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Since his comic-book debut seven decades ago, Batman — created by Bob Kane and William Finger — has undergone myriad evolutions, becoming along the way a vigilante, a detective, a comic foil, a fashion plate, a nocturnal beast and an action hero. As this month’s hotly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters, we take a look back at the history of one of America’s favorite comic characters.

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Daily Mail/Rex/Alamy
1939: Inspired by pulp fiction, noir literature and Sherlock Holmes, Batman makes his first appearance in Detective Comics No. 27, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate.”

1940: Robin is introduced as a Watson to Batman’s Holmes, while the Joker and Catwoman appear as arch nemeses.

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Everett Collection
1966: ABC’s campy television series, starring Adam West, premieres with a “Biff! Zap! Pow!” and runs for 120 episodes.

1986: Frank Miller’s four-issue series, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, widely considered one of comics’ finest moments, finds a wizened 55-year-old Caped Crusader (aka Bruce Wayne) emerging from retirement in a near-future dystopia.

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Everett Collection
1989: Tim Burton brings his phantasmagoric sensibility to Batman, starring Michael Keaton. A box-office bonanza ensues.

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Everett Collection
1992: Returning to a somber, noir-like tone, Batman: The Animated Series premieres on Fox, earning Emmy Awards.

1997: Batman & Robin — the film-franchise nadir in the opinion of most — debuts, featuring George Clooney and a much-discussed Batsuit with rubber nipples.

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Everett Collection
2005: Edgy, mystery-based and dark, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins reinvigorates the movie franchise, with Christian Bale as a particularly gritty Dark Knight.

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Warner Bros. Pictures
2012: Emerging from exile in The Dark Knight Rises, Batman takes on the wicked Bane in the final Nolan-Bale collaboration.