Books

Bob Kane and the Origins of Batman

Robert Kahn, professionally known as Bob Kane (born October 24, 1915, died November 3, 1998), was an American comic book writer as well as artist (both comics and later fine arts) who had co-created (with Bill Finger), that iconic and most beloved of DC Comics character – The Batman.

Bob was inducted into the comic book industry’s own Jack Kirby Hall of Fame (named after the most famous comic book super hero creator of all time) back in 1994. He started his career as a trainee animator in 1934 and became a comic book animator and inker by 1936.

Batman: Origins

In early 1939 as America was coming out of the great depression and the Second World War was looming over the horizon, creators in the comic book industry realized the need for another super hero in line with their runaway success ‘Super Man’. The world’s appetite for super heroes could not be satisfied with just one. They needed something else, albeit one that people could relate to more easily, rather than an alien Kryptonian. This is why the editors of the company were scrambling round for heroes with a more ‘human’ touch. In order to meet this demand, Robert Kane conceived “The Batman.”

According to Kane himself, the key influences for the character included the well-known 30s era swash buckling actor Douglas Fairbanks. As a matter of fact, his legendary portrayal of the sword waving Zorro was the key theme behind Batman’s creation. Apart from that, Leonardo da Vinci’s handmade diagram of his ornithopter flying machine (the diagram included huge bat like wings) as well as the Bat Whisperer – the runaway movie hit of 1930, were all pioneering influences in the creation of Batman as we know him today. Bob Kane didn’t just create Batman. He conceived an entire universe of characters that has gone on to enthrall generations of people. Such characters included Batman’s arch nemesis “The Joker” as well as his trusty sidekick Robin.

Robin

Image: Copyright DC Comics

The creation of Robin was inevitable because Batman had to talk to someone and thought bubbles were not the best way of showing how his investigations were progressing. When Bob created Batman, he did not give him any super powers as such, but rather, gave him Sherlock’s sharp mind as well as his exceptional deductive abilities. In many issues, he was able to demonstrate the sheer brilliance of his investigative technique by explaining the same to Robin, a young orphan boy he had adopted as his protégé and eventual successor.

There was sound marketing reasoning behind Bob’s introduction of Robin. Since he was a younger character, he was able to reach out to the younger generation of comic book readers in a way the dark and brooding Batman never could.

Bob retired from DC Comics in 1966 and chose to make a career as an artist. However, he was available as an advisor for many Batman movies and TV shows in the 80s and 90s, almost right up to his death, after a short illness in Los Angeles, California.

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