Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Night To Remember

The origins of Batman were retold few times throughout the decades, but they were always very consistent and remained virtually unchanged in the comic books. The first time the nightmarish night that spawned Batman was presented to the world was in Detective Comics #33 (1939), and then reprinted in Batman #1 (1940)
The short, two page story shows the wealthy Wayne family encountering a mugger while coming back from a movie theater. The mugger holds them at gunpoint and is trying to take Martha Wayne's pearl necklace, and when Thomas Wayne tries to save her and stop him, the mugger shoots him and then Martha to quiet her down. The young Bruce is spared.

Couple of days after that night the young Bruce vouches to become a crime fighter and fight criminals. The killer is never found by the Police which also plays a role for Batman/Bruce as he witnesses inadequacies and occasional helplessness of the police department

The name of the killer isn't revealed until Batman #47 (1948) by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, in which Batman discovers that the head of the truck company/smuggler/small time crime boss he is investigating is in fact his parents' killer. His name is Joseph Chilton, in short Joe Chill.

The origins are retold (by the same team who thought them up), but this time there was a small addition: an angry Bruce

When trying to infiltrate Chill's organization proves fruitless, Batman attempts to trick Chill into making a mistake, but again with no success. Finally, Batman confronts Chill directly about his guilt in the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne

Batman swears that he will be watching Chill everyday and will be waiting for him to make a mistake, and then he'll have him. Chill runs to his henchmen to tell them that he's the one responsible for Batman's birth

Realizing that Chill is the reason behind Batman's existence, they instantly gun him down before realizing that they wasted a great opportunity to find out about Batman's true identity.

When dying in Batman's arms Chill says "I guess you got me".

In Detective Comics #235 (1956) by Sheldon Moldoff and Bill Finger, Batman finds the last piece of the puzzle and learns that Joe Chill was not a mere robber, but actually a hitman who murdered the Waynes on orders from a Mafia boss named Lew Moxon. It appears that Thomas Wayne once dressed as a bat to stop Moxon's crime for which Moxon vouched revenge. He hired Chill to kill the Waynes and make it look like a robbery. Bruce was spared to testify to police that it was a stick up

Incidentally the issue presented a slightly differently worded vow from Bruce

And a slightly different end to Chill's life 

The origins and the story of Batman facing Joe Chill were retold in 1980 in The Untold Legend of Batman #1 by Len Wein and John Byrne

We also get to see young Bruce taking his vow again

The mini series faithfully recreated the events previously established in the canon years before, down to Batman recognizing Chill

..confronting him...

And Chill causing his own death

And also retelling Batman's discovery of the coverup robbery

The murder night was retold few times during the 80's, always being faithful to the original story. The only change was the revelation about which movie the Waynes went to see, and it was always the Mark of Zorro. That is an important addition because it implies that this might have been the earliest source of Bruce's idea for becoming a vigilante. Another important thing is that all the stories depict the family as being very happy and unsuspecting of the tragic turn to the fun night.

The Dark Knight Returns
Batman #459

While The Dark Knight Returns doesn't change any of the events, it does however, show Batman forgiving Chill in his mind. Bruce thinks: "He flinched when he pulled the trigger. He was sick and guilty over what he did. All he wanted was money."

Batman: Year One
Batman #0

Batman: Year Two presents an alternative chain of events concerning Chill. In this series, Chill is still a killer for hire and is hired to kill a vigilante called Reaper.

 Batman must work with him if he wants to find the Reaper,

...but then takes him to the alley where his parents died and confronts him about it. While being held at gunpoint by Batman, Chill is killed getting shot by the Reaper. It is left ambiguous as to whether or not Batman would have actually pulled the trigger


Tim Burton's 1989 movie presented the night without many changes, and it presented it in a very dream-like quality, with an eerie music, echoed sound and symbolic images.
The Waynes are walking back happily from a movie theater (albeit there's no implication that they were seeing the Mark of Zorro).

However, they are stopped by two muggers instead of one. As in the comic books, the pearl necklace causes the havoc that leaves the Waynes dead.

In this movie however, it's not Joe Chill who pulls the trigger (albeit it is hinted that he is there, see the quote below by M. Uslan), although the substitute killer, just like the comic book Chill, is never caught by the police but recognized and found decades later by Batman.

It's also very likely that it was a premeditated murder. First of all, Jack Napier has been known to be a mobster and he already has a partner accompanying him in the murder and is dressed like a mobster, in a nice and expensive suit with a tie (The actor Hugo Blick stated he wasn't even allowed to keep it), new polished shoes, nice coat, neatly cut and stylized hair and leather gloves. Not like someone who needs money at all, and not the types to hang out in dark alleys. Secondly, the early script for Batman had Joe Chill being hired by Rupert Thorne to kill Waynes. Third, Waynes were being followed, and then never asked about money or even held at gunpoint. Young Napier just stood there in the shadow and shot the two without uttering a word

Michael Uslan, producer: It also seemed to make sense to have the young Jack/Joker as the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents in the flashback. Worried about that change in the legend, I asked Bob Kane for his thoughts on the matter. Bob replied that it made perfect sense and that, “If the Joker had been created originally in 1939, that’s who would have murdered the Waynes in the comic book!” As a tip of the hat to hardcore Bat-Fans – and to Joe Chill – the scene in this movie showed Jack and another man responsible for the killing. It was hoped that would satisfy the majority of generations of Batmaniacs. (BITF intro 2002)


B A T M A N     F O R E V E R
Batman Forever presents a slightly different imagery. The Wayne family is also shown as having a good time but there's no popcorn present in Bruce's hands.
Also, when Martha gets shot she drops a pair of roses, something which havent been shown previously
Another thing is that there isn't any indication that there's an accomplice present
B A T M A N    B E G I N S

Christopher Nolan's 2005 movie presents an altered story. The Wayne family doesn't go to see a movie and instead goes to see the opera Mefistophle.
Another change is that this night is not the last happy moment for the Wayne family, as Bruce is miserable and frightened by the bat figures in the play. He is also shown to be scared of bats even before the tragedy and he is the reason why the family leaves earlier and through the back door - a very believable reason for Waynes ending up in the dark alley, something never explained before.

Yet another change is Joe Chill's character and motivation - he is not a killer for hire and instead is a frightened and desperate product of poverty and depression. This version mirror's Batman's point of view on Chill in The Dark Knight Returns

The actual murder appears to be left without changes with the pearl necklace starting a riot resulting in Waynes' deaths.

Bruce does not decide his fate right after the murder of his parents. Instead, he is led to his path by Ra's Al Ghul decades later while in prison. Another change is the fact that Chill is caught by the police the very same night and is shot to death by mob on the day of his parole in front of Bruce who was planning to kill him himself. That is most likely a reference to Year Two in which it's very possible that Batman wanted to gun Chill down but was outpaced by the Reaper. 

In the court Chill seems resentful of what he had done but one can assume that he was just telling the judge what he wanted to hear, although that's unlikely considering how it's implied in the movie that it's the poverty and desperation that was the cause of Waynes' murder


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Killer Batman


Tim Burton's movies are the only Batman movies which depict Batman as a cold blooded killer. In Batman, he remotely dropped a bomb in Axis Chemicals factory in front of Joker's goons, largely decimating their numbers,

He guns more of them down with a machine gun
and soon after, he dropped one of Joker's goons into his death

In Batman Returns, he calmly sets one of the members of the Red Triangle gang on fire with cold blood

And soon after straps a bomb to another one

Keaton's Batman could be quite cruel, killing – or, in the case of the Fire Breather, maiming – a few henchmen in Burton's two films. Later, he straps a bomb to a tattooed strongman, which explodes and kills him. – IGN

Daniel Waters: We live in dark times. You can't just drop bad guys off in a spider web in front of city hall.

This portrayal harks back to Batman's original template. Batman used deadly weapons and didn't think twice about killing his enemies and criminals.

Batman was a killer from his very first appearance in Detective Comics # 27 in which can see him dropping a criminal into the vat of acid saying "A fitting ending to his kind". That , of course, wasn't his only kill in this issue

He was a grim figure in his first years, casually killing criminals, and Bob Kane liked this dark version best (Batman: The Complete History).

He used guns to take out his enemies (panel below from Detective Comics #32)
But also used other means, like for example ropes (panel below from Batman #1)
Or his own strength (panel below from Detective Comics #30)
And acrobatic skills , the same way as he did in the 1989 movie (panel below from Batman #4)

There is a common misconception that the reason why the early Batman killed and used guns is because he wasn't given his origins yet. This misconception is that once Batman was given his origins he hated fire weapons and vouch not to kill. That is very far from the truth. In the very same issue in which Batman is given the origins  (Detective Comics #33), he uses a gun and is also portrayed in the last panel with a smoking pistol.


Furthermore, very soon after, in Batman #1, he is even more vicious than in his first appearance, carrying a sidearm and using a machine gun to gun down his enemies (he did the same in the 1989 movie) - a group of men who were given growth hormones by Hugo Strange (panel below from Batman #1)

The real reason why Batman stopped killing in the comic books (the sudden change was not explained in-universe) was that the editor, Whitney Ellsworth, "decreed that in the future Batman would be forbidden to use a gun or kill anyone by other means. This ban was the first step in forming an ethical code that would stand DC in good stead "(Batman: The Complete History). 

Bob Kane: In the first year Batman was a grim vigilante who operated outside of law. (Batman and Me book)

Bill Finger: I was called on the carpet by Whit Ellsworth. (...) The editors thought that making Batman a murderer would taint his character, and mothers would object to letting their kids see and read about shootings. The new editorial policy was to get away from Batman's vigiliantism and to bring him over to the side of the law. We made him an honorary member of the police force.(Batman and Me book)

The in-universe debut of Batman's vow for no killing rule and the hate for firearms (caused by his parent's deaths) appeared as late as 1988 in Detective Comics #583 where the oath is mentioned. 

Although a no-kill moral code has been mentioned before

In 2004's The Forensic Files of Batman he can be seen taking the vow. There Bruce, while doing this research, creates a sense of principles for himself. Since a gun took away his parents, he plans never to use a firearm. And since he felt the effect of death at such an early age, he vows never to take a life. He does however, mention that he doesn't kill several times since the 80's

While Batman stopped killing for a long time (he was killing again, although occasionally ever since the late 60's), he never showed any kind of exceptional resentment or fear towards fire weapons and there's far too many examples throughout the decades to present them all, but he did use them during every age. The Golden Age:

                                                                   Detective Comics #28

Detective Comics #33

Silver age (panel below from World's Finest Comics #27)

In the 60's (Panel below from Detective Comics #327)

In the 80's (Panel below from Batman Year Two)

and 90's (panel below from Detective Comics #627)
And still uses them occasionally today (panel below from Detective Comics #710)

In the 90's however, it was established even clearer that Bruce/Batman hates guns 

And while Batman stopped killing ever since the 1943 due to becoming a kid friendly character, despite the fact that he got his moral code he resumed occasional killing starting with the late 1960's in Brave and The Bold # 83 in which he destroys a German plane using a hand grenade and uses dynamite to blow up a convoy of German soldiers as they are crossing a bridge. As Batman said while breaking his rule in Batman #420 (1988): Sometimes you have to ignore the rules. I'm not in this business to protect the rules, I serve justice. Since there's also too many instances showing Batman occasionally killing since the late 60's, here are just a few more examples from each decade

In the 30's

 Detective Comics #28

Detective Comics #29

Snapped Jabah's neck, in latter issue confirmed he killed him

Detective Comics #33. He throws a vial of sleeping gas at the pilot who crashes into a river

Detective Comics #34. Batman strangles the driver and leaves him in a car that drives off a cliff

Detective Comics #35

Detective Comics #37

Detective Comics # 39

Detective Comics # 46

Detective Comics # 47

In the 40s 

Batman #1

Batman #2

Batman #3
Batman #6 
Batman #8

Batman #15

Detective Comics #55. He sends an agent into a molten steel and in the same issue knocks off two bad guys off the airship

Batman #47

In the 60's

(panel below from Brave and The Bold # 83)
 Brave and the Bold #84 - Bruce Wayne kills a fighter pilot with a hand grenade.

In the 70's
Brave and the Bold #90. He throws an unconscious guy into a river
Batman #288. Human shield
 Batman #290
Detective Comics #423 - Batman snares a assasin with a grappling hook and hauls him off a water tower

In the 80's
 Batman #425
Batman discovers a munitions factory belonging to the Alien Alliance. It is heavily guarded by representatives from several different alien species, including members of the Thangarian race. In the end Batman blows up the factory and everyone inside by ramming a boat filled with explosives into it. Detective Comics #595 
Batman The Man Who Falls
Brave and the Bold #195. A vampire kill (one of many)
Son of the Demon
Cosmic Odyssey. He blasts one of Darkseid's soldiers
Detective Comics #509 - Batman tries to kill Cat-Man in 'Nine Lives Has the Cat' by knocking him off a boat. He then stands by and watches as Cat-Man apparrently drowns. Of course Cat-Man's nine lives allowed him to show up again in later stories. But to all intents and purposes, Batman tried to kill him at the end of this story.

Batman #420. He traps KGBeast and leaves him to starve, while contemplating on breaking the rules
Detective Comics #590 (accidental)

In the 90's
Detective Comics #613 -  accidental
In 'Family' (Legends of the Dark Knight #31, June 1992) Batman travels to the Corto Maltese to rescue Alfred from a South American racketeer named El Vato. As they are escaping El Vato's base, Alfred runs down a pair of soldiers using a stolen lorry. Batman then triggers some explosives he'd planted in a weapons depot, blowing the villains' base to smithereens and killing many of El Vato's men in the process. This was clearly a calculated and premeditated act. Right at the beginning of the comic Batman had thought to himself: "I want to kill them [...] God help me, Alfred. I may just kill tonight. If that's what it takes to save you." And indeed he did.
Legends of the Dark Knight #84 - Batman tries several times to kill the villain, a hallucinating soldier who's been driven kill crazy by military experiments. He finally succeeds in killing the solider by shooting him several times with a handgun and knocking him off a dam

In 2000's  
Batman #576
All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder #1
Detective Comics #814
Detective Comics #821
Batman #673. Forces Chill to kill himself
Batman/Doc Savage #1
In Year One: Batman/Ra's al Ghul (2005) Batman intentionally kills two bad guys who are pursuing him on snowmobiles by firing a flaregun at a mountain and creating an avalanche that buries them.

Although the modern age Batman kills mostly for self defense,

that's not always the case, as also illustrated by some panels above. When the enemy seems to dangerous to be kept alive, Batman does what's necessary. Some examples:
Batman #271 (1976)
 Batman #337 (1981)

In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight # 54, a demon called Osric Drood gains power by draining Batman's blood, and as he explains, he can only sustain his energy using murderers' blood. By the end of the story Bruce wonders if he would save the man he had killed in self defense if he had a chance


 Throughout Batman Forever Batman keeps talking about how killing criminals is wrong and is trying to pass that view on to Robin. At the end he throws coins at Two-Face causing him to lose balance and fall to his death. 

However, taking into consideration the running anti-killing theme in the movie and what Batman is teaching Robin, it's most likely that this death was accidental and Batman just wanted to distract Two Face. Since he barely caught Chase and Robin despite being ready for it and jumping in immediately after them, there was no chance in saving Two-Face once he tripped.



Christopher Nolan's movies present a Batman whose moral code is as strong as in Joel Schumacher's Batman movies. 
In Batman Begins, the explosive chain reaction that Bruce started caused many deaths (8 onscreen) but they most likely weren't intended. Bruce wanted to have a distraction to escape and weaken the League of Shadow ninjas, but the fire caused more than he counted on.
By the end of the movie Batman lets Ra's Al Ghul die by leaving him in a racing train whose controls has been disabled 
In The Dark Knight Batman saves Joker from certain death but soon after kills Two-Face by throwing him and himself off the ledge. 
This is apparently an unplanned kill as well. Two-Face was standing close to the edge and Batman jumped at him trying to stop him from killing Gordon's son. He only had one hand to hold on and one to grab the boy

Jonathan Nolan: He has this one rule, as the Joker says in The Dark Knight. But he does wind up breaking it. 
Christopher Nolan: He breaks it
David Goyer: In the first two
(The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Complete Screenplays)


Majority of the credit should go to fellow Batman historian Silver Nemesis