Batman, the popular comic book character and later TV and movie superhero, was born in 1939 in DC Comics. Homosexual interpretations of Batman began in the mid-1950s. These accusations began in 1954 with a book written by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham called Seduction of the Innocent.
Werthan claimed that "The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies of the nature of which they may be unconscious." Wertham added, "Only someone ignorant of the fundamentals of psychiatry and the psychopathology of sex can fail to realize a subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism which pervades the adventures of the mature Bruce Wayne and his young friend, Robin." Dr. Wertham's book was issued in the context of the "lavender scare" when homosexuality was considered a security risk. It is also worth noting that homosexuality was an officially classified "disease" by psychiatrists until 1972. The good (or bad) Dr. Wertham aside, let's take a look at the nebulous and questionable sexuality of Batman.
The early Batman comics were very dark and moody, sort of a comic book film noire. But by the late 1940s and early '50s, they had become much softer, friendlier, and had a more exotic style -though not quite as "campy" as the later TV series. Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward, Dick Grayson (aka Batman and Robin) shared a large double bed in steely Wayne manor.
In an oft-cited comic panel from a June 1954 Batman comic, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are seen waking up together in their bed. Bruce says, "Ah, that was a good sleep! C'mon, Dick -a cold shower, a big breakfast." The picture of Bruce and Dick also shows a very suspicious-looking object rising under Bruce's side of the blanket (almost certainly the artist was portraying Bruce's knees under the blanket, but hey…).
Female characters were scarce in the Golden Age of comics. Batman's first female ally was named Vicki Vale. His almost complete lack of interest in her, as well as other women in the comic, has been cited to insinuate homosexuality. However, the early Batman character was not without heterosexual desire.
A character named Julie Madison was introduced -Bruce Wayne was engaged to her, but they never married. Later, just as in the future TV series, he showed romantic feelings and desires for his arch enemy The Catwoman. He showed similar desires for another comic book villainess named Poison Ivy.
Later, in 1956, "The Batwoman" was introduced as a love interest for the Caped Crusader. She also served the thought-to-be-neccessary purpose of helping to evade accusations of homosexuality. "Bat-girl" was also introduced and served a similar purpose for Robin.
It is an urban myth that the character of Aunt Harriet was added to the Batman TV series to reassure viewers about the possible gayness of Batman. Aunt Harriet was, though, introduced to Batman comic books for that exact reason. A few years before the Batman TV series hit the airwaves, Batman comics added a new character, Aunt Harriet Cooper. Aunt Harriet was, indeed, added to the comics to stem the "gay" accusations, dealing with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson living together in Wayne manor, with only their loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth, for company.
The popular TV series Batman (1966-1968) is worth exploring in the quest for the Caped Crusader's sexual preferences. (Interestingly, the same year Batman debuted on television, The Monkees, a comedy about four long-haired male musicians living together in much tighter and more intimate quarters than Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, premiered. Although no females ever lived with The Monkees (and they were musicians!), no gay accusations about the show were ever, to my knowledge, forthcoming. Perhaps this is because the Monkees routinely sang songs about being in love with girls. Also, Davy Jones, the group's heartthrob, often fell in love with pretty girls in various episodes.)
Without question, Batman's most obvious object of desire was the Catwoman. Played in a very sexy manner by Julie Newmar, Catwoman and Batman are mutually attracted in several episodes, and are just about to kiss when some outside factor (usually Robin) always interrupts their amorous desires and Catwoman is ceremoniously carted off to the hoosegow. Batman and Catwoman even briefly discuss the possibility of marriage on one episode. It is worthy of note that in one Catwoman episode, Robin succumbs to the charms of Catwoman's lovely assistant, Pussycat (Lesley Gore) and joins her gang against Batman.
"Marsha, Queen of Diamonds" is seen in another episode, played by Carolyn Jones, in an ultra-short miniskirt. In this episode, she has cast Batman in a movie and the two do, indeed, embrace and kiss in a prolonged manner for several takes. When Robin asks Batman how he could possibly resist Marsha's obvious feminine charms, Batman answers, "It took every ounce of strength I had."
A young, gorgeous Joan Collins played "The Siren" in another episode. The Siren's high-pitched singing note attracted several men in Gotham City and they became her willing slaves. But Batman somehow fought off the Siren's charms.
In another episode, Shelley Winters plays "Ma Parker." The fact that he was not attracted to Shelley Winters was no sign of gayness, just Batman's good taste. In the episode, Ma Parker's very hot-looking daughter is named "Legs" and wears a short skirt. Robin shyly admits to his pal that he was attracted to Legs' legs. Instead of agreeing and engaging in the usual "guy talk," Batman says, "You're growing up, Robin," in a rather detached manner.
In 1968, during the series third and final season, the beautiful Yvonne Craig joined the show's cast as "Batgirl." Although he was often in close proximity with her and could have easily felt attraction, Batman made no moves in her direction and showed no sexual interest whatsoever. The two remained purely platonic fellow crime fighters throughout the remainder of the series.
It is worth noting that every creator connected with Batman deny any gay association with the character. According to writer Alan Grant, "The Batman I wrote for 13 years isn't gay." He added, "Penny O'Neil's Batman, Marve Wolfman's Batman, everybody's Batman, all the way back to Bob Kane's [Batman's original creator] …none of them wrote him as a gay character."
Writer Devon Grayson says, "It depends who you ask, doesn't it? Since you're asking me, I'll say no, I don't think he is …I certainly understand the gay readings, though."
Soooo …there you have it. Was the Caped Crusader gay? You decide.
One last note: I had the great pleasure of reading Adam West's memoirs of playing Batman, a wonderful book called Back to the Batcave, several years ago. Although I never read Burt Ward's book, I have heard a few anecdotes from it. And although Batman and Robin may have been gay, West and Ward most definitely were not!