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For a long time, the Chinese have regarded the bat as a powerful symbol of prosperity, longevity, intelligence, love and protection against untimely death. In the days of the Manchu period of China, bats became so popular as decorative emblems, they were used everywhere; on robes of emperors, on walls, painted on vases and carved on imperial furniture and thrones. Bats were often portrayed in a circle of five, and is said to bring much joy and wealth to those who display them in their homes.
In other parts of the world, the Bat is heralded as a symbol of rebirth and transformation; some legends say that if bats fly into your life, it signifies a life-altering transformation of one’s inner self. In some Native American tribes, the bat is highly regarded for its social intuitive abilities; a creature that sees through illusion and deciphers truth. There are even more European legends about the bat’s invincible vampirism tendencies probably born from the blood-sucking habits of a minority species of bats; but the common theme about bats is that although they are small and elusive, they are enduring, resilient creatures that have abilities to adapt that are out of the ordinary.
Scientific studies show that bats can fly at high speed and hunt in complete darkness through echolocation, and even outlive being kept in the fridge!
So what does any of this have to do with comic characters? When I read about the success of Batman the comic franchise, I have to marvel at how this cheesy, masked vigilante wearing black swimmingunderpants has today, become one of the most successful character franchises of all time since it was first created in 1939 by Bob Kane of DC Comics as a competitive response to the success of Superman. Since then Batman’s look and plot summations have undergone more than five generations of revisions and manifested in every popular entertainment media including radio, television, animation, merchandising and motion picture.
Just comparing earnings from movies and merchandising alone, Batman has already surpassed Superman.
Batman first branched into mainstream media by appearing in newspaper strips in 40s. In the 50s, Batman became a household name after making guest appearances in Superman’s radio show. By the 60s, Batman had already spawned two feature movies and sparked its own hit TV Series starring Adam West which ran for 120 episodes. Batman then took Hollywood by storm in motion picture and cartoon animation in 80s, and has left a legacy of more than six blockbuster movies, starring A-List actors like Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and now, Christian Bale.
The Dark Knight in 2008 set the record for the highest grossing opening weekend of all time in the U.S., earning approximately $158 million and became the fastest film to reach the $400 million mark in the history of American cinema.
There is no question that Batman has been through countless rebirths in personality, costume and plot twists not just in comics, but also in cartoon animation and movies.
But throughout all these reinventions, the actual Batman character and his origin story has largely remained unchanged. So what is the secret to Batman’s longevity and prosperity? Some might say it’s the human in a dark, muscular suit, and suggest that it’s the mystery and twisted psychology of Bruce Wayne the millionaire that gives this character classic appeal.
But for me, I choose to believe that Bob Kane chose one of the best ancient symbols for this character - which is the Bat. He could have picked any other flying creature (the Eagle being a popular favourite among Americans), but he didn’t. He picked the Bat; an everlasting symbol of longevity, prosperity and power. Superman and Spiderman can’t even afford their rent but Batman always gets the girl, never dies and never runs out of money.
The following article is taken from the "Feng Shui World ( May/June 2010)". To subscribe, please click here.