he decides to take the boy on as a junior partner. Bruce reveals his secret life as Batman to Dick, and trains him in the ways of fighting crime. Dick adopts the guise of Robin, a “young Robin Hood of today.” Together Batman and Robin bring the gangsters responsible for the Grayson murders to justice.

It seems strange that Kane and his Batman collaborators would have chosen to pair their dark, lone crimefighter with a brightly costumed, smiling child. But Kane felt that since the majority of comics readers were children, a heroic character close to their own age would have great appeal to them. And Kane proved to be right—after Robin’s debut, sales of Detective Comics soared.6

But even though Robin would become an iconic character almost as recognizable as Batman himself, his presence in Batman’s world led to a debate among Batman fans that continues to this day. Many Batman fans feel that the character works best when he is a lone vigilante, while others have argued that Robin’s bright costume and sunny disposition serve as an effective contrast to Batman’s dark persona. But no matter how one feels about Robin, there is no denying the fact that from his 1940 debut up until the present he has remained an integral part of the Batman mythos.

At any rate, by early 1940 Batman and Robin were so popular that, like their fellow DC character Superman, they received their own comic book title. Batman #1, Spring 1940, was one of the most momentous single comics ever published. It was not only the first-ever comic strictly devoted to the adventures of Batman, but it also featured the first-ever appearances of the villains the Joker and the Catwoman (known simply as “the Cat” at the time). It also reprinted Batman’s two-page origin first featured in Detective Comics #33.

The two Joker stories in Batman #1 were by far the most compelling ones in the comic book. The first, simply titled “The Joker,” served as an introduction to the villain, whose chalk white face, blood red lips and green hair looked like the grinning court jester face found on the Joker cards in many playing card decks. Clad in a bright purple suit, the Joker was an insane, murderous and diabolically clever criminal.

In the story, the Joker interrupts a radio broadcast to announce that he will kill millionaire Henry Claridge and steal a rare diamond from him. The villain makes good on his promise when Claridge falls over dead, and his face locks in a ghastly smile. We learn that the Joker actually stole the diamond the night before, and at the same time injected the sleeping Claridge with his own mix of deadly “Joker venom” chemicals concocted to have a delayed reaction of 24 hours.

Batman and Robin in “the Joker,” Batman #1, Spring 1940. Art by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson.

The sensational murder attracts the attention of Batman and Robin. Batman learns that a rival criminal with a grudge against the Joker plans to ambush and kill him. Batman is lying in wait unseen when the ambush goes down, but the criminals spot him and open fire on him instead of the Joker. Batman fights off the criminals while the Joker escapes in the confusion. Batman gives chase, and their first-ever confrontation ends in favor of the Joker, when the killer delivers a kick to Batman’s head and knocks him off of a bridge into a river.

Later, Batman and Robin encounter the Joker while he is in the process of murdering a prominent judge who once sent him to prison. Robin follows the Joker as he leaves the scene of the crime, but the Joker delivers a surprise blow to the boy’s head and knocks him out. The Joker is about to administer his Joker venom to Robin just as Batman bursts on the scene. He fights off the Joker and saves his partner, but the Joker again eludes capture. That same night, Batman and Robin are able to track down the Joker while he attempts another robbery. This time the crimefighters defeat him and send him to prison.

Unbelievably, “The Joker” contained another milestone in Batman history that would eventually become every bit as important as the Joker himself. In the story, Batman was referred to by the nickname “The Dark Knight” for the first time. After the previously-mentioned confrontation when the Joker knocks Batman into a river, a title tells us that “The shock of cold water quickly revives the Dark Knight.” Those three words would not immediately be cemented to the Batman character after Batman #1 was published, but over the years they would be used to such great effect by important Batman writers that “The Dark Knight” would become DC’s official second name for Batman.

The Joker in “The Joker,” Batman #1, Spring 1940. Art by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson.

The second Joker story in Batman #1, entitled “The Joker Returns,” was set a scant two days after the first story. In “The Joker Returns,” the ghastly criminal escapes prison and goes on a crime spree similar to the murders and robberies he committed in “The Joker.” Batman and Robin again track him down and do battle with him, and this time during a fight the Joker is stabbed by his own knife, which he was wielding against the crimefighters. Batman and Robin leave the scene thinking the Joker is gone for good, but the last panel shows that the Joker’s wound is not mortal, and he will live to plague the heroes yet again.

Interestingly, “The Joker Returns” was originally supposed to end with the villain actually dying. But DC Comics editor Whitney Ellsworth immediately recognized what a strong character the Joker was, and requested that the story be revised so that the Joker could be used in subsequent Batman stories.7

Ellsworth could not have been more right—in creating the Joker, the team of Kane, Finger and Robinson had struck gold yet again. From the first panels of “The Joker,” the character was as memorable and fully formed as Batman and Robin had been in their debut stories. And it was immediately obvious that he was the perfect arch-enemy for the crimefighters, because everything about him was the complete opposite of Batman and Robin. Batman and Robin both had very intricately crafted origins so that readers knew who they were and how they had become such great heroes. The Joker had no origin—no one knew where he came from or who he was, his villainy just seemed to materialize from out of nowhere. Batman was a hero conversely clad in a dark costume much like a villain would wear, and the Joker was a villain conversely clad in a bright costume much like a harmless, funny clown would wear. Batman and Robin stood as powerful symbols of all that was noble and honorable, and the Joker stood as an equally powerful symbol of all that was chaotic and evil.

Like Batman, the Joker also was a character that was inspired by the motion picture medium. Kane’s and Robinson’s original drawings of the Joker were a direct copy of actor Conrad Veidt’s makeup in The Man Who Laughs (1928), a silent historical drama based on the novel by Victor Hugo.8 Veidt’s character in The Man Who Laughs has been disfigured in a horrible way—his face and mouth have been cut into a permanent, grotesque smile. In the film, Veidt looks exactly like the drawings of the Joker in Batman #1—in fact, he looks far more like the traditional “comic book” version of the Joker than Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger would look when they actually played the character on the big screen!

The Catwoman’s debut in an untitled Batman #1 story was less auspicious than the Joker’s. As previously mentioned, she was known only as “The Cat,” and she was simply a jewel thief who wore ordinary street clothes. Still, one major aspect of her character that would both plague and thrill Batman was already in place—she was a very beautiful woman, and Batman was immediately attracted to her even though she was on the wrong side of the law. In fact, at the end of the story Batman and Robin capture the Cat, but Batman is so taken with her that he allows her to escape.

The character next appeared in another untitled story in Batman #2 that also featured the Joker. She still wore street clothes instead of a special costume in Batman #2, but she was now being billed as “The Cat-woman.” By Batman #3, she was given her first costume: In “The Batman vs. the Cat-Woman,” she wore a cloak and a mask that looked like a real cat. By the mid–1940s, she would lose the cat mask for a purple dress and cat-styled cowl. But that costume also would not last; in fact, over the years her appearance would vary more than any other major Batman adversary. She would eventually be depicted in no less than ten completely different costumes. However, her real name would never change—when not dressed as the Catwoman, she was known as Selina Kyle.

DC editor Whitney Ellsworth had made another Bat-decision that was every bit as important as his decision to preserve the character of the Joker for further use. Ellsworth informed Kane and company that he wanted the character to stop using lethal force against criminals in future Batman comics. Batman’s use of such force had been a rarity over the course of his first adventures, but Ellsworth decreed that it cease entirely. This decision was reinforced by the fact that Batman now had a child as his junior partner, and it seemed inappropriate to depict Batman killing criminals with a youngster standing by his side.9 Plus, Batman and Robin’s aversion to lethal force made good narrative sense—the crimefighters had both suffered greatly over the murders of their loved ones, so it seemed only fitting that they would be completely opposed to taking another person’s life. Once Batman gave up killing for good, he became an even more heroic character because he now held the moral high ground over his adversaries.

Not long after Batman stopped using lethal force on criminals, he also became a confidant of Gotham City’s official law enforcement agencies. Police Commissioner Gordon had appeared in Batman’s very first adventure, but at the time Gordon considered him an outlaw. Gordon changed his mind about Batman in Batman #7, October-November 1941: In the story “The People vs. The Batman,” the Commissioner finally realized how valuable Batman was to Gotham as a crimefighter, so he appointed the masked man an honorary member of the Gotham City Police Department. The bond between Batman and Gordon, forged out of the two men’s desire to see all criminals brought to justice, would become one of the most enduring elements of Batman comic stories over the years. However, this bond never led to Batman revealing his secret identity to the Commissioner.

Batman’s character began to soften somewhat after he became a “legitimate” presence in Gotham City. He started to come across not so much as a grim avenger of evil, but as a benevolent, albeit strangely dressed, police officer. Some Batman fans regretted this change; they felt that the introduction of Robin had already diluted the character’s power, and making him an officially sanctioned crimefighter further watered him down. In fact, throughout the years DC Comics writers would often concoct scenarios that pitted Batman against legitimate law enforcement agencies, even if only temporarily, in order to give the character back some of the edge he had in his 1939-40 adventures.

One might wonder why this is the first time in this discussion of Batman’s history that Batman’s hometown, the fictional Gotham City, has been mentioned by name. The reason for this is quite simple—Batman’s city was not given the name “Gotham City” until Batman #4, Winter 1941, almost two years after the character’s debut. From the very beginning, Kane and company depicted Batman operating in a large metropolitan area modeled after New York City—it just took them a while to settle on a final name for that metropolitan area.

Gotham City was not the only element of Batman’s mythos that Kane and company introduced into Batman comic stories as a “work in progress.” Batman’s most recognizable piece of equipment in his crimefighting arsenal, his sleek, state-of-the-art car the Batmobile, also debuted in a not quite fully realized form. The first time Batman and Robin were shown driving a car that was referred to as “the Batmobile” was in “The Secret Cavern,” a story that appeared in Detective Comics #48, February 1941—but the car was a normal-looking red automobile without any bat-themed body stylings. A much more distinctive Batmobile debuted in Batman #5, Spring 1941, in a story entitled “The Riddle of the Missing Card.” This Batmobile, dark blue in color, sported a stylized bat head on its grill and a large batwing-like tailfin on its roof. The Batmobile as it was drawn in “The Riddle of the Missing Card” would define the car’s basic appearance well into the 1960s.

Batman’s popularity continued to grow at such a rate that he and Robin began appearing regularly in a third DC comic title. World’s Best Comics #1, published in Spring 1941, contained stories featuring DC’s three most popular characters, Superman, Batman and Robin. The title of the comic was changed to World’s Finest Comics the very next issue.

Though the covers of World’s Finest Comics depicted the heroes appearing all together, Batman and Robin actually appeared in stories of their own, and Superman appeared in stories of his own. The three heroes would not begin teaming up in World’s Finest Comics until 1954.

As previously mentioned, Bob Kane hired other artists to help him keep up with his Batman comic workload, and a number of these uncredited artists had a visual impact on the character that was as great as Kane’s own. One of these artists was Dick Sprang, who began drawing Batman stories and comic covers in 1941. Sprang’s imaginative, detailed renderings of Batman and his world were among the most memorable Batman images of the 1940s and ’50s.10

In the opening of the Joker story “Case of the Costume-Clad Killers” (Detective Comics #60, February, 1942), the Batsignal was used to summon Batman and Robin for the first time. The Batsignal, a giant spotlight outfitted with a bat silhouette, was located on the roof of the Gotham City Police headquarters. Whenever Commissioner Gordon needed to consult with Batman and Robin, he would shine the spotlight into the night sky, projecting the bat silhouette so that it was visible throughout Gotham City. When Bruce and Dick saw the signal, they would change into their costumes and race to police headquarters.

The Joker and Catwoman had proven to be such immediate successes that Kane and company worked to create more costumed foes for Batman and Robin to square off against. Not all of their early villains were as memorable as the Joker or Catwoman, but a surprising number of them turned out to become icons in their own right. The Penguin, a short, portly criminal who wore a top hat and tuxedo in order to resemble his namesake, was introduced in late 1941. He always carried an umbrella, and these umbrellas usually served a more sinister purpose than just protecting him from getting wet—they were actually designed to conceal weapons such as guns and knockout gas dispensers. The Penguin was a dangerous villain, but his real name was quite comical—that name was Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot!

In 1942, the villain Two-Face was introduced. Two-Face was originally a handsome, prominent Gotham City attorney named Harvey Kent whose face was horribly scarred by acid thrown at him by a crime boss. (Kent’s name was changed to “Dent” not long after his debut appearance, perhaps because there was already a rather famous DC character with the last name of Kent!) More accurately, half of Kent’s face was scarred—the acid hit only one side of him, leaving his face half-handsome and half-repulsive.

The tragedy unhinged Kent’s mind, and he turned to crime. Because he had “two faces,” he became obsessed with the concept of duality, and his crimes always related to the number two in some way. He carried a two-headed silver dollar with him at all times that had one clean, shiny side and one scarred side. He often flipped the coin to help him to decide whether or not to undertake his criminal schemes—only if the coin landed scarred side up would Two-Face would set his evil plans in motion.

So by the early 1940s, many of the elements were in place that would make Batman such a popular character for the next seven decades. He was a costumed crimefighter living in Gotham City who was opposed to the use of lethal force, and who was officially recognized by the Gotham Police Department. His adventures were published at least three different comic books, Detective Comics, Batman and World’s Finest Comics. He was aided in his fight against crime by his young partner Robin. The pair maintained an arsenal of crimefighting equipment, including their custom car the Batmobile. And Batman and Robin had a number of costumed villains to fight who were as instantly recognizable as they were.

The motion picture serial was a popular form of film entertainment during these years that Batman’s mythos was taking shape. Serials were multi-chapter films that were presented in theaters one chapter at a time in weekly installments. Most were action-adventure pieces, full of fight scenes, breathless chases and unapologetic melodrama. Obviously, serials were a perfect format for costumed comic characters like Batman. So Batman made his screen debut just five years after he was created, in the 1943 Columbia serial Batman. We’ll examine Batman in detail in the next chapter.

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