What significance did Bruce Wayne and Batman play in the lives od Americans during the Great Depression?

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saintfester | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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The comic book character Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, which was released in May of 1939. This was well past the most difficult years of the depression, there are still many  direct contrasts between the feelings of depression-era America and the comic books themes .

It is true that comic books, which cost on average a dime a piece, were an affordable means of entertainments during the depression. It is also true that when Bob Kane first released the comic, his Batman character was a much darker, sinister version that the later comic version. Batman inhabited a world overrun by crime and hopelessness, which are two themes that Americans during the depression dealt with on almost daily basis. It is no coincidence that many of Batman’s original nemesis were gangsters or mafia enforcers. For example, Joe Chill, the man who killed Batman’s parents, was a mafia underling during a time which is widely recognized as the “Golden Age of Gangsters” in America.

Batman also personified the power of average Americans to use what they had to rise above this hopelessness. Batman had no super powers other than his mind and work ethic, and he uses both to overcome all obstacles, much like average Americans were encouraged to do by the FDR administration.

One a final note, the dark, gritty themes in Batman were eventually lightened with the introduction of Robin in 1940, which seemed to reflect the positive attitude many Americans were able to adopt when the depression began to end.

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