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]

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    

Sideshow Dc Comics From Batman 1/6 Scale Harley Quinn Action Figure-awesome!!Vintage Batman Piston Batmobile Tin Toy Battery Operated Bump N Go Rare Color !!One:12 Batman The Dark Knight Returns Comicon 2015 Exclusive Mezco1974 Mego Batcopter Wgsh Carded Batman Robin Dc Comics Clean - 3 Day AuctionKenner Super Powers Lot - 21 Figures Accessories Capes Rare Great Batman +more!Marvel Hot Toys The Joker 2.0 Dx11 1/6 Scale Figurine The Dark KnightRare Estrela Super Powers Vintage Batcopter Vehicle 1987 Dc BatmanExclusive Mezco One:12 Collective Batman Puerto Rico Comicon 2015Batman Mego World's Greatest Super Heroes 12 1/2 Inch Action Figure BoxedDc Universe Classics Batman Lot Tim Drake Robin Knighfall Nightwing JokerHot Toys 1/6 Mms218 – Batman 1966: Batman Adam West ClassicSdcc 2015 Exclusive Dc Collectibles Jim Lee's Blueline Batman Figure *presaleBatman Neca Batman 1989 Movie Michael Keaton's 1/4 Scale Action Figure Burton1970's Original Mego 8" Type 1 Batman Action FigureSideshow Collectibles Dc Comics Catwoman 1/6 Scale Action Figure From BatmanDc Universe Classics Batman Bane Build A Figure Wave 16 Robin Variant 6" Mattel* 1992 Ertl Lot Of 11 Batman The Animated Series Diecast Vehicles Action FiguresBatman Arkham City Play Arts Kai The Joker Action Figure Square EnixBatman 6th Scale Sixth Scale Sideshow Figure Not MegoVintage 1976 Mego 12.5 Inch Batman Figure / All Original No Reserve !!1/4 Neca 89 Batman 18" Inches Keaton Hot Toys EnterbayMattel Batman And Cyborg Superman 12 Inch Figure SetVintage 1970's Mego Batgirl & Batman Action Figures No Reserve .99 CentsSuper Powers Batmobile 1984 Vintage Dc Comics With Batman Action FigureHot Toys Tdkr Batman John Blake & Jim Gordon Figure Set 1/6 John Blake HeadFunko Pop! Dc 9" Batman Chase Limited Edition FigureSdcc 2015 Exclusive Dc Collectibles Jim Lee's Blueline Batman Figure *presale*2014 Kotobukiya Limited Edition 75th Anniversary Batman Bob Kane StatueRemovable Cowl Batman * Mego T1 8" * 100% All Original * Rare Stirrups Nr Mint *Mezco Toyz Prcc One:12 Collective Batman The Dark Night Returns. Only 300 Made!Dc Direct Superman/batman Vengeance Series 4 Action Figures ~ Complete Set Batman Arkham Origins The Joker Play Arts Kai Action Figure Square-enixSideshow The Joker 12" Figure Dc Comics Batman The Killing Joke NewBatman The Animated Series "shadowcast" Batmobile W/ Batman Action FigureDc Direct The Killing Joke Collector Set Batman And Joker Action Figures MintVintage Lot 12 Batman Robin Toy Action Figures 1988 15" Hamilton W/stands Vg5899Hot Toys Tdkr Batman John Blake & Jim Gordon Figure Set 1/6 Jim Gordon HeadAzrael Batman Action Figure Dc Universe Classics Wave 16 Htf Figure 6Sdcc 2015 Exclusive Dc Collectibles Jim Lee's Blueline Batman Figure *presaleBatman Batcave By Toy Biz - 1989 - Never OpenedBatman Batwing Toybiz New In Box RareJustice League Unlimited Jlu Figure Lot-cyborg-goldface-crimsonfox-waller-batmanNew In Box Mattel Batman's Cap-firing Bat-bombBatman Hush Jason Todd Toyfare Exclusive Dc Direct Figure Funko Pop! Dc 9" Batman RetiredDc Direct Lot Of 100 Action Figure Stands Superman Batman Shazam! +++Batman Arkham Asylum Figure Set Dc Direct Collectibles LooseInfinite Crisis Series 2 Batman (battle Damaged) Very Rare!!! Moc Mib UnopenedBatman Arkham Asylum Video Game Deluxe Titan Joker 12in. Action Figure By Dc Dir**new** Dc Direct Superman/batman Public Enemies Series 1 Complete SetDc Comics- Designer Series By Greg Cappulo Batman Action Figures Nightwing Batman Arkham City Action Figure Series 4 Dc Collectibles ComicsLot Of 5 Public Enemies Vengeance Superman & Batman Action FiguresDc Collectibles Batman Arkham City Sickle & The Penguin Action Figure 2 Pack Fmg Friction Plastic Batmobile Batman Car Dc ComicsDc Direct Classic Silver Age Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder Deluxe Figure SetLot Of 5 Batman Classic Tv Series 1960's Action Figures 6 Inch By MattelBatman Arkham Asylum Harley Quinn Action Figure Dc Collectibles 1998 New Batman Tas Harley Quinn W/ Hyenas Action Collection 11" Doll Figure NibSuperman/batman: Apocalypse Superman 3" Figure Blu-ray + Dvdspecial Edition Rare