Few fictional characters have melted as much plastic as Batman. Before the Dark Knight, as he’s also known, was molded into a poseable action figure, even before Adam West made the Caped Crusader famous in the definitively campy TV series from the 1960s, Batman was a comic-book superhero, whose mission was to protect the good citizens of Gotham City from all manner of bad guys and gals.

The first appearance of The Bat-Man, as he was then called, occurred in issue #27 of “Detective Comics,” which was published in May of 1939. Bob Kane did the art and Bill Finger wrote the story. In that introductory tale, readers met Bat-Man and Commissioner Gordon, and learned the hero’s secret identity—the man behind the mask was none other than millionaire Bruce Wayne.

Batman got his own comic in 1940, lent a gloved-hand to troops during World War II, and even teamed up with Superman in the 1950s. But his biggest transformation occurred in 1966, when the short-lived but highly influential television version of Batman debuted.

Soon there were Batman lunch boxes, trading cards, posters, model cars of the Batmobile, and, of course, action figures. While the ones produced by Marx predate the TV show, Ideal capitalized on the show’s popularity by creating Batman and Robin costumes for its Captain Action figures.

In the early 1970s, Mego licensed the likenesses of Batman, Robin, Catwoman, and The Joker, among others, from DC Comics as a part of numerous product lines, from World’s Greatest Super Heroes (1972-1982) to Bend ’n Flex Super Heroes (1974-1975). Mego’s Comic Action Heroes line ran from 1975 to 1978. These smaller figures were rebranded in 1979 as Pocket Super Heroes.

Mego also offered larger, 12-inch Batmans and Robins in 1978, some of which had magnetic bodies for “fly away action.” The company also created diecast figures for collectors (i.e., adults) and squat, elastic versions of Batman for kids. But its biggest Batman was the Super Softies version in 1974—this cuddly cloth doll was made in 18- and 22-inch versions, the latter of which talked.

Since the 1940s, Batman has appeared on the silver screen, most memorably, perhaps, in 1966, when Adam West’s Batman, based on his TV character, socked and powed such adversaries as Burgess Meredith’s Penguin and Frank Gorshin’s Riddler. But the character’s Tim Burton incarnation in 1989, with Michael Keaton in the starring role and Jack Nicholson as the scene-stealing Joker, is considered a more potent, modern-day take on the comic-book character’s morally ambiguous roots...

More importantly for action-figure fans, the films spawned a veritable industry devoted to Batman toys. Toy Biz offered the first sets of Batman action figures, whose release was timed with the film’s. The figures all came with the same Batrope and Bat-a-rang, but because Toy Biz hired three different manufacturers to mold the figures, three slightly different versions were the result. Today, collectors look for Batman figures from that first 1989 release with either a painted face, a square jaw, or a round jaw.

Naturally an animated TV series followed the film, which just as naturally spawned an entirely new series of action figures, noteworthy for their Gothic, almost Art Deco packaging. Kenner made the toys as part of the Dark Knight Collection from 1992 until 2000, when the figures were given the Hasbro brand. There was the Combat Belt Batman, the Turbojet Batman, and even a figure for Bruce Wayne, whose facial features closely resembled Keaton’s. Villains included Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and a maniacal clown called Harley Quinn.

In 1992, Kenner also produced action figures for “Batman Returns,” which kept the Burton-Keaton team together but added Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman and Danny DeVito as the Penguin. The cat-suited Catwoman action figure is fairly true to Pfeiffer’s physique, but the Penguin toy looks nothing like DeVito because it was made from inventory that had been created for a figure in Kenner’s Super Powers toy series.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]

Cover Browser

Cover Browser

Philipp Lenssen's incredible archive of over 94,000 comic book covers - Wow! Wham! Yikes! Browse by title from the … [read review or visit site]

Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site

Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site

Doug Gilford's great Mad Magazine reference site features cover scans and reference information on every issue of t… [read review or visit site]

TheComicBooks.com

TheComicBooks.com

Jamie Coville's in-progress ode to the history of 20th century comic books. Start with his Newsstand Period Part 1 … [read review or visit site]

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Bruce Shults takes us on a comprehensive Popeye fan tour, from the early comic strips to cartoons and collectible m… [read review or visit site]

Barnacle Press

Barnacle Press

This collection of obscure newspaper comic strips provides scans browsable by title, year and date. Showcases comic… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1/6 Hot Toys Mms218 €Lot Vtg 70's Mego Thor Batman Robin Planet Apes Star Trek Action Jackson LooseHot Toys 1/6 Selina Kyle Catwoman Figure BatmanVintage Ideal Captain Action Batman Superman Phantom And More Lot No Reserve Kotobukiya Artfx New 52 Justice League Set Lot Superman Batman Wonder WomanSuper Powers Collection Vintage Figure Batman 1989 Moc Rare Amigos Play FulHot Toys 1/6 Michael Keaton Batman FigureBatman Robin Batmobile Mattel 1966Mego 12 Inch Batman Mib Ultra High Grade Figure, Box Is In Fine Condition, AcrylHot Toys (hottoys) Joker Jack Nicholson Batman 1989 Dx08 Dx 08 1/6 Action FigureHot Toys 1/6 Jack Nicholson Joker Figure12 Inch Mego 1978 Batman And Robin Action Figures UnopenedBatman Unlimited Arkham Origins Batman And Deathstroke - Rare And Hard To FindVintage Palitoy 12 Back Joker Batman Super Powers Uk Kenner Dc Comics 1984 MocDc Direct Blackest Night Black Lantern Batman Action Figure Series 51973 Mego Batman 1301 Action Figure In Original Box Vintage Rare!Batman Unlimited Arkham Origins Batman And Deathstroke - Rare And Hard To FindRare Vintage 1966 Ideal Captain Action Figure W/ Batman Aquaman Mask 8 Items NrVintage Mego Pocket Heroes Batmobile With Batman.Dc Direct Robin And The Catwoman Statue From Batman Family SetCombat Belt Batman Fig./batman The Animated Series MocSubscriber Exclusive:12 Inch Batman Mego In The Box 1976 Huge Dc Universe Actions Figures Lot. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash,Dc Unlimited Batman: Arkham Origins Deathstroke - Rare1976 Mego 12 Inch Batman Mint In The Box SealedUnopened Square Enix Play Arts Tdkt Dark Knight Trilogy #4 Joker Mint!!Batman: The Animated Series Btas: Combat Belt Batman Complete LooseDc Infinite Heroes Lot Superman Batman The Flash Sideshow Batman Life Size Bust Justice League Huge! Hot! Must See! No Reserve!Batman Black And White Statue Jim LeeDc Play Arts Kai Arkham Asylum Joker Figure Complete Batman Harley QuinnBatman: The Animated Series Btas Batplane With Skydive Batman Loose LotHot Toys Batman Dx 12 Dark Knight Rises 1:6 1/6 12-inch Scale Plus Mod And Cape!Dc Classics Wave 4 Batman Beyond Figure LooseDc Super Hero Collection Eaglemoss Special Issue 7:Dc Dcd Batman Arkham Asylum Square Enix Play Arts Kai Harley Quinn Action FigureBatman Unlimited Arkham Origins Batman Figure In Hand Ready To ShipDc Play Arts Kai Arkham City Harley Quinn Figure Complete Near Mint Joker BatmanUsed Dc Direct Batman Maquette - From The Justice League Animated SeriesBatman: The Animated Series Btas Batmobile With Skydive Batman Loose LotDc Universe Classics Wave 16 Huntress Poison Ivy Syndicate Batman 29 Figures MocBatman Black And White Statue Frank Miller 1st Edition New SealedDc Universe Robin 50s Curls Loose Wave 16 BatmanBatman Deluxe Collector 13" Figure Dc Direct Blue 1/6 Scale ClassicLot Of 8 1989-90 Dc Comics Super Heroes/batman MocDc Comics Batman Hush Series Jim Lee 1 Set Of Five Figures Dc Direct. Nib Batman The Dark Knight Rises Bruce Wayne Sdcc Exclusive Figure Mattel Dc Movie Dc Direct Jim Lee Batman Hush Series 1 Batman Action Figure Nib SealedToybiz Batman Batcave28 Dc Universe Young Justice Jul Super Man Bat Girl The Joker 4.5'' Figure N67Marvel Legends Dc Universe Punisher Batman Thor Carnage Hydra, Captain AmericaDc Play Arts Kai Arkham City Poison Ivy Figure Complete Near Mint Joker BatmanPlay Arts Kai Batman Arkham Asylum Harley QuinnBatman Jocker MegoDc Universe Classics Batman Metamorpho Wave 1 Square Enix Batman Arkham Asylum: Play Arts Kai: Armored Batman Action FigureBatman The Animated Series Figures Lot Of Gotham Heroes And VillainsHarley Quinn Statue Batman Arkham City Dc Collectibles Mego 8in. Fist Fighting Batman Vintage Original Super Sweet Piece!!!!!!!