Was Batman Inspired By A Victorian Superhero?

There’s no denying the fact that Batman was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, before he first appeared in the comics in May 1939.

But where did he come from? Did he just manifest in either Kane or Finger’s mind before being enhanced by the other? Or was he actually inspired by a Victorian-era superhero named Spring-Heeled Jack?

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It turns out that the caped-crusader’s origins appear to owe a debt to this British character, who started as an urban myth before progressing to become a penny dreadful star.

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During io9’s recent celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary, which saw an article discuss the character’s inception and creation, a commenter by the name of Michael Munro first made the comparisons between DC superhero and Spring-Heeled Jack.

Munro wrote, “[In my honest opinion] Batman owes a great unacknowledged debt to Spring Heeled Jack, who transitioned from London urban myth (1830s) to melodrama anti-hero (1870s) to prototype superhero (1880s-early 1990s).”

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He then went on to describe the character in more detail, explaining, “As written by “penny dreadful” author Alfred Burrage, [Spring-Heeled Jack] was a wealthy aristocrat who assumed the disguise of a devilish, bat-winged avenger of the night, maintained a secret underground lair and used his athletic and technological skills to battle evil-doers.”

It’s clear that these two characters share a lot of similar traits, but as Finger and Kane died in 1974 and 1998 respectively, we’ll unfortunately never know if Spring-Heeled Jack was a source of inspiration for Bruce Wayne. 

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Image credit: Burrage/DC