This year marks the 75th anniversary of Detective Comics #27, and subsequently the first appearance of a character who has slowly become one of the great cultural icons of our time. Published in May 1939, the comic book - created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane - marked the first appearance of 'The Batman'. To mark this seminal year in his history, I would like to reflect on what I see as perhaps the most definitive portrayal of the character on screen: Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012).

In 1997 Joel Schumacher followed up his original Batman movie, Batman Forever (1995) with Batman and Robin (1997). The movie starred George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger and marked an attempt to offer a heavily stylized vision of the camp '60s television show featuring Burt Ward and Adam West. It moved further away from Tim Burton's sadistic pantomime (1989's Batman movie) and its sequel (Batman Returns - 1992). It also moved the hero further away from the '70's/'80s to early millennium portrayals of Batman in the comic books from writers such as Dennis O'Neil, Frank Miller, Alan Moore and Jeph Loeb. The movie was a critical disaster. The fallout was so huge that it would take Warner Bros producers years before they made their way back to Gotham City.

Christopher Nolan made his feature film debut with a short black and white movie called Following (1998), which was shot on a shoestring budget in London (Nolan's future wife appears as an extra in the movie which was filmed in a friend's houses to save money), but managed to gain critical praise on the festival circuit. He followed this movie up with the labyrinthine thriller, Memento (2000), which he based upon his brother Johnathan's short story. The critical and audience adulation the movie garnered meant he was given a studio budget and a wonderful cast headed by Al Pacino for a remake of the Norwegian thriller Insomnia (again working with director of photography Wally Pfister).

While other Batman movies had focused on the extroverted enemies of the central character, what Nolan did was to focus the story on Bruce Wayne himself - a story that had not been addressed in the comic books or in any of the iterations of the character on screen. He hired a cast that would be worthy of any movie - with Christian Bale (Batman) Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson Katie Holmes and Cillian Murphy all starring. What Nolan and writer David S Goyer managed to do was to marry the tone of the comic books with a cinematic portrayal of Batman that, while populist and overtly fictional, still felt grounded in emotional and physical reality. The single greatest achievement of the movie was the fact that Bruce Wayne faced an emotional arc amongst the action scenes. Shooting took place on sound stages and in Chicago itself, with the brownish glow provided by Wally Pfister's incredible lighting.

At the end of the movie Batman says, "It's not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me" and that idea resonated beautifully against a score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. They movie manages to convey a thematic point that you'll find throughout the series: Batman is a symbol, and through his own introverted sadness, Bruce Wayne had become someone who strived to protect the lives of others. Production designer Nathan Crowley's 'Tumbler' raged through the city streets and a hero had been reborn. Despite a modest box office take, the movie would also be remembered for the appearance of a Joker card at the end. While Nolan viewed the movie as a standalone picture, he would return to the world of Gotham with the cultural phenomenon that was and is 2008's The Dark Knight.

For the sequel Nolan and his cinematographer wanted to widen the scope of the story both dramatically and aesthetically. To do this they wanted to use the IMAX film format.

Upon contacting the IMAX Corporation they were given a check list of guidelines for the format, a list upon which they quickly threw out. Shooting on actual locations, and the mix of IMAX and 35mm film, gave the film a gravitas that had been unseen (on screen) in a comic book movie. Nolan developed Goyer's story with his brother as they brought the most iconic villain of them all to the screen with Heath Ledger's vivid portrayal of the Joker, while Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes on the cast. The Dark Knight is essentially a huge operatic melodrama unified with the narrative and visual aesthetic of Michael Mann. I mention Mann because Nolan referenced Heat (1995) prior to the production of the movie and one of the visual cues in the movie is very similar to a scene in Mann's The Insider (1999) as Russell Crowe drives past a burning car. Here in Nolan's movie we see cops drive past a burning fire truck as the Joker's manic anarchism spreads across the oppressive narrative of the movie.

What Johnathan Nolan did here was to refine and sharpen the narrative base of the picture to incorporate modern and sadly age old concerns about criminality and morality. The movie also has a deeply emotional core as the picture destroys some of the conventions that were sacrosanct in any super-hero story. While Ledger won a deserved posthumous Oscar for his performance, it is clear that the picture is also the star here; in a similar way to The Empire Strikes Back (1980), this story is wider and darker. As Batman hurtles into the night at the movie's end, he sacrifices himself for his city and Nolan's legacy was assured.

For the conclusion of the trilogy, Nolan married the epic comic book sensibility of the first movie with the oppressively expansive tone of the sequel.

The The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is the most controversial movie of the three, and yet it's as good as, if not better than its predecessors. Nolan brought through cast members from his previous film, Inception (2010), in Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon Levitt, while also throwing Anne Hathaway's Catwoman into the mix. The movie again represents a beautiful combination of emotion, scope and scale. It takes dramatic leaps and yet those leaps are acceptable within the context of an operatic comic book movie. Perhaps this is why the movie divides opinion more than the previous ones had. In fact what it achieves is to actually alter the dynamic of what the public perception of Batman is. both culturally and subjectively.

The nature of an icon is to be defined by the need to be maintained and continued (as next year's Zack Snyder picture Batman vs Superman will do) and yet Nolan gave us a definite end to that character's journey in the context of an unplanned three movie structure. In a cinematic world where the continuation of recurring characters is paramount, this is truly remarkable as the nature of the modern franchise is to continue without end and yet Nolan gave his portrayal of Batman a conclusion which marked both the cathartic ending of Bruce Wayne's story and the continuation of the symbolic idea of the Dark Knight that was central to the first picture. Perhaps this ending also points toward the infinity of that symbol within popular culture as a whole; the unification of both movie narrative and culture is supremely presented by Nolan's final movie.

Batman is 75 years old this year and he has organically moved with the times, portraying a plethora of sensibilities and tones. Batman will outlast me and go on long after I'm gone, but when I leave this earth I'll be gratified knowing I got the Batman trilogy I had dreamed of. I can only thank Bob Kane and Christopher Nolan for that. I wish Batman well for his next 75 years on page and on screen.