Faculty Advisor

Patricia Montalbano





The Dynamic Duo Then and Now: Batman and Robin as Evolving Cutural Icons

My purpose in this research was to investigate the impact of cultural and historical contexts on characterization of the comic book and film characters Batman and Robin. My primary research goal was to analyze changing portrayals of Batman from his origin in 1939 up through the film trilogy that concluded in 2012, and to explore Batman’s resurgence in popularity after September 11, 2001. To trace the evolution of this character, I consulted primary sources such as comic books from the relevant decades, as well as episodes of the 1960s television series and all eight of the Batman feature films from 1966 to 2012. I also consulted secondary sources deconstructing superheroes in general and Batman in particular. I focused on portrayals of Batman’s sidekick (Robin) and the Batman villains (especially the Joker) as leading indicators of Batman’s characterization in any given era. My research indicates that Robin’s presence in the Batman stories is one of the main catalysts for Batman’s shifting personality and portrayal, and that the dark and bitter 1980s Batman was a deliberate reversal of the sunny Batman-and-Robin team of the 1960s. I also found that Batman of the most recent film trilogy is a character designed to address fears and hopes that have become part of the public discourse following the events of September 11, 2001. Regardless of the details of his particular portrayals, Batman remains a superhero who does not stop fighting crime regardless of how self-destructive the world around him becomes, and this resolve is a major factor in the character’s appeal.