Dodano: 5 June 2013
The author of the article is Łukasz Chmielewski. You can find out more about the author here.
During over seventy years since his creation Batman has found several faithful friends and many fierce enemies. Feeling a bit lost? Here is a brief guide to the world of Batman: characters worth knowing, some of those one would be wise to avoid and places one should not wonder around…
(selected) sidekicks and supporters
Robin – Timothy Drake, a youngster who has deduced that Bruce Wayne and Batman is the same person. He has become the third Robin after much persuasion and many tests, since the Dark Knight, mindful of Jason Todd’s death, did not want to accept him. Not long after, Tim’s mother was killed in Haiti by a voodoo priest. Once again a death of a parent cast a shadow of a bat on a young man. The circle was complete. The New DC has already changed his origin.
Nightwing – Dick Grayson, the original Robin. After the conflict with his mentor and having grown out of the Wonder Boy’s costume, he carries on fighting evil under another name and in another colours. In Prodigal he took over Batman’s cape for a while, but Bruce has eventually decided that his retirement can wait. Despite being one Wayne’s friends, he does not fully trust him. He works as a policeman in Bludhaven, a city near Gotham.
Alfred Pennyworth – the faithful butler of the Wayne family. He took care of Bruce after his parents’ death and years later he helped him to create Batman. A remarkably intelligent elderly gentleman with a dry sense of humour, who divides his free time between literary classics and soap operas. Readers almost unanimously consider him to be the most interesting supporting character in the history of comic books.
Harold – the mute hunchback resembling Quasimodo. This seemingly mentally handicapped youngster was in fact an incredibly gifted engineer. Computers, vehicles and other gear Batman uses held no secrets from him. The Dark Knight saved him from a lynch mob, and Harold lived in the Batcave, working as his maintenance crew. He was murdered by one of the “new” villains named Hush.
The Worst of the Villains
The Joker – Batman’s archenemy. Everything he does revolves around destroying the Dark Knight, but he does not really plan to kill him. Batman’s death would be the end of the ultimate deranged game, which happens to be the meaning of life for the Joker. Before going insane, he was probably an unemployed comedian, but his wife’s death and his own disfigurement caused by an accident in the chemical plant plunged him into madness. The Joker is responsible for the deaths of Jason Todd (the first Robin), detective Sarah Essen (Commissioner Gordon’s wife) and many other innocent bystanders, and for Barbara Gordon’s paralysis. A monster, but a tragic character as well.
Two-Face – former district attorney Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne’s and James Gordon’s friend, one of the few allies of Batman within the Gotham City administration. After a mobster had burned half of his face with acid, Dent experienced a split of personality and his evil site took over. Two-Face is a psychopath obsessed with number two and the randomness of life.
Scarecrow – professor Jonathan Crane, a psychiatrist conducting comprehensive studies of fear. After being fired from the university he decided to test his theories on live human subjects. A psychopath who enjoys evoking fear in others.
The Riddler – Edward Nygma, another masked criminal, playing games with the police and Batman alike. He evidently takes great pleasure in leaving hints – elaborate puzzles – on sites of his crimes.
Mr Zsasz – a serial killer thoroughly enjoying his work. His body is covered with cuts, each one symbolising a murder he had committed.
Ventriloquist – an extremely docile individual, manipulated by his own psychopathic wooden puppet, Scareface, which uses the man to rule one of the biggest gangs in town.
The Penguin – Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepott, an elegant thief resembling the animal which lend him its name, famous for his deadly umbrellas. The leader of the underworld and the instigator of most illegal activities in Gotham.
Mr Freeze – Dr. Victor Friese, a biologist working on hibernation, who subjected his own terminally ill wife to the procedure. Unfortunately, following an accident in the laboratory, Dr. Friese cannot live without a suit maintaining sub-zero temperature. The event made him insane and the temperature seems to have frozen his human emotions as well as his body.
Catwoman – Selina Kyle. Cat burglar wearing an actual cat costume, who used to be portrayed as Batman’s enemy but has since become his professed ally and has even established a moral code of sorts. She fights for justice, but robs the rich for the thrill of the trade. She and Batman are connected by a mutual fascination with some sexual tension.
Talia – daughter of R’as al Ghul. She loves Bruce Wayne, but cannot free herself from the influence of her mad father. Like him, Talia is immortal. In Batman: Son of the Demon she gave birth to Batman’s child, but the story was withdrawn from the official biography of the character. Later on, the plot was put back into the official continuum.
Barbara Gordon – daughter of James Gordon. She had been Batgirl, until she was shot by the Joker, which resulted in her paralysis and a life on wheelchair. He still works for Batman as the Oracle, managing his information centre. In the New DC she can once again walk and she continues to fight crime as Batgirl.
Huntress – Helena Bartinelli, mafioso’s daughter who hates gangsters. She teaches English in slums and acts as an unscrupulous masked vigilante. She is in love with the Dark Knight, who does not trust her, due to her chosen methods.
Poison Ivy – Dr. Pamela Isle, a madwoman with an academic title. A sociopath who believes that people should give way on Earth to plants. She conducts illegal experiments, while trying to bring her insane ideas to fruition. She loves to hate, or perhaps – hates to love, Batman.
Dr. Leslie Thompkins – a physician and a friend of Thomas Wayne’s. Together with Alfred Pennyworth she took care of the freshly orphaned Bruce. She knows Wayne’s secret identity and nurses him back to health after some particularly harsh encounters with his enemies.
Shiva – apart from Batman, the most dangerous assassin in the world, only he does not use his extraordinary skills for killing, while she readily does. A professional killer trained by the same martial arts masters as Bruce Wayne. She generally tries to stay away from Batman, but she did help in his recovery from a broken back. It should be mentioned that her assistance almost cost Batman his life.
Vicky Vale – a reporter and Bruce Wayne’s great love. Unfortunately, in the finale of their long love affair, she decided that Bruce is not interesting enough after all. If only she had known… But Batman, as usual, did not let Wayne reveal their secret.
Gotham City, Bruce Wayne’s home town. A city which – according to Batman at least – belongs to him. Visually, it is a mixture of Art Deco, Gothic and modern styles, an architectural hotchpotch containing everything from a Gothic cathedral to skyscrapers. It is a dangerous city to live. Sometimes Gotham becomes a supporting character of the story, like in Dark Knight, Dark City, where it turned out to be a living organism which in a way called Batman into existence. Gotham City is a version of New York, modified for the purpose of comic books, and “Gotham” is actually also a nickname given by New Yorkers to their city. Die hard fans of the comics may enjoy the fact that streets and landmarks are named after distinguished Batman creators, for instance Robinson Park or Sprang Street.
Batman’s secret base of operations equipped with state-of-the-art computers, a forensic lab and all his combat gear, situated underneath Wayne Manor. It has one entrance from within the house and a separate access for the car, via a kilometre-long tunnel. It also houses symbols of Batman’s worst enemies, to constantly remind him that evil does not sleep, as well as the costume of the second Robin in a glass cabinet: a tribute to a fallen soldier.
The best Batman comic books published in Poland
The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
A comic book for adult readers, a dark tale of the relationship between Batman and his biggest enemy, the Joker. Flashbacks show events which created the psychopathic personality. The Joker tries to justify his point of view and prove that there is a very fine line between sanity and madness. Outstanding writing and Bolland’s almost photographic illustrations make The Killing Joke an extraordinary book and a must-read, not only for comic book fans.
The Return of the Dark Knight by Frank Miller
After a ten year hiatus Bruce Wayne puts on the bat costume once again. This time his crusade results in a revolution and final battles with the Joker, Two-Face and Superman. An unmistakeable classic of the world graphic novel, published in Poland twice already.
Dark Knight, Dark City by Peter Milligan and Kieron Dwyer
An unsettling tale about a city which has created its own hero. The Riddler, trying to use Batman to summon a demon, turns out to be but a puppet in the hands of a much more sinister force. An excellent horror comic book.
Ice and Snow, Trash, Aborigine!, Ecstasy, The Ratcatcher, Rite of Passage, The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, Identity Crisis, Fever, Debut, No More Heroes, The Last Arkham by Alan Grant, John Wagner and Norm Breyfogle.
Stories with a journalistic interest in such social issues as the degradation of the natural environment, racism, workaholism, and drug additions, including also excellent encounters with the Penguin, the Ratcatcher and Ventriloquist. The gripping, well thought-out plot forces the reader to reconsider certain ideas.
Faces by Matt Wagner
A very sad story of yet another confrontation between Batman and Two-Face.
Black & White – the first collection of eight-page-long stories about Batman, created by the elite of the comic book industry, among others, Bill Sienkiewicz, Brian Bolland, Katsushiro Otomo, Richard Corben, Neil Gaiman, Simon Bisley and Bruce Timm.
Batman versus Predator by Dave Gibbons and Andy Kubert.
The Dark Knight’s battle with the predator from outer space, made famous by the John McTiernan’s film.
Sanctum by Dan Raspler and Mike Mignola.
While chasing a psychopath, the Dark Knight stumbles upon a very peculiar graveyard and must face the power of the Old Gods (inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft).
Batman/Judge Dredd – Judgement on Gotham by Alan Grant, John Wagner and Simon Bisley.
The Bat encounters a policeman from another world – Judge Dredd. In order to save Gotham City they have to work together against the combined deadly force of Judge Death and Scarecrow. Brilliant dialogues, Bisley’s wonderful illustrations and Scarcrow recording everything on tape. Black humour of the highest order.
Haunted Knight by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Stories about three of Batman’s Halloweens, written especially for that holiday. Wonderful, atmospheric tales combing nods to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with the essence of the Dark Knight comics.
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
The account of Bruce Wayne’s first year behind the mask. A story which shows how the friendship between two tough guys – Batman and lieutenant Gordon – was born, and how the two of them decided to change the face of Gotham, against all odds.
Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean
An extremely gloomy and dark story about the institution for the criminally insane and about the origins of madness. Psychopaths, led by the Joker, take control over Arkham and take the medical staff as hostages. In order to save the innocent people Batman must beard the lion in his den.
All-Star Batman and Robin the Wonder Boy by Frank Miller and Jim Lee
Master Miller’s controversial take on how Dick Grayson became Robin. Despite the vaguely paedophiliac title, a sharp, brilliant comic book illustrated by the talented Mr. Lee.
Broken City by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Creators of the excellent 100 Bullets this time took on the Dark Knight. The result is wonderful, mysterious and thrilling, exactly as their flagship series. It is a masterpiece, if only for Risso’s illustrations.
The Long Halloween and Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
The tale of how the district attorney Harvey Dent fell and has become what he most hated. The story of how Two-Face came to be, connected with Batman’s investigation into Holiday, a serial killer eliminating gangsters in Gotham.