Batman - Supporting Characters

Supporting Characters

The Batman's interactions with the characters around him, both heroes and villains, have over time developed a strong supporting cast around the character. Commissioner James "Jim" Gordon, Batman's ally in the Gotham City police, debuted along with Batman in Detective Comics #27. Gordon has been a consistent presence ever since. As a crime-fighting Everyman, he shares the Batman's goals while offering, much as the character of Watson does in Sherlock Holmes stories, a normal person's perspective on the work of an extraordinary genius. Later the Batman gained a butler. Alfred Pennyworth serves as Bruce Wayne's loyal father figure and is one of the few persons to know his secret identity. The character " a homey touch to Batman's environs and ever ready to provide a steadying and reassuring hand" to the hero and his sidekick. In the 1970s Lucius Fox appeared as Bruce Wayne's business manager and technology specialist.

A widely recognized supporting character for many years has been the young sidekick Robin. The first Robin, Dick Grayson, was introduced in 1940. In the 1970s he finally grew up, went off to college and became the hero Nightwing. A second Robin, Jason Todd, appeared in the 1980s. In the stories he was eventually badly beaten and then killed in an explosion set by the Joker, but later revived as an adversary using the Joker's old persona, the Red Hood. Carrie Kelly, the first female Robin to appear in Batman stories, was the last Robin in in-universe chronology, joining up with a retiring Batman in Frank Miller's Dark Knight series in the middle 1980s. The third Robin in in-universe chronology, Tim Drake, first appeared in 1989. He went on to star in his own comic series. In the first decade of the new millennium, Stephanie Brown served as the fourth in-universe Robin between the character's stints as The Spoiler and Batgirl.

Batman co-creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger disagreed about adding Robin as a character. That division has perpetuated itself among writers and fans ever since. For Kane, the Batman was by definition a solitary figure. Bruce Wayne is an orphan; the character is defined by an essential loneliness. Keeping the Batman solitary keeps the Batman unique, his world clean of line, his world adult, and the stories more realistic. Modern interpreters such as filmmakers Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton have viewed the character the same way. The practical need for allies and confidants for the character is for them adequately met by characters such as Jim Gordon, Lucius Fox and Alfred Pennyworth. For Finger, Robin introduced an element of fantasy and gave young readers a way to participate vicariously in the Batman's adventures. In the years since, writers who have been attracted to the character, including Frank Miller, find that Robin adds a welcome sense of family for a lonely hero, a sense of fantasy in a gritty universe, and a slang-happy, wisecracking foil to world populated by noir-ish and even psychotic characters. Problems of realism and ethics arise for today's older comic-book audiences when an adult routinely endangers a minor, as the Batman does when involving Robin in life-threatening situations. Most writers ignore the problem, making Robin a fantasy element much as Bill Finger intended. Miller took a different approach, making questions of protection and endangerment of the young an important theme in his story.

The Batman is at times a member of superhero teams such as the Justice League of America and the Outsiders. Batman has often been paired in adventure with his Justice League teammate Superman, notably as the co-stars of World's Finest and Superman/Batman series. In pre-Crisis continuity, the two are depicted as close friends; however, in current continuity, they have a mutually respectful but uneasy relationship, with an emphasis on their differing views on crime-fighting and justice. In Superman/Batman #3 (December 2003), Superman observes, "Sometimes, I admit, I think of Bruce as a man in a costume. Then, with some gadget from his utility belt, he reminds me that he has an extraordinarily inventive mind. And how lucky I am to be able to call on him."

Bruce Wayne has been portrayed as involved romantically with many women through his various incarnations. Some have been respected society figures: Julie Madison, Vicki Vale, and Silver St. Cloud. Some have been allies: Wonder Woman and Sasha Bordeaux. Some have been villainesses: the Catwoman and Talia al Ghul. With the latter he sired a son, Damian, and with the former of whom sired a daughter, Helena (on Earth-Two). While these relationships tend to be short, Batman's attraction to the Catwoman is present in nearly every version and medium in which the characters appear. Writers have varied in the approach over the years to the 'playboy' aspect of Bruce Wayne's persona. Some show his playboy reputation as mainly manufactured illusion as the workaholic Batman grimly pursues his mission; others depict Bruce Wayne as enjoying rather often the benefits of being "Gotham's most eligible bachelor."

Other supporting characters in the Batman's world include former Batgirl Barbara Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's daughter who, now using a wheelchair due to a gunshot wound inflicted by the Joker, serves the superhero community at large as the computer hacker Oracle; Azrael, a would-be assassin who replaces Bruce Wayne as Batman for a time; Cassandra Cain, an assassin's daughter who became the new Batgirl; Huntress, the sole surviving member of a mob family turned Gotham vigilante who has worked with Batman on occasion, Stephanie Brown, the daughter of a criminal who operated as the Spoiler and temporarily as Robin, Ace the Bat-Hound, Batman's Canine partner; and Bat-Mite, an extra-dimensional imp who idolizes Batman.

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