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Take a look back at the Caped Crusaders highs and lows

Shaun Harrison
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1 of 19 Jessica Miglio/FOX

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Fox's Gotham aims to explore the city protected by Batman -- before Batman was around to protect it. Before you check out the ambitious prequel, look back at the Batman franchise's highs and lows through the years.

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Batman's first appearance. Created by Bob Kane, Bruce Wayne and his winged, crime-fighting alter ego first appeared in Detective Comics No. 27 as "The Batman" in 1939. A year later, Batman became its own series, publishing 715 issues to date.

3 of 19 Everett Collection

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Holy cameras, Batman! Though painfully low-budget, Columbia Pictures shot the first Batman movie in 1943, in which Batman cruised the city in a black Cadillac and introduced us to his hideout, the Batcave.

4 of 19 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

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Bat Camp. Adam West and Co. went the tongue-in-cheek route in the 1960s Emmy-winning TV series, which added villains like the Joker and the Penguin from the comic books. THWACK!

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The Killing Joke. This one-shot tale juxtaposes the Joker's origin story with his sadistic plan to prove anyone (Commissioner Gordon is his unlucky guinea pig) can be made as insane as he is.

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Robin leaves the nest. After growing up under Batman's wing, Dick Grayson has differences with his mentor, which leads to him leaving Batman's side to adopt the Nightwing persona.

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Use your re-imagination. The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller's rethinking of Batman, returns our hero to his gritty roots, and features a ruthless, 60-something Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement.

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We got a load of Jack. Michael Keaton (left) faced off with Jack Nicholson's delightfully hammy Joker in Tim Burton's dark film adaptation.

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A Death in the Family. "New Robin" Jason Todd was so unpopular with fans that execs set up a hotline for readers to vote to let him live or die. Needless to say, the fans made the Joker's job easy.

10 of 19 Warner Bros.

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Meow! In Batman Returns, Tim Burton delved deeper into the gutters of Gotham -- literally. Standing in for every man in America, Danny DeVito's sewer-dwelling, lothario Penguin leered at Michelle Pfeiffer's patent-leather-clad Catwoman.

11 of 19 Warner Bros.

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A different 'toon. With Batman fanboys re-energized by Burton's films, Warner Bros. created an animated series for the Caped Crusader in 1992. The series pushed the boundaries, drew as many adults as it did kids and even won two Emmys.

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The return of camp. The wheels began to come off the Batmobile with Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever, which featured two classic villains (Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face and Jim Carrey's Riddler, pictured) and introduced Robin.

13 of 19 Warner Bros.

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Rubber nipples and codpieces. Batman and Robin featured Arnold Schwarzenegger's terrible villain Mr. Freeze ("Chill out!"), a pointless Batgirl and gratuitous shots of George Clooney's ass.

14 of 19 Warner Bros.

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Back to the beginning. Eight years after Batman & Robin nearly destroyed the film franchise, director Christopher Nolan cast Christian Bale as Batman Begins' burgeoning vigilante. Bale shines as perhaps the first actor to portray both Bruce Wayne and Batman equally well.

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Good Knight. The producers behind Batman Begins and The Dark Knight teamed to make Batman: Gotham Knight, an original animated movie. It's the first Batman 'toon to garner a PG-13 rating, and it continues to prove that Batmania is here to stay.

16 of 19 Warner Bros.

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Heath Ledger's blaze of glory. Nolan returns to Gotham with The Dark Knight, an epic, psychological spin on Batman. Carried by superb performances -- none greater than Ledger's terrifyingly brilliant Joker -- the film is nothing short of iconic.

17 of 19 Warner Bros.

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The end? In The Dark Knight Rises -- which Nolan insists is his final trip to the bat cave -- Batman must face the brutally imposing force of Bane (Tom Hardy), who in the comic books famously broke Batman's back. The film couldn't possibly meet the expectations fans had for it after The Dark Knight but it did bring Nolan's impressive trilogy to a fitting end.

18 of 19 Jessica Miglio/FOX

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Gotham. The upcoming Fox drama stars Ben McKenzie as rookie Detective James Gordon, who's trying to make his way in a corrupt city while also battling the underworld that will eventually give rise to The Penguin, The Riddler and Catwoman. And Batman? He's just a teenaged Bruce Wayne still reeling from the death of his parents -- a murder Gordon has promised to solve.

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A whole new Batman. If Gotham doesn't quite scratch your Dark Knight itch, never fear: Ben Affleck will play Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Although Affleck's casting created a huge wave of Internet commentary, we won't get to see how he fills the cowl until 2016.