Saturday, 17 September 2016

Batman and Robert the Bruce

September 17th 2016 is Batman Day, a celebration of DC Comics most popular character. Across the world comic shops will be celebrating with cosplayers and special events. The event was first introduced three years ago to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman in a comic book.

To celebrate I thought I'd investigate the links between two of my favourite heroes, Batman and Robert the Bruce.

What links could possibly exist between a fictional superhero and a Scottish monarch? Well, Batman co-creator Bill Finger revealed the name of Batman's secret identity, Bruce Wayne, as having been inspired by two historical characters, Robert the Bruce and 'Mad' Anthony Wayne. Indeed, the Wayne family home, Wayne Manor is supposed to have been owned by Bruce Wayne's ancestor Anthony Wayne, who was a real-life hero of the American Revolution.

Similarly Robert the Bruce fought for freedom in Scotland's war of independence in the middle ages.
The similarities between Robert the Bruce and Batman don't stop there. One of the most famous stories of Robert the Bruce has him hiding from his enemies in a cave, and which comic book character has a liking for hanging around in caves?

Beyond the predilection for caves, both Bruces were inspired by animals to take up the fight against their enemies. Bruce Wayne was inspired to dress as a bat when said creature flew into his home (or through the bat cave depending on which origin story you read). Similarly, Robert the Bruce, whilst in hiding and considering giving up the fight for his country, was inspired by a tiny spider building its web.

Batman is also well known for having a faithful sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder. The orphaned Dick Grayson would be taken under the wing of Bruce Wayne and trained to become the masked crimefighter, Robin. Incidentally Robin's costume is inspired by Robin Hood, who in turn may have been inspired by Scotland's own William Wallace. Robert the Bruce also had his faithful sidekick, Sir James Douglas. Douglas had been sent to France for schooling and for his own safety, when Scotland's king had been deposed by the English King Edward. Douglas' father, who had fought in the rebellion alongside William Wallace, was eventually captured and died in an English prison. Thus the young James Douglas had been orphaned, and on his return to Scotland he was taken under the protection of King Robert the Bruce. Douglas remained a loyal follower of the King and became a renowned guerrilla fighter, using stealth tactics to attack the enemies of the King.

It seems likely that Bill Finger may have been inspired not only to name his character after historical characters, but also to base some of their personality and background on them too. I'm sure none of this supposition could be proved, but it's certainly a nice story for Batman Day.

The story of King Robert the Bruce and the Battle of Bannockburn is retold in the comic book King Robert the Bruce and the Wars of Independence, available from Maximized Comics.