Robert Fure Starts Us Off…
It takes something special to stay in the public eye for nearly 70 years – Batman has not only done that, but has managed to really up his popularity to levels above and beyond his previous bests. What is it about Batman that makes him such a fan favorite despite his descents into darkness and the gritty nature of this brooding hero? Two FSR staffers discuss their views on The Dark Knight and why he’s still the top vigilante in our hearts.
Robert Fure: One of the things I like about Batman in general is that, for a good guy, he’s pretty bad ass. He’s rocking the all black look, throws sharp objects at people. His goal is to frighten the hell out of people, he jumps out of nowhere, he doesn’t mind roughing people up. Broken arms, missing teeth, Batman isn’t messing around. He’s just there to kick you in the face and toss you in jail. No discussion. In a way, while not as severe as The Punisher, he’s kind of an anti-hero when you look at him in his darker time periods.
Adam Sweeney: I absolutely agree, he really is the darkest mainstream hero in comics today. Superman and Spiderman are two guys that a girl could bring home to mom even when they’re in costume. But mess around with Batman and mama might take a batarang to the mouth.
One of the many qualities that separates Batman from the rest is that he is a self-made-man. Bruce Wayne could easily have settled for a life of women, fame, and wealth. (Isn’t that basically what GQ teaches men to strive for?) Instead, he uses the tragedies in his life, combined with an unrivaled energy and resourcefulness, to transcend normalcy. Kathleen Hammond of Time Magazine wrote an article in 2006 about Theodore Roosevelt, another self-made-man. She speaks of Roosevelt, who in his autobiography said “that his life changed forever because he set fearlessness before him ‘as an ideal’ that by dogged practice he achieved.” You could apply that same statement to Batman.
RF: For some reason, the idea of Batman punching someone’s mama is hilarious to me (sorry mom). Another thing I like is that a lot of the time he’s going out on his own. Sure he’s in the Justice League and, yeah, Robin is there sometimes, but my favorite Batman adventures are the ones where he’s off on his own. Sometimes the writers make a point about him needing help, but really he’s an independent operator. He doesn’t need someone to hug him at night and tell him good work. In fact he probably resents it a little bit, because the job is never done. He doesn’t need a girlfriend or someone to make him feel good about himself. Deep down I think we all want to be able to be that independent where we don’t need that affirmation. We don’t hate getting it, or we even like it, but not needing it is key.
AS: Seeing Batman “fly solo” (had to say it) is always riveting. What’s equally amazing about him is that he is just a man. Granted, he’s a man with wonderful toys. But strip away the suit and utility belt and what do you have? Currently, a naked Christian Bale, which I am sure girls loved in American Psycho, but more importantly you have a vulnerable human being. His life is centered around the loss of his parents and a loss of innocence, something so many people have dealt with, whether it be through death or a broken home.
He’s a man who has issues, a person who has lost and continues to have something to lose. His invulnerability puts him in situations where he is forced to make real life decisions with heavy consequences. Not the son of Krypton who has the ability to let bullets fly off his eye or a gamma radiated smashing machine, Batman is essentially one of us and still puts his life on the line, again and again.
RF: Mmhmm, that vulnerability is rare, but it’s definitely there. The pain he went through materializes in like, these moments of silence and an intense desire to almost torment criminals before putting them away. They sort of get away from it, but Batman can be a really scary character. I’d really like to see someone write him like it was a horror show. Think about it, this guy is in all black, looks like a damn bat, is over 6 feet tall, weighs 220lbs, all of it muscle and he’s creeping through the shadows, jumping out randomly, all the shit you’d expect from like Michael Meyers or something. That is not something heroes normally do. Superman rarely is going to dangle someone over a building or jump out of your closet. Batman might. A lot of comic characters fight in the daylight for whatever reason. Batman exclusively haunts the night, again this sort of anti-theme of him being unique. And that was original in its day. He’s not a clone of anyone and that’s probably why he’s so awesome to me and a lot of people.
AS: The sheer determination of the character is something to behold. He will do whatever it takes to get the job done, something that is rare in our current society of instant gratification. Does this mean we will always have a happy ending? If you buy into the darker version of Batman, and I think everyone should, then more often than not there isn’t an uplifting end. But as Harvey Dent says in the Dark Knight “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” Through his willpower and persistence Batman has been that dawn to the citizens of Gotham for 70 years, even if it meant that he took the burden of the darkness on his shoulders.
RF: He’s also got this good relationship with Commissioner Gordon, which can bring a touch of lightness to his character in some arcs. He’s on the side of the law and he’s doing right by the law, for the most part, but sort of wrong legally and in the eyes of justice. Moral justice maybe, a higher authority. Is a few years in the clink really proper punishment? Don’t we all wish that instead of putting some chump in the can for breaking your windows and stealing your stuff you could just smash through his apartment window, pummel his face, toss him out the window, then drop him at the police department. He’s the original “heroic vigilante” in comics. He hits that primal part of you that wants to say “Forget society’s rule” and just blare “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N Roses while drop kicking people. Maybe he’s not going against the law, he’s above it like Steven Segal only with a better hairline. It’s not that he’s breaking the law, it’s just that law limits the real justice he can dish out with his fists and batarangs. Also he has batarangs. That is awesome.
AS: But the rules help keep Batman from crossing the line, which is important. Even the greatest superhero would fall without structure. We love Batman because he does the right thing, makes the selfless decision when others won’t. Sure, he may get a headbutt or two in before the fight’s over, but the punishment fits the crime. You can’t write The Joker a speeding violation and call it a day. But you also can’t kill out of vengeance. Still, in spite of all the pain the criminals cause he somehow finds a way to hold back from issuing a death blow. Batman’s whole persona grew from that ideal, to serve as a beacon in the face of adversity, and to always fight for what is right.
RF: Very true. I guess I also have to mention, and I think we can agree, that very basically being tall, good looking, cut, an awesome fighter, and like a billionaire playboy who can get any girl in the city that he wants, has macked on Catwoman and Wonder Woman, and he drives the damn Batmobile. And hell he invented it. You just can’t top Batman, whether you think he’s awesome because of his badass darkside or some of the more honorable stuff. He nailed Poison Ivy too, I mean come on!
AS: Yeah, you could do worse than being a combo of James Bond, Hugh Hefner, a UFC fighter, and a more morally sound Punisher. But nothing has ever come easy for Bruce Wayne. You know that even with all the fame, toys, and girls hanging on his arms that he would give it all up in a heartbeat to have his parents back.
Adam’s Thoughts In closing…
What makes Batman even greater is that he has evolved to fit his respective time period. We see that more than ever with his struggle in The Dark Knight. The story of Batman really champions the idea of anti-materialism and valuing the love and support of those close to us. It speaks to us in an age of 4 dollar gas prices, YouTube, a war that has polarized our country, and a vanity driven world. I think comic book writer and artist Grant Morrison said it best. “The stronger a hero is the greater the challenges he should face.” Considering the fight Batman faces every day within himself and in the streets of Gotham, combined with his unflinching willingness to risk his life for others, it’s clear there’s no greater hero than Batman.
Why do you love the character of Batman?