Pain is direct feedback from his immediate environment about what his body can and can not do.
Batman has the presence of mind to be aware of pain, while not being overwhelmed by his physical pain sensations.
The suffering that comes with physical pain Batman transcends by refusing to let the signals of physical pain overwhelm his consciousness. He refuses to let his mind and judgement be clouded by physical pain.
He still feels every bit of the pain, but he does not let that physical signal that travels along his nervous system into his brain turn into mental/psychological suffering because he does not mistake the experience he is having (pain) for who he is (Batman).
Batman accepts that physical pain and injuries are part of his mission. He is not bothered by injuries, other than that they slow him down or prevent him from completing a task.
In one way of looking at Batman’s behavior, Batman abuses his body by pushing it too hard. Another way of looking at his behavior is that Batman refuses to let physical limitations prevent him from accomplishing a task in his war on crime.
Of course there are limits even to what Batman can endure and some types of pain and injury will cause immediate dysfunction and render Batman incapable of doing anything other than calling for help or retreating to heal before coming up with a new plan, tactic or strategy.
We too should know the Bat-Wisdom of when to ask for help, when to retreat, and when to heal and recover.
There are times in life to listen to the signal of pain, and back off from what we are doing – like at the gym or during sport – if we experience an injury, the smart thing is to stop what we are doing, rest, get treatment and use active recovery.
But then there are times when we must push past pain signals and ignore what our body is telling us. We must act in SPITE of pain. We must not let our body run our mind.
We must choose without any external signals to know when to push past limits, and when to respect them. Either way requires a conscious intelligent decision, rather than blind reaction.
For example you wake up and your house is on fire. You children are asleep and you must get them out or they will die.
Your body is screaming at you from the pain of inhaling smoke fumes, you may get burnt during the process or injured by debris or tripping on objects. The door handle burns your hand when you touch it, but if you do not open it you will die.
If you fail to transcend pain, your kids will die.
These are the times to rule our body with an iron fist and ignore the signals to simply get out of the house and live.
The greater perceived potential pain of death and loss helps to us to look past the immediate physical pain and very real present danger.
These are the times to be like Batman, to transcend ordinary circumstances and find our inner hero who will preserve the life of his children and family at all costs, even if it means sacrificing his own.
While we may have to perform a heroic act perhaps once in a lifetime, Batman goes out night after night and does his job, he fulfills his calling to simply “Be Batman”.
Pushing past pain just to kick a ball harder, or lift a weight heavier serves no higher purpose. They are ultimately selfish goals.
It may feel subjectively great, even euphoric to break one of our own athletic records in the moment, but what is more valuable?
Beating some personal record, experiencing a moment of euphoria that may come at the cost of months of rehab after we abuse our bodies – or the saving of a human life?
We must know our own strengths and limitations in life, and we must equally know when to gently move through them gently and respectfully, and when to break down walls like Batman in the Batmobile busting through police blockades and barriers – not just because we can, but because it serves a higher purpose.
Batman knows his priorities. He doesn’t doubt himself, or his mission.
He doesn’t care about setting athletic records or lifting a heavy weight for the sake of it.
Batman’s training is ALWAYS practical. That heavy weight lifted in the gym translates into lifting a heavy fallen beam during a fire that has pinned some poor soul to the ground, and will be dead in a matter of moments.
That gymnastic leap, tuck and roll means he can dive through a window, his cape, cowl and gloves protecting him from serious cuts from the glass.
Those brutal training scenarios where he deprives himself of food, water and yes, even oxygen means that Batman has mentally prepared himself for all eventualities, and has a plan for how to beat every impossible scenario he can conceive of. Batman has a rich mental bank of scenarios and escape plans for every type of situation.
While he plans and prepares, Batman must remain focused in the present moment. Ever alert to opportunity and new possibilities emerging that he had not yet anticipated.
While Batman is a master planner and strategist, he is also an expert at off the cuff spontaneous creative simple solutions to difficult problems. He is the MacGyver of the Superhero world. Batman is a master in the fine art of masculine improvisation.
Give Batman a box of matches, a watch and a toothpick with some gum, and he will escape from an impossible trap, build an airplane or defuse a nuclear bomb before he has even had breakfast all while he is bleeding to death with a concussion and a dislocated shoulder.
There’s still something about the character [Macgyver] that strongly resonates. And that resonance actually goes a lot deeper than pop culture; it in fact points to an universal archetype of manliness, and a trait of masculinity that has been valued and celebrated across times and cultures: improvisation. – Brett and Kate McKay / Artofmanliness.com
Whether doing the impossible, or making the extraordinary part of his daily routine, Batman applies personal excellence to all he does in life. He transcends pain not as a masochist, but because his job demands it. He can’t afford to fall to pieces going into a burning building to pull someone out any more than a real life fireman can.
Batman can’t afford to get sloppy and let his physical sensations and emotions overwhelm his decisions on the street any more than a real life cop can. Fear and hesitation in the field can mean death comes sooner than rather than later. However the right kind of fear also can keep us alive. It takes training to trust your instincts under high stress situations, and you know Batman has trained himself for exactly that.
While it is impossible to literally be Batman, we can all learn a little from Batman that we can apply in our daily lives. Batman did not turn into a Superhero, urban vigilante and Champion of Justice overnight – he got there through gradual slow training, making mistakes, experimenting with his own life. He made 1000’s of mistakes on his way to greatness. And he will make a 1000 more mistakes as he continues to evolve as a human being.
The Art of Batmanliness then involves not only transcending pain, but knowing your limits.
It means knowing when to push forward and break down barriers, and when to retreat and lick your wounds, growing stronger with each new stimulus, with each new piece of feedback that life gives you. And being like Batman also means that every time life knocks you on your ass you have the bravery to stand back up and fight on or retreat and replan your approach to your mission.
The man who gets knocked down and stays down beats himself.
The man who gets up no matter what is impossible to beat.
Deep down, Clark is essentially a good person… and deep down, I’m not – Bruce Wayne/Batman
Batman has been connected to Superman from the very beginning.
Batman’s origins began with the loss of his parents while Superman’s origins began with the gain of his new adoptive parents.
Superman too lost his birth parents, but he was a baby then and never truly knew them.
Growing up with Ma and Pa Kent from Kansas, Superman was loved and adored.
Batman too was loved by his parents Thomas and Martha Wayne.
Somewhere between the ages of 8-10 years old – depending on who is restarting the DC universe this week – his parents were cruelly gunned down in an alleyway outside a theater. Bruce Wayne knows the pain of loss deeper than Clark can through direct experience.
Alfred looked after Bruce after he lost his parents, so Bruce was never truly alone. But the loss of any loved one, especially our parents can leave psychological scars that last a lifetime. Bruce led a privileged life, and while technically an orphan, he was never without a primary caregiver, and lead a pampered life of privilege.
Clark lost his entire planet, Kryptonian civilization and race of people, but his pain was more of an existential angst than deep personal suffering. Superman grew up in Kansas and later moved to Metropolis – the city of light where he would become a god among men under earth’s yellow sun, and yet struggle to relate to the every day man and woman.
Batman was created as a direct response to the gosh darn swell sales of the Big Red and Blue Cheese, and has been linked to his spiritual brother ever since his inception.
While Superman is the sun god from Smallville in a brightly coloured heroic costume that recalls the american flag and protective roles like policemen (and women), Batman is the grim avenger, the antithesis of Superman. The original Batman was depicted in black, or black and grey. Black being the colour traditionally worn by villains in Hollywood films and pulp fiction.
Both characters in their original incarnations wore the old underwear on the outside, a definite fashion faux pas in DC’s post-52 brave new world of heroes and villains, where they have been retrofitted with long pants/tights minus the overshorts or man bloomers.
In the 1940s, superheroes such as Batman and Superman and their Justice Society Contemporaries Hawkman, The Spectre, and Dr. Fate wore their underwear on the outside for a different reason. The connotation in that era was not bad fashion sense but related to old time strongmen, wrestlers and acrobats, many of whom were well known for putting on shows for the public.
Rather what was implied in the visual iconography of the underoos on the outside was pure physical strength and athleticism above the average mortal.
Old time strongmen such as Eugen Sandow or Arthur Saxon would often wear their undersized briefs to show off their muscularity during public displays of strength. They also might wear the undersuzed underoos for publicity photos or photos in mail order courses teaching their methods of strength training. As a side note, many of these strong man glamor shots became popular erotica amongst men of the era.
Old time wrestlers, particularly the show wrestlers that preceded the modern day spectacle of the NWA, WWF, WWE, WCW, ECW, TNA, AEW and other similar leagues would often wear tight shorts or briefs over top of their stockings, as the stockings tended to be see through and would slip around as they wrestled. The tight little shorts they wore were not really underwear, but closer to modern day swimwear, it just looked like underwear because it was so tight and form fitting.
In the modern era UFC fighters often wear very form fitting tight shorts that don’t hinder their movements, particularly kicks and arm bars among other common techniques. Loose fitting shorts would only hinder their techniques, or get caught on things, causing the fight to be stopped so somebody could fix their shorts, which is not only time wasting, but pretty embarrassing for the fighter. Whatever the profession, a male character wearing small shorts implies a man of action and athleticism.
Circus performers such as strongmen, acrobats and flying trapeze artists were also known to wear the old underoos on outside. The crossover of this visual iconography is probably most relatable through Batman’s apprentice Robin, who was formerly a trapeze artist before swearing an oath to war on criminals alongside Batman. Robin’s superhero costume is not far removed from his trapeze artist costume.
So whether wrestlers, weight lifters, strongmen or circus performers the connotation of the little shorts over top of tights on Superman and Batman immediately suggests a figure of above average strength, power and grace. The addition of the chest logo S or chevron on Superman was a further indicator of a person of good moral character. A champion of the people, a modern era Hercules in the case of Superman. The bright primary colours, chest insignia and acrobatic outfit came to symbolise the Superhero quite literally as well as symbolically. In Peter Coogan’s book Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre he delves into the often confusing distinctions of what defines a SUPER-hero as opposed to pulp characters, science heroes, dual identity characters and masked adventurers.
QUOTE – The difference between Superman and earlier figures such as the Shadow or Doc Savage lies in the element of identity central to the superhero, the costume. Although Superman was not the first costumed hero, his costume marks a clear and striking departure from those of the pulp heroes. A pulp hero’s costume does not emblematize the character’s identity. The slouch hat, black cloak, and red scarf of the Shadow or the mask and fangs of the Spider disguise their faces but do not proclaim their identities. Superman’s costume does, particularly through his S chevron. Similarly, Batman’s costume proclaims him a bat man, just as Spider-Man’s webbed costume proclaims him a spider man. These costumes are iconic representations of the superhero identity.
Color plays an important role in the iconicity of the superhero costume. In his chapter on color, [in Scott McClouds Understanding Comics] McCloud shows the way the bright, primary colors of superhero comics are less than expressionistic but therefore more iconic, due to their simplicity. Specifically with reference to costumes, McCloud says, Because costume colors remained exactly the same, panel after panel, they came to symbolize the characters in the mind of the reader
-Peter Coogan, Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, page 33
Another common trait amongst old time strongmen, physical culturists and lifters in the Iron Game like Eugen Sandow, George Hackenschmidt, Arthur Saxon and friends was that the strongmen were known for their well developed intellects, IRON WILL and mental discipline. These traits would become synonymous with superheroes, most notably Batman. The Superhero costume then would symbolise not only a physical dynamo of sound moral character, but a character of intelligence, internal will power and discipline.
Those silly little shorts on the outside and bright tights seem just a little bit less ridiculous when viewed in that context. The Superhero costume became symbolic not just of Champions, Physical Marvels and Titans of the people, but symbolic of an entire genre. The cape, mask and costume crowd has thrilled readers for over three quarters of a century. The superhero ideal is one that is strong in our culture, not just in North America where the superhero was born and conceived, but around the globe people of all ages look to superheroes for entertainment, inspiration and sound moral values in uncertain times.
Batman appeared around a year after Superman, and Wonder Woman a couple of years later – bringing some much needed feminine energy to balance out DC’s testosterone laden Titans. In the modern era DC’s holy trinity of superheroes would frequently be featured together in the Justice League comics, annual company event stories, as well as their own various monthly comic books and occasional graphic novels. But in the early years Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman would only appear together on promotional ads, merchandise or the odd comic book cover.
Superman and Batman first appeared together on the cover of the promotional anthology title New York World’s Fair Comics #1 in 1939. They also appeared together on the cover of World’s Best Comics #1,1941 the title that would lead to the ongoing World’s Finest Comics. While Batman and Superman appeared on various comic book covers together, inside the various anthology books were solo tales of Batman, Superman and other Golden Age characters, including non-superhero characters.
The World’s Greatest Superheroes finally shared some brief panels together in All Star Comics #7, 1941 but not until Superman #76, 1952 did the two officially meet in a full length story in The Mightiest Team in the World.
Soon afterward Superman and Batman would be teaming up in a regular ongoing book – World’s Finest Comics #71, 1954. The previous issues while regularly showing Batman, Superman and often Robin together on the cover in comical fun loving situations were mostly solo stories and reprints of earlier Batman or Superman stories. With World’s Finest Comics #71, the foundation stones of the Superman/Batman friendship that would last through the next thirty years were laid down.
Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne switch super-identities in a gimmicky, totally non-nonsensical story. Guess that explains the bullets bouncing off of Batman’s chest then. Despite its eccentricities (like the backwards step for feminism where Lois Lane is portrayed as a complete idiot) the story is still great fun to read.
Happy trails pard’ner! I’ll just step blindly off this building without looking, while you go catch whoever put that graffiti on the sun.
World’s Finest Comics came to an end with issue #323, 1986. While Batman and Superman would appear in each other’s books now and then, they would not be teaming up again on a regular basis until the revival of the JLA in Grant Morrison’s JLA #1, 1997 which ran for 125 issues. This book was followed by the fan favourite Superman / Batman #1, 2003 ongoing title by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, their six issue story arc kicked off an ongoing six-issue story arc format by various popular writers and artists paired together for each story arc. The book was surprisingly successful and ran for 87 issues. The follow up to this book was Batman / Superman in 2013, a confusing book of varying quality set in DC’s post-52 continuity.
Over the years the various Superman / Batman team up comic books have traditionally handled spectacular over the top stories, gimmick covers, gimmick stories and anything that gets the reader hooked and wanting to turn the page or buy the book. Overall, the books are pretty fun to read from the earliest World’s Finest Comics with Superman, Batman and Robin enjoying leisurely pursuits and athletic activities on the covers to the later less frivolous covers focusing on one nightmarish scenario after another, that were conveniently wrapped up in an issue or two.
The JLA books from the various eras are great fun, particularly Grant Morrison’s run but we don’t see a whole lot of Superman and Batman together. They are typically the leaders of the team, who usually divide into smaller teams or squads as they face each new crisis month to month.
Seeing DC’s big two icons in a regular ongoing book just makes sense. Allowing the focus to shift away from the monthly soap opera like stories in the various Batman and Superman ongoing titles – to larger then life adventures in the team up books makes for a refreshing change.
Whether Worlds Finest, Brave and the Bold (DC’s other team-up book, often featuring Batman with various DC heroes) or Superman/Batman – the team-up style books were usually not limited by the continuity of the monthly character books. It makes them far easier to get into, you can pick up a fun story, read the whole thing in a short time and walk away without having to buy ten or more monthly books.
The Jeph Loeb / Ed McGuinness Superman Batman book in particular was a great read, and a real return to form of the earlier over the top gimmick stories that had you frantically turning the page to find out what happens next. Darkseid brainwashes Supergirl, Batman punches the president in the face! You get the idea.
So in the early stories of Batman and Superman, the two were good friends who teamed up often on increasingly bizarre adventures. Before they started teaming up from World’s Finest Comics issue#71 onwards, the previous issues were solo stories featuring Superman or Batman and Robin, who only appeared together on the covers.
They finally met in person in short tales in All Star Comics #7, and Superman #76, before moving on to be featured in their ongoing team ups from Worlds Finest Comics from#71. Later they had ongoing team-up stories in the fan favourite Morrison/Porter JLA and the Loeb/McGuinness Superman/Batman titles.
The early years of their super-relationship were coloured by fantastical tales, science fiction stories and imaginary stories, often involving alternate worlds and more and more ridiculous scenarios to fill out the gimmick covers. The gimmick covers were often throw away gags that the writer had to fill as best they could in any given issue. The idea was to get young readers to pick up the book, turn the page and inquire into what madness awaited them in this months senses-shattering issue of adventure!
In later years while still friends, Superman and Batman’s relationship would take on an adversarial role when DC realised how much fans liked seeing Batman and Superman fighting each other – no matter how contrived the situation. While the contest of champions served a narrative purpose in Miller’s seminal alternate world Dark Knight Returns other tales of the clash of DCs most popular titans were of varying quality.
In John Bryne’s 1986 Man of Steel mini-series relaunch of Superman, he encounters Batman as a stranger. Later in Grant Morrison’s JLA and the Loeb / McGuinness Superman Batman book, the two are old friends once again, seemingly with their rivalry behind them, until the next sales slump or gimmick book around the corner.
Ultimately, a cool image of two popular heroes fighting each other on the cover, or in the book helps sell comics. Even if it makes little sense for two good friends to be at each others throats a couple times a year, then go back to normal for the duration of their relationship with selective amnesia. Supes and The Bat at times are like bickering brothers or an old married couple. They respect each other, but often have very different views on issues, and that can lead to them falling out. But no matter how many times that happens, they eventually reconcile and their bonds only grow deeper and stronger.
Gimmick covers, gimmick stories and events are the bread and butter of traditional superhero comics, and while gimmicks get old very fast, there is something genuinely thrilling in seeing the philosophical differences between Superman and Batman leading up to an uneven slug-fest that has rabid fans foaming at the mouth.
But ultimately, whatever differences they may have, Batman and Superman are lifelong friends. No amount of ret-conning, revamping, relaunching, new universes or alternate universes can break the bonds of true friendship. While the next live action version of the World’s Finest will likely seem them at each other’s throats, we all know the Batman v Superman film can only end in the beginning of Superman and Batman’s lifelong friendship.
When we see Heath Ledger’s Joker in Nolan’s Dark Knight film, it is NOT so much a performance, as Heath Ledger the kind hearted endearing man who is spoken of with great affection by friends and family… goes a-way, and the… Jo-kerr… well, he .. now what was it he did… oh yeah..now I remember… he emerges from the existential void of chaos like the combined ghost of Travis Bickle, Tom Waits and Alex from A Clockwork Orange thrown into a blender set to crazy town.
Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance as the lunatic Joker is the most memorable screen villain in recent decades. He takes a very silly character and makes him believably dangerous and truly frightening. He makes a cartoonish two dimensional clown come to vivid life before our eyes, and the scary part is, he shows us his madness is not so mad.
That we could become like him with just a little push at the right time, a tiny bit of leverage applied in the right way, at the right time and OVER the edge of sanity we go, like Holmes and Moriarty tumbling over the Reichenbach Falls.
If Nietzsche had his Overman slash Superman, then what is Heath Ledger’s Joker but the opposite of that? He is chaos and materialism personified. He exits in a moral vacuum of his own creation and he insists that the essential element of the universe is chaos. His living philosophy is that life has no meaning, just chaos, random events and morality is meaningless.
That there are no causes, divine plans, no consequences or purpose to anything. Just an existential void where you can play paint by numbers at your leisure with the entrails of your best friend or your enemy. It makes no difference what you do or why you do it, as there is no God, no final judgement, no scales of Justice nor Karma, just free floating pure selfish egoism in a world of chaos where everybody takes what they can get while they can get it.
The Joker sees all this and laughs, not in desperation, but with mad puppy-dog like glee. His god is chaos. His reason is un-reason, as a trickster character like Loki or Pan, he is there to fuck with our beliefs and world view, and he thrives on attention, on dragging people down to his level.
He doesn’t want to see the world burn, so much as light the match that gets the process started. He would rather somebody else like Batman or Harvey Dent lit that match, and his efforts to do anything are ultimately meaningless.
In a pack of cards, the Joker card is a placeholder. The Joker card is Wild in that it can take the place of any other card, or be anything the players of the card game choose it to be.
The Joker card always matches or beats whatever it is against. …For each character or group, the Joker has a different manner of speaking.
Comic book creator Dean Trippe observed on his Batman Podcast The Bat Cast that some film critics of Ledger in The Dark Knight found his performance inconsistent. Something that may not be obvious that Dean pointed out, is that the Joker is a wild card, not just symbolically but literally.
Watch any scene, and you will see Ledger adapt and change into different voices and intonations, his actions seem almost random. But look closer, and you will see that Heath Ledger as the Joker embodies the idea that the Joker card can match any suit or trump any other card.
Ledger as the Joker matches or trumps the very characters he plays off of. Whether the police, Batman or the mob, the Joker becomes whatever someone else needs him to become. He is like a chameleon, hence his varied performance in The Dark Knight, which is clearly intentional rather than accidental as some film critics have implied.
Is the Joker even aware of his chameleon like nature? There is no real way to know, but if you watch the film again, you will see it. The way he changes up his behavior, mannerisms, tone of voice and false values, or lack of them to suit who he is dealing with in the moment.
It all adds something to the role that makes you appreciate the research, and attention to detail Heath Ledger put into the role.
When Batman looked into the existential void after his parents death he decided to make sense of senselessness. As an adult, he uses the death of his parents as fuel for transcendence. He still feels pain, he just doesn’t make pain into his identity as so many of us do.
Batman acknowledges his pain, loss and grief. But he moves on and dedicates himself to the ideal of Justice. He didn’t get there overnight. He went through his own deeply perosonal dark knight of the soul, he went through chaos and despair, grief and pain, and over the years he emerged on the other side of that. This deep psychological stuff is hard work, it is not easy, it is not something we can set goals for or plan for in any rational way.
Pain happens, despair happens, depression happens, and we deal with it the best way we know how, and no two people do it in the same way.
The Joker by contrast didn’t just stare into the abyss, he fell in love with it. He made it his personal god and he jumped into the void head first, dancing and laughing all the way.
There are valid arguments about whether Joker is truly insane, or whether he just enjoys what he does and puts on the theatrics as a cover story for why he does what he does, why he is who he is. Some would say he is not insane at all, he just loves killing people, causing pain and chaos wherever he goes. He is in love with being the Joker. He is the only sane man in an insane world.
There are no real boundaries to what the Joker would say or do. Nothing intimidates him, and everything is a big joke – Heath Ledger
The beauty of Ledger’s Joker is that just when we think we have him figured out, just when we think we have him pinned down – he wriggles away like a snake shedding its skin. He is undefinable, incomprehensible and his world view is unfathomable. To try to understand him with logic or reason is an exercise in futility.
The Joker is a true sociopath with no empathy, no reason, who only believes in chaos and no higher meaning to life. His constant narcissistic retelling of his own self-invented fictional origin is a good example. He relishes dramatising his own disturbing past for people. He gets off on the drama of the performance. Each time inventing a new fiction as to how he became who he is or who he pretends to be for the audience.
He relishes the sheer terror and faint hint of understanding in the eyes of his victims. That faint hint of sympathy they may have for him is his version of a cat playing with a mouse. The Joker just can’t help himself, he likes to PLAY with his food before he devours it.
At the end of film, we are still no closer than at the beginning to understanding the Joker, nor his motivations. He is a wild card, and each game means he holds a different value, a different role to play. And he knows he plays a role, because life is a game to him, a big cosmic joke. A twisted, demented game, but a game none the less.
There are elements of the Joker’s personality and habits that appeal to us, that are fun. Ledger is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying as the clown prince of crime. It can be fun to give in to our dark side, it can be fun to say fuck you to the world, and do things our own way. It can be a vicarious thrill to not just self-destruct but pull others down to our level.
But unless we are willing to embrace madness or give ourselves over to true nihilism, most of us will eventually crash and burn. Our darker self will stop being fun, we will cease to be agents of chaos, and instead will be slaves to whatever random impulse enters our sphere of influence on any given day, we become unthinking impulse driven animals, and it is a long climb back to normality from that place of spiritual unconsciousness.
We can learn from our own dark side, and it is something in us that can not be denied. To deny we have these impulses is to deny our very existence. Instead we can make peace with those impulses and feelings, and find a way to express them without destroying ourselves or those around us. I explored this idea more in depth in a previous article
Heath Ledger’s role if you can call it that, because he IS the Joker, he inhabits him from the inside out. Heath as the Joker became the role of his life. He really knocked it out of the park, and he will always be remembered for that role. He is iconic, hilarious, terrifying and above all – entertaining. While I will have more to say about him in future posts about The Dark Knight, let’s end this post with a quote from Heath himself on the role he loved.
It’s a combination of reading all the comic books I could that were relevant to the script and then just closing my eyes and meditating on it,
I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices — it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath — someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts. He’s just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown, and Chris has given me free rein. Which is fun, because there are no real boundaries to what The Joker would say or do. Nothing intimidates him, and everything is a big joke
Jonathan Crane aka The Scarecrow first appeared in World’s Finest Comics #3 (1941).
A psychology teacher who was shunned by his peers, dressed poorly and became obsessed with fear. Scarecrows first story had no fear toxin or elaborate plots. He simply dressed up as a Scarecrow to scare people for money.
If his efforts to scare people for money failed, he resorted to violence and shot his victims with a gun. In later stories, the Scarecrow’s backstory was fleshed out giving him a tormented childhood, and later developing his Fear compounds through chemistry.
Drugs that whether in liquid,solid or vapor form would induce panic, fear and terror in his victims. His experiements on prison inmates lead him to further research and later experimentation upon the population of Gotham City.
THE TOXIN OF FEAR CHEMICALS
Jonathan Crane is a psychologist who uses fear as a weapon, making him a unique and intriguing character that offers insight into the nature of fear.
The Scarecrow’s greatest weapon is his mastery of the psychology of fear. He uses this knowledge to create fear-inducing chemicals and gadgets that he uses to manipulate and terrorize his victims.
The Scarecrow character highlights the power of fear and how it can be used as a tool for control and domination. It also demonstrates how fear can be used to manipulate people and exploit their weaknesses, even in seemingly rational and educated individuals.
Scarecrow specializes in creating personalized living nightmares. His drug of choice?
A fear toxin – that once consumed or inhaled induces an individual into a highly paranoid psychotic state where they experience their very worst fears and phobias as overwhelmingly powerful hallucinations more real than anything they could have ever imagined, true living nightmares… hell on earth.
The Scarecrows FEAR Toxin gives unholy life to mankinds worst imaginings, bringing forth deep dark mental contructs from the creaky crevices of ones mind, out into hallucinatory realer than real – seemingly three dimensional physical reality. Completely overwhelming all the bodies senses and natural biological processes.
The mind constructs or thought beings then are the result of the pysco-active properties of Scarecrows Fear Toxin at the physical level, bringing agonizing life to that which is purely of the mental abstract and deep unconcious realm of the sub-psyche, dreams, impressions and memories. Personal and Primal fears are dragged out of the dark dungeon in our mind, kicking and screaming into apparent reality.
Our bodies normal survival oriented fear response scales up or down in response to dangerous situations, physical threats and other fear triggers.
The scarecrows fear toxins however drive our bodies natural responses to fear at the biological level into overdrive allowing no cooling off period to return to homestasis.
THE BIOLOGY OF FEAR
Fear exists in human beings (and other animals that have a limbic system) as a survival oriented mechanism. If we were unable to experience fear, our chance of death from predators and dangerous situations increases, and we likely would be extinct as a species without the capacity for fear.
The Scarecrow also represents the dark side of fear. While fear can be a natural and necessary survival mechanism, it can also become a destructive force that consumes people and causes them to make irrational decisions. The Scarecrow embodies this aspect of fear, showing how it can be used to spread terror and cause harm.
How does fear work? Our body perceives stimulus in our environment through usually a combination of our senses such as sight, smell, touch etc.
For fear to activate the Amygdala part of our brain signals the Hypothalamus, which activates our pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is where our nervous system meets our endocrine or ‘hormone’ system.
Through these systems, our body is able to activate the fight or flight response. During a heightened fear response our blood pressure, breathing and heart rate increases, blood is driven to the limbs in order to take action by fighting or fleeing.
Adrenaline is dumped making us temporarily stronger and our senses are hyper aware to everything in our immediate environment, increasing arousal while narrowing our overall stimulus according to our biologies hierarchical systems.
THE MANY FACES OF FEAR
While fear toxins are the stuff of comic book fiction.. there are no shortage of real world toxins and altered states with truly horrifying effects. Take the infamous mysterious outbreak of mad bird behavior in 1961 that would go on to inspire a short story and was the likely inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s terror inducing film The Birds.
Domoic acid can cause confusion, disorientation, scratching, seizures and death in birds that eat the stuff, which gets concentrated as it moves up the food chain – Wynne Parry
A toxin(in this case an algae) got into the birds systems and drove them nuts with confusion and disorientation, which appears to humans at least, to be rabbid attack behavior. The Scarecrow uses his fear toxins to induce fantastical schizophrenic like responses and vivid hallucinations in his intended victims.
Whether they die of pure terror, attack their own loved ones or endure the episode is a gamble. The real world has no shortage of fear and hallucinatory induced confusion, slaughter and carnage. Let’s take a look at another example.
A Canadian man who was found not criminally responsible for beheading and cannibalising a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus has been granted freedom from all supervision – The Guardian (Australian Edition)
The man on the bus believed God was speaking to him directly, and was found (known) to be mentally ill. His personal reality and falsified perceptions caused him to act in an un-characteristic manner, decapitating and hacking away and trying to EAT a fellow passenger.
When later interviewed and on medication for his condition, the man who formerly thought God was talking to him came to know it was not true and that his mental illness brought on episodes of “…hearing voices or having delusions. You don’t know what is real”.
There are many different types of altered states human beings can experience. Some causes include sensory deprivation, extreme tiredness or hunger, synthetic drugs, mental illness and more.
Scarecrows fear toxins are designed to work on multiple levels, driving our bodies normal natural biological fear process into overload. Like red lining a car, extreme prolonged fear creates real physical damage in a human body, starting at the cellular and chemical level, as well as causing the victim to act in a paniced highly irrational state due to the false data fed to their own senses.
FEAR AND MADNESS
We play with the idea that maybe we know our own fears of have conquered our fears, yet true primal fear is not something you can play with or casually entertain. It is a deep instense physical and psychological reaction to what is in our genes, our very biology own and what is happening directly in our immediate environment.
Primal Fear unchecked can lead us from ordinary states of fear into becoming a gibbering mass of quivering hysterical pure terror.
The Scarecrow’s personal playground and narrow obsession is driving a person to that very place. To the truly hysterical panic inducing, pants wetting fear that may even kill someone from stress or a heart attack. It may cause that individual to attack their friends and family or just leave them as helpless as a newborn baby, gasping for oxygen and raving like a lunatic.
While there are many types of fear and fear states, the Scarecrow continues to evolve his chemical cocktails, finding new chemical strains, new ways to instill phobias, psychological delusions, existential angst and more in his efforts to terroize the populace of Gotham City.
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES
The Scarecrow is a complex character that offers a nuanced perspective on the nature of fear. Through his actions and motivations, he highlights the power of fear, both as a tool and as a source of terror. He also demonstrates how fear can be both empowering and debilitating, and how it can be used to control and manipulate people. In this way, the Scarecrow serves as a reminder of the need to understand and manage fear, both in oneself and in society as a whole.
Exit Ben Affleck and Zack Snyder… Enter Matt Reeves and Robert R-Batz Pattinson.
While initially known for the Twilight R-Patz era, in The Batman (2022) we see a mature actor who has grown in several low key quality films such as The Rover and The Lighthouse along with bigger commercial features such as director Christopher Nolan’s TENET.
In these films Robert Pattinson was able to showcase a range and depth to his acting abilities, to hone his craft and evolve beyond simplistic teen marketed films such as the Twilight saga.
UNCUT UNCOOKED UNLEASHED
From the opening moments the soundscape and dirty scratchy look of the film immediately grabs you. Rather than looking slick, shiny and homogenous like so many modern digital soul less films, The Batman evoked the era of classic 1970’s American Cinema. It felt wild, raw and untamed. This was no cookie cutter pipeline film.
The Batman (2022) was rough around the edges, it was for lack of a better word, a bit punk, a bit retro feeling. Not looking to elevate you into high rise Gotham penthouses, but drag you down into the muck, filth and depravity of a festering ruined city. A police procedural decorated sparsely with a bit of the old ultra-violence.
The grimy lived in Gotham City instantly brought to mind the scenery and mood from stone cold classics such as Scorcese’s Taxi Driver and Fincher’s Seven. In Taxi Driver we saw a filthy disgusting realistic New York of the Seventies, pre clean up and remodelling. This was the old decrepit decaying New York streets filled with pimps, hustlers, prostitutes, thugs and drug addicts. If the street folks didn’t kill you or rob you, then the abysmal never ending torrents or rain would do you in instead.
This richly detailed lived in production design and vast textures of the fictional New York in Taxi Driver would go on to influence dozens of films throughout the eighties. Even in films as late as the live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) it’s influence can be felt.
The Batman 2022 draws on several key comics stories for it’s inspiration, among those influences Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One (1987)
The Batman on a red stylized background motif, Selina Kyle with close cropped hair and tight leather stripper/hooker fetish pants, second level apartment and best friend (a young underage Hooker in the comics) and the focus on mob boss Carmine ‘The Roman’ Falcone and Gordon’s suspicion of and later partnership with Batman are direct lifts from what is set up in Batman: Year One.
Shades of Year One were present in the Christopher Nolan Batman films, but it’s influence in The Batman is much larger. While being it’s own thing, The Batman is a good side story or complementary film to Nolan’s Batman Begins.
The core elements are there, it’s just a different storyteller giving you a new take on the classic elements with a different focus. If Batman Begins was like several issues of the core BATMAN comic book title, then the Matt Reeves’ film is a complementary almost parallel story running in sister title Detective Comics.
For once a modern Batman movie is actually a crime story, and we get to see Batman be a Detective / Manhunter on screen, something that is sorely lacking in nearly every live action depiction of Batman on film to date.
The classic buddy cop duo of grizzled veteran and the young buck is used well. Shades of Seven and The X-Files are present in Gordon and Bats on screen chemistry.
Taking the time to set the scene, with lushly decorated backgrounds full of grimy disgusting textures, there is no rush or A.D.D. manic cuts and edits here. The audience is allowed to linger in the crime scene, taking it all in with Gordon and Batman, putting the pieces of riddles together along with our dynamic duo. The sights and smells of the crime scenes bring on revulsion in the viewer.
In past Batman films, Batman is not only an outsider, but he feels like this isolated anomaly apart from the world he inhabits. In The Batman – perhaps for the first time in live action -Batman truly feels a part of his on screen world.
Batman no longer feels out of place like a piece of computer clip art dropped randomly into some city or soundstage. Batman’s interactions with Gordon, his smooth transitions travelling around, in and under bowels of the city show us a character and presence that is at home in his own skin, in his city.
The Batman accomplishes this sense of Batman truly being a part of the world around him, while not neglecting to show how Bruce Wayne suffers and is alienated from normal life and relationships due to the murder of his parents that left him an orphan. The film does this with subtle small scenes and looks, and doesn’t beat you over the head with any of it, or play up melodramatic feel bad music, instead it SHOWS you on screen what our characters are living moment to moment.
SMELLS LIKE BATMAN SPIRIT
The opening moments of The Batman drop us right into the world, without any hand holding. Grungy Nirvana era backing music, layered with blunt force trauma sounds, dull thuds and reverb – mixed with a faux film grain and the bleak depressing desaturated moody color palette of Fincher’s Fight Club and Seven(1995)
GRIME DOESN’T TAKE A VACATION
The film has its own style, but it’s a laid back lo-fi casual style, not looking to be slick and glossy. Several parallel stories and sub-stories are competently told.
Is this best Batman film to date?
Some would say yes.
The Batman 2022 is the closest in style to a hard boiled Azzarello / Risso comic book story or to Miller / Mazzucchelli. Hard boiled detectives, crime noir and demented sickos…
Other influences include the popular Arkham Asylum video game series, with several gadgets and sequences being very close in style to those games, mainly in terms of the on screen hand to hand combat, and some of the promotional photography copies the style and poses of the Arkham game series media.
In The Batman we get to see fluid movement not unlike in the Arkham games. Thai elbows and knees flow into judo throws, a grapnel gun takedown and some ground and pound in the ju-jitsu mount position.
The majority of Batman films so far have really utterly failed to show any level of capable martial arts or fighting on screen, hiding behind odd angles and creative cuts – mostly due to the limitations of the bulky Batsuit – forcing the stuntworkers to use very fake combat moves that have no basis in reality.
With a leaner meaner Batsuit, the film gets to showcase a Batman who can actually move more like he does in the comic books and video games. Fluid and economical, with no wasted motion and no pantomime bullshit.
THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Gotham City is filled with crime and corruption at every level. Dirty cops, racketeer, mooks and mob bosses. On top of this the threat of super villain / terrorist psycho The Riddler.
The minimal yet engaging role of Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin, and the mystery of Selina Kyle aka Catwoman’s role mixed up in the middle of events, with Carmine The Roman Falcone’s presence lurking in the background like a grinning specter, a puppet master effortlessly pulling everybodies strings.
“I guess you are everything they say… ain’tcha… I guess we both are” – Oswald Cobblepot
A surprising highlight of the film was Colin Farrell as Penguin. While not immediately recognizable, this is a fresh take on an old classic. Continuity wise this is Cobblebot yet to rise to power as one of Gothams organized crime overlords. His brief appearances are punchy, effective and entertaining.
“Whatever I know, whatever I’ve done, it’s all going with me to my grave” – The Roman
John Turturro as Carmine Falcone was another great casting choice. Turturro can do comedy, serious drama and just about anything. He gives the role some serious gravitas, and refrains from his tics, antics and cartoonish buffoonery that has defined many of his roles in recent years. Instead playing things subtle and low key. True menace hiding behind the relaxed smile of a man who secretly owns and runs the city from behind closed doors.
“I have a thing about strays” – Selina Kyle
Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman was an inspired choice. A sleek stunningly beautiful woman who inhabits the role with the raw sexuality the Catwoman character is known for. While many aspects of the character are lifted from Frank Miller’s Year One, the choice to leave behind Selina Kyle being a prostitue was a wise one, and not essential to the plot of the film. Kravitz inhabits Catwoman like a second skin, making the role her own.
“I’m just an instrument, here to unmask the truth about this cesspool we call a city” – Riddler
The Riddler is an often unengaging character in various Batman media. The choice to make him a more demented masked Zodiac Killer inspired lunatic is an immediately attention grabbing device that works.
His Riddles and death traps evoke the best simple elements of Jigsaw from the SAW films, we hear his voice through speakers, phones and monitors. He co-ordinates his terror through the dark web using modern technology. A mix of sadist and terrorist, a fractured damaged psyche warped into thinking he is performing an exorcism of Gotham City’s hidden demons as an act of both personal revenge and public service.
Paul Dano makes good use of his voice pitch and tone – taking us deeper into the psychology, the pain, frustration and loneliness of this broken character. Riddler sees Batman as a fellow damaged soul, a contemporary who shows the world his real inner self by putting on a mask and costume.
The climax of the film, while a little bloated is different enough to the mini disaster movies within a movie that masquerade as a third act in seemingly every live action Batman on film.
The film leaves enough elements dangling as a tease for a possible sequel, but thankfully doesn’t require one to make sense of it. The Batman (2022) is intelligent, thoughtful and most of all – engaging.