Monday, June 27, 2016

Thinking Out Loud: I'm Batman

As I've been working on assignments recently, the back of my mind has been turning something over, and I believe that I've hit on a pretty contentious theory. I believe that Batman may not actually be a great superhero, in fact, Batman may actually suck out loud. Now, I know I've probably lost readers and earned myself some nasty comments with that last sentence, but I'd like a chance to explain this line of reasoning. Batman has been around for over 75 years now, changing with the times and going from a vintage pulp to a pop-culture icon. He's changed with the times, despite being laughable now, the Adam West television programme is pretty accurate to the comics of the era and since the Nolan/Arkham Bats was popularised, Batman has become some form of ultimate ninja, genius, zillionaire, messianic figure. What is most irritating about that change is that it is, frankly, unnecessary for the character. Batman is, at his best, part Zorro, part Sherlock Holmes, part Lone Ranger. 

Not that I'm, for a minute, suggesting that stagnation an cliche are the best resorts for any character. Golden Age Batman was a gun-toting thug and Pre-Crisis Batman fought alien cactus-men and avoided the Joker's big boner. Growth and change is good, but with Batman, it's come full-circle back to Golden Age silliness, dressed up as grimdark, ultra-serious, neo-noir. If New 52 Batman grits his teeth any harder, he'll need one hell of a dentist. One of the things I like about Marvel Comics is that they, typically, celebrate their gawky Silver Age; Hawkeye cops flak for having worn a skirt and Iron Man marvels that he once fit the entire armour in a suitcase. In Batman RIP, Grant Morrison decided to retcon Batman's entire silver age into a series of hallucinations and mental defences that the Dark Knight put into place over the years. Honestly, that seems like a real waste to me. Superheroes are inherently ridiculous, and Batman especially so; are we seriously meant to believe that years of training are all someone needs to dodge bullets and fight off a dozen ninja and memorize a face in a microsecond and drive a unique, experimental vehicle down crowded streets at high speeds and decipher the absurd logic of a madman and countless other feats? Batman is at his best when he uses skill, strategy and guile to stand alongside gods on his own merits.

To put it in plain English, Batman is strongest when he's attainable. Not everyone can be Superman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern, but with enough determination, we could be Batman. I think that's why the Batman sidekicks have such an endurance as well; Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Spoiler and the rest can't match Batman, but they can keep up and Batman needs them around to stay in touch with reality. That's why I love the Batman Incorporated concept so much, after some major soul-searching, Bruce decides that the best legacy he can leave the world isn't punching the Joker, but teaching others how to follow in his footsteps, to take on their own mantle and keep up the fight. I think that's way cooler than Batman being "totally awesome at everything" and I hope to see more drift away from the pandering to the pop-culture trends that has been a fixture of the comics and cartoons for the past few years. 

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