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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Batman

batman comic bob kane adam west val kilmer batman begins the dark knight
Hulton Archive/Getty Images/Stephen Lovekin, Getty

Some fans and pop culture junkies might like to think that Superman is the most timeless and iconic of all comic book super heroes, but even the man from Krypton who can bend steel with his bare hands doesn’t have the generational reach of Batman.

Unlike most superheroes, he doesn’t have supernatural powers. Bruce Wayne isn’t some mythological being who can fly, shoot lasers out of his body or transmogrify into some other creature. He’s just an ordinary guy using every resource and power he has to fight the good fight to spare humanity the hell he’s been through at the hands of green and avarice. (Okay, an obscenely rich ordinary guy…) With ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in theaters, here’s a look at the unique history of an interesting super hero.

1. Bob Kane didn’t create the Batman we know

Detective Comics 27
DC Comics

It’s true that comic book artist and writer Bob Kane had a hand in bringing The Dark Knight to life, but it was another writer, Bill Finger, who probably had the biggest hand in the character’s creation. According to the book ‘Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers and Heroes in Gotham City,’ Kane had made a name for himself in the comic book industry and often called on Finger to help him with the storylines. The publisher of Detective Comics (now known as DC) asked his pool of artists to draft up ideas for a new hit superhero and gave them a weekend to draw and present them.

Kane drafted a masked character with bat wings and the publisher liked the idea, but he needed a story to go with it. Kane called on Finger, who not only created the main character’s story and all the major characters in Batman’s world, but even suggested The Dark Knight’s iconic bat ears mask and long, black cape design. Finger went on to help Kane create other characters including most of Batman’s villains (writer Jerry Robinson created The Joker), gadgets and weapons. Still, no one at Detective Comics knew Finger existed so the final credit went to Kane. Batman’s first appearance in ‘Detective Comics’ #27 became a massive hit. Finger continued to work with Kane on the Batman stories throughout his career as Kane’s ghostwriter before leaving to work for DC Comics where he helped create characters such as the Green Lantern.

2. The fans once voted to kill off Robin

Superman, Batman And Robin Comic Book
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Comic book heroes and villains die and come back to life often, but only one death was dictated entirely by the fans. Robin has died and been replaced several times throughout the series, but in 1988, Jason “Robin” Todd’s fate was left in the hands of his supposed fans.

The “Death in the Family” story featured Robin finding his birth mother in Ethopia only to discover that she had turned him over to The Joker. Both ended up being tied up in a warehouse set to explode unless Batman could save them. The cliffhanger inspired DC Comics to set up a toll-free hotline and ask the readers to call in and vote on whether or not the Boy Wonder would make it out of the warehouse alive. The fans voted 5,343 to 5,271 to put the Boy Wonder down, and so he died in the next issue. However, Todd returned in 2005′s ‘Under the Hood’ story arc as the Red Hood in order to seek bloody revenge against The Joker.

3. Frank Sinatra wanted to play The Joker on the TV show

The world of Batman officially became a cultural touchstone when it leapt off the page and became a massive television hit in the 1960s. Not only did Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) become overnight celebrities, but the villains who got in the act are probably more remembered and revered for their work on the campy super hero show. Singer Frank Sinatra reportedly wanted to be Batman’s main foe but the role had already gone to Cesar Romero, a rumor that was confirmed by Ward years later in an interview. “From what I understand,” Ward said, “Frank Sinatra was very upset because he couldn’t play The Joker.”

4. Conan O’Brien once tried to steal Robin’s costume in college

conan o'brien robin burt ward batman
Frazer Harrison, Getty/Hulton Archive

The Harvard Lampoon is well known for their on-campus pranks and one of their most famous capers involved Burt Ward’s famous tights. Ward was invited to speak at Harvard in the 1980s, mostly as a prank by some students to see if the staff would go for it. Ward accepted and spoke before a student body of 250 students and as a special surprise, he also brought the costume he wore on the TV show on a mannequin.

O’Brien, then a student at Harvard and a staff member of the Lampoon, masterminded a plan to steal the costume during the speech by dressing up as security guards pretending to guard the outfit. The Lampoon crew turned off the lights in the middle of Ward’s speech and sent in a large man dressed as the Penguin to pose a riddle to Ward: “When is a security guard not a security guard?” At that point, the fake security guards grabbed the costume and ran for the exit.

Peter Segal, one of the freshmen who helped organize Ward’s visit and now the host of the NPR quiz show ‘Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,’ tried to stop them from leaving with the suit but the Lampoon crew made off with the Robin costume. The students prank-called Ward for hours afterwards pretending to be Batman villains, but Ward was a good sport and would answer in Robin-speak, saying, “return it or you will feel my wrath!” Eventually, the costume was returned to him safe and sound.

5. NBC wanted to take over the ‘Batman’ TV series but ABC dismantled the Bat Cave

Batman & Robin batmobile
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

‘Batman’ only lasted three seasons after the novelty wore off and ABC decided to cancel the campy series. However, there was a chance that another network might be interested in picking up the show so ABC kept the iconic set in place as they waited for offers. A couple of weeks passed and no offers materialized, so the network ordered that Batman’s “Bat Cave” and other sets be demolished to make way for another show.

Just as the crew finished taking the set apart, NBC submitted an offer to take over the show for another season. Unfortunately, the sets had been destroyed and the Bat Cave alone would cost $800,000 to rebuild, so NBC rescinded the offer.

6. Tim Burton’s first Batman movie was going to feature Robin

Spike TV's 2008 Scream Awards - Show tim burton
Frederick M. Brown, Getty

1989′s ‘Batman’ was a massive blockbuster film that brought an edgier and darker turn to pop culture’s view of the character, thanks in part to Tim Burton’s dark vision. Unfortunately, it took years to draft a script for the film that Warner Bros. deemed acceptable. One version (written by screenwriter Sam Hamm) included Robin, a role Burton offered to the then-19-year-old actor Kiefer Sutherland. Sutherland said he turned down the role because he imagined having to wear bright yellow tights for the role and didn’t realize that Burton’s version was much different and darker than the ’60s TV version. Subsequent drafts reduced Robin’s role to a cameo in the form of his alter-ego Dick Grayson before Burton cut the character completely out of the movie. (One deleted sequence, which features Batman and Robin in an action sequence set at a circus, can be viewed in storyboard format on the ‘Batman’ DVD.)

7. Sean Young lost the role of Vicki Vale in ‘Batman’ and tried to force her way into ‘Batman Returns’

Another actor who lost out on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to appear in the massive ‘Batman’ franchise was the notorious actress who was originally cast as Vicki Vale, the reporter who becomes Bruce Wayne’s love-interest. While Young was Burton’s first choice to play Vicki, the actress broke her arm while practicing some horseback riding for an action sequence that ended up being deleted from the finished film. Because of the scale of the production, Young had to be replaced by Kim Basinger.

Young was determined not to let another opportunity get away from her and when the sequel ‘Batman Returns’ was announced, she organized a massive covert operation to convince Burton to let her play  Catwoman. In a now infamous Hollywood moment, the loopy actress showed up to Burton’s production office without any prior warning in a homemade Catwoman costume to lobby for an audition, but she was instead escorted off the lot. Young also appeared on talk shows like ’The Joan Rivers Show’ in the outfit in an effort to win the part, but her one-woman campaign failed and Michelle Pfeiffer scored the role instead.

8. The rumor that Batman and Robin were gay came from a psychologist bent on destroying comic books

Any pop culture property that involves two men or women living together for an extended period of time seems to automatically attract theories about a homosexual relationship. The questions about the Dynamic Duo’s “questionable” relationship actually dates back to one man: Dr. Frederic Wertham. In the 1950s, the psychologist was to comic books what Jack Thompson is to video games. Wertham led a massive crusade to regulate and outright ban horror, crime and adventure comic books by publishing ‘Seduction of the Innocent,’ a scathing “scientific” review of these titles and the effect they had on juvenile delinquency and indecency. The book led to a Congressional inquiry and the formation of the Comics Code ratings system, regulations which put many publishers out of business.

Wertham claimed that the Dynamic Duo were secretly homosexuals because of the therapy work he did in his New York clinic with “sexually maladjusted individuals” who often read ‘Batman’ comics and found that they expressed their own sexual desires to be with someone like The Caped Crusader. He was led to believe that Batman and Robin’s relationship exhibited some kind of “adolescent-with-adult or Ganymede-Zeus type of love-relationship.”

9. The town of Batman, Turkey threatened to sue the makers of ‘The Dark Knight’

Celebrities Attend Heath Ledger Tribute
Paul Kane, Getty

Christopher Nolan’s brilliant revival of the Batman film series after the dismal releases of Joel Schumacher’s ‘Batman Forever’ and ‘Batman & Robin’ breathed new life into a movie hero that most thought would never again see the light of day (or the dark of night). It also attracted threats of an interesting lawsuit.

The mayor of Batman, Turkey threatened to sue Nolan and Warner Bros. for infringing on the royalties of his city’s name. The sad part is that the mayor claimed the films were also the cause of several unsolved murders and female suicides. No such lawsuit was ever filed.

10. It would cost $300 million to become Batman

Batman Begins Opening Night batmobile
Matthew Simmons, Getty

Amateur vigilantes aren’t just limited to the big screen. In fact, major cities all over the world have costumed vigilantes roaming the streets. Becoming as well-equipped and trained as Batman, however, costs more than a ski-mask and a set of hockey pads.

The book ‘Batman Unauthorized’ examined exactly what it would cost to develop and carry all the gadgets and goodies that Batman uses. Turns out, the total came out to around $300 million. That includes $3.5 million to convert a bomb shelter into a Bat Cave, a $2 million Cadillac Sixteen to turn into a 32-valve, V-16 1,000 horsepower Batmobile. And that’s before adding all of the defensive options such as rear smokescreen shooters and missile launchers and a Kevlar infused, custom molded Batsuit for at least $45,000. So unless you inherit a vast estate from your late parents, it’s safe to say you’ll be sticking with your homemade tights and mask.

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