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Monday, April 25, 2005

Holy Bat-Coincidence!

I’ve long been interested in the many influences for Batman on creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Zorro, The Shadow, a particular design by Leonardo da Vinci, even pulp private eye turned masked crime-fighter, Dawson Clade, aka "The Bat." Most interestingly similar about this character is not his costume, which simply consisted of a business suit, along with a black hood which covered his entire face, which had a white bat-image on it. Instead, it was the epiphany he experienced when deciding his crime-fighting identity, which pretty much mirrored Bruce Wayne’s sudden decision, upon a bat flying through his open window. Bruce Wayne: "A bat! That’s it! It’s an omen. I shall become a bat!" Dawson Clade: "That’s it!" exclaimed Clade aloud. "I’ll call myself ‘The Bat.’" (From his origin in Popular Detective magazine, November 1934.)

But, even more interesting than the influences is an amazing coincidence which occurred with another pulp character, right around the time of Batman’s inception. In the July 1939 issue of Black Book Detective magazine, (two months after Detective Comics #27 hit the racks, brandishing the first appearance of Batman) D.A. Tony Quinn adopts a costumed persona after having been blinded when a criminal attacks him with acid. Possible influence on D.C. Comics’ Batman villain "Two-Face," and Marvel Comics’ blind attorney-turned-superhero "Daredevil"? I believe it to be so, but who knows? Quinn dons a bat-like costume, complete with cape and cowl, and becomes "The Black Bat." Once the two publishers took notice of the similarity of the characters, threats of legal action flew like bat-a-rangs. According to the March 2003 issue of Comic Book Marketplace, however, though Batman’s premiere was published first, The first Black Bat story was actually begun two months before the concept of Batman was put on paper. Once they were convinced of the coincidence of the matter, the publishers agreed that Batman would remain out of the pulp business, and The Black Bat out of comic books. Problem solved, and The Black Bat continued for almost 15 years.

Imagine; had D.C. decided to be bull-headed about things, we may never have seen more than a few comics featuring the Dark Night. Heck, we might have even been reading the sequential adventures of the Black Bat!