Monday, August 1, 2011

Comic Book References in the movies Part I: 'Batman'

Every writer of the Batman movies had either an extensive prior knowledge of the Batman comic books or did an extensive research before writing the script. Each and every one of the theatrical Batman movies has numerous subtle and not so subtle nods and references to the comic books and reveals an impressive knowledge of the comic book back catalog. 
One of the last posts focused on differences and deviations from the comic books from each movie, listing the number of things which were changed to fit the story more and serve it better ( This time we'll focus on all the references and similarities to showcase the writers' knowledge of the Batman stories and to point out what was taken from the comics


Tim Burton's version of the mythology, by all accounts, was heavily based on the original Batman years and decade. Batman character specifically was very heavily based on Bob Kane's original version from the pre-Robin issues (more on Burton/Kane Batman here -, and many elements and villains were based on the first decade of Batman, called the Golden Age era. There's also a pinch of the 1980's thrown in as well, as well as the 1970's in Joker's character (more on the subject -

Mark Canton (producer): "We did a lot of homework with Jeanette Kahn who was running DC in those days (Shadow of the Bat) 

1. The movie's logo was the same as the one from the comic books of the 80's

2. In "Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told", the producer Michael Uslan states that he showed 1974 story "Night of the Stalker" (Detective Comics #439) to Tim Burton. Both the story and the movie start out with an innocent family, which is suppose to mirror the Wayne family, encountering criminals and Batman being alarmed by the screams. In the comic book story, the criminals fire at Batman during their encounter with him and Batman also pretends to be dead.

3. Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics #27 had him appear on the rooftop to apprehend two criminals. Detective Comics # 27 begins several weeks after Batman has begun fighting crime, similar to how Batman begins with muggers already talking about Batman.

4. The particular use of the Batarang debuted in Detective Comics #214

5. Also worth noting is that the early Batman issues always had a spooky full moon over Gotham, just like in the movie


6. Gotham has its fair share of Gothic architecture and sculptures

7. Also, the cowl and the cape is seemingly one piece, yet the mask or the cape can be taken off separately. The cape is overlapping the shoulders and covering the entire body when in still position

Batman's emblem has extra points on the bottom of the wings which form the bat's legs. There were numerous instances in the 80's where Batman was depicted with extra points at the bottom of the bat in the emblem, and two of the comics that did so were cited as influence for the movie, notable The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke

The definite inspiration here however is definitely The Killing Joke (panel below from last page)

The exact symbol ALSO appeared in 1986's Batman #400

As in some comics, the yellow emblem was meant to draw gunfire

Batman's voice in the movie is just as it was described as in the 70s and 80s, a cold whisper

8. Bruce Wayne occasionally sporting glasses

9. The second time Batman is in action in Detective Comics #27 is in the chemical factory


10. While in the comic books Joker, as in the movie, ends up in the vat of chemicals that bleach his skin, his origins in the movie is more based on the scene from the DC #27. In the comic books, Joker is a villain called Red Hood who jumps into a tank with chemicals to get away from Batman. In DC#27 and the movie, the villain falls into the tank during his encounter with Batman

11. Batman uses smoke pellets for escapes

12. Joker goes crazy after first seeing his appearance (panels from 1951's Detective Comics # and 1988's The Killing Joke)


13. Joker is planning his next move out loud (panel from Batman #1)

It's important to note that Joker's appearance is also a mirror image of the Golden and Silver age Joker. The hair line, pointy eyebrows, purple eyeshadow, same laugh lines and the frozen grin are there (more in The Complete Joker History article). And even since Joker always had a long chin in the comic books, Nicholson wore a prosthetic chin which elongated his.

He was also shown to be very knowledgeable in chemistry 

14. Joker uses flesh color makeup to conceal his white skin, but his inhumane, frozen grin is still clearly dominating his appearance (panels from 1940's Batman #45 , two 1970's Joker comic books and 1988's Batman #427)


15. Joker killing his victim with seemingly fun prank gadget 

16. Talking to corpses 

17. Joker using different outfits and outlandish costumes for different occasions. In this instance, a funeral tuxedo

18. Joker being angered over the fact that someone steals his thunder in mass media (panels from Joker comic books)

19. The laugh gas originated in Joker's first appearance but disappeared during the Silver Age. It made its comeback in the 1970's. The structure of the poison is the same as well. It must be mixed with different compounds to become deadly, according to "The Laughing Fish"

20. The idea of Bruce visiting the alley where his parents died every year comes from 1976's Detective Comics #457

21. Joker , with his big ego, cannot help himself but to leave a sign of his presence in the art gallery/museum

22. Joker considers himself an artist of crime/homicidal artist. He is also in some ways into art. In Batman's earliest issues, Joker was an avid art collector

23. Joker dancing to the mainstream music when doing his deeds, desecrating art pieces (panels below from The Killing Joke and two Joker comic books)

Such deed also took place in the TV show in an episode called  "Pop Goes The joker" , in which Joker and his goons raid an art gallery and use paint to deface the art pieces.

Also, in the episode called "Zodiac Crimes", Joker makes his escape on a ladder hanging from a helicopter

24. Batman often opts to make an entrance through the glass rooftop

25. Joker tries to burn Vicky's face with his acid flower asking her to smell it. He did the same to Robin in 1987's Detective Comics #570

26. In Batman #1 Batman gets knocked out and there's an attempt to take off his mask. He quickly snaps out of it and fights off the opponents

27. Batman is mostly a silent figure. After saving Julie/Vicky, he doesn't utter a word

28.  The idea of a hologram entrance to the batcave is taken from The Dark Knight Returns

29. While the scene is more inspired by the scene from the Phantom of the Opera, Vicky was taken to the cave in 1948's Batman #49

30. Joker chasing skirt. The idea of him stubbornly wanting one specific woman is taken from Joker #4

31. Joker announces his next move and the time he will commit it in mass media.Also, in both cases he picks midnight as the time

32. Though the character is introduced in Detective Comics #27, we don't Batman's origin until Detective Comics # 33, similar to how the audience doesn't see Batman's origin until shortly before the climax. Bruce Wayne is often contemplating alone, deeply immersed in his thoughts

33. 'Monarch" was a name of the factory which contributed to Joker's birth in 1951. The name is reused in the movie and instead given to the place which contributed to the birth of Batman

34. Joker is a showman, doing everything in a big, parade or circus style way. The use of Joker's Birthday cake float is taken from 1980's Batman #321

35. Batwing/Batplane maneuvers and search is present, as well as the imagery of the moon backdrop

36. Batman guns down the thugs with machine gun from his Batplane/Batwing

37. Batman takes down his opponent with a leg lock, a move very often used in the earliest stories (panels below from Detective Comics #474 and Batman #4)

38. Joker making a use of his fake hand (panel from 1980's Batman #321)

39. Batman hangs from the high tower but manages to pull in when Joker falls down

40. When Joker falls he is described as frantic (panel from Batman #1)

41. Joker's changeless face still grinning even after his death

Special acknowledgement for fellow Batman historians BatmAngelus, thecolorsblend, Evil Twin 120 and BatmanMovieOnline


  1. Another brilliant entry.

  2. In the Golden age Vicki Vale found out Bruce Wayne was Batman.

  3. Incidentally, if they wanted to keep him as an urban legend for this film, they ought to have gone with a less flamboyant car. After all, people tend to notice a car with wings on it. (The Green Hornet's Black Beauty makes more sense in this regard, as does the Shadow's use of Shrevnitz's taxi cab.)

  4. The car wouldnt look like a normal car anyway so subtle addition of small batwings isnt gonna make a difference. The whole thing is pitch black so its good for stealth either way

  5. This is by far the definitive and most accurate batman movie. Bar NONE. Damn good movie, Damn good adaptation, and just plain entertaining!

  6. Burton's adaptions of the original comics was just perfect. Great blog!

  7. Great job , I love to visit again of this full of entertaining blog , So thanks so much

  8. Really nice post ..Interesting ..Keep posting more article..