We’re celebrating Batman’s 80th birthday and Detective Comics 1000th issue this week, and while there may not be cake…there ARE gifts. Since Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27, the series has gone on to give him some of his greatest gifts—we’re talking things that have remained a strong part of his legacy to this day! Let’s take a look at eight of the greatest gifts Detective Comics has given Batman!
Some gifts hit the mark, while others don’t. (In this case, that probably depends a lot on who’s throwing them, but we digress.) Sometimes a relative will give us a present that we never use, but we pretend it’s a part of our everyday routine when they come over. That’s definitely not the case with the Batarang.
Batman’s signature weapon first appeared in Detective Comics #31, and eighty years later, he still uses it every day. Let’s face it. Most of us get bored with our new toys after eight minutes—eighty years is pretty impressive! In case you’re wondering, the very first villain to get smacked with a Batarang was a henchmen of the Monk. May he wear that bruise with honor!
I know what you’re thinking, “How is a tragic backstory a gift?” That’s a legitimate question. But what would Batman be like without his origin? Imagine a version of the Dark Knight who became a crimefighter for no reason. A Batman whose parents are alive, yet he still operates as the city’s guardian. Does that version of Batman feel right to you? Before Detective Comics #33, Batman had no established origin, and now the story is such a big part of who he is, that he wouldn’t feel right without it. The origin is more than a gift, it’s a part of him!
Detective Comics has given Batman some pretty sweet gifts, but I think we can all agree that the Batmobile may be one of the greatest. Who wouldn’t want a car that cool as a gift? We probably don’t need to convince you all how awesome the Batmobile is because chances are you’ve dreamed of driving it. The original version of the Batmobile was first seen in Detective Comics #48 where it was a red car with a stylish bat-ornament. Batman continued improving the design over the years and he hasn’t stopped yet.
The Bat-Signal first lit up the night in Detective Comics #60 and since then it’s become an iconic part of Gotham City’s skyline. It’s been smashed, the Bat-emblem has been modified and vandalized, and its use has been controversial at times, but despite all of this, it’s remained on the roof of Gotham City Police Department for decades. Batman doesn’t Snapchat, so how else is Gordon going to call him?
Batman’s original headquarters were iffy at best. During his earliest adventures, the Dark Knight operated out of a secret hangar before switching to a barn.
Picture all of your favorite Batcave scenes, now imagine them taking place in a barn. We rest our case. The Batcave is one of Detective’s all-time greatest gifts.
It was Detective Comics #83 that established the Batcave as the Dark Knight’s headquarters. The original Batcave was very bare bones, with just a staircase and a few rooms, but over the years Its iconic features and trophies were added. Sometimes I think Batman spends more time in the Batcave then he does upstairs at Wayne Manor, but let’s be honest…wouldn’t you? Be sure to check out Meg Downey’s piece on the Batcave’s greatest trophies here!
This is a gift that Batman may wish he could return, but what is a hero without his greatest villains? Some of Batman’s most notable rogues made their debuts in the pages of Detective Comics including the Penguin (Detective Comics #58), Two-Face (Detective Comics #66), Riddler (Detective Comics #140), Clayface (Detective Comics #40), the Ventriloquist and Scarface (Detective Comics #583), Man-Bat (Detective Comics #400) and Hugo Strange (Detective Comics #36)! They may drive the Caped Crusader batty, but they’ve certainly given us readers some memorable stories.
Okay, maybe this one is more a gift for us readers than it is for Batman. Still counts!
Even a Batman needs a little bit of love, and boy has he found lots of it in the pages of Detective Comics. His very first love interest was his fiancée Julie Madison, who first appeared in Detective Comics #31, predating the first appearances of Robin, the Joker and even Batman’s parents! The engagement didn’t last, but Batman’s date book has had plenty of other entries like Silver St. Cloud, who first appeared in Detective Comics #470. Bruce and Silver had a hot and heavy romance before she discovered he was secretly Batman and left him.
One of the most significant love affairs of Batman’s life was Talia al Ghul, who the Dark Knight met in Detective Comics #411. Their relationship resulted in an unplanned, not-entirely-consensual wedding (read about it here) and the birth of Damian Wayne.
I saved the best for last, because after all, isn’t family the greatest gift anyone can ever ask for? Bruce Wayne may have lost his parents, but he’s developed a new family thanks to the various allies that Detective Comics has introduced! Over the years Detective Comics has introduced Robin (Detective Comics #38), Batwoman (Detective Comics #233), Batgirl (Detective Comics #359), Leslie Tompkins (Detective Comics #457), Spoiler (Detective Comics #647) and tons of other allies! Parties and gifts are fun, but without friends to share them with you’re just a guy sitting in a dark cave.
Wow. That’s SO much better than the bug zapper I got for my last birthday! (Though, seriously, it’s made a difference. The bugs around here could make Bruce’s bats shriek away in terror.) If you ever doubted Detective Comics’ impact on the Dark Knight, I want you to imagine a Batman without a Batcave, Batmobile, Bat-Signal, or friends and allies like Commissioner Gordon, Robin or Batgirl. He’d spend the day arguing with his parents about their investment portfolio because he sure wouldn’t have much in the way of super-villains to fight. And if he did even find himself face to face with the Joker…well, we’d better hope he’s as skilled at throwing his cell phone as he is at throwing Batarangs.
So, thank you, Detective Comics, for eighty years of building the Batman mythos! I wonder what the next 1,000 issues will be like? Next time, we’d better make sure to bring cake…
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column.