Batman 75th anniversary: The men behind the mask
LEWIS WILSON The silver screen's first Batman, unknown actor Lewis Wilson starred as Bruce Wayne and his alter ego in the 1943, 15-chapter film serial The Batman. He was praised for his performance as Bruce Wayne, but his less-than-athletic frame was not considered fitting for the Dark Knight. The serial established many staples of Batman, including the Batcave and the physical appearance of Alfred Pennyworth. Wilson did not find further success, but his son Michael G Wilson went on to become a long time writer-producer on the James Bond franchise under his stepfather Albert R Broccoli.
ROBERT LOWERY Wilson's successor in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin was Robert Lowery, who cut a far more dashing figure in the cape and cowl. Lowery was also an established actor, having appeared in The Mark Of Zorro, The Mummy's Ghost and Dangerous Passage. He later appeared in a 1956 episode of Adventures of Superman opposite George Reeves, although sadly not as Bruce Wayne. In the episode - titled 'The Deadly Rock' - Lowery plays an old acquaintance of Clark Kent who'd survived an airplane crash in Africa.
ADAM WEST No other actor's career has been so greatly defined by his role as the Caped Crusader as Adam West. Famously starring as Bruce Wayne alongside Burt Ward's Robin in the 1966-68 Batman television series and 1966 movie spinoff, West's tenure was marked by extreme campness for which it has been loved and hated. In 1970, West turned down the role of James Bond in Diamonds are Forever - claiming that he did not think 007 should be played by a non-British actor - and spent the next several decades in the acting wilderness. More recently, he has embraced his role as a pop-culture icon, as well as regularly voicing Mayor Adam West in Family Guy.
MICHAEL KEATON Twenty years came and went before the Dark Knight made his way back to the big screen, this time in Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman. Michael Keaton beat out Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Charlie Sheen, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Selleck and Bill Murray for the role, in a casting which (not for the last time) incurred the wrath of many fans. Batman and its 1992 sequel Batman Returns remain well regarded, with Keaton's brooding and Burton's designs bringing an air of darkness back to the franchise. The Beetlejuice star never again duplicated the runaway success of the DC films, but will be returning to the superhero genre this year in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman.
VAL KILMER Keaton exited the franchise with Tim Burton, and - over Daniel Day-Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, William Baldwin and Johnny Depp - new director Joel Schumacher cast Val Kilmer as the lead in 1995's Batman Forever. Kilmer allegedly joined the project without reading the script or knowing which director was helming the film. His performance as Batman received mixed reviews, and was accused of being wooden, but was praised by Roger Ebert and Batman co-creator Bob Kane. Schumacher was famously among Kilmer's vocal detractors. He described his lead as "childish and impossible", claiming that his lead refused to speak to him for two weeks after being called up on his behaviour. Kilmer did not return for the next instalment, and has enjoyed a similarly patchy career to Michael Keaton since.
GEORGE CLOONEY George Clooney's performance in 1997's Batman and Robin has been eclipsed by the revulsion that the film has garnered in general, with the campy characterisation, nonsensical plot and agonising puns from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr Freeze. Clooney has possibly been the film's most vocal critic, making frequent jokes about bat-nipples and how he "so terribly destroyed the part". When comparing the role to his appearance in Gravity, he said, "Let's face it: the space suit was just uncomfortable for me, the Batsuit was uncomfortable for all of the world."
CHRISTIAN BALE Christian Bale has been praised with bringing the Batman franchise back from the dead alongside Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Certainly he excelled as both the careless billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and the relentless Batman, although his voice for the latter did garner some criticism for its extreme huskiness. Bale jettisoned every shred of camp from the character, and the design and direction of the trilogy did the same. Known for immersing himself in his roles, Bale's career was going strong before Batman and has continued to do so since. He most recently bagged Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for his role in David O Russell's American Hustle.
KEVIN CONROY Strangely, the most established Batman actor is probably the one whose face is least well known. Kevin Conroy has provided the voice of Bruce Wayne in various television shows, animated features and video games, most famously in Batman: The Animated Series, which launched in 1992. He featured in the games Injustice: Gods Among Us, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, and although he did not voice Batman in Arkham Origins, he will be returning for Arkham Knight later this year.
BEN AFFLECK Our Batman of the future, Ben Affleck will star in Zack Snyder's 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opposite Henry Cavill and a growing cast of supporting Justice Leaguers. There has been vocal fan opposition to the former Daredevil star's inclusion in the film, while Affleck has remained largely silent on the part beyond saying that he can handle the criticism.

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