There is always a part of us, that thinks we can dodge the bullet, and its a brilliant part – even if we are wrong, we need it. We can’t survive without it, Batman personifies that.
You can take it even deeper, Christ is God made flesh. Whether he’s historical or not, it doesn’t matter. The same as Batman is not historical. It makes us feel something. It presses a human button that is very important. – Grant Morrison / Fatman on Batman Podcast
Whether a story is about reality and actual events, or pure fantasy either way the effect is the same, a story makes us feel something.
I agree with Grant Morrison, pushing that button that makes us feel something is important.
A good story usually has characters we care about, drama, conflict, resolution and holds our attention from the beginning until the end.
Films, novels and comic-books can do many things, but the one thing they need to do more than anything else is they have to be entertaining, otherwise we just won’t engage with the story in the first place.
While the quality of various Batman stories is all over the place – for a 75 year old character, he has a surprising amount of good quality material to delve into. Batman has great movies, cartoons, comic books and video games to his name, something few other superheros have achieved.
Even his forerunner Superman is sorely lacking in the modern video game and cartoon department, relegated to JLA and Young Justice appearances and the odd direct to home market animated feature or the obligatory pathetically dull handheld game destined for the wasteland that is the game store bargain bin.
No matter what medium we find Batman in, he is a character that manages to not only remain relevant and interesting, but cool, like upper level Bruce Lee or Elvis cool, the kind of cool that never goes out of style. Batman is basically unkillable.
As a man he is vulnerable, but as an idea, a mythic pop-culture icon that transcends generations of fans – he is immortal. Like his spiritual brothers Sherlock Holmes, Zorro and The Shadow, he refuses to be contained by any one medium, any one incarnation. Batman is a character without limits.
There is something about Batman that attracts unrelenting passionate enthusiasm for the character from fans. From the most hardcore to casual Bat-Fan, the love for the character is consistent amongst the old and young, and people of different races and cultures from around the world. Like Tintin, Astro Boy and Mickey mouse, Batman is loved and celebrated around the world, and that is no easy feat for such a dark character.
Batman’s darkness seems to be part of his enduring appeal. His traumatic childhood makes him a sympathetic character from the beginning, his lack of super-powers makes him more relatable. Every fan thinks, maybe, well… you know – just maybe …if you have enough money, time and training you could be Batman. Until you get shot and stabbed in your first week like Dave in Kick-Ass.
But the fantasy is appealing. It doesn’t matter that it is bullshit. In Batman’s world, he CAN dodge bullets. He can jump a little further and make the impossible ordinary. In a comic book world who is to say gravity is not a little different, and human bodies are not more robust? There is no way to disprove it and anyone who would try just doesn’t get the fun appeal of comics.
What evidence do we have that Batman can dodge bullets? The fact that he does it on a weekly basis. We know it is impossible, and a bit silly. But that doesn’t matter, the fact that Batman can dodge bullets is just damn cool, and that he can run around in the best super-hero costume ever designed without getting heat exhaustion in the summer, or frost bite in the winter, and his mask never slips sideways when he gets sweaty making him temporarily blind – none of that matters.
That Batman’s joints should be shot to hell in a handbasket, and his his scar tissue so numerous that he should barely be able to move, let alone run jump and punch crime in the face just somehow makes him more appealing, rather than silly. Comics are full of dumb silly ideas, but we look the other way, because – hey- we all enjoy a good story.
You give Batman the benefit of the doubt, because he is Batman and he has it all figured out. If we went into his world he would probably tell you he engineered the texture of the cowl to be non-slip while somehow still breathable, all while allowing him wireless tele-communications, night vision and creepy fake white eyes to freak out criminals.
Now and forever, Batman is the guy, the man, the big cheese, the coolest cat in town. He takes some lumps both in the comics and now and then in the press for having the odd rubbish movie, but he always bounces back, like the six million dollar man – we can rebuild him – better, faster, stronger.
I don’t know how long Batman will be around, but the longer he is the more he demonstrates the power of fictional characters to influence real lives, real people. Batman hanging around for as long as he has is only the beginning, his near-mythic cultural resonance has transcended the funnybook cultural ghetto he was born and conceived in.
We need look no further than the recent Brett Culp directed documentary Legends of the Knight for evidence of Batman’s impact upon the “real” world.
“A documentary about the power of storytelling to create positive change in our lives and around the world, expressed through the lens of one of the most popular stories of our time – the Batman.” -IMDB.COM
You can’t write copy like that, well… you can in this case. If you don’t get excited reading that sentence, then maybe Batman is not the guy for you. I encourage you to watch the brilliant documentary. I will write a full article about it eventually but have too many other features planned first, so it is on the back burner for now.
While Batman has run the gauntlet during the decades from pure pulp-fiction to neo-noir, he is not limited to any one genre. His stories, while made up, make believe and well, hogwash – show a remarkable power to entertain, inform and inspire. Fiction has a great power to incorporate the best of what is real, and what is unreal. Weaving a tapestry of emotion, feeling and connection to us in our every day lives, Batman lives in the hearts and mind of millions around the world.
A great story, whether real or imagined, has the power to make us feel very real feelings. A great story and a great character have the power to lift us up and take us on a journey to another place, perhaps even another time. Fiction has the power to remake and remold reality by inspiring the greatest values in us stealthily wrapped in cheap disposable entertainment. If you want to influence the minority, create some wonderful ideas and inspiring ideas. But if you want to influence the whole world, create a story that inspires with archetypal characters that resonate while teaching timeless life lessons.
Why is it that mankind can routinely lose its own history, forget the culture of lost and destroyed civilizations (whoops, there goes another one while you read this sentence, bugger…) while our stories survive? The cultural narrative of a civilization is only as strong as its best stories, its highest ideals. After we are dead and gone, all people will have left of us is our stories.
Batman never being born, can never die. A story can exist beyond generations and even beyond cultures and countries. A story knows no borders, and time means nothing to a fictional character. One hundred years of our time is like five years for Batman or The Phantom. Give then two hundred years and Sherlock, Batman and Zorro will defy logic and reason, getting younger, more handsome, and more brilliant.
Take a look at an early issue of Detective Comics and compare it to any issue from today. Batman is smarter, stronger, impossibly handsome and he continues to evolve and grow both in the fictional stories and in our world as an idea – at a phenomenal rate. He shows no signs of slowing down.
I feel that the world is a better place with Batman in it. If on all the various earths in the multiverse there are earths were Batman does not exist (not even as a fictional character) then I don’t want to live there thanks. I’ll stay right here on Earth-1, or is it Earth Prime? Whatever it is, I’m glad I live on planet Batman, the coolest planet in the galaxy in my opinion.
I was going to talk about other ways that Batman inspires me to be a better human being, but perhaps that can wait for another time, I’ve rambled long enough for today. Well, just a hint then: it involves training in martial arts, lifting heavy weights and a passion to give back to the community.