||[Jul. 1st, 2011|12:54 pm]
At the end of World War II, Gotham City breathed a sigh of relief. She and her citizens had come through mostly unscathed, and could now look forward to the return of her servicemen.
Not everyone who sailed off to fight in Europe or the Pacific was a heroic young man with a patriotic heart. Some were simply glad of any opportunity for reliable money in their pockets and food in their bellies. Mustered out as the Army downsized, they had nowhere to go. The G.I. Bill helped, but too many men from Gotham couldn't make a go of things even with the government's help.
Joe Chill couldn't. He'd been an indifferent soldier, lucky to survive the war. Back once more in the Gotham slums where he grew up, he drifted back into the petty criminal life he had before the war. Now, though, he was no longer a boy, but a grown man with a grown man's habits - and a pistol he took from a dead Nazi.
In 1947, after Bruce Wayne's 10th birthday trip to see Tyrone Power in The Mask of Zorro at the Palace, Joe Chill pulled that pistol on Thomas and Martha Wayne. He wanted Martha's pearls and whatever Thomas had in his wallet. He got two murders and the grief-stricken face of a young boy on his conscience.
Bruce Wayne couldn't see the world the same way after that night. He obsessively followed crime reports in the Gotham Gazette. He neglected his schoolwork in favour of reading about famously uncaught criminals like Jack the Ripper, and notorious gangsters like Al Capone whose real crimes could never be proven in court.
Before Bruce turned 13, he had already decided that he had to use his parents' fortune to prepare himself for doing what the police and the courts could not. At 17, he spread the story that he would leave Gotham City and go to Europe to finish his education; in truth, he spent four years criss-crossing the globe, learning to identify, stalk, fight, and capture the criminal element.
In October of 1958, eleven years after the Waynes' murder in what the newspapers still called Crime Alley, the Batman made his first appearance on the nighttime streets of Gotham City.
Bruce had learned a great deal. He soon identified the dirty cops from the principled few. He made a dramatic appearance at a dinner attended by mob bosses, police brass, and city politicians - demolishing a wall with explosives, and appearing from the smoke and dust to warn them all that he was coming for them.
The mob - and their paid lawmen and lawmakers - fought back. The Batman was branded an outlaw, a criminal trying to intimidate honest businessmen and cops. Yellow papers made comparisons between the masked vigilante and the hooded KKK of the south and midwest. Even more respectable news outlets speculated that the Batman was a Soviet-backed dissident, especially after black and Hispanic leaders tied to Communist groups praised his colour-blind protection of all citizens of Gotham.
Public opinion began to change, a little at a time, as the Batman went from exposing corrupt police officers to uncovering crooked politicians to taking down gangsters cloaked in the guise of respectable businessmen. Everything changed, however, in 1962, when the first of the "freaks" made himself known . . .