7 Weird Facts You Didn't Know About Comic Books

5. Batman Was A Total Rip-Off Of This Famous Character

Universal Pictures

The Caped Crusader has greatly evolved over his nearly eighty-year publication history, but in the beginning, he was little more than a rip-off of a wildly popular magazine pulp hero. In fact, the first "dark knight" actually appeared in 1931.

Walter Gibson penned the novel The Living Shadow, for Street & Smith publications, to introduce a character now widely accepted as a major influence on comic book heroes in general, and Batman in particular: the mysterious crime-fighter called The Shadow, "who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men."

Like Batman, the Shadow was a figure of the night, spoken of in whispers by the underworld criminals who feared him. Like the Dark Knight, the Shadow was also a brilliant detective, an amazing escape artist, and a master of disguise. By day, however, the Shadow often assumed the identity of millionaire Lamont Cranston, "a wealthy young man about town" not unlike Gotham City's own Bruce Wayne. And last but not least, on the covers of dozens of issues of his pulp magazine, the Shadow wore a cape.

Batman co-creator Bill Finger even stated once, "My first [Batman] script was a take-off on a Shadow story." That's putting it mildly. While creating the Bat-Man, Finger wasn't just inspired by the Shadow's nocturnal derring-do; he also lifted an entire plot from the The Shadow pulp magazine.

The first Batman story, appearing in early 1939, in Detective Comics #27, reads like an abbreviated version of the Shadow novel Partners in Peril, which appeared two years earlier. In both tales, the climax is the same: both the Shadow and the Bat-man willingly enter death-traps (similarly designed gas chambers) in order to save a life. In both cases, the heroes escape death by stuffing a handkerchief into the gas port.

But Bat-fans are okay with these initial borrowings, because the Dark Knight quickly evolved into his own unique character. Which is why Batman and the Shadow were eventually able to team up on several comic book cases.

 
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Contributor
Contributor

Tom English is an environmental chemist who loves reading comics, watching movies, and writing stories both weird and wonderful. His fiction has appeared in several print anthologies, including CHALLENGER UNBOUND (KnightWatch Press, 2015), GASLIGHT ARCANUM: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes (Edge SF and Fantasy) and DEAD SOULS (Morrigan Books). Tom also edited the mammoth BOUND FOR EVIL: Curious Tales of Books Gone Bad, which was a 2008 Shirley Jackson Award finalist for best anthology. Among his non-fiction books is DIET FOR DREAMERS, a collection of inspirational stories featuring everything from Stan Lee to Sherlock Holmes to Slinky Toys. Tom resides with his wife, Wilma, surrounded by books and beasts, deep in the woods of New Kent, Virginia.