The original Batman logo was a simple bat. And as a superhero, he and his bat were well liked. So much so that in 1940 he was given his own series, which spawned a new, slightly more detailed symbol.
The Ubiquitous Batman Logo – Over 80 Years In The Making.
Batman. From kitsch to crimefighting superhero.
BAM! BOOM! POW! ZOK! SPLAT! WHAM! WHAP! OK, enough already. For those of you of a certain age, these ‘fight scene’ words are synonymous with one superhero. Batman of course. I’m not as old as the movie (1966) but I have seen it. Based on the TV series and starring the ‘original’ Batman, ‘Adam West’, it’s a must-see whether you’re a superhero fan or not. And it’s come a long, long way from its kitsch, colourful, cartoonish beginnings.
Whether you’ve watched the ’66 film or not, the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘Batman’ is the caped-crusader’s ever-present bat symbol. Batman is still going strong in cinemas around the globe – he’s been attired in many guises over the years but the one thing that’s always remained is the batman symbol. That’s not to say it’s looked the same – far from it – the batman logo has, and still does continue to evolve.
Like I said, the original film from 1966 was based on the ever-popular Detective Comics – better known as DC comics. And Bruce Wayne, AKA ‘Batman’, is one of DC’s oldest and best known superheroes. But we need to go much further back in time to find the first ever iteration of this instantly recognisable logo. It made its first appearance in Detective Comic #27, which dates back to 1939. Yup, Batman is a really, really old dude.
The original Batman logo was a simple bat. And as a superhero, he and his bat were well liked. So much so that in 1940 he was given his own series, which spawned a new, slightly more detailed symbol. It was a little more realistic – the bat was chunkier and the wings were clearly defined with blue lines that made them look, well, more wing-like. It was tweaked again in 1941 because the blue lines weren’t clear enough when the design was printed.
In 1943 Batman made it from a DC comic strip to the big screen – and with the transition came yet another logo update. But what struck me the most, and made me LOL, a lot, was the actor who played him. His name was Lewis Wilson – please, google him now! Poor old Lewis looks more like a rubbish WWE star than a planet saving crusader in a cape. Sorry Lewis – who passed away in 2000 (what must he have thought of the Batmen that came after him, especially around 2000!).
It wasn’t until 1946 that the logo started to take shape. It was still just a black bat though. Many iterations followed over the coming years up until the most iconic logo was born – the instantly recognisable bat set within the yellow oval. This was the logo seen in the 1966 movie, but still many more changes were on the horizon. The symbol reverted back to a simple yet more stylised bat when the ‘Dark Knight Returns’ was shown in 1986.
But when the Michael Keaton’s movie came out in 1989, the yellow oval returned along with an even more stylised symbol. The yellow oval logo remained right up until 1995. By this time Batman was now a tougher character and less tongue-in-cheek. Val Kilmer played the superhero and he meant business. The yellow, almost ‘fun-like’ symbol was replaced with a more modern, ‘muscle-man’ aesthetic look. He wasn’t to be messed with.
The movies that followed, up until the present day, have lost the yellow oval for good. The stylised logo (which could never be rendered back in ’39 or even ’66) sits perfectly on the newer muscle-man suit. It’s more threatening than ever. It reflects a Batman which has come very long way from his humble beginnings.
The newest Batman logo, welded into Robert Pattinson’s godlike costume in 2021’s Batman movie looks scarier and more superhuman than ever. The question is, when will we stop taking this much loved DC superhero too seriously and bring back the good old yellow oval? Maybe never. Time will tell.
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Some logos make their instant debut, take hold, spreads in recognition, and goes on to outlive and immortalize even itself. Take Edward Johnston’s 1919 rendering of the logo for the London Underground which has been adapted or appropriated across the world and has even been dubbed as a symbol of London itself.