After some entirely unscientific research I have come to the conclusion that DC Comics’ Batman has appeared in more media, in more varying incarnations, than any other superhero (and, possibly, any other fictional character). Ever.
Aside from his changing appearances in comic-books (from vigilante, to detective, to camp super-hero, to fascist, to crippled, to grim, to manga, to lone avenger, to Justice League team player, to genius, to dead, to time-traveller) Bruce Wayne’s alter ego has appeared in just about every other media possible. He began in the pages of Detective Comics, but it wasn’t long before National Comics (as DC was then known) had him in his own book and newspaper strips. Things have progressed somewhat from there.
There has been the 1960’s Batman TV show with the incomparable Adam West; complete with spin-off film. There have been cartoon show appearances, such as Super Friends and even Scooby-Doo. Then he had his own cartoon shows; from Batman: The Animated Series, set in an art deco/noir world, to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a primary coloured weekly super-hero team-up show.
He hasn't shied away from the big screen either. The famous bat-ears have popped up in film serials from the 1940’s, the gothic Tim Burton films of the late 80’s, the flashy campy Joel Schumacher films of the 90’s and the down’n’dirty “realistic” Christopher Nolan films of now.
To tie-in with all of these there have also been action-figures, Happy Meal toys, plushies, collectibles and Lego. There are a number of video-games based on the gothic Gothamite, some tying into the various other media incarnations and some being stand-alone adventures and interpretations.
He’s also had radio shows in the 90’s, pinball machines and fair-ground rides. And now, just this week, I have discovered that there is a Batman stage show and a porno parody.
That’s right. A Batman stage show.
Sadly, it won’t be a musical like the upcoming Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Which doesn’t mean they didn’t try it in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Surprisingly, this venture fell over but some of the music, by Meatloaf’s main composer Jim Steinman, is online. And, of course, this.
Have I missed anything in this rundown? Is there some part of our media culture that doesn’t carry the mark of the Bat? For a vigilante who stalks the night-time shadows, he is strangely omnipresent. But now, even in the comics where he began the Dark Knight is stepping into the light: current Batman writer Grant Morrison has announced that Batman will become Incorporated.
This is no doubt a typical Morrison meta-commentary on the Batman character. And fair enough. It’s been 70-odd years since the Caped Crusader swung into pop culture; you can’t have a successful character around that long without finding new facets and new angles to tell stories. But how long before everything is said? How much longer can this Bat-saturation continue? And why? The only other comic-book character that comes close would be Spider-Man, but even he hasn't gone through so many different interpretations. Ultimately it's a little baffling to me. But you can bet on the pointy-eared gothic crime-fighting vigilante dark knight genius detective being around for some time.