Batman drew a rabid colony of fans the moment it first appeared, published by DC Comics in an issue of “Detective Comics” (Issue #27) in 1939. Throughout the decades, this superhero, also known as the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, and the World’s Greatest Detective, became an unstoppable franchise, popular in every media it appeared in (comic books, radio, television, and film).
The crime-fighting hero of Gotham, was created by visual artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. The character goes out into the night to fight crime under his alias, Batman, but we all know his real name, the one that he uses sans mask, is Bruce Wayne. He is a wealthy American billionaire, philanthropist, and owner of Wayne Enterprises.
His name seems quite ordinary, as if chosen by chance, but actually, Batman’s real name was inspired by two historical personalities.
In 1939, before Batman launched, action comics featuring Superman and similar superheroes won huge success in the comic book crowd. Because of the characters’ popularity, DC Comics (known as National Comics Publications at that time) demanded more superhero ideas from their authors. This is when Bob Kane drew some sketches for a superhero that he named “the Bat-Man.” Kane later showed his drawings to his friend and writing collaborator, Bill Finger.
Their creation was similar to Superman: red tights, boots, no gloves, no gauntlets, and he had a domino mask. Bat-man was illustrated in this outfit, swinging on a rope. Kane drew a pair of bat wings on his back. Later, Bob Kane stated that the bat wings were inspired by a Leonardo Da Vinci sketch of an ornithopter, a flying device that he invented.
In his autobiography, Batman and Me, Bob Kane revealed the creation story of Batman’s first name and surname. According to Kane, he and Finger chose the first name after a medieval Scottish king called Robert the Bruce. They thought it appropriate for a billionaire to be a descendant of a noble family. After trying out a few other names, Finger chose Bruce after the Scottish king. As for his surname, Finger took the name Wayne after the American army officer and statesman “Mad Anthony” Wayne.
So who were these two men? Robert the Bruce was a Scottish king from 1306 until his death in 1329. He became one of the best warriors and leaders in Scotland’s history; he led the country during Scotland’s war for independence from England. He won many successful battles, and today he is celebrated as a national hero of Scotland.
A legend about Robert the Bruce suggests a link to the 20th century superhero. Once, while Bruce was on the run, hiding in a cave on Rathlin Island (Ireland), he watched a spider trying to make a web from one side of the cave ceiling to another. After trying and failing several times, the spider finally succeeded in weaving its web. This motivated Bruce to try and fight the English with more determination.
The legend fits perfectly with Batman’s life. He often fails to defeat his enemies, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He always returns to the fight, eventually managing to eradicate the evil forces from Gotham.
The other gentleman who inspired Batman’s surname, Anthony Wayne, was an officer in the colonial army during the American Revolution. His bravery and strategic smarts made him a brigadier general in a very short time. His easily ignitable personality earned him the nickname “Mad Anthony Wayne.”
Wayne led troops in several successful battles against the British forces, including the Battle of Monmouth and the Battle of Stony Point. After the war, Wayne began a career in politics. He was one of the delegates attending the state convention that ratified the United States Constitution. Later, in 1791, Wayne served as a U.S. Representative of Georgia’s 1st Congressional District.
As in many examples found in popular culture, fantasy is inspired by real history and personalities. In this case, Batman’s heroism is, in a way, a tribute to these two men and their bravery.