Origin of Batman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Batman's origin as depicted in All-Star Batman and Robin

The origin of Batman depicts the events that cause a young Bruce Wayne to become Batman. The core event (the murder of Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne by Joe Chill) has remained fairly unchanged, but the aftermath and Bruce's journey to become Batman were not detailed until later years. The story first appeared in Detective Comics #33 (November, 1939), and was retold in graphic novels such as Batman: Year One.


Thomas and Martha Wayne are shot by Joe Chill in Detective Comics #33 (Nov. 1939). Art by Bob Kane.

The character's origin was first depicted in Detective Comics #33 (Nov. 1939), unfolding in a two-page story that establishes the brooding persona of Batman, a character driven by the death of his parents. Written by Batman co-creater Bill Finger, it depicts a young Bruce Wayne witnessing his parents' murder at the hands of a mugger. Days later, at their grave, the child vows that "by the spirits of my parents [I will] avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals".[1]

Batman's origin is later expanded upon in Batman #47. Bruce Wayne is born to Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha, two very wealthy and charitable Gotham City socialites. Bruce is brought up in Wayne Manor, and leads a happy and privileged existence until the age of eight, when his parents are killed by a small-time criminal named Joe Chill while on their way home from a movie theater. That night, Bruce Wayne swears an oath to spend his life fighting crime. He engages in intense intellectual and physical training; however, he realizes that these skills alone would not be enough. "Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot", Wayne remarks, "so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible ..." As if responding to his desires, a bat suddenly flies through the window, inspiring Bruce to craft the Batman persona.[2][better source needed]


Media scholars Roberta Pearson and William Uricchio, in their 1991 work The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and his Media, also noted beyond the origin story and such events as the introduction of Robin, "Until recently, the fixed and accruing and hence, canonized, events have been few in number",[3] a situation altered by an increased effort by later Batman editors such as Dennis O'Neil to ensure consistency and continuity between stories.[4] After witnessing the murder of his parents Dr. Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne as a child, he swore vengeance against criminals, an oath tempered by a sense of justice. Bruce Wayne trains himself physically and intellectually and crafts a bat-inspired persona to fight crime.[5][6][7][8][excessive citations]

The driving force behind Bruce Wayne's character is his parents' murder and their absence. Bob Kane and Bill Finger discussed Batman's background and decided that "there's nothing more traumatic than having your parents murdered before your eyes".[9] Despite his trauma, he sets his mind on studying to become a scientist and to train his body into physical perfection to fight crime in Gotham City as Batman, an inspired idea from Wayne's insight into the criminal mind.[10][11]

Another of Batman's characterizations is that of a vigilante; in order to stop evil that started with the death of his parents, he must sometimes break the law himself. Although manifested differently by being re-told by different artists, it is nevertheless that the details and the prime components of Batman's origin have never varied at all in the comic books, the "reiteration of the basic origin events holds together otherwise divergent expressions".[12] The origin is the source of the character's traits and attributes, which play out in many of the character's adventures.[3] He also speaks over 40 different languages.[13]


Due to the many writers who have worked on Batman stories, and constant references due to the central importance of the murder to the Batman mythos, many of the factors concerning the event have been altered.

  • Bruce's age has varied, usually between six and ten years old.[clarification needed]
  • The murderer is consistently identified as Joe Chill, although the mythos alternates between versions where Batman learns the killer's identity, and ones in which he never finds out. Chill has also alternated between being a mugger who randomly selected the wealthy Waynes, and a hitman who murdered them intentionally (the former is the most common interpretation).
  • The reason given for Chill leaving Bruce alive has varied. Sometimes it was because Chill could not bring himself to kill a child, and sometimes because Chill heard a policeman's whistle, police siren, or a rapidly approaching policeman. Often, it is because of the cold, frightening look that Bruce gave Chill as he kneels beside his dead parents; Chill panics and runs away. In the version presented in The Untold Legend of the Batman, Batman theorizes that Chill, a hitman hired by gangster Lew Moxon, deliberately left Bruce alive to report that his parents were killed by a robber.
  • The movie that the Waynes went to see has fluctuated between the 1920 version of The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks and the 1940 version starring Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone. A third version has starred "Tyrone Fairbanks". Tim Burton's Batman has the Waynes leaving The Monarch Theatre having seen Footlight Frenzy. Batman Begins has the Waynes leaving an opera house showing Mefistofele at the time of the murder, which they leave early due to Bruce being frightened by the bat-like costumes, giving Bruce the additional guilt of leading his parents to Chill. In The Dark Knight's Visual Guide it says that Bruce would rather have seen The Mark of Zorro at a movie house.

Thomas and Martha Wayne are notable as two comic book characters who have remained dead. Since his death, Thomas has only appeared in the Batman series in flashback and in the occasional out-of-body experience or hallucination. His most significant appearance in this latter category is in the miniseries Batman: Death and the Maidens by Greg Rucka. In this story, Batman ingests an elixir given to him by his enemy Ra's al Ghul, and believes he is having a conversation with his dead parents. In Bruce's hallucination, his parents disapprove of his costumed crusade, wishing that he would put their deaths behind him and move on with his life. As she and Thomas depart, they assure Bruce that just because the passing of time has lessened his grief does not mean that he no longer loves them. As a result, Bruce is able to accept that he is Batman because he chooses to be, not because he has to be.

Consistent elements have included Thomas Wayne being murdered by a pistol, and Martha Wayne's pearl necklace being torn, with the pearls falling into the gutter. The murder takes place at 10:47 p.m. (the Batcave is accessed by Batman through his manor by turning the hands of a grandfather clock to this time.) In comic book continuity, the date of the murder has varied, although the 26th of June[14][15] and September,[16] the current canonical date,[17] are the most significant examples varied.

Batman: Dark Victory asserts that the Wayne murders were the main cause of much of the corruption and crime in Gotham City; once it became clear that even wealthy, important people could be murdered so easily, citizens began to lose faith in the police, and the police themselves started to lose faith in their importance, leading to corruption within the force.[infringing link?]

Batman #430 includes a scene in which Thomas Wayne was having trouble with some investments, and is going to sell short. Bruce thinks that he needs some exercise to take his mind off of it and so offers to play catch with him, but Thomas angrily says no, striking him across the face. A hurt and resentful Bruce declares to his mother that he wishes Thomas were dead. Thomas takes the family to a movie to make it up to his son, and in an ironic twist of fate, Bruce's parents would be murdered that night; Bruce is haunted with guilt for years afterward.

Alternative versions[edit]

In the crossover story arc Flashpoint, which creates an alternate reality, Bruce Wayne is the only victim of Joe Chill's mugging. Thomas Wayne appears as this reality's Batman and Martha Wayne as the incarnation's Joker. [18]

In other media[edit]

In Tim Burton's Batman, a criminal named Jack Napier kills Bruce Wayne's parents. Later in the movie, Napier is revealed to be the Joker. An original draft of the film's script had Rupert Thorne hire Chill to assassinate Thomas and Martha Wayne, because he was running for mayor against Thomas Wayne.[citation needed]

In the 2018 film Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Robin seeks to create a world without heroes. He does this by forcing the Wayne family to go down a different alley, thus saving their lives and removing Batman from the future. In the end, they must undo their meddling and push the Waynes back into Crime Alley, where Bruce witnesses his parents' murder.

In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Chill of the Night!", a dying Moxon says that he only intended for Thomas to die, and even expressed regret over the death of Martha, especially as it left Bruce an orphan.

In the 2019 film Joker, the family exits the theatre (which was showing Blow Out and Zorro, The Gay Blade) to a riot spurred by Joker's actions. Thomas Wayne takes them through an alley for safety, where a rioter shoots Thomas and Martha as a way of striking back against the powerful in Gotham. Thomas was depicted in the film as being indifferent and hostile to those protesting the dismal living conditions of Gotham City.


Newsarama places Batman's origin as number two of the greatest origin story in comic books describing it as "one of the most tragic in all of comic books, [setting] the stage for countless copycats using the trope of a hero who suffers a great injustice, and spends the rest of his life seeking vengeance."[19] Matthew Byrd of Screen Rant placed Batman's origin in the number one spot of greatest comic book origins.[20]

Further reading[edit]

2007 thesis on Batman mythos from Brigham Young University

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bill Finger (w), Bob Kane (p), Sheldon Moldoff (i). "The Batman and How He Came to Be" Detective Comics 33: 1–2 (Nov. 1939), DC Comics
  2. ^ Bill Finger (w), Bob Kane (p). "The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom" Detective Comics #33 (Nov. 1939), DC Comics
  3. ^ a b Pearson and Uricchio. "'I'm Not Fooled By That Cheap Disguise.'" p. 186.
  4. ^ Pearson and Uriccio, p. 191.
  5. ^ Beatty, Scott (2008). "Batman". In Dougall, Alastair (ed.). The DC Comics Encyclopedia. London: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 40–44. ISBN 978-0-7566-4119-1.
  6. ^ Havholm, Peter; Sandifer, Philip (Autumn 2003). "Corporate Authorship: A Response to Jerome Christensen". Critical Inquiry. 30 (1): 192. doi:10.1086/380810. ISSN 0093-1896.
  7. ^ Biography by Joe Desris, in Batman Archives, Volume 3 (DC Comics, 1994), p. 223. ISBN 978-1-56389-099-4
  8. ^ Daniels, Les (1999). Batman: The Complete History. Chronicle Books. pp. 21, 23. ISBN 978-0-8118-4232-7.
  9. ^ Daniels (1999), p. 31.
  10. ^ Detective Comics #33 (Nov. 1939), Bill Finger, Bob Kane
  11. ^ Batman #1 Spring 1940, Bill Finger, Bob Kane
  12. ^ Pearson & Uricchio (1991), p. 194
  13. ^ Lewis, Andrew (2017-01-03). "Batman: 15 Things You Didn't Know About Bruce Wayne". ScreenRant. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  14. ^ Batman Special #1 (June 1984)
  15. ^ Batman Confidential #14 (April 2008)
  16. ^ Batman: Death and the Maidens #1 (October 2003)
  17. ^ Batman and Robin #1 (November 2011)
  18. ^ Flashpoint #1 (May 2011)
  19. ^ "The 10 Best Superhero Origin Stories of ALL TIME!". Newsarama. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  20. ^ "15 Best Comic Book Origin Stories Of All Time". ScreenRant. 15 March 2017.
← The first Ultra-Man was debuted by John L. Blummer. See Ultra-Man for more info and the previous timeline. Timeline of DC Comics (1930s)
November 1939 (See also: Thomas Wayne, Martha Wayne and Joe Chill)
The Daily Planet was debuted by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster replacing the Daily Star. See Daily Planet for more info and next timeline. →