Batman’s milestone year: 75 enduring images of the Dark Knight

June 04, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
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The one that started it all. "Detective Comics" No. 27 saw Batman trying to solve "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate." (DC Entertainment)

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"Dectective Comics" No. 31, featuring one of the all-time classic covers of the Kane years. (Bob Kane/DC Entertainment)

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Heeeeere's Robin! "Detective Comics" No. 38 saw the introduction of the Boy Wonder. Kane and Finger (with Jerry Robinson) agreed that it would help to have a Watson-like character for Batman to bounce ideas off of and that having a young ward would offer readers an entry point of identification for Bruce Wayne. (DC Entertainment)

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Talk about a landmark issue: In 1940, Batman received his own title with this No. 1, which saw the debut of the Joker and Catwoman. (Bob Kane / DC Entertainment)

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One of the most celebrated covers in the comic's history, "Batman" No. 9, drawn by by Jack Burnley. (Jack Burnley/DC Entertainment)

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1941 saw the first of many shared panels with the Caped Crusader, the Boy Wonder and the Man of Steel. (DC Entertainment)

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Another classic character of the Batman universe made his debut in this 1943 issue: Alfred. (Jerry Robinson/DC Entertainment)

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Batman made his silver-screen debut in 1943, played by Lewis Wilson. Highly influenced by World War II fervor, the serial had its issues – the most offensive bits were deleted for the home video release in the 1980s – but it did introduce the Batcave and Alfred’s traditional appearance in the Batman universe. (Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)

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One of the founding fathers of the Gotham universe, Jerry Robinson is widely accepted among comic historians as co-creator of the Joker, though Kane always disputed his contribution. He was also a co-creator of Robin, alongside Kane and Finger. As one of the main early artists of the comic, his stamp on Batman is indelible. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

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The famous "double guns Joker" cover for "Detective Comics" No. 69, considered one of the finest covers of the Golden Age. Robinson auctioned the original art for the cover in 2010 for $400,000. (Jerry Robinson / DC Entertainment)

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Dick Sprang, who drew this 1943 cover, was reportedly Bob Kane's favorite "ghost" artist. (Dick Sprang/DC Entertainment)

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While the character of Catwoman debuted in Batman No. 1 as the Cat, her character became more developed throughout the '40s. (Bob Kane/DC Entertainment)

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While Two-Face, created by Kane and Finger, debuted in 1942, he "returned" in this 1948 issue, one of only a handful of appearances in the '40s. (Bob Kane/DC Entertainment)

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Introducing: the Riddler. A co-creation of Bill Finger and Dick Sprang, Edward Nigma (occasionally "Nashton") made his debut in 1948. (J. Winslow Mortimer/DC Entertainment)

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The Batmobile got a redesign thanks to Dick Sprang in this issue, which hit newsstands in December of 1949. (Dick Sprang/DC Entertainment)

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Catwoman's ambiguous relationship with the Caped Crusader continued to evolve in the early '50s, including this stint where she helped the Dynamic Duo fight crime. She disappeared from the series from 1954 to 1966 due to the introduction of the Comics Code Authority's standards for female characters. (J. Winslow Mortimer/DC Entertainment)

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Enter....Ace the Bat-Hound? Influenced by the Comics Code, the mid-1950s saw the introduction of a lighter tone and sillier characters like in this 1955 issue. (Win Mortimer/DC Entertainment)

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Originally going by the moniker Mr. Zero, the villain better known as Mr. Freeze made his debut in this 1959 issue. (DC Entertainment)

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After helping usher in the Silver Age of comics with his design of the Flash remake, Carmine Infantino presided over the new-look Batman, who debuted in this 1964 issue and jettisoned many of the sillier Comics Code-influenced aspects that had crept into the series. (Carmine Infantino / DC Entertainment)

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Holy Televison Series, Bat ... you get the idea. From 1966 to 1968, Adam West and Burt Ward starred as Batman and Robin, respectively, in the high camp classic, which also spurred the equally campy 1966 film "Batman." (ABC)

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Television's original Catwoman, Julie Newmar. She was replaced by Lee Meriwether for the feature film and Eartha Kitt in the series' final season, but for many Newmar remains the signature Catwoman. (Museum of Radio and Television)

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Yvonne Craig as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, who was introduced during the third and final season of the show. (ABC)

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Frank Gorshin as the Riddler in the role that earned him an Emmy nomination. (AP Photo/ABC)

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This 1966 issue introduced the modern era Batgirl, a.k.a. Barbara Gordon, created by DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz and the producers of the 1960s "Batman" television series as a way to introduce a new female character for the third season of the show. Writer Gardner Fox and artist Carmine Infantino handled her "million dollar debut." (DC Entertainment)

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This issue marked the debut of Poison Ivy, created by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff, as both a nod to the growing feminist sentiment at the time and as a character counterpoint to the decreasingly villainous Catwoman. (DC Entertainment)

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A classic Carmine Infantino cover featuring the Penguin from 1967. (DC Entertainment)

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Created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams, Man-Bat debuted in 1970 in "Detective Comics" No. 400. (Neal Adams/DC Entertainment)

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The early '70s saw a new dynamic duo come to Gotham: writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams, who presided over a beloved period for the Dark Knight, erasing much of the camp of the television series from memory. In this issue, one of their creations, Ra's al Ghul, makes his debut. (Neal Adams/DC Entertainment)

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A legendary Joker tale from the O'Neil/Adams era. (Neal Adams and Dick Giordano / DC Entertainment)

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A classic cover from Jim Aparo, one of the signature Batman artists, who worked on some the classic '80s tales in the series. (Aparo/DC Entertainment)

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Gerry Conway penned the story for this issue, which featured the return of Poison Ivy. In the early '80s, Conway would write the issues introducing Killer Croc and the second Robin, Jason Todd. (Dick Giordano / DC Entertainment)

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Consistently ranked at or among the top of all graphic novels, 1986's "The Dark Knight Returns," by Frank Miller with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley, remains one of the definitive takes on the Batman, influencing both "The Dark Knight Rises" and Zack Snyder's upcoming "Man of Steel" sequel. (Frank Miller/Lynn Varley / DC Entertainment)

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Talk about a hot streak. For a follow-up to "The Dark Knight Returns," Miller penned 1987's “Year One” story line, which revisited Bruce Wayne’s chilling origin story. It features cameos from Selina Kyle, Harvey Dent and also plumbs the arc of Jim Gordon’s history with the city. Much of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” was taken from Miller’s landmark work. (David Mazzucchelli / DC Entertainment)

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In keeping with the '80s renaissance of serious Batman storytelling came Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s 1988 take on the Joker, "Batman: The Killing Joke," which launched a thousand debates over violence in comics and still stands as a signature moment in Batman’s history. (Brian Bolland / DC Entertainment)

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A scene from "The Killing Joke," which altered the Batman universe. (Brian Bolland / DC Entertainment)

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And the hits kept coming as the decade continued. The "A Death in the Family" story arc saw the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. The death sentence was handed down by readers, who were given the option to call a 1-900 number and vote on Todd’s fate. Turns out the fans made pretty efficient executioners, as Batman was too late to save the second Robin from the Joker's blast. (DC Entertainment)

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In 1989, Batman returned to the silver screen in the Tim Burton-directed "Batman." Fans were initially worried when Michael Keaton was cast as the Batman, as the actor had primarily been known for his comedic roles. But Burton wanted Keaton after working with him on "Beetlejuice." Jack Nicholson starred as the Joker. The film's success was a watershed moment for the character.(Warner Bros.)

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After the chilling new standard set by Moore's "The Killing Joke," "Batman Annual" No. 14 in 1990 featured an intense look at Harvey Dent's origins, in a classic tale penned by Andrew Helfer. (Neal Adams / DC Entertainment)

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Following the success of "Batman," Burton returned to the director's chair for the 1992 sequel. It was to be his and Keaton's last dance in the pale moonlight with the franchise. (Warner Bros.)

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“Batman Returns” didn’t earn as much at the box office as its predecessor, and in his review Times film critic Kenneth Turan wrote that it was “a cheerless, brooding but always visually inventive film,” adding that Michael Keaton looked unhappy. The critic did find a bright spot, though, citing Michelle Pfeiffer’s “stylish and funny performance as the frumpy Selina Kyle and her alter ego, the whip-cracking gender-bending Catwoman.” (Warner Bros.)

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Michelle Pfeiffer won the role of Catwoman, after Annette Bening bowed out due to pregnancy and several other actresses turned it down. (Warner Bros.)

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Spurred by the success of the feature films, the beloved and Emmy-winning "Batman: The Animated Series" ran from 1992 to 1995 and led to multiple subsequent shows for the hero. (Warner Bros. Animation)

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Here comes Bane. In the 1993-94 "Knightfall" story line, Batman faced his greatest setback, having his back broken by the Venom-enhanced villain. As a result, Bruce Wayne allowed Azrael to step in and briefly take over the cowl, with disastrous results. (DC Entertainment)

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Enter Val Kilmer as Batman, Chris O'Donnell as Robin and Joel Schumacher as the director. "Batman Forever," the 1995 follow-up to "Batman Returns," also offered a shift in tone to a more cartoon-ish version of the Dark Knight. While the immediate response to the film was positive, its stock has gone down in recent years, as hindsight revealed that it was the forerunner to the much-derided film that would follow just a few years later. (Warner Bros.)

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Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face and Jim Carrey as the Riddler in Joel Schumacher's "Batman Forever." (Warner Bros.)

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Penned by Bane co-creator Doug Moench, "Sleeper, Part 1: Nightmares," featured this haunting cover image by Moench's "Knightfall" collaborator Kelley Jones. (Kelley Jones/DC Entertainment)

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George Clooney in 1997's "Batman and Robin," one of the most reviled films of all time. “I think we might have killed the franchise,” Clooney has said about the film. (Warner Bros.)

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Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in "Batman and Robin." Critics responded icily to Schwarzenegger's performance. (Warner Bros.)

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Set a few months after the events of "Year One," Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's 1996-1997 limited series "The Long Halloween" continues the Two-Face origin story from "Batman Annual" No. 14 and influenced Nolan's "Batman Begins" and, especially, the plot of "The Dark Knight." (Tim Sale/DC Entertainment)

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After her debut in the animated series, Harley Quinn was quickly adopted into the comics world. In 1999, the fan-favorite character was properly integrated into the Batman universe continuity with an origin story in "Batman: Harley Quinn." (Alex Ross / DC Entertainment)

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The year? 2039. The Batman? Terry McGinnis, a rebellious teenager who gets his start fighting the Jokerz gang alongside an ailing Bruce Wayne in "Batman Beyond." The 1999-2001 series won a couple of Daytime Emmys. (Warner Bros.)

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Written by Jeph Loeb and penciled by Jim Lee, the 2002-'03 "Hush" story line featured Batman taking on a new enemy, alongside the familiar rogue's gallery, and hinted at the possibility that Jason Todd might still be alive. Plus it continued the 60-plus-year romantic tension between the Dark Knight and Catwoman. The entire collection of the "Hush" story line was released as one volume in 2009. (Jim Lee / DC Entertainment)

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The animated series "The Batman" ran on the WB and then the CW from 2004 to 2008 and won several Daytime Emmys. (Warner Bros. Animation)

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After the hints in "Hush" that Jason Todd might still be alive, the "Under the Hood" story line resurrected the former Robin as an antihero version of the Red Hood. The Hood was one of the oldest foes in the Batman universe, who made his debut in 1951 as a way to explain the Joker's origins. This origin story was then altered slightly in Moore's "The Killing Joke." (Mark Simpson / DC Entertainment)

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Written by Frank Miller and penciled by Jim Lee, the "All-Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder" series ran from 2005 to 2008. Miller's writing in the series was heavily criticized and the story line's greatest legacy may be the infamous, profane "I'm the ... Batman" line in Issue 2. (Jim Lee / DC Entertainment)

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With Christian Bale taking on the mantle of the Bat in 2005's "Batman Begins," directed by Christopher Nolan, movie fans quickly shrugged off bad memories of "Batman and Robin." (David James / Warner Bros.)

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Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow in "Batman Begins," the only villain to appear in all three installments of Nolan's trilogy. (Warner Bros.)

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A four-issue miniseries, "Batman: Year 100," written and illustrated by Paul Pope, featured yet another take on the Dark Knight, presiding over a dystopian Gotham City in 2039. The series won the 2007 Eisner Awards for limited series and writer/artist. (Paul Pope / DC Entertainment)

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Christopher Nolan's follow-up to the well-received "Batman Begins" was 2008's masterpiece, "The Dark Knight," currently the 18th highest grossing film of all time. (Warner Bros.)

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Heath Ledger as the Joker. Much like with Michael Keaton before him, fans were worried about Ledger's ability to capture the Clown Prince of Crime. The result, of course, was a defining take on the character and a posthumous Oscar for supporting actor. (Warner Bros.)

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A promotional poster for D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), whose political career was derailed during the action of "The Dark Knight." (Warner Bros.)

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Written by Grant Morrison, "Batman: R.I.P." saw the Caped Crusader battling the Black Glove organization and suffering a fate, well, worse than death. It was later revealed that the "R.I.P." stood for "Rest In Purgatory." (Alex Ross / DC Entertainment)

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Spearheaded by Grant Morrison, "Batman and Robin" launched in 2009 and followed the events of "Batman: R.I.P." and the "Battle for the Cowl" story arcs and saw former Robin Dick Grayson taking up the mantle of the Bat, with Bruce's son Damian Wayne as Robin. (Purists' concerns were allayed when Bruce returned in the "Batman Incorporated" series). (Frank Quitely / DC Entertainment)

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Written by Neil Gaiman, 2009's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" was published in "Batman" No. 686 and "Detective Comics" No. 853, Meant to be the "final" issues of the series, it was an homage to Alan Moore's "last" Superman story, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" It is considered by many to be one of the best Batman stories ever written. (Andy Kubert/DC Entertainment)

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In the fall of 2011, DC relaunched its superhero universe with the New 52. This "soft reboot" of familiar continuities precipitated a revamped origin story for the Dark Knight. The 2013-2014 "Zero Year" story line in writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo's "Batman" offers a fresh take on Bruce Wayne's early days in the cape and cowl. (Greg Capullo / DC Entertainment)

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Given short shrift in 1997's "Batman and Robin," Bane took center stage in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012), played by Tom Hardy, who said his peculiar voice was an homage to Bartley Gorman, a bare-knuckle boxer known as the King of the Gypsies. (Warner Bros.)

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"The Dark Knight Rises," currently the 12th highest grossing film of all time, was to be Nolan's last directorial performance and Christian Bale's last appearance as Bruce Wayne with the franchise. (Ron Phillips / Warner Bros.)

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From the mind of Paul Dini came 2009's "Batman: Arkham Asylum" from Rocksteady Games. It garnered the Guinness World Record for most critically acclaimed superhero game ever, and has bred sequels and a prequel. (Rocksteady Games)

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In November 2013, Miles Scott, a.k.a. Bat-Kid, stole the hearts of the nation with his Make-A-Wish-sponsored adventures through Gotham (San Francisco), which included foiling plots of the Riddler and the Penguin and words of encouragement from President Obama. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

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Will Arnett voiced this humorously imperfect take on Batman for 2014’s hit “The Lego Movie.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

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The future: Ben Affleck in the first photograph of the new cape and cowl from 2016's "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." (Warner Bros.)

Has it really been 75 years since Gotham first saw the Bat? Seventy-five years of vengeance, brooding detective work and campy shark fights? Three-quarters of a century of iconic introductions, gritty reboots and the ongoing vigil that Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s most iconic creation keeps over his city.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. (We’re still wrapping our minds around the fact that it’s been 25 years since Michael Keaton put on the cape and cowl.) Ever since Gotham’s winged creature of the night swooped down and cracked “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” the world — from the DC Universe to our own –  has never been the same.

Although Superman made his debut a year earlier, Batman represented something truly new for comic readers. A tortured soul, a man driven by revenge yet committed to principles. And because, let’s face it, there’s something downright strange about Batman. Or as Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne put it, “Well, a guy who dresses up like a bat clearly has issues.” He came to represent a hero for the truly dispossessed. The scion of Thomas and Martha Wayne not only avenged their deaths many times over, he gave life to a new kind of hero. His obsession made him human, and that made him instantly ours.

READ: DC outlines plans for this summer’s Batman Day 

So, when we celebrate the classic story lines, understandable missteps and heartbreaking losses, it’s also worth remembering just how prescient a character like Batman was for 1939. It’s why he’s arguably been the easiest character to get right in this modern age of blockbuster-bait arms racing. Batman never had to be re-appropriated to be made more “edgy” or “darker.” He came out of the gates edgy. And his darkness has always been timeless.

So, here’s to the Dark Knight. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of 75 images that tell the story of the Bat, from his auspicious debut to the camp detours of the ’60s and the many returns to form.

That’s not to say that we’ve covered everything that Batman means to everyone. How could we? So, let us know what we missed.

What are some of your favorite moments in Batman history?  What image most defines Batman to you? Tell us in the comments below.

— Justin Sullivan | @LATherocomplex

[For the record, 12:05 p.m., June 4: An earlier version of this post misidentified a photo of Michael Keaton in "Batman Returns" as being from "Batman."]

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Comments


3 Responses to Batman’s milestone year: 75 enduring images of the Dark Knight

  1. Andrew Findley says:

    First you claim "Batman never had to be re-appropriated to be made more “edgy” or “darker.”' Then in the slideshow, there's the introduction of Bat-Hound, "…the mid-1950s saw the introduction of a lighter tone and sillier characters like in this 1955 issue." Then "The early '70s saw a new dynamic duo come to Gotham: writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams, who presided over a beloved period for the Dark Knight, erasing much of the camp of the television series from memory." Sounds like a "re-appropriation" to me.

  2. Tom says:

    My Batman comics go back to the early '60's… collected in "real time".
    Through all periods, good and bad, silly or dark, he has remained essentially the same character.
    He was any of us (with the benefit of a gazillion dollars) who tried to right injustice.
    My beloved trove gets one year older with me.
    Great vinttage.

  3. Meissa says:

    Bring back Adam west. Still my favourite

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