Batman is one the comic OGs. He, Superman, and Wonder Woman are some of the first heroes to fill the pages. They remain some of the most memorable today, even with the rise of so many other heroes. He’ll be 80 years old next year, so here’s a few of the best Batman versions we’ve seen in that long time.
Batman: Red Son
Superman: Red Son is a reversal of the classic Superman, having him born and raised in the USSR instead of America. Superman is a government superweapon for the Communists.
Batman has a small role in the three-issue story as an anarchist working with the Americans to stop Superman. With the help of scientist Lex Luthor, a rouge KGB operative, and Jim Olsen of the CIA, Batman kidnaps Wonder Woman, Superman’s lover.
Rather than risk capture, Batman commits suicide to prevent himself becoming another government pawn. This isn’t the classic Batman we usually think of, but this anarchist is definitely memorable for the role he plays.
Gotham By Gaslight
Steampunk Batman works in so many ways. That’s what we get in Gotham By Gaslight, considered by many to be the first Elseworlds story. In this Victorian-esque story, a turn of the century Bruce Wayne dons the steampunk cowl to help Inspector Gordon stop Jack the Ripper when he appears in Gotham. It becomes especially personal when the Ripper frames Bruce Wayne for the murders.
Gotham By Gaslight spawned the Elseworlds series, which gave us various alternate versions of our favorite superheroes. It allowed for the type of creative surge the comics industry needs to stay fresh. Gotham By Gaslight even had a sequel and was brought into the official multiverse of alternate Earth Batmans.
Batman Beyond is an animated series that tells the story of Terry McGinnis, a high schooler who discovers Batman’s identity after his father is murdered by corporate criminals. A now retired Bruce Wayne takes McGinnis under his wing, giving him training as a new era of Batman with enhanced gadgets and high-tech weaponry.
The series developed a healthy fanbase over three seasons and established McGinnis as a respectable alternate Batman who faced new villains and classic baddies alike. McGinnis has also been brought back since, keeping fans old and new entertained with his further adventures.
Adam West’s Batman was one of the most controversial versions ever. Created to cash in on the resurgence of popularity in comics during the 1960’s, the television show was completely unique from the Batman many fans had grown up reading. The dark, gritty vigilante detective was replaced with comedic plots, tropey clichés, and a family friendly caped crusader. There wasn’t much of a middle ground. You either loved him or you didn’t.
While some fans couldn’t adjust to a new version of Batman, Adam West’s portrayal introduced a new generation of fans to Batman. The popularity West helped create would lead to a revival of many older Batman villains. And as a reaction to the over-the-top campiness, many of the comics through the 70’s and 80’s were darker and more serious.
Love it or hate it, the late Adam West’s Batman is why we have so many of the Batmans we love now. And he enshrined his own unique version in the process.
The Animated Series
While not a huge diversion from the classic Batman, Batman: The Animated Series is what many people think of as the definitive Batman. The show was a cult classic, whose goal was to streamline all of the tropes and stories of the various Batmans and form them into a singular, more accessible character.
Many of Batman’s classic villains were reinvented like the crusader himself. We saw the introductions of new classic characters as well, such as Harley Quinn. But most important of all is the voice. Kevin Conroy has been the voice of Batman for 25 years, starting here. The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond, the Arkham video games. He’s all of them.
For many people, Batman: The Animated Series was their first introduction to Batman. And that same version is influencing many new variants coming out. There are numerous Batmans and most of them are pretty cool. But let’s be honest. When you hear the line, “I am vengeance! I am the night!,” only one of them finishes that sentence. “I am Kevin Conroy!”