“And thus is born this weird figure of the dark… This avenger of evil: The Batman.”
The Dark Knight seems to have risen from noir. When cartoonist Bob Kane and screenwriter Bill Finger came together to shape it in the late 1930s, they drew inspiration primarily from four sources. Leonardo Da Vinci’s visionary sketches and plans for a flying machine determined the shape of the bat wings, while the mysterious avenger Zorro catered to the dual identity and cave hideout. In the end, though, it was one pulp character and one piece of cinematic trash that gave the young creatives the distinct hallmarks of the beloved noir darkness. On one side stood the originally radio, later comic and film character The Shadow, a swaggering millionaire by day, a masked avenger by night, hat on his head and revolver in hand, and on the other the long-forgotten, if formally interesting, mystery thriller The Bat Whispers, featuring a mysterious killer dubbed The Bat.
Both of these early 1930s inspirations are still a long way from what Nic Pizzolatto, the later writer and creator of the True Detective crime-series, would fatally call “the single greatest humanitarian crusade the world has ever known,” but the roots of noir stretch confidently back to the triumphant May 1939. It was then, in the pages of the legendary Detective Comics notebook (issue twenty-Seven), that America first saw The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, starring the brooding Bat-Man. But as the festival itself heralds, noir simply has no boundaries. And (Lego) Batman certainly doesn’t!
The basic building blocks of Gotham City may have been laid, but the aim of this winged section is to turn on the bat radar and explore other possible caves – flitting from Tim Burton’s gothic art-deco (Batman, 1989) to Christopher Nolan’s riotous urban-thriller (The Dark Knight, 2008) to Matt Reeves’ Fincher-esque neo-noir full of rain, mud and big question marks (The Batman, 2022).
By the way, did someone mention LEGO Batman?