Ask most people what they know about Batman, and they'll tell you about the Adam West version from the 1960s tv show. That cheesy "bif bam pow" portrayal is reviled by fans not because it was so different from the comics, but because it struck too close to home. That's what the stories were really like in the period after WWII, though it seems maybe that was just an aberration - these days Batman is a dark avenger of the night, and that's what he was at the very beginning, too.
Adopting a ghastly, bat-like costume designed to inspire fear in the hearts of the "superstitious & cowardly" criminal element of Gotham City, Bruce Wayne burst onto the comics scene as Batman in 1939's Detective Comics #27!
When Bob Kane called Bill Finger over to his studio to show off the new character he was working on, the Bat-Man was still a far cry from the guy we know today. He was wearing a red suit and had wings on his arms - no gloves, no cowl, no cape... barely even Batman, when you think about it. It was Finger who suggested the scalloped cape, the bat mask with blank eyes, the gray suit and even things as simple as gloves. So while Bob Kane is the only one to get any credit for creating Batman, Bill Finger really had a lot more to do with it. And that's just the visuals - he contributed even more to the personality!
In 2004, DC Direct released their first series of First Appearance toys and, DCD being DCD,
Batman was of course part of the line-up. Since all the figures are specifically based on designs from the characters' first appearance (as opposed to just a "classic" look, unlike some figures we could name), Batman really captures the art style of Detective #27 - both the good and the bad. His neck is thick and asymmetrical? One of his legs bows out to the side strangely? That's the way it should be.
First Appearance Batman stands 6½" tall and moves at the knees, hips, wrists, elbows,
biceps, shoulders and neck. The lack of a waist is, as always, vexing, and the shoulders don't raise very far. The bicep swivels are a nice touch, and the range of motion on the head's balljoint is really impressive. The sculpt is smooth and simple, matching the stripped-down art style of the day. The bat symbol on his chest is really streamlined, one step above drawing a bunch of M's as a flock of birds, and instead of sticking straight up, the ears on his cowl sort of curve up from the sides. Weird! They even disappear when he's viewed from the side.
Bat-Man doesn't have any accessories, per se, but he didn't really use anything in the comic. What were they supposed to give him, the handkerchief he stuffed in a gas nozzle?
The wrench he used to cave in that one guy's skull? Yes, one of the things you'll notice (when you read the included miniature reprint comic) is how bloodthirsty Bat-Man was: it wasn't until after Bruce shot some people to death in Batman #1 that editor Whitney Ellsworth decreed that Batman should no longer kill anyone. In this first appearance, he was much more pragmatic and truer to his pulp roots, killing people who deserved it. Grab a man in "a deadly headlock" and heave him off the roof of a building? No problem! Punch someone into a tank of acid? Done. This is a Batman who didn't fool around. And also didn't use Bat-gadgets, so no accessories other than the big disc base.
One cool feature, though,
is that Bat-Man has a poseable cape. Thirteen thin, bendable wires are stitched into the cloth cape, allowing you to give the cape the illusion of movment. It actually works pretty nicely, sine the original artwork had distinctive blue highlights on the folds of the cape, a visual feature duplicated here by the stitching. And speaking of original colors, Bat-Man's gloves are purple, as they should be: in most reprints of these early stories, the gloves have been re-colored in blue, for some unknown reason. And though the reprint comic is the "retouched" version seen often in recent years, rather than the true original, his gloves have been re-re-colored purple. Isn't that strange!
First Appearance Batman is a decent figure, not really above average for DC Direct, but not terrible, either. The simple sculpt may turn some people off, but that's what he's supposed to look like - that's the way Bob Kane (and his army of uncredited ghost artists) drew. Forget "Silver Age" throwbacks, if you want a really old Batman, you can't beat the First Appearance Bat-Man. Yes, DC could have come up with some accessories if they'd put even a little thought into it, but don't hold that against this Batman.