Batman may have been born out of the success of Superman, with writer Bob Kane being assigned the task of coming up with a new superhero for DC Comics, but the character became pretty uniquely his own on arrival in issue 27 of Detective Comics, published in 1940. And since then, Batman, formed from the moment when young Bruce Wayne saw his parents robbed and murdered in a dark alley, has become a true symbol of justice. He's also evolved from the campy persona of the Adam West Classic TV version to the far more realistic — and deadly — takes offered by actors like Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck.

Kevin Conroy, who has been voicing the character in animation on and off since 1992, comments in an exclusive interview, "Different actors bring different things to a role. Mark Hamill, to me, defined Joker on Batman: The Animated Series. I never thought anyone would ever, ever come close to him, and then I saw Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight and I thought, 'Wow, that's a whole other kind of crazy, insane world he's introducing to Joker.' I think it was smart of Warner Bros, actually, to have different actors do the live-action Batman, because there have been so many different versions of him. It's interesting to see, so when I hear other voices doing the character, I don't get proprietary about it. He's a wonderful mantle to put on and I wish anyone well who gets to do it. It's a great character to play."

Batman, believes Christopher Nolan, who directed the Dark Knight trilogy between 2005 and 2012, has a relevant place in today's world. "I think he fits in, in a very vital manner," he exclusively explains, "because he is a force for good — but only just. What he represents is somebody who is fueled by very negative impulses, but has found a way to channel them into something positive and altruistic. That is a very relevant form of crime-fighting or justice, if you will, which is very relevant to today's world. There are a lot of people dealing with a lot of issues that Bruce Wayne has had to deal with. Certainly, it's a very relevant issue in our time to look at the rage or anger that might befall someone at a very young age, and what they do with that later in life. That's an important question to today's society in all sorts of ways. Do you become a serial killer or a force for good?"

Check out our guide to the actors who have played Batman over the years, and decide for yourself which side of the line they fall on.