Category Archives: Batman

Anti-Heroine, Goddess, Maniac – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DC’s HARLEY QUINN – From Gangster Moll to Pop Culture Icon

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One of the things I love about Harley Quinn is the sense of fun about her.

She’s a bad girl and she knows it.

The ability to let loose and just unapologetically be who she is – is one of the things that appeals to me most about Harley. She is deeply flawed, and that also makes her more relatable like Batman.

However whether Harley is crazy or not, she is eccentric, vulnerable and easily led. Unlike the Joker who is a deadly kind of dangerous and playful, Harley is a more fun and sexy kind of danger that seems appealing, but Harley can fluctuate from playful to deadly in a heartbeat.

In this article we’ll take a look at Harley’s Quinn’s history, her relationship with the Joker and her exploding popularity from niche background character to mainline DC Icon. We’ll also take a lot at some of her exciting outfits, and see how she is portrayed across various media such as comics, cartoons and video games.

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 Harley Quinn was the creation of Batman writer Paul Dini. She first appeared in Batman: the Animated Series in 1992. Harley eventually became so popular that she was included in the mainline Batman comic books, went on to star in several of her own comic book titles and started appearing in video games such as Batman Arkham Asylum and Injustice: Gods Among Us. Harley also appeared in the DC Super Hero Girls kids show and has had a lot of action figures, statues and other merchandise bearing her likeness. More recently Harley Quinn appeared in the Suicide Squad movie played by Margot Robbie, exploding her popularity even more.

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DON’T CRY FOR ME PAMELA ISLEY

Harley is forever in this abusive relationship with the Joker, and while it’s sad and horrible, it’s a whirlwind Bonnie and Clyde gangster romance – she loves him and can’t get away from him. It’s very true to life where some battered and abused women refuse to leave their husbands and will run back to them at the first opportunity. In Batman the Animated Series (1992) and the graphic novel tie in  Mad Love by Paul Dini – the Joker treats Harley poorly, kicks her out frequently only for her to come crawling back even when she did nothing wrong.

There is no denying that Harley is attracted to danger and chaos, it’s all fun and games to her, but she is also like that which she finds most attractive. As a rule breaker and agent of chaos, there is no predicting on any day whether Harley Quinn will help or harm someone. Harley also has no real focus in life, and is often easily led or manipulated by others – characters such as the Joker, Catwoman or Batman regularly manipulate Quinn for their own purposes.

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In the Gotham City Sirens comic book series Catwoman and Poison Ivy are a positive influence on Harley, questioning her undying loyalty to the clown who keeps treating her so bad. We see the first instances of Harley questioning her own blind love for the Joker and need/infatuation for her abusive lover. This later leads into more solo Harley Quinn stories, and eventually to her second main ongoing solo book in the NEW 52 imprint of DC.

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THE NEW THE NOUVELLE

In the NEW 52 branded DC books Harley Quinn got another solo title and this is where  Harley is defiantly on her own, a single gal, and really gets to be her own character free of not only the Joker’s shadow, but the Batman family of comics and characters thanks to being in her own title. Her previous solo comic book was still basically tied into the Batman family of books. NEW 52 Harley Quinn is  a rising star, sitting on the comic book store shelves freed of any Batman branding, logos or tie ins.

Freed of the pattern of her reactions to both the Joker and Batman, and with the influence of Ivy, Catwoman and other gal pals, not to mention encounters with the wider DC Universe community Harley for the first time is forced to question her own motivations, character and ethos.

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THIS USED TO BE MY PLAYGROUND

New 52 Harley takes on a more goth punk aesthetic, and also classical bad girl look of the 40’s and 50s comics – a more sexualized look that is designed to provoke a reaction, but at the same time affirms she is who she is. Harley doesn’t wear crazy weird and overly revealing outfits just to titillate, (well maybe a little)  but because that is what she feels comfortable in, it’s an expression of her personality and of the Harlequin archetype.

Harley embraces her Bad Girl aesthetic, and has crazy adventures while seemingly moving into Anti-Heroine territory. In the wild and woolly (and sometimes pornographic) world of fan art, imagination is set loose, and one meme of fan art that is often repeated is Harley romantically linked with Deadpool.

Harley and Deadpool make sense thematically, they share similar costume colors and are both crazy, but ultimately fun loving GENUINE weirdos who really can’t help but be who they are, they just don’t fit in in our world. And it’s a good thing, they are both maniacs. Apart from existing in different fictional worlds, they are two similar to have any sort of actual relationship. But it’s a fun meme, and for that purpose it works well.

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The NEW 52 Harley Quinn stories are very similar in tone, style and pattern to the early Joe Kelly solo Deadpool stories that really defined Deadpool as the lovable goofy demented idiot we all know and love. The skewed morality (or lack of it) makes for fun reading.

The Joe Kelly Deadpool run is where Deadpool went from being a really generic boring bad guy with a cool costume, to having the most obnoxious and funny personality in the Marvel Universe. The birth of wise cracking Deadpool is partly a riff on Spider-Man – who used to be the funny guy, but has not been the least bit funny in decades – Deadpool’s costume also is a riff on Spider-Man’s costume right down to the eyes, layout and colors.

EXPRESS YOURSELF

Both Harley and Deadpool are selfish mostly amoral villains, but despite their nature, keep helping people, and listening to others who encourage them not to just mindlessly kill people. A distinction here is that Deadpool is a well paid assassin, who will accept just about any contract (usually children are the exception… *cough*), whereas Harley is a nutcase who kills when it is convenient, and it’s often glossed over whether she actually kills someone, or just kidnaps and incapacitates them etc.

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NEW 52 Harley actively tries to help people, when her roller derby term loses and then Harley maims the opposing team members so they can’t win – well it’s Harley’s naive and twisted way of thinking that she is helping. Harley and Deadpool are kind of like kids who grow up with abusive parents, or no parents at all.

The people they have imprinted on have largely been bad bad people, criminals, cons, murderers, assassins and psychos etc. Despite these influences, there is something good underneath in both of these characters that comes through in certain stories, leaving them neither truly villains, nor heroes, but walking a murky moral middle ground. If you’ve seen Spike on the Buffy show, he’s another example of a character with a shady past constantly walking a fine line between good and evil. Likewise, fellow Suicide Squad alumni Deadshot is a villainous assassin, seemingly without morals who conveniently misses targets when its suits him to.

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Early in the NEW 52 run Harleen Quinzel sees a patient as a psychologist – an elderly lady who complains her family don’t visit her- Harley turns up at their house with a bulldozer, knocks the wall down, kidnaps and threatens to kill them if they don’t visit their grandmother more often. Turns out the old lady had memory issues and the loving family already visits three times a week.

So Harley’s “help” is often more harmful than if she had just done nothing. A similar theme runs through the early Kelly Deadpool stories, and it’s this cheeky fun loving style that really makes the NEW 52 Harley stories a fun read. It’s these kinds of misadventures that make Harley question whether why she should even attempt to do good in the world, when her trying to be good often ends up being worse behavior than her every day “bad” behavior.

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This similarity to the classic Joe Casey Deadpool stories in one of the things that pisses some Harley fans off, for them it’s TOO similar and lazy, no longer authentically the “Harley Quinn” that they know and love. Others in another camp enjoy the stories for their difference, and then there are newer younger fans who only know the more modern version of Quinn and are not very familiar with her older stories, so the comparison is just not relevant. Chances are that if you love NEW 52 Harley stories, you’ll most likely love the early Kelly Deadpool stories.

Speaking of bad dudes – in the NEW 52 Suicide Squad comic Harley has a fling with Deadshot, and even the notoriously brave, “who gives a fuck” devil may care Deadshot pauses to stop and ask if the Joker will not try and kill him, isn’t Harley “Joker’s Girl”? Harley fucks Deadshot, and while it’s a throwaway moment, another wild impulse from a serial risk taking thrill seeker – it’s also a final nail in the coffin of her relationship with her ex. It’s a gimmick scene for sure – but also another step along the path of Harley being free of the Joker and the Batman Family of books.

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SUICIDE BLONDE

In the Suicide Squad movie for the first time we see a Joker / Harley relationship where he ACTUALLY loves and cares for her, rather than just tolerates and abuses her as in all former versions of these characters. It’s unclear whether the film was edited that way on purpose, as there is evidence that the film did contain (at least in some drafts) the classic love/hate Joker and Harley abusive relationship.

Whether that version of the film was just one idea in the mix, or somebody stepped in and cut those parts out? Who knows. I feel the film is better for it. Rumor has it that the Suicide Squad may get a sequel, and Harley Quinn may get a solo film, and then Gotham Girls is also in the mix. Whether we will get one or three films is anybodies guess. I’d like to hope so, but I think it’s more likely we will get one or two films at most, rather than three films so early with Harley – it would seem to me like over-exposure – unless they really staggered the release dates.

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CRAZY FOR YOU

Harley Quinn was introduced as a sidekick, lover and victim of the Joker, their relationship played up for laughs. But there is no denying that the Joker is verbally, physically and psychologically abusive to Harley – something easy to miss in a kids cartoon such as Batman Animated, or the tie in comic books for kids.

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As Harley became integrated into the official DC Universe through Batman related books,  making the leap from TV screen to comic book page, she also was spun off into other titles including the Suicide Squad, her own ongoing book and various mini-series.

Harley became more of an independent character, she breaks up with the Joker and for the first time we see her develop as a character, being more than just a symbiotic love/hate on again/off again  Joker relationship in Batman Animated. She goes from being just a plot device or background character, to her own more fully developed character. From the object of “she” to DC icon “Harley Quinn”

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In Batman Animated, Harley would often leave the Joker (or be kicked out by him forcefully) only to inevitably go running back to him like a battered spouse.

Harley’s integration into the wider DCU meant that when she left the Joker once again, she actually had somewhere to go, other than the confines of the TV show, or just the narrow panel borders of the Batman branded comic books.

Eventually Harley landed in her own book(s), with some mad but fun stories from various writers and artists with Harley as a reluctant anti-Heroine, who can’t help helping people, despite her best intentions to be selfish and a very bad girl.

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Harley Quinn was further cemented as a wider DC Universe character  when she appeared in the big budget Batman Arkham Asylum video game series (again written by her creator Paul Dini). While Harley reverted to her Batman Animated status as the Joker’s gangster moll once more – more people play video games than read comics, so the widespread exposure helped for the move into more of Quinn’s own comic books, and wider DC media exposure including licensed toys.

CRAZY ABOUT THE BAT

Harley also has a love/hate relationship with the Batman himself. It’s not a romantic or sexual thing. If anything, Batman is one of the more stable influences in her life – and depending on who is writing the story Baman can be her personal villain/tormentor, or a father-like figure who tries to forgive her and encourage her to give up the life of crime she has fallen into. Batman believes in the good side of Harley, but Harley inevitably rebels against all types of authority like a rebellious teenager.

The other key relationship Harley has in the DCU is with Poison Ivy/ Pamela Isley. The two have been good friends since the days of Batman the Animated Series and that friendship has continued into other media and Harley’s solo books. Harley and Ivy are very affectionate friends, but whether it’s a more sisterly bond or if Harley is bi-sexual and has been more involved with Poison Ivy off panel and between the sheets – we don’t really know. But it’s something that is hinted at in various stories, but it’s often it’s left up to the readers imagination, that doesn’t stop the writers from having fun with their hints.

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STRIKE A POSE

Further expanding Harley as a multi-media entity has been the vast volume of merchandise proving popular with both male and female fans. Harley being featured in the alternative reality comic book series Injustice: Gods among Us and the much hyped video game of the same name saw Harley’s exposure grow even more outside of her Batman/Joker origins.

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Action figures large and small, with many variants based on her different artistic interpretations across different media significantly helped Harley to become a more iconic character in a relatively short period of time, with her various appearances proving popular with hardcore collectors and casual fans.

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If you go on ebay you’ll find Harley action figures, kids costumes and even more adult lingerie type stuff. Some of it official, some of it bootleg by the looks of it. You know Quinn has achieved a certain type of mass popularity when she’s has even getting bootleg merchandise appearing on ebay.

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Licensed merchandise and mainstream movies tend to grow a character faster in pop culture than just comics or animation alone. Once Harley reached critical mass with her appearance in the Suicide Squad movie, she had gone as mainstream as it gets in her appeal. Her appeal is also multi-generational with products targeted at different age demographics.

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Harley has grown to be more than just a twisted freak, her public persona is one of fun, sexiness and  devil may care “don’t fuck with me” can do attitude. Harley is a fun fantasy character who comes from a background of animation, leapt into the mainline Batman comics, became part of the wider DC Universe, took part in company yearly gimmick events, got loads of toys made, moved on to several solo books, became part of the roster in a fighting video game and back into animation again as part of the kids show DC Super Hero Girls. Her spin off merch, cosplays, fan art and now big screen movie action sees her star continue to rise, and she’s a character that appeals to both male and female fans.

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Some of the Harley themed “clothing” items you may find on ebay

FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YA TELL ME

There is a certain punk-rock appeal to Harley that makes her appealing to many fans. She’s “alternative”, but not in a market driven way. Harley got there organically through many costume changes and various writers. Her personality has been pretty consistent in the 25 years she has been around. Yes, the youthful Harley is already a quarter century old in the comic book world.

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Few writers have done anything terribly interesting with the character. Her creator Paul Dini has made the biggest mark on the character, with other writers doing their version of his character, or some alternative version with minor differences such as the Amanda Connor / Palmiotti Harley stories.

Harley Quinn Costumes over the years. Art by LadyDeadQuinn http://ladydeadquinn.deviantart.com
“Classy” Halloween costumes

Harley’s incorporation into the kids show DC Super Hero Girls and it’s toyline sees a more age appropriate version of the character marketed to youngsters. It’s a common tactic these days from the big two to have multiple versions of their characters in each target demographic age group. That’s why you can find tiny versions of Bane or the Joker from Batman suitable for five year olds in stores – even though those characters are horrible killers.

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It’s a little at odds with her core character and values to see Harley Quinn lined up with a bunch of true blue superheroes, and call me cynical but it’s clearly DC looking at the successful line of Disney Princess dolls, Barbie dolls and their multimedia products that DC have done their version of that. Which is fine, they are cool toys frankly. I’m a bit weirded out by the heroin-chic skinny dolls with bobble heads inspiring new generations to body dsymorphia – but other than that they look cool. I almost bought the Harley Quinn doll, it’s been at my local shops a long time – but found it a little too creepy looking to put on my shelf. You kind of have to ignore the characters and realize it’s more these are generic characters wearing the costumes of the iconic characters. The personality and character is really not there.

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Still the DC Superhero Girls show and its tie in comics are decent (if bland and generic) fun for kids, not as exciting as say the Powerpuff Girls (one of my all time favourite tv shows) but it is nice that kids can enjoy a version of these characters where the girls are the stars, rather than second fiddle to the usual majority male cast of the DC universe in print and on the big screen. It’s a bland show, but it’s colorful and stars female characters in the lead, so I’m all for it  – even though it’s inoffensively bland rather than the well written all ages hit that I *wish* it was (like the original Powerpuff Girls).

 

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES, TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE

Harley Quinn’s playful and often sexual nature had made her very popular with adult cosplayers. A quick online search reveals many well conceived and implemented costumed variants, including post-apocalyptic and steampunk Harley Quinn cosplay. Harley is also very popular in pro and fan art both by herself or featured as a couple with the Joker or Poison Ivy. Her licensed toys have really taken off with versions of just about every costume and era represented in the toy lines.

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Harley’s looks have alternated from her full body 1600’s inspired Harlequin costume to more flesh revealing gothic, kink, fetish and lingerie inspired outfits, the first most significant departure from the original full body costume appearing in the Arkham Asylum video games.

Depending on the media – each of those designs cross-pollinates giving us new hybrid designs that link past present and future Harley either visually or thematically.

The most consistent motifs are the red/black playing card diamond pattern and colors, blonde hair (which is sometimes died into other colors) and the general theme of the costume and role of the Harlequin popularized in European plays during the 1600s. Sometimes we see Harley in regular clothes, in her civilian identity as Harleen Quinzel (former head shrinker), but not very often. Her identity is well known to anybody and everybody in the superhero community.

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In Batman: Arkham Asylum (the game, not the graphic novel by Grant Morrison) gone was her full body comical Harlequin outfit. Replaced with tight leather pants, smeared black eye make-up took the place of her domino mask, while Harley’s hair was dyed in the colors that were formerly on her costume, and her domino mask is gone replaced with make up to mimmick the same basic look.

While showing more skin is not really a sign of character development, some of Harley’s  stories do fit with her risk tasking provocative personality. Harley was always an explicitly sexual, dangerous character even if it was not so obvious in the Batman Animated show. When Harley falls for someone or something, her mad passion fixates on that character. Whether’s it’s her relationship with the Joker, anger at Batman or infatuation with Pamela Isley – Harley overly fixates on whatever her manic ADD attention span allows her to.

Some scenes in Batman Animated were toned down from their original scripts, to keep in line with standards for children’s television. But there was never any doubt of Paul Dini’s intentions in creating the character, which was to be in a very specific style. Harley is like a rock star groupie, and the Joker is always on tour in her mind, so the party never ends.

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When Batman: Arkham Asylum was released, many fans and game reviewers were rather surprised by Harley’s “new look” which has an undeniable S&M feel to it, and many game reviewers and fans commented that she looked like a street walker. Those comments were mostly not meant in any negative way, but more as genuine surprise that game developers / artists went with such a bold depiction that offered a strong contrast to her previous costume.

But to be frank Batman is wearing a black full body fetish looking costume and super-heroes and their costumes are fetishistic by their very nature. Come on, how many of them wear their underwear on the outside? That’s just kinky by its nature. We have just gotten so used to seeing their costumes in mass media that we take it for granted.

More important than any specific costume alone for Harley is agency – how does she interact with her world. Is the story about her, or is she just background in a story? With her solo books their is no doubt Harley is calling the shots, while the traditional Batman books have her more as a background character. Harley’s role mixes it up depending on what kind of story she is in. As a trickster and a wildcard – she’s fits in just about anywhere. She can play both heel and face, often in the same story.

In the recent animated movie Batman and Harley Quinn Harley even goes against her Fonfon Ru Poison Ivy – choosing to die with Batman when Ivy and the Floronic Man try to end the world with the Plant-Apocalypse. *Spoiler Alert* Harley doesn’t die, and helps save the day.

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GOOD LUCK IN YOUR NEW BAND

To Paul Dini’s credit, he enjoys the different contrasting versions of Harley that have popped up in new media. Dini has given several long form interviews on various Podcast shows, and he is quite vocal in his support of the diverse range of artistic interpretations of Harley in comics and other media. It’s not every day that someone can create a character in the Batman universe that sticks around. And it’s even more rare to create a modern character who moves beyond their source material to find new audiences and new media outgrowing the limited line of Batman books.

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WE AIM TO MISBEHAVE

While Harley has become a more overtly-sexual, more extreme risk taking character, she is still basically the same character. I was skeptical of this direction at first after the more chaste classic version of Harley I was familiar with seemingly went away for good. It seemed that DC was turning Harley into another dis-empowered stupid female character who just pointlessly runs around in her underwear for the fanboys, and has no real story to tell.

But having read a significant amount of both old school and modern Harley Quinn stories, most of what DC have done with the character fits very well. The thing about Harlequin’s and Clowns and performance art, is to continually fuck with the audience, and keep them guessing about what are the true intentions of this performance? A good showman or showgirl never reveals their secrets. With Harley, it feels like she is somewhat of a chameleon like Joker, or David Bowie or Madonna – going through different looks, different eras that refract societies norms and then go off in strange unpredictable directions. Partly as artistic expression, partly to fuck with the audience and be a provocateur.

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It’s the call of an artist to follow their muse, and Harley expresses herself through wild outfits and outrageous behavior. She’s a punk-rock risk taking teenager who never grew up, doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks and that is a big part of her appeal. She knows like Poison Ivy that men find her irresistible, and uses that as leverage to get what she wants, but that can also backfire on her with characters like Batman who see through the schtick. Harley is also somewhat genuinely naive (despite her high overall intelligence), with a child like innocence that people find endearing.

Harley’s various looks are also a call back to another era, that of the golden age comics and pulp stories that featured costumed femme fatales that preceded the typical superheroes and typical JLA types. These pulp characters were often sexy, dark or extreme. Like them, Harley as an image is a fetishized object, unlike them Harley does not have a secret identity and pretty much everybody knows who she is. She has a certain kind of fame and notoriety in the DC Universe. Like other performance artists, Harley takes the iconography of femme fatales, harlequins and more, and she owns that behavior, makes it her own and uses it express herself. Harley likes to dress up and be provocative, and she has a lot of fun being a silly, sexy mischief maker.

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Whether Quinn can be called a genuinely empowered “bad girl” with her punk attitude bucking of social norms, or a more deliberate marketed femme fatale with her increasingly more revealing outfits designed to appeal to men I can’t say definitively one way or another. Harley is a character of contrast who defies simple categorization and that is something that works in her favor. Harley plays at being “crazy” but really she’s more manic and impulsive than anything. At times she has managed to restrain herself from doing something regrettable, but more often she gives in to her wild impulses, and follows her gut instincts.

Harley remains an interesting and intriguing character with some surprising depth to her that is not obvious to the casual viewer. Like the Joker, you can’t really define Harley or keep  her pinned down. She defies categorization, and constantly changes her look, keeping people guessing.

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LIVING ON THE EDGE

On one level Harley is a fun, silly, sexy manic character who is as funny is as she is unpredictable. Harley refuses to be a boring “good girl”, as she knows its way more fun to be bad and express herself, and damn the consequences. In this way she is a throwback to early pulp femme fatales, the daredevils and risk takers of yesteryear who often had secret identities to protect their wild antics and were synonymous with sexual yearning, and the expressing of normal human desires often suppressed in a patriarchal society, so that even normal human expression becomes some kind of kink or perversion.

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One big problem with female characters in fiction, particularly north american comic books – is that women are often there solely as plot devices. Just to be the token girlfriend to the main hero, as a one dimensional placeholder figure. There are various actions, reactions and attempts to write around this issue, but often male dominated cinema, film and comics have poorly written inauthentic female characters that misrepresent the other half of the population. It is a constant challenge to not make horrible shit like that in comics books when it’s the norm.

When any half decent new female character comes along there is always the risk of them being pigeonholed into some crappy archetype we are already familiar with, instead of letting them grow organically down their own  path. While the merchandise side of the Harley Quinn empire is very deliberate, to me the character has been allowed to grow beyond her roots, and at least some of that merch is because fans really wanted it.

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THE SHOW MUST GO ON

Harley Quinn is fun, sweet, sexy and silly. She’s also manic and unpredictable, an impulsive hedonistic freak, and incredibly dangerous. What I love about the character is that she is someone who says it’s okay to be an outsider, a rebel, a weirdo, a misfit and to have fun being who you are. While her outfits fluctuate from full body suits to showing a lot of skin, she defies the usual beauty standards. While Harley is undeniably hot, the way she dresses is about as unconventional as it gets – her various looks incorporating elements of goth, punk, grunge, circus / harlequin, prostitutes and retro comic book femme fatales.

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It makes sense Quinn is a popular cosplay, as there as so many options to mix and choose from. While some female comic book characters come across as borderline exploitative, Harley has owned her risque behavior, looks and attitudes from day one. As messed up as she is, she’s not afraid to be who she is. Part of what makes villains, anti-heroes and anti-heroines so much fun is that they let out all the stuff  we “norms” keep repressed and bottled up. They let their freak flag fly in a form of fiction we can find socially acceptable.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

Harley has proved enduringly popular. From multiple video games to cosplays to fan art, two decades of comic books, animation, toys and now her first official live action movie appearance – she was rumored to be first featured back in the 90’s Schumacher Batman films…urgh. Statues, clothing, Halloween costumes, a role in a kids TV show, it seems there is no stopping Harley Quinn’s rising popularity, she’s in just about every media and form you can think of. Harley also got her own starring role in another DC Animated original feature Batman and Harley Quinn – Batman’s name may come first for marketing purposes but make no mistake, Harley is the star of this animated movie.

 

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IMAGE CREDITS

– in order of appearance –

*Harley Quinn by Vincent Vernacatola

https://vvernacatola.deviantart.com/

*Suicide Squad Harley Quinn cosplay by Kimette, photography by Michaelle Charette

https://www.facebook.com/michaellecharettephotographe/

*Roller Derby Cosplay from Kandinsky Kandall Photography

*Joker Harley comic image from Batman: Mad Love graphic novel

*Gotham City Sirens #9 cover from DC Comics

*Harley Quinn #6 (NEW 52) cover from DC Comics

*My feelings Can’t be Killed by m7781 Marco D’ Alfonso

https://m7781.deviantart.com/

*Hoodless Harley SDCC cosplay by Destiny Italia

https://destinyitalia.deviantart.com/

*Harley driving comic panel from Harley Quinn #4 (NEW 52) by DC Comics

*Harley smashing through wall panel from Harley Quinn #4 (NEW 52) by DC Comics

*SS Harley and Classic Harley fan art by Ai Eye

https://ai-eye.deviantart.com/

*Akrham Knight Harley Quinn official promo art from Batman: Arkham Knight

*I feel Pretty – comic panel from Batman: Mad Love graphic novel

*Harley + Joker panel from Batman:Arkham City official tie in comic book

*Too Many Feeling by m7781 Marco D’ Alfonso

https://m7781.deviantart.com/

*Harley and Ivy panel from NEW 52 Harley Quinn#2

*Harley and Batgirl panels from Batgirl Adventures#1

*Harley and Grundy screen cap from Injustice: Gods Among Us video game

*Batman and Harley screen cap from Batman: Arkham City video game

*DC Superhero girls image from official DC promotional material

*Harley Quinn playing card image from http://gamespot.com/

*Harley alternate costumes by LadyDeadQuinn

http://ladydeadquinn.deviantart.com

*Harley real life halloween costumes image from  https://www.inverse.com/article/21564-harley-quinn-halloween-costume-superhero-costumes-kids-adults

*Kid Harley Quinn cosplay by Kara Adelyne

*DC Superhero Girls dolls image from official promotional material

*Harley and goons screen grab from Batman:Arkham City video game

*Harley comic panel image from Batman: Mad Love graphic novel

*Tied up Harley from Batman:Arkham City video game

*Batman / Harley image from Batman:Arkham City video game official promo art

*Batman and Harley Quinn trailer from Youtube DC Channel

*Poison Ivy screen grab from Batman and Harley Quinn animated movie

*Daddy’s Lil Monster by Saintyak

https://saintyak.deviantart.com/

*Harley Quinn slingshot from Harley Quinn Annual#1

*Harley comic panel image from Batman: Mad Love graphic novel

*Bombshell Harley Quinn by Nathan Szerdy

https://nszerdy.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Harley make up panel from  NEW 52 Harley Quinn#4

*Arkham Knight Harley Quinn from official game art

*Suicide Harley cosplay by Katya Kosova photo by Tim Rise

https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/katya-kosova

*Dystopian Harley cosplay by Jessica Nigri’s

https://www.instagram.com/jessicanigri/?hl=en

https://www.facebook.com/MiniHarleyQuinn/

*Natural-born-killers-harley-quinn-and-deadpool by Saintyak

https://saintyak.deviantart.com/

natural-born-killers-harley-quinn-and-deadpool

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Unstoppable Batman, Unbeatable Batitude, Unbeatable YOU

Batman dark knight midnight_by_ai_eye

Batman is the ultimate introvert.

He’s this shy awkward kid who never finished growing up.

But then he puts on his bat-suit and he takes on all the confidence and courage, and other typically positive male qualities that he can muster and channels it into this relentless dark force for good.

We can use that kind of courage and make-believe in our own lives.

I used to train in Ju-Jitsu for several years, and every year or so we would have a grading (test of your skills and knowledge so far) and each time I would have to project total courage and confidence. As well as practicing all the required skills for endless hours.

It was tough.

I didn’t use to have a lot of either, toughness or CON-fidence – well less than none really, I had almost no belief in myself whatsoever. I’m not exaggerating in the least, I was the most shy socially awkward weak and underweight kid you can imagine growing up.

So…

I did a lot of mental rehearsal for whatever was required in the Ju-Jitsu grading, it’s something I’ve done for years along with meditation, weight training and Yoga. I credit Ju-jitsu training and the instructors for giving me the kick ass attitude to life I have today. I am indebted to them.

I would run mental movies over and over again in my own mind leading up to the grading test.

I ran through the mental routine of everything I would do, or might be asked to do.

A key thing is I did not just mentally rehearse in a cold mechanical way.

What was important is that I would see myself, in my own mental movie as already being extremely confident, assured, and relaxed. I saw myself as supremely confident and performing all tasks required without error. You know, Batman, Bruce Lee, Goku and Rambo all rolled into one. Total relaxed confidence, a precision engine of mass destruction!

 

And the great thing was, it worked.

I always APPEARED more confident than I was, and it showed.

In reality I was a nervous wreck. But nobody knew that.

It took several years of this practice, for that confidence to become permanent.

I don’t really need the mental movies so much now, I’m confident at most things, and what I don’t know already, I know I can learn and pick up pretty fast.

That does’t mean I don’t use that practice,

I still do, just not as often.

But if I was go into some arena of life that was completely unknown to me, boy you can bet I would be using those daily mental movies again.

Dark knight r_i_p__by_ai_eye Batman

Batman mentally rehearsed being or becoming Batman for years.

Before he ever became the Dark Knight.

He didn’t wake up one day being the epitome of courage, determination and self-sacrifice.

Batman got there slowly one Bat-breath, one Bat-punch, one Bat-Step at a time.

Bruce Wayne mentally (and physically) rehearsed being Batman, and everything that meant, as well as countless hours of training, (I’d say he started with at least several thousand hours of rigorous training).

He imagined he already was what he wanted to be.

The best goal setters and champions of the world are time travelers.

They have time traveled within their own minds to the near future, and in their own mind, they have ALREADY ARRIVED where they want to be, and already are how they intend to be. And they patiently wait for their body and present reality to catch up to their minds inner vision.

This is one of the secrets of Batman being 10 steps ahead of everybody else in the room. When Gordon or the JLA are working on some tough mental problem, Batman already has the solution, he’s already seen the near future and is waiting for everyone else to catch up. He’s not clairvoyant, and a good Detective has to work through things logically one step at a time, but they also take leaps.

No matter the challenge, in his own mind, Batman has already beaten it. This is where his supreme confidence comes from. Even when he loses, he wins, his enemies reveal their weaknesses to him unknowingly when they beat him. It’s all feedback for Batman, who is going to go away, train and come back even better than before.

I think with the right BATITUDE, all things are possible.

To be a little more like Batman, we can and should use mental movies to boost our own confidence at whatever we want to do in life, and to be as specific and detailed as possible in those mental movies. Your body is your slave, it does whatever you ask it to do without question, it literally has no choice. Your mind is your own garden to grow as you damn well please.

It’s no guarantee that you will succeed at anything at all, that’s a fantasy. We all fail and do stupid things. So what, with ongoing practice of mental movies and Batitude, win or lose – we take it all as feedback, as fuel for greatness.

We can apply that practice to just about anything.

Getting a new job, starting a new sport or martial art, becoming a better brother, husband, son or father. There literally is no limit to what mental movies we can run in our own minds on a regular basis.

We project the BEST version of ourselves into our mental movies we can imagine at present, we see it, feel it, smell it and know it. Then we wait for reality to catch up.

And slowly, one Bat-Step at a time, one Bat-Breath at a time we become on the outside, the person we already know we are on the inside.

We bring our BATITUDE out from our own dusty minds, we practice something meaningful in our outer lives that we can focus and channel all our best qualities into.

We still have to do the hard work of learning any actual skill, of endless training and learning.

There are no shortcuts.

But whatever you DO in life, you will be 10 times more effective with the right kind of mental movies, and the right kind of BATITUDE.

Those mental movies become the future versions of ourselves, so I hope when you watch your own mental movies, you’ve hired the best director (that’s YOU!), the best sound guy, the best actors, and the best soundtrack possible to get you feeling and acting at your best.

 

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IMAGE CREDITS

 

Midnight, R.I.P. and Two Face images by Ai Eye

Full Ai Eye Gallery at Deviant Art http://ai-eye.deviantart.com/gallery/

 

 

Batblog 2016 wrap up and Merry Batsmas / Happy New Year to All

Batman by Rodrigo Idalino.jpg

2016 has been a slow year for me on this blog.

I didn’t get as many articles finished as I wanted.

Heck – I didn’t even get around to starting my in depth look at the timeless classic Batman: The Animated Series and the fan favourite Arkham Asylum video games. Which means they get pushed back to 2017.

I did however get my Q&A Article up on The Heroine’s Journey, with some brilliant writers, and if you missed it, well click the blue bit. Part#2 of The Heroine’s Journey will be up soon in the new year, and it covers my ideas and theories on the the topics discussed in the Q&A.

TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE DOWN BATS!

If that article seems a little out of place here, well all I can say is that I have a bunch of similar stuff in draft form that ties in with it, and most of that content has been put off for over a year until I can make sense of it all, and when they are up, they will get their own special click tabby thing on the top menu bar, next to the “About” and “HTBLT” tabs – what do you call that thing anyway? I don’t know.

Also coming in 2017 will be more chapters of #HTBLB – How to Be Like Batman series. I have several already in the draft stages, and the titles/topics planned out for the entire article series.

Not only that, but by the end of 2017 I will have two Batman ebooks completed – the main one being the full #HTBLB series with no doubt some bonus essays thrown in there, and a couple just for the book that will not appear elsewhere. People have asked repeatedly for it, both here on Quora and on other sites, so it is in the works!

 

HOO-HOO! I WON’T KILL YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO MUCH FUN!

As well as finishing off those #HTBLB articles, I’ll be taking a look the Batman All Stars – the creators, writers, artists and other movers and shakers who have helped make Batman great over the decades.

Another new article series I am pretty excited about in 2017 is the Symbolism of Batman series, in which I cherry pick the  greatest works from all media in Batman’s history and dive into the symbolism and motifs in those works.

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Each article will be able to read by itself as a single unit, on that particular piece of Batman fiction. For example one article will cover all three of Chris Nolan’s Batman films, another will be on The Killing Joke, another on Morrison’s Arkham Asylum and one on The Dark Knight Returns etc, and by juxtaposing different representations of Batman in different media, anyone who reads them all will see the patterns and recurring ideas, themes and motifs that might not be obvious to the casual reader.

I’ll explore some similar ideas to those already laid out in two of my favourite articles The Darkness in Humanity – Batman as Avatar of our Shadow Self and Batman’s Joker as Mythic Archetype as well as expand on ideas in those articles.

 

BORING BORING BORING! WHEN WILL HE PUNCH SOME THINGS?

Or you can just read any one of the Symbolism of Batman articles and ignore the others. I hope you enjoy them, and get at least a *little* bit as excited as I am to write them.

Another idea I’ve been thinking about for a while is to do some  essays on my other favourite comic book characters, perhaps in their own Super Secret Section of the site? Lest they start a war? Because the essays I’m hanging out to write are about my favourites Wolverine, The Punisher and perhaps Marvel’s greatest character – the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing.

wolverine-punisher-thing

Stick around BatFans – plenty more articles to come in 2017. I may even finish some of those 100 draft articles that are laying around the Mancave. Hmm, wait a minute – I was never good at math, let’s see now.

batblog number of drafts.jpg

Okay so it’s 147 Drafts, and I have just given away two of my other upcoming article titles. Yes Harley Quinn is getting one of those long ass articles where I really get into the character, her history, motivation, success, fashion sense……..and how awesome was Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad? The movie had some issues, but damn it was fun and she knocked it out of the fucking park, bring on Gotham Sirens people! (The 90’s comics starring Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn that has now been announced officially as an upcoming movie project).

 

I THINK YOU AND I ARE DESTINED TO DO THIS FOREVER BATS!

Okay, so there is all that content coming, as well as no doubt I will conceive of entirely new ideas yet to enter my imagination. I love those articles the best! That’s how my Batitude short form article was born, and of course Batitude 2.0

Those Batitude articles were born on a whim, a slight impulse that lead to writing more of the same and embracing The Way of the Bat in 2016, and thank you to everyone in 2016 who stopped by this blog, I hope that you found something to enjoy here, granted my tastes are not for everyone, but for those few do enjoy any of my ramblings…

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

 

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**

The top image in this post is by Rodrigo Idalino, I just LOVE his art, you can find more at http://rod-windt.deviantart.com/

The other images in this post are by the fantastic Saintyak, you can find more at DeviantART http://saintyak.deviantart.com/ – I particularly love his TMNT and Batman related art. Spectacular stuff, take a look already!

 

Be like Batman one Step at a time, one Breath at a Time

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One thing I learned from Batman is that Bruce is a lifelong learner.

Some people learn fast, others slow.

Like Batman, I like to take a few months, or even a few years to aquire new skills.

The slower we learn, over a longer period of time, the better it sticks. The less we skip things and take shortcuts.

When we cram in too much too soon, we forget things.

Or sometimes don’t learn much at all.

Fast or slow. Both are good. They have their uses.

But we remember best what we keep using year after year.

So to be like Batman means stripping any topic, or field or study down to the basics, and perfecting those basics over many years.

Martial arts. Gymnastics. Strength Training. Business Plans. Marketing. Swimming. Developing Joker anti-venom, Escaping Batshit crazy death traps.

These are some highlights that any of us can learn, along with hundreds of other skills, but the key is like Bruce, like Batman to take your time. Pick what you really need to know in life and Master it.

Pick your skills and learn them.

Learn them well.

Focus daily, bring your full attention to whatever you are doing and do it well.

Batman knows that what he does on any given day is really not that important.

But what is important is the FOCUS and CONCENTRATION he brings to whatever he does.

It’s part of his skill set, part of his ever adaptable arsenal in his War on Crime.

 

So slow down,

take a breath…

make it a deep one,

and whatever you do next today…

do it with more Focus…

do it with total Concentration…

Pretend you have trained like Bruce Wayne for many years with some super secret monks away in the Himalayan mountains to master your own mind and body.

Today, Be a master of your own mind.

Exercise your BATITUDE

Let no obstacles stand in your way

BE LIKE BATMAN!

batportrait_by_saintyak-d83eyj8-400-size

–>Amazing art featured in this blog by Saintyak, you can find more fantastic Batman, Hellboy and other cool art by Saintyak at DeviantART http://saintyak.deviantart.com/gallery/

Q&A with Khai from Kool Kollectibles

superman the movie batman 1989 movie accurate toys 2

 

Back to the Future marty mcfly you know what time it is son

 

Back to the Future. Star Wars. Batman. Transformers. Predator. The Terminator. These are some of the cool properties you’ll be seeing in this short Q&A with Khai from  Kool Kollectibles.

It’s no secret to anybody who knows me that I love Batman and Transformers. While I own a few Batman figures here and there, I have around a hundred or so Transformers toys from various toy lines, and a bunch of of the old Marvel Legends toys among other stuff.

But some people take toy collections to a whole other level, be it upmarket highly desirable or rare items, fantastic displays, and with the internet people can even develop their own fan following. Well, I for one am a fan of Kool Kollectibles, I love checking out new pics of whatever amazing toys he has picked up, and took this opportunity to ask him a few questions, and of course share some stunning pics of his amazing collection.

You can find Khai’s main site koolkollectibles.net, and link to all his other social media pages from there.

http://www.koolkollectibles.net/

https://plus.google.com/+KoolkollectiblesNet/posts

https://www.instagram.com/koolkollectibles/

https://www.youtube.com/c/KoolkollectiblesNet

Boba Fett 1

No two collections are the same, and no two collectors are the same. Thanks to the magic of the internet collectors and fans around the world can enjoy seeing what other people are into, get ideas about how to display their loot, discover something they never even knew existed or just admire a really fantastic collection.

So without further ado, here’s some quick questions and amazing pics from Kool Kollectibles.

terminator 1 and robocop 1 movie accurate toys

 

iron man movie toy

 JOHN: What are your overall favourite top 3 toys and why?
KHAI: I collect a lot of different lines of figures and other collectibles, but my top 3 right now would have to be (not in any order):
1) Hot Toys 1/6th scale Chewbacca figure
2) Pop Culture Shock 1/4 scale Ryu Ansatsuken statue
3) Hot Toys 1/6th scale Delorean Time Machine
back to the future giant marty in case khai kool kollectibles
mp iron hidemy goodness maser luke im ever so shinyNolan Batmannow you face the mighty thor and mjolnir
JOHN: One issue every collector faces is space. How do you store and display your collection? Do you ever get rid of old items to make room for new items?
KHAI: The best bit of advice given to me as a collector was to put money aside for decent glass display cabinets. Some collectors continually spend money on figures, but either have no space to display them, or have open display cases that results in a lot of dust maintenance. So I saved up money for a while and bought some big glass display cabinets and it was the best decision I ever made. Having your collectibles displayed well in a glass cabinet really takes the collection to another level. With decent lighting too, it simply looks amazing, and is less maintenance with dust etc.
Also, a collection shouldn’t be judged on its size. Some collectors think bigger is better. That’s not necessarily the case. I’ve seen some smaller collections, but they’re displayed well and in a classy way, and are collectibles that are loved by the owner, not because they are the “in thing” at that moment in time.
I normally buy things to keep, and so have not had to sell many things at all. But for space and money, I did end up selling my 6″ Star Wars Black Series figures since I was getting essentially the same characters in the large 1/6th scale and didn’t need to double up. So now that I have my larger cabinets in place, I try to pick and choose the items I buy now to fit into themes or source material that I love.

Pirates Johnny and Indy JonesPredator 1 and 2 toysPredator dance offPredator face unmaskedrobocop awesome toy movie accurate

JOHN: You have a focus on Hot Toys movie characters and Transformers Masterpiece figures, why these particular lines over other lines/brands of toys?
KHAI: Most of my collecting is based around nostalgia. I grew up in the 80s watching the classic cartoons such as Transformers, Battle of the Planets, He-man, MASK etc. Then through the 80s and 90s and even now I still love movies. I love the classic action and sci-fi movies from the 80s and 90s. I was lucky enough as a kid that my grandparents and parents spoiled me with the original G1 Transformers toys, many of which I still have today. When I saw the TF Masterpiece figures around the 2010 mark, it was mind-blowing for me to see the characters I loved in a toy form that was as close as their cartoon aesthetic as possible. And with such improved engineering, the TF Masterpiece figures are some of the best Transformers toys ever made. With the nostalgia that they bring, I smile each and every time I see them.
As for Hot Toys figures, Hot Toys is by far the benchmark at the moment on 1/6th scale collectibles. The attention to detail, realism, paint application, and tailoring is second to none. And with them making iconic characters from Star Wars, Terminator, Back to the Future, Predator, Aliens etc, and then new characters from the Marvel and DC cinematic universes, there was no way that I could pass them up! They are simply some of the best action figures around at the moment, and look incredible when displayed together.
scowl face or growl faceSpider-Man 3 vs Sandmanspiderman trilogy movie toysStar Wars Troopers
KoSuper detailed move accurate Yoda is
JOHN: Any advice for new collectors, or people looking to get into the hobby?
KHAI: Spending can quickly get out of control, especially with peer pressure in buying everything to keep up. I would say just stick only to source material that you truly love, and pick and choose carefully what you buy. Remember, it’s not about the size of the collection that matters, it’s how you love each item in your collection that really matters to you and those close to you that come and look at it.
Terminator 1Terminator kicking assTerminator ready for action and battle damagedVader vs Luke 1yoda vs clone trooper
JOHN:What are you top toys that fall into the category of “unobtainium” for you. That is toys that are very rare, super super expensive or just not made anymore and are nearly impossible to get ahold of even if you have the money. What are your top “wish list” rare items, your holy grail items/toys?
KHAI:I recently got my first Pop Culture Shock statue with the Street Fighter Ryu. I have played Street Fighter since arcade days in high school, so for about 25 years now. The characters are ingrained in my consciousness! If I could wind back time, I would go back and buy the PCS Street Fighter statues previously released. PCS truly limit their edition sizes, and once sold out the price skyrockets to a point where I cannot justify the expense. So those PCS statues are some that fall into this grail category for me.
1989 Joker
Arnold Terminator minigunArnold TerminatorAvengers Hulk is madBamtman 1989 Superman movie accurate toys
JOHN: Do you collect any traditional (meaning cheap and usually small eg 6-12″) action figures, or just the more upscale stuff with better detail and sculpting?
KHAI: I used to collect the smaller cheaper figures such as the Star Wars Black Series and NECA figures. But I found they were harder to display in a way that showed them off well, and then I was doubling up the same characters in larger scales. So to minimise my cost and space issues, I just decided to stick with the larger collectibles and buy less of them.
adam west burt ward show accurate batman 66 large toysbatman begins bat man 1989 movie accurate toysBatman Begins Batman 1989batman begins man of steel 1batman begins man of steel movie accurate toys
JOHN: Your entire collection gets sucked into a mini-black hole, except for ONE toy of your choice, what toy would that be?
KHAI: Always a hard question to answer, as collectors tend to end up with a few items that are their favourites. Strangely, if I had to save just one item in my collection from a fire or black hole, I’d probably pick the TF Masterpiece MP-13 Soundwave. Soundwave was my first TF G1 toy when I was a kid, and the Masterpiece version is amazing. So for nostalgia, fun factor with the transformation etc, I’d have to say that.

Bruce Lee scratch faceBrue Lee scratch face 2c3po close up toycap and thor movie 2cap hulk thor avengers movie toyscaptain america toy movie accurate

JOHN: Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Transformers – which is your favourite movie/comic/toon franchise and why?
KHAI: Star Wars would have to be my pick for favourite franchise, particularly the original trilogy. I used to watch the movies every weekend on VHS tapes, and just love the whole story arc and characters.

Chris Reeve movie SupermanClone troopers giganticismClone Troopers wait hereDark Knight Batman and JokerDarth Vader Boba Fett toy 1Honey I shrunk Boba Fett!Indy Jones takes the prize

JOHN: Where can people connect with and follow you online? 
KHAI: The best place to keep up with my latest news etc would be the Kool Kollectibles Facebook page and YouTube channel. I also keep the website and Instagram account up to date too! Links below 🙂
Thanks Khai for taking the time to answer some nerdy questions. There were so many great pictures of your collection, it was hard to pick, so I put as many in as I could.
There are some more great pictures below to enjoy, in some excellent display cases, be sure to follow Khai on Facebook / Twitter etc at the links above if you want to keep up with his collection, or view lovely full screen HD galleries of his toy collection.
So many wonderful toys. My favourites have to  be the Batman 1989 toys, Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight and the Terminator toys from various films. Just a spectacular collection any comic book fan or action/sci-fan would be very jealous of.
Thanks again Khai!
Joker 1989 Joker Dark KnightJoker Batman 1989Keaton Bamtan 1989Khai Collectibles glass case movie hot toys 1Khai Collectibles glass case movie toys 2Khai Collectibles glass case movie toys 4Khai Collectibles glass case movie toys 7Khai toys glass cabinet 3Ledger Dark Knight Toy Joker dont fuck with me sonLuke escape Boba Fettluke skywalker shrinking manLuke toy 1man of steel vs superman the movie accurate toys

New Wave Anti-heroes, Rising Bodycounts and Batman

 

Dredd Bond Batman Wolverine Dirty Harry Lee Marvin 1

 

When I think of tough guys, loners and outsiders -your Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson, your Wolverine, Punisher, Bond and Judge Dredd – Batman to me is the king of the outsiders. He’s the king of the loner antihero “don’t fuck with me or you’ll regret it” crowd.

Batman is a bad boy. He’s dark, cool and sexy. He’s exciting and dangerous but also emotionally distant. He’s not the kind of guy a girl brings home to meet her parents. He is the kind of guy who smashes a mouth full of teeth down the throat of a rapist in a dark alley at 3 am in Gotham City.

the_batman_color_by_jharren

BATS OF A FEATHER, FLOCK TOGETHER

Where Batman differs from his anti-hero contemporaries such as Dirty Harry, Wolverine and The Punisher is that Batman doesn’t kill, and that is a deliberate moral choice that Bruce Wayne made.  Some say that is his weakness, while a contrasting viewpoint is that it is one of Batman’s greatest strengths. Batman gets to have all the darkness and edge and cool of an antihero, but still gets to be a morally decent human being who refrains from killing his enemies or criminals in general.

batman-begins-quote-compassion-ras-al-ghul

Another of my favourite characters is The Punisher, you can call him amoral, say he has PTSD or whatever else you like. It  really doesn’t matter, labeling  Frank Castle won’t help you understand him, and it sure as hell will do nothing to stop him.

When the Punisher comes to town he’s like a tank that just mows down bad guys and keeps moving. To some he’s a total psycho, to others an agent of mercy, or avatar of death. He’s a one man army of destruction with no moral “confusion” about what he does or why he does it. In Frank Castle’s world, everything makes perfect sense.

“Label me, you negate me”

There are bad men in organised crime who do things like kidnap young women, ship them overseas and sell them into sex slavery while they are forced onto highly addictive drugs. There are bad men who put semiautomatic weapons into the hands of children, there are men who rape and torture and kill civilians for profit, or simply because they could get away with it.
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In Frank Castle’s world, those people need to die. The world is better off without them. The crime families, mobs and gangs are beyond the capacities of the police and legal system, so therefore their ever present threat needs to end, permanently, and Frank Castle is the man for that job. He’s not so much a man on a mission or executioner nut job – as an unpaid civil servant. In Frank’s mind he’s the guy who comes around to take out the cities garbage, that nobody else wants to deal with. In his world view he performs a necessary job that nobody else wants to do.

Punisher_Batman_Deadly_Knights Joker

Frank Castle makes for an interesting contrast with Bruce Wayne. Both the Punisher and Batman fight crime, one is a former marine, the other a rich autodidact civilian. Their methods differ, but their basic goal of a war on crime – of targeting high profile crime lords and super-criminals means they are similar characters. The key point being that Punisher kills criminals, while Batman keeps them alive to face arrest and prosecution. Both use fear as a weapon, and display fierce sigils branded onto their chest that make it clear that if you are close enough to see them, then it is already too late, and your day is not going to end well.

Detective Comics 27 batman kills again

BATMAN AIN’T NO MAGILLA KILLAH

In Batman’s first year in Detective Comic, he DID kill people, and sometimes used a gun.  Sometimes he killed people on purpose, and other times inadvertently like punching a guy out of a window, or off a high railing in an industrial factory.

Then with the introduction of Robin, the powers that be at mighty D.C. decided that Batman would not be a killer (at least not an intentional killer, and certainly not a psychopath) and made both the character of Batman, and the books he featured in lighter in tone. He became more like Superman and less like The Shadow. Unfortunately it meant that Batman went from a cool urban commando to a grinning idiot who ran around in the daylight, at least until he was rescued in the 1970’s by Denny O Neil and Neil Adams who returned him to his Gothic pulp roots.

What started as a Gothic inspired pulp vigilante book with a coat of Superhero paint (inspired by the success of the Superman books) turned into a genuine Superhero book, with a very MORAL character. Who deliberately chose not to kill, or use guns, and that is the Batman we have had ever since. The version that most of us enjoy and get all worked up about when live action film versions of Batman ignore his integral morality. The guy who swore off guns forever. The guy who refuses to use “the weapon of the enemy”.

batman dont use guns son miller style

Another perspective on why Batman does not use guns, other than the editorially mandated one, a story if you will in the Batman canon that never really happened, is WHY did Bruce Wayne suddenly decide to stop using guns, and killing people by pushing them over balconies, or the odd snapping of a bad guys neck?

I think another possible reason, if you like to ponder these sorts of theories and ideas – and you want to include all of the Batman continuity as a whole from 1939- to the present day, assuming it’s ONE GUY who has changed and evolved as a person – I think that Bruce Wayne realised the error of his ways after those first months where he was a very sloppy and careless Batman, who perhaps didn’t always kill on purpose, so much as inadvertently. Batman used a gun only sparingly – rather than charging in lighting up the night with a muzzle flare (except that time he had a machine gun mounted on a plane, kind of hard to ignore that one) – and I think Bruce Wayne evolved to become a more moral person, who saw what he was doing was wrong, and decided not to kill anyone on purpose, and that he would certainly never be an executioner ever again.

Batman with guns detective comics first run

I think that perspective gives more credibility to the character, and more growth to him as a moral human being who starts out as a man-child punching crime in the face. A character who starts out obsessed with vengeance or revenge for the death of his parents, and evolves into a Batman who serves Justice, and who avoids killing at all costs, who ultimately wants to work WITH the system of law, by putting criminals in the hands of the cops, lawyers and judges. Rather than being someone like Frank Castle who wants no part of the systems of government and law that he operates totally outside of, Frank Castiglione skips the judge and jury and sends criminals on a one way first class trip straight to the coroner.

Batman wants the world to be a better place, Batman’s dream is not just Justice or punishment, but to live in a world where he is no longer necessary, while Frank Castle’s dream is just to wipe out as many monsters as he can before his inevitable demise, he has no end goal. Of course the idea of why he stopped using guns was sort of glossed over in the comics, there have been several key Batman stories that talk about guns, but it’s kind of this forgotten thing in his history and people are often surprised at those earliest stories to see him using guns. It just seems kooky and odd now, and we want to forget about Batman using guns and sweep that taboo stuff under the rug.

 

punisher dredd batman guns vigilante justice

ALL YOUR GUNS… ARE BELONG TO US

We can take this contrast of the moral vigilante hero even further with the characters such as Dirty Harry and Judge Dredd and to some extent James Bond.

‘Dirty’ Harry Calahan is permitted to use “justifiable force” within his job as a cop. He is legally allowed to shoot the bad guys, if the situation can be reasonably justified as presenting a threat that requires that level of lethal force.

Dirty Harry throws away his badge

In the first Dirty Harry film, we see Calahan bending the rules, using force in excess of that which is necessary and eventually breaking the rules altogether when he shoots a subdued criminal at the end of the film. He then throws his badge away in the final moments of the film, as he knows he can no longer be a cop, and he has gone too far. Dirty Harry is a film that really was not intended to have a sequel. But sequels happened, because the films made money for the studio, Warner Brothers kept making them.

Somehow in the sequels Harry Calahan ends up back on the police force he walked away from in the first movie. He keeps right on using excessive force, to the point where he basically becomes like the Punisher, he often goes around executing criminals, not really even trying to enforce the law at all, yet he somehow still has a badge. By the third Dirty Harry film (The Enforcer, 1976) Harry is no longer content with just a Magnun gun to obliterate his enemies and uses a bazooka to blow away a bad guy in a guard tower.

The Dirty Harry film series was very entertaining, but utterly ridiculous as they kow towed to the prevailing paradigm of 80s action cinema – that of rising body counts and zero accountability from fetishized heroes who used lethal force, who changed from being somewhat realistic hard edged anti-heroes to over the top comic book like action heroes minus any morality or conscience.

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“Dirty Harry is, perhaps like Rocky Balboa before him, also a keen dissection of the evolution of the action star from the 1970s to the 1980s. James Bond, for the most part, stayed James Bond. But Harry and Rocky changed as film trends changed. They both, in their respective first films, started out to be gritty and melancholic and kind of realistic. And both, by the fourth films in their respective series, had mutated into unbeatable, peerlessly heroic icons that were used in a somewhat jingoistic fashion by their fans. This was a movement from the depression and hopelessness of the Vietnam War to the blast-’em-all mentality of the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan years.”  – Witney Seibold / CraveOnline – The Series Project: Dirty Harry

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WE COME IN PEACE… SHOOT TO KILL, SHOOT TO KILL

The Batman / Dirty Harry / Punisher vigilante archetype is taken to the extreme with Judge Dredd. In a post-apocalyptic dystopian future, gigantic megacities are rampant with crime. The Judges are entitled by their job role to be judge, jury, executioner and cop all rolled into one, in an effort to streamline the process of law and justice in vastly over populated megacities. The “Judges” as they are known in the 2000 AD fiction are a drastic response to crime in a world where other alternatives fail.

 

Judge_Dredd vs Predator bad ass knife

 

Dirty harry as he becomes more lethal, more of a effective killer moves away from the law and justice, becoming an aimless amoral vigilante.  Judge Dredd however kills as part of his job as a judge in Megacity 1. It is part of his job to kill, and the more effective a killer he is, the more effective he is at enforcing the law in his world. That is not to say that Dredd kills all criminals indiscriminately like the Punisher, he still has legal mandates to follow.

For people not familiar with Dredd, he is sort of like a combination of Dirty Harry and Batman. A bad ass vigilante type, who happens to be a law enforcer, who bends and sometimes breaks the rules, but who ultimately still has a morality to him that means he is not a pure fascist or sadist. Judge Dredd appears to be a fascist at a glance, but looking into his stories he doesn’t have a political agenda, he is both a parody of actual law enforcement and in his fiction a good cop, in that he does his best to actually enforce the law, even when he bends or breaks the rules he lives by as anti-hero characters often do.

 

“While sometimes Judge Dredd is a good man doing his best to save his city, he’s still part of a fascist system.

But the best part about this is, although America is still one of the greatest Judge Dredd stories out there, highlighting Dredd and the Judges as fascists really wasn’t anything new. In fact, it had been part of a major story arc that had gone on for a while.

To me, Judge Dredd is one of the most morally complex and interesting characters because of that key conflict. He’s a man who’s a part of a fascist system, but he and many other Judges aren’t doing what they do for power’s sake, they’re not doing what they do because it suits them. No, the Judges – especially Dredd himself – do the job they do because they believe that it’s right. That, under the circumstances, there really is no other way. That they put a harsh leash on the citizens, but only because the previous system of democracy lead to Armageddon.” – James Aggas / Judgedreddcollection.com

 

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In a world that doesn’t make sense we often feel powerless and helpless. Characters such as Batman, the Punisher and Judge Dredd force the world to make sense on their own terms. We feel empowered reading these characters not because their solutions to problems are legally or morally right, and not because their solutions seem to work (temporarily) but because these characters appear to be both powerful and capable. In fiction heroes can take on the world and win.

However their examples are not sometime to emulate. Their actions just don’t work in the real world, with rare exception. For every Sunday Superhero who leaps in to rescue a citizen in distress, there are far more people we don’t hear about who get shot stabbed or killed trying to help someone out.

Batman, The Punisher, Judge Dredd and Dirty Harry are terrible terrible role models. But we love these characters  because they are power fantasies, the characters look cool and powerful, and most of us would rather feel cool, powerful and in control of our lives than helpless and afraid.

Nobody wants to be adrift in a sea of emotional chaos where down is up, up is down and we don’t know how to make sense of the world. Tough guys, loners and antiheroes like regular heroes are ciphers, characters we project ourselves onto and vicariously enjoy for their values and hardline uncompromising attitudes. They can’t succeed outside of their own fiction, in real life we are often forced to compromise and do things we don’t want to do, often it can be soul destroying and it’s not a matter of choice, but survival. That kind of hardline no compromise attitude rarely works in the real world.

That hardline attitude may work well temporarily in places like combat sports or the military, but those environments still have rules, and the real world has no rules, just human idea constructs smooshed over top of what we call life. And in life we have to find our own way and make sense of things – the world is not black and white, but endlessly complicated, expansive and multidimensional.

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BAT… JAMES BAT

We can’t escape from the 70’s Batman and fully understand 80’s Batman without a nod to the prolific James Bond. Forties Batman was grim and gothic, fifties Batman was a grinning idiot who ran around in the daylight, late fifties and early sixties Batman had increasingly bizarre adventures in space and other forgettable stories. Seventies Batman  moved back closer to his roots, bringing back the Gothic dark elements of the character, while adding an exotic globe trotting James Bond angle to the Batman mythos, before moving into more grim existentialist flavored Batman stories in the eighties.

James Bond, in any incarnation is not a vigilante. He is a spy, a tough guy and a loner however he works for a British government spy organisation. He has a famous “license to kill”. It’s an unavoidable part of his job to kill. His portrayal has veered from serious to outlandish and comical and stone cold serious again through the different actors, and tone of the various movies. From high camp, to straight action to gritty intense emotional drama, Bond has done it all. He’s a very effective fighter, killer and spy. He makes for a great contrast with Batman, Dredd and Dirty Harry. We can see the overlap in their methods, their morality (or lack of) and the dangerous situations they all face on a daily basis. Leaving these guys aside for a while, let’s take a look at some of the overall trends in action heroes in cinema and comics during the 70’s and 80’s, and then see how it all relates to, or influences Batman media.

 

BACK……..TO THE 1980’S

(A.K.A. CRUSH…KILL…DESTROY!)

 

War Western and Film Noir
If you look at the history of american action movies you have your war and western films, film noir, detective stories of hard boiled gum shoes and the like, and as the war and western movies died off in the 50’s and 60’s you had the rise of the loners, the outsiders, tough guys, and antiheroes typified by actors like Lee Marvin in Hard Boiled, Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry.

As the straight laced 60’s action heroes gave way to more grim anti-heroes of the 70s, and excess over the top body count of 80s action cinema the cowboy/cop/soldier turned into the loner /outsider/antihero. The hero archetype in cinema moved from establishment to anti-establishment and back again, taking on new forms and permutations. The trend continued in the 80s with new wave action hero’s such as Stallone and Schwarzenegger who were as famous for their imposing physiques as their high bodycount movies and non-stop blood thirsty action.

Back to the 80s guns action and overkill

In the 80’s out were the straight laced serious cop/cowboy heroes  and in was super-human murder death killing machines such as The Terminator and Rambo. Chuck Norris, Steven Segal, Jean Claude Van Damme and others continued the trend of Stallone and Schwarzenegger in B-grade cinema where the selling point was the high bodycount, martial arts expertise, military commando’s and other types of extreme hero killing machines who dominated the decade. The lone hero or anti-hero with the highest bodycount and the smartest one liner and baddest attitude that started with Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood evolved and devolved in the 80’s to new forms.

Heroic trends shifted from establishment to anti-establishment to jingoistic pro Americana war propaganda and back again.

 

terminator lethal weapon robocop action men 80s

“RIGGS IS CRAZY!”

But the 80’s was not just home to near super-human killing machines, but was also the decade of rogue cops on a revenge mission and sci-fi, technology, A.I. and Trans-Humanist fears with Robocop and The Terminator. The crazed 70’s cop on a revenge kick morphed and blended with the 80’s excess new breed of action hero. Martin Riggs in the first Lethal Weapon is tough yet vulnerable, by the fourth film in the series, he has become  a parody of himself, he still gets hurt, but we know he will always come out on top like Rocky and Dirty Harry. The heartfelt portrayal of the genuinely suicidal Riggs continued the new trend of sub-genre PTSD that was firmly established in The Deer Hunter (1978).

Alongside these new special effects heavy blood thirsty action movies was the usual glut of B-grade Kung-Fu Killer imports that  trickled down the pipeline and eventually gave way to American teenagers new obsession with Deadly Ninja films.

It didn’t matter any more in this crowded action-genre market whose side the hero was actually on. What his values, ethics and mission were – only how big the explosions were, and how many people he killed during his mission or journey. James Bond who had dominated the action movies of 60’s had become a relic by the 80’s – he was no longer cool. What was cool was pointless mass carnage, excessive blood and explosions, abstract violence as pop-art – a trend that ironically James Bond himself helped to start in his earliest films, this trend continued throughout the 80’s as “me-too” Z-Grade action movies appeared on the video rental shelves next to the big budget action blockbusters.

 

The Dark Knight by Mental Studios 450

WHERE DID YOUR BAT-MANNERS GO OLD CHUM? (A.K.A. BATMAN IS A BIT OF A BASTARD)

As these types of new wave heroes and anti-heroes invaded comics along came Wolverine, Judge Dredd, The Punisher and of course Batman became more of a hard ass in the 80’s. If 70’s Batman was typified by James Bond style globe trotting adventures by Denny ‘O Neil and Neal Adams, the 80s were about grim and gritty Batman, none more grim and gritty than Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, a tought ruthless bastard who was equally likely to sneer or laugh at you as he broke both your arms…Miller’s semi-sadistic vision of Batman overshadowed every other Batman story in the decade of Miami Vice, new wave pop, hair metal and hip-hop. While Wolverine and The Punisher debuted in the 70’s, it was the 80’s were they graduated to their own titles and found new fans as they became a popular ultra-violent alternative to mainstream superhero comics,.

No other writer had written Batman so gruff, stand offish and downright mean as Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns. This was Batman as Dirty Harry, Batman as Judge Dredd in another costume. Gruff, uncaring, stand-offish, he often spoke in short sentences with a commanding tone that other Bat writers over the years picked up on.

The team of John Wagner and Alan Grant in (issue numbers) ran with their own version of this hard bastard Batman in a fantastic run of comics.  John Wagner, Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s gave us a breif fan favourite run on Detective Comics staring in 1988, in Detective Comics #583-594; 601-621 (thanks to FamousFanBoy for the reference).

For people who grew up on and only knew Batman from the campy 1966 TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward, this hard cynical violent Batman of the 80’s seemed excessive, mean and horrible, a betrayal of their childhood character.

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But for hardcore Batman fans, it was a return to the roots of the Gothic vigilante who terrorized the criminal underworld before he was castrated by the Comics Code Authority and his stories turned into a saccharine dayglow fever dream of political correctness. It was more of the hard bastard 80’s Batman who fans greedily devoured and asked for seconds.

With the influences of Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Batman and Wagner’s Judge Dredd, Batman in the 80’s was a tough bastard who grew more dark, grim and cynical. In short he was becoming more like the modern Batman we know. Some would call him a fascist, or mentally unstable. But no matter what label was thrown at the Dark Knight, none of them could really stick, or at least not for long as a new fresh interpretation was always just around the corner.

Many of his regular monthly stories reflected the regular version of Batman fans were used to from the 70’s. But the hunger for for a harder edged Batman would reach it’s peak with the 90’s Knightfall storyline, where Batman / Wayne is replaced by nutcase Jean Paul Valley, who uses deadlier weapons and becomes a parody of Batman while trying to replace him.

Batman by Greg Capullo one tough bastard
Miller’s Dark Knight by Greg Capullo

In the modern era we get a composite Batman. The athletic James Bond Batman of Neal Adams, the hard cynical bastard Batman of Frank Miller, the relentless manhunter Detective of Paul Dini, the Gothic Dark Knight of Bob Kane & Bill Finger and other great Bat-writers. The modern Batman is a mix of all these great elements, and the whole of Batman is greater than the simple sum of his parts, his diverse writers, artists and influencers.

He can be grim and cynical, he can be the light hearted Lego Batman or Adam West Batman, he can be eerie and creepy Batman in Kelley Jones horror stories, he can do it all. Batman is tough, he’s an awesome idea, nobody is going to break him by writing a bad story, Batman’s been around too long and is so damn cool and brilliant that he can do it all. Fighting white martians, fighting Superman, fighting sharks and jumping sharks, he’s been there, done that and now he’s ready for more.

“…this is the most perfect version of Batman ever. Wagner and Grant’s Batman is the gritty, damaged Miller version, merged with Morrison’s “love god”, merged with the father figure who raises and nurtures Robins, merged with the super-hero from the pages of Justice League. He’s every Batman, it’s all in him!  – Paul C. / FamousFanboy/Blogspot.com.au

 

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Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns”

While Alan Grant was a prolific Batman writer in the late eighties and into the nineties, his collaborator John Wagner contributed to only a select few Batman stories. Its makes his contribution however small that much more special. I’m not saying he is more important than any other Bat-writer over the decades, but to get to the modern Batman we love you have to go through Dirty Harry and Judge Dredd and Frank Miller’s Batman – the same way to fully understand the Golden Age Batman you need to know about Zorro, The Shadow, Doc Savage and Superman. Frank Miller’s influence is significant, but often over stated.

To follow the trail of the smiling daylight cop Batman to the dark detective Batman, his diversion into sci-fi bizarreness and high camp and a return to the darker Batman that revisited his Gothic roots from Detective Comics #27 you have follow the reinvention of characters at DC lead by Julius Schwartz such as the Silver Age Flash, which leads into Denny O Neil and Neil Adams Dark Knight Detective of the seventies, which leads into Doug Moench’s Batman of the 80s, Miller’s Dark Knight, Kelley Jones’ gothic horror Batman, Chuck Dixon stories of the 90’s. Paul Dini’s Batman Animated stories, Loeb and Sale’s Halloween stories, and all the regular amazing talent on the monthlies up to the modern day with fantastic runs from brilliant writers such as Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder.

POST POST POST MODERN CAPE AND COWL

Batman comics group editor Denny O Neil’s overall influence on Batman from 1970s-1990s cannot be understated. He has been involved with the character as a writer and editor for longer than any other individual, he was in the unique position to help reshape Batman from irrelevance to pop-culture juggernaut.

You don’t get Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Nolan’s Batman Begins or Snyder’s Batman v Superman without the groundwork laid by Denny O’ Neil and other talented bastards over several decades. Denny takes Batman seriously, he respects the character and puts him in challenging situations where he is forced to rise to the challenge and use all his skills. Denny’s Batman is perhaps the most human. He fails, he expresses remorse, he is not invincible, unbeatable, nor any sort of  Bat-God under Denny O Neil’s pen.

Denny is perhaps the most significant writer to have ever worked on Batman next to his co-creator Bill Finger. His background as a crime reporter / journalist led him to include social and sometimes political commentary in his Batman stories in a seamless way that integrated with the core themes of Batman and whatever case the world’s greatest detective was trying to solve that month.

Batman by Neal Adams bleeding pin up

Denny ‘O Neil along with other new generation writers of his era lifted the craft and quality not just of Batman, but the superhero genre of fiction. Putting real world issues into populist cheap entertainment gave Denny’s stories a more timeless feel. While some of the dialogue in those older stories can be a bit hammy, the themes of his stories still resonate today. With Neal Adams’ anatomically accurate drawings, and cinematic dynamic storytelling style, together Denny and Neil  redefined Batman for an entire generation of Batfans.

Including Batfan Paul Dini who (along with Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm) would redefine Batman yet again in the 90s with Batman the Animated Series, creating one of the the most definitive and enduring versions of Batman beloved by fans around the world.

Detective 596 John Wagner Alan Grant
Wagner / Grant Batman in Detective Comics #596

 

NEW WAVE HEROES AND ANTIHEROES SETTLE IN

The new wave of western anti-heroes such as Clint Eastwood’s Blondie in For a Fistful of Dollars were seen as sheik, uber-cool nonchalant ass-kickers by the youth, and needlessly cruel and violent by the older generation who had grown up with relatively bloodless Westerns and exaggerated morally perfect heroes typified by John Wayne, Gary Cooper James Stewart and other stars. Sam Peckinpah continued the trend of bloody Westerns featuring unlikable and often downright villainous – yet human – characters.

With “emotional realism” taking precedence in the late 70s into the 80s, many stories in both films and comics also brought a kind of cynicism and existential meaninglessness that is still today often mistake for “realism” in general, rather than as a sub-genre of the “realism” movement that swept into film through the seventies, echoed a couple of decades later in TV and comics by the likes of Oz, The Wire, and The Walking Dead.

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From the 70’s to the 80’s we had the end of the John Wayne moral Cowboy / War Hero / Lawman characters and the rise of the anti-hero and excessive violence. This was the era of Wolverine and Judge Dredd, of Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Batman, of Dirty Harry, The Terminator, Robocop and Rambo. The trend of new wave surreal realistic violence started by genuine passionate film makers such as Sam Peckinpah devolved into mindless blood letting, bigger explosions and body counts, and a sort of amoral glorification of pro-american killing machines masquerading as fetishished unbeatable soldier heroes and one man armies on revenge missions for America.

Even the anti-war film Rambo, the grim and gritty tale of a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran who is unable to return to civilian life (a new sub-genre of film showing the real life after effects of the Vietnam war – rather than the glory and propaganda of earlier war films – first touched on in the in the PTSD infused The Deer Hunter) devolved into a remorseless killing machine in his sequels, depicting the jingoistic consequence free fantasy violence that the first film spoke out against.

The tie in jingoistic 80’s cartoon depicting John Rambo leading a team of “me too” G.I Joe type team on missions where rocket launchers, grenades and realistic automatic heavy artillery led somehow to blissful bloodless resolutions to american foreign concerns in exotic locations further eroded whatever credibility Rambo had established as a character in his first appearance. Further even bloodier sequels would cement Rambo’s memory as another 80’s murder/death/kill machine, drowning out the tone and message the first Rambo film established in a deafening roar of semiautomatic gunfire and garnished with a tidal wave of empty shell casings.

…AND THE REST

James bond continued to do what he does best through the years, leading from the lukewarm Bond of the 80’s to the politically correct but underwhelming Bond of the 90’s – Bond remained somewhat unpopular – as even the cold hearted killer BOND looked tame and boring next to the existential cool of Clint Eastwood or the bad boy outsiders like Judge Dredd, Batman and Wolverine who appeared in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

As the 70’s ended, so did the era of John Wayne, and moral cowboy heroes and conscience of America for several decades. The Duke  starred in his final film The Shootist (1976), a somber small scale western film about an aging gun fighter dying of terminal cancer. Directed by Dirty Harry’s Don Siegel, it’s the film nobody really expected to see after John Wayne’s semi-retirement from cowboy film in the 60’s.

James Bond continued on through the 80’s, and moving into the 90’s attempted to reinvigorate the franchise with Pearce Brosnan in four films (and a non canon video game)  that were an odd mix of poorly implemented political correctness and other 90’s cliches that failed to modernise Bond in any meaningful way. They were still fun films, but lacking in many ways. Brosnan was excellent as Bond, but the writing was not up to the standards it should have been for such a beloved character.

Not until the success of Batman Begins and The Bourne Identity did James Bond successfully move out of action adventure movie limbo (and legal dramas behind the scenes) to be reborn a meaner, more handsome, more clever and capable Bond than any we had seen ever before. The sense of humor and knowing winks to the camera of the Connery and Moore era were gone, this Bond was all seething rage, pain and pathos, this was James Bond: Year One, a reinvigoration of both the character and franchise that continued on for several films. Things had come full circle as 70’s Batman was heavily influenced by the cinematic James Bond, and decades later James Bond was heavily influenced by the cinematic Batman.

 

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Further permutations of the vigilante archetype played out through the eighties and into the nineties. One of the more interesting comic book oddities was Marvel’s Moon Knight.

Moon Knight was a creation of prolific Batman writer Doug Moench.

Having penned many Batman excellent stories, Moench created Marvel’s most superficially  Batman-like character “Moon Knight” in the late 70s. What was similar was the costume, money, gadgets, vigilante schtick and war on crime, what was different is that Marc Spector was formerly a mercenary, a cold blooded killer who was reborn as Moon Knight, whose new superhero mission was to serve as the avatar to Khonshu -the Egyptian God of the Moon.

Moon Knights depictions would vary over the decades from being a moral hero, to psychotic, to multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia. Moon Knight then is a Batman like character who is genuinely crazy, who sometimes kills, while still basically being a moral hero on a mission. Loose affiliations with the Defenders, Avengers and other teams mean Moon Knight varies in his personality and depiction as much by writer as because of his multiple personality disorder and supernatural origins.

While superficially similar to Batman, the Moon Knight stories are different enough to make him a genuinely interesting and even unique character.

Batman Judge Dredd 1

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick tour of Batman’s vigilante contemporaries and influences. Coming up in a future article I’m going to take a look at the Golden Age characters who are part of Batman’s DNA like The Shadow, Doc Savage and Zorro.

So stick around, there is plenty more to come Batfans.
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Quite Possibly the Most Un-Exciting Editorial on the Internet (but don’t hold your breath) for Batfan on Batman Blog June 2016

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It’s that mid year period when I’ve got a few articles up, a bunch more nearly finished, and many many more still in the draft stage.

At any time, I have more articles I want to write, than time to write them.

Which is why I play the waiting game. I’d love to be able to write more often on this BatBlog, but in the real world I gotta work and this blog is just a hobby.

Just because it’s a hobby does not mean I not 100% committed to making every article the best damn article it can be. I’m never entirely satsified with anything I write, becase I know it can be better, you can tweak things endlessly, or you can write them, edit the hell out of them, and get them out there for people to read.

Blog writing needs frequent updates to get good search engine results. But I write infrequently, so it means this niche audience for this blog is you my friend.

Batman may be the biggest and best fictional character on the planet, but a blog dedicated to looking deeper into every aspect of Batman is not for everybody. Some people just want to see him punch crime in the face on a the big screen and then go home.

Some want the monthly comics. Others are all about the collectibles. There are those who love superhero mythology, or just enjoy a good story. I love all of it, the movies, video games, animation, toys, LEGO Batman, DC Comics Batman, pink and purple glow in the dark Batman – I don’t care – I love it all.

Whatever type of Batfan you are, I hope you find something to enjoy here.

I like to under promise and OVER deliver, rather than the reverse.

Actions speak louder than words, I could write an editorial every month, but that is time away from actually writing. So 2-3 a year is plenty for me.

I just wanted to reassure new and long time readers there are plenty more good articles on the way. Some you’ll like, some you won’t. That’s okay, nobody is going to like everything, I like to mix it up and do different things.

Batman by Neal Adams bleeding pin up

This year I’m going to switch my focus to two major things that 90% of Batfans love.

The Arkham Asylum video game series and Batman: The Animated Series (from the 90’s)

Fans univerally love those two licensed properties, and I wanted my blog to start with just the core of Batman, the character himself before branching out into other things based on the character and his comics.

I’m thinking I’ll spend a good six months writing JUST on B:TAS and the Arkham games. I’m going to focus on the concepts, and ideas behind these properties, the art style, their impact on Batman media, who the various talents are behind these properties and other fun stuff.

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My next article will be up later this week. It’s done right now, it’s a cool piece where I look at Batman and action heroes of comics and cinema in the 70’s and 80’s. I could post it right now, it’s done, edited, has 5000+ words, lots of purty pictures but you know….

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I don’t like to rush things out the door. In manufacturing, when a product is complete, its sits and does a whole lot of…. NOTHING. It does so much NOTHING it can drive you crazy, it just sits there taking up space MOCKING YOU.

Until the Q.C. (that’s quality control if you never been a willing slave in any type of industrial manufacturing building of loud noises and low pay) guy or gal comes to town. The Q.C. brigade are quick draw artist, if they don’t like the cut of your gib, they will slap a big bright sticker on your product to make sure it goes nowhere, and does even MORE nothing.

Quality Control stops by these here parts regularly, and real surly like they say “John, this here product done look real good, but… you DO know Batman has two ears, NOT one. You’re gonna have to fix that before we let this article out the door. We send that out and we’ll all look like Bat Idiots here at the Batitude Madeup Multimedia Corporation.

 

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So when I finish an article, I let it sit. Then I come back to it and give it the final Q.C. inspection before shoving it out the door to fend for itself in the world. And even then there are STILL typos. Yes I KNOW. I go back now and then fix them up, it’s just unavoidable really.

That’s about all I have to say really. Well one more thing, I guess.

My published post count so far here is 72, the articles in draft are at 142. Some of those drafts will be scrapped, but at least 100 of them will be full articles.

I also have over 200 other different Batman themed articles planned out in a hardcover journal. So while the articles may be infrequent, there is a lot more to come…

I hope you stick around and have enjoyed what you have read here so far. If you’re new, check back once or twice a month for new stuff, and hit up the old subscribe via email down the right side of the screen there (big orange box) under my smug mug back at the top of the page.

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Batfan John’s Snappy Answers to Batman Related Questions #1: What is your favourite version of Batman?

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“A great rabbi used to say, “I never asked myself if I could do it. I only asked myself if it needed to be done.” In his relentless struggle against evil, the Batman never asks himself if he can do it; he asks only if it needs to be done” –  Cary A. Friedman, Wisdom from the Batcave.

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Batitude 2.0

 

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Batman is an Idea.

Batman is a Mind set.

Batman is an Attitude to Life.

To be like Batman means to be uncompromising in what matters most to you in life.
To never compromise on becoming the greatest version of yourself you and only you can imagine and realize.

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What I love about Batman more than anything is his ATTITUDE to life.

It’s an Attitude that does not sit back and ask permission or make excuses in life, Batman’s Attitude is all about:

“I CAN and I WILL,

I DO and I DARE”

 

I love Batman’s mental focus, I love his clarity of vision and relentless determination towards any goal or task he sets himself.

I love his laser-like focus, that unbroken gaze of awareness that blazes through all obstacles like a force of nature.

Batman makes bold strides towards his goal or mission one step at a time, one breath at a time, one idea at a time.

 

Batman is fiction, he ain’t real.

Batman is only an idea.

Our Thoughts are only ideas.

And our Attitudes are ideas given focus.

BATITUDE is where fiction, pure ideas, dreams and YOU meet in a timeless ever present reality, the reality of your own mind.

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To be like Batman means seeing the best and worst in yourself and not letting any of it hold you back, but instead using the conditions of your life to propel you forward like a Bat out of Hell.

You don’t make excuses not to do what truly matters to you.

Instead you make excuses for why you HAVE to do something that passionately madly matters to you.
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To Be Like Batman means having an uncompromising attitude to living your highest values and total accountability for your actions.

To Be Like Batman means kicking ass and taking names, and the person whose ass usually needs kicking the most is our own. We need to kick the ass of crappy thinking, of small ideas and excuses for not living the life we know we ought to live, we need to kick the ass of our own attitude and limited beliefs, any idea that says;

“I can’t, I’m no good, I’m worthless, I am shit,  I am hopeless, I am too big/small/fat/tall/skinny” – every one of those limited and false beliefs needs nothing less than the unrelenting fury of the Batman Attitude to life, the Attitude of never ending learning and self-growth and a determination to be the most authentic sincere and true  human being we can be. The Attitude of high minded intentions and simply daily steps towards living those ideals and intentions.

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BATITUDE means getting out of your own way, putting aside small excuses, putting aside small ideas and stinking thinking.

BATITIDE means accepting the responsibility for living life on your own terms and not second guessing yourself.

BATITUDE doesn’t mean charging forward blindly in life, with a scattershot attention that jumps from one thing to another.

BATITUDE means taking focused and precise actions towards our goals and daily tasks in life, being immune to criticism from others.

BATITUDE means having an unwavering laser-like Zen focus that destroys all perceived obstacles calmly and effortlessly.

BATITUDE means “praying not for an easy life, but the strength to endure a difficult one”

BATITUDE  means accepting problems and difficulties are the necessary fuel on the road to greatness.

 

As a trained hand knocks in a nail precisely and accurately with a hammer  – our own minds, our own actions, our own Attitudes are as precise and focused as we train them to be.

Why waste time being mediocre?

Be the best you can be!

Not in comparison to anyone else in the world, be the best YOU that only you and no one else on the planet can be.

“I Can and I Will, I Do and I Dare”

Be Like Batman

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The Darkness in Humanity – Batman as Avatar of our Shadow Self

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“Batman is a metaphor for the alchemy of our own soul. He symbolises how to integrate and transform our darkest impulses and direct them toward our highest good.” – JOHN SORENSEN

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YES FATHER… I SHALL BECOME A BAT

Batman symbolically represents the darkness that is in all human beings. Not just potential darkness, but the darkness that is factually in all human beings, whether we acknowledge it or not. Those who claim nothing like that is in them, are most at risk to succumbing to their own disowned behaviors through total ignorance of them.

Other fictional characters who we could call avatars of darkness and shadow include Dracula and Darth Vader – characters who have surrendered to their darkest, most murderous, primitive and single self oriented survival impulses.

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What distinguishes Batman is that he walks the line between darkness and light – choosing not to kill. He skirts around the edges of the abyss, he’s been there and knows the temptations that would lead him down the path of total surrender to darkness like Darth Vader. Unlike Darth Vader, Batman has journeyed into darkness, into the very depth of his own mind, heart and soul, seen what lives there, what drives him and used that power, harnessing it for his own ends, rather than becoming a slave to darkness or evil like Darth Vader or Dracula.

Integration is key. Being all light is as dangerous as being all dark, simply because denial of emotion is what feeds the dark – Brene Brown

Seeing the existential abyss of darkness for what it is, Batman transcends and includes all his pain, his miseries, his best and worst qualities. He transmutes it all into an unwavering passion for his vengeance or justice driven mission as Batman.

So let’s take a look how dark Batman is, and how he uses that darkness as a weapon, along the way we’ll also take a quick look under the cowl to check on his mental health and see if those internet fan theories can hold any water.

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BATMAN – SAVIOR OR HERETIC?

Batman accepts all that he is; the good, the bad and the ugly. He makes no apologies for his flaws, and if anything he is his own worst critic -taking on the responsibility of the world when it is not truly his responsibility to fix the world (of Gotham City) and nobody ever asked him to.

Batman does not suffer from introjection – that is the unconscious “exterior” voices of societies values, his parents and heritage. If psychological Projection is the disowning of your own qualities that you project and see externalised in another, then its opposite is Introjection: turning inward something that belongs outside.

It is a small but key distinction in Batman’s psychological make up, but one that many people fail to notice when they project their own fears and insecurities onto Batman and assume he is like us. He’s not like us, Batman lives at a higher level than we do. Rather than try and become more like Batman, those fans and critics have tried to make Batman more like themselves, assuming that he must share their flaws, rather than having transcended them. The road to self-knowledge is filled with many pot-holes of ignorance.

Batman makes conscious what lives and thrives in darkness. Batman is not afraid to look into his own mind, his own soul and see all his failures and bad habits. Bruce Wayne lives in alignment with his core values. To get from being Bruce Wayne to becoming Batman means a journey into the mythic, into the recesses of Bruce Wayne’s heart, mind and soul, stripped bare and laid naked, he is reborn in a baptism of pure darkness, everything unessential falls away until there is only the Bat and his mission.

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You can call Batman a nutcase, an eccentric, an unholy warrior on a mission of vengeance, or just a man who  decided to do something different to process his trauma over the death of his parents, by dedicating himself to a worthy cause. Super-heroes do tend to have the mind set of wanting to save the world, or at least leave it a less shitty place than when they entered it. It’s part of their attitude and psychological make up. It’s what distinguishes them from non-heroic individuals. They are here to make a difference and don’t sit on the fence.

The “save the world” mentality is something that exists in individuals here in the real world too, and it has its healthy versions – serving food to the homeless, fundraising for community and charity projects – and it’s unhealthy pathological versions –
suicide bombing, acts or murder, torture, terror etc for the often delusional perceived higher good (for the State, for God etc).

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THE STATE OF BATMAN’S MENTAL HEALTH

Arrogant, angry, stand-offish, emotionless, doesn’t work well in teams, shuns help from others, psychotic, a mentally ill man child. Sound familiar?

What is the state of Batman’s mental health, and who should we trust on this subject? There is no shortage of internet fan theories about the state of Batman’s mental health, some of them make good valid points, some are partial truths – while others are just plain old Wrong with a capital “W”.

“He’s an angry repressed rich boy who takes out his frustration and anger beating up criminals”

“He suffers from PTSD, depression and can’t let go of the death of his parents”

“He’s a schizophrenic savior who suffers from messianic delusions”

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I am continually amazed at some of the ideas I see posted online about Batman that make it obvious that some people either have not read many Batman comics, or don’t know how to use the dictionary.

Coming up with a fancy theory or great sounding idea does not make it true no matter how much you want to believe it. That also applies to myself and my articles here. Feel free to disagree with any of them. Feel free to write a rebuttal or prove them wrong. In my mind I’m right, but I know other people with very different opinions about Batman who also FEEL they are right.

For example there are people who would label Batman a psychotic, a schizophrenic, as suffering from post traumatic stress (reliving the pain of his parents death) or any number of other conditions. Robert E. Terrill has written a thoroughly engrossing article that uses Jungian ideas and terminology to categorise Batman as a Schizophrenic acting out his delusional dreams because he is unwilling to do the real hard work of true psychological integration.

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The article Put on a Happy Face – Batman as Schizophrenic Savior by Robert E. Terrill you can find online as a PDF, it’s about 18 pages long and well worth reading – but keep in mind this article deals with the 1989 movie version of Batman, not the Batman from the comic books. It is worth reading though, even if you strongly disagree with it as I do.

A contrasting perspective is the one Robin S. Rosenberg takes in her book What’s the Matter with Batman? An Unauthorized Clinical Look Under the Mask of the Caped Crusader.

Robin’s published book on the Psychology of Batman addresses each one of the various things he may or may not suffer from. She cuts through the confusion of Bat-Mind-Theories like a brightly lit Bat-Signal in the night sky.

Point by point, Robin Rosenberg states the essential criteria needed to satisfy being considered as psychotic, schizophrenic, PTSD, personality disorders and more. And by and large Batman meets some of the criteria for various disorders, but not all of the criteria to meet the requirements as having any of those conditions.

I tend to trust her point of view over fanboys and fangirls as Robin Rosenberg is a trained Psychologist, as well as a fan of Batman and other superheroes. It’s also possible she is wrong, but I urge people to make up their own minds and not take my word for anything. Robin has also been talking, lecturing and writing about human values and heroes for over a decade, so you’ll excuse me if your  “Batman is nuts ‘coz my brother ‘sez so” theory doesn’t hold much sway with me.

Robin’s criteria rather than just being a fan theory, or fun writing experiment uses the terminology of mental health experts. You can read a great extract from the book at Psychology Today: What’s the Matter with Batman?

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THE BATMAN OF MANY THEORIES

There is a fair bit of information and misinformation (mostly on the internet) about the state of Batman’s mental health, usually from people who misuse the terminology of Psychology to make it sound like they know what they are talking about. That Batman meets some of the criteria for various types of mental illness lends credence to those half baked fan theories you read online on reddit or Quora.

Batman is an emotionally stunted man child who refuses to grow up and takes out his frustration and unresolved pain from the death of his parents by punching people

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Some people think Batman is a Schizophrenic, others say he is psychotic, or has post traumatic stress disorder, depression or any number of other behavioral dysfunctions. It’s easy to see Batman as this hyper-aggressive psychotic lunatic if all you have ever read is Frank Miller’s version of Batman, which is purposefully and masterfully exaggerated and over the top, as are most of Miller’s stories.

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Can Bruce Wayne ever be truly mentally healthy and happy, as long as he is Batman?

One perspective is that As long as Bruce Wayne is Batman he will never be happy. He will never settle down with a wife, he will never have kids, he will stay angry, repressed, antisocial and guilt ridden over the death of his parents death as long as he is Batman. Batman thrives on guilt and pain, true forgiveness means letting go of being Batman.

Another contrasting perspective is that Gotham and the world needs Batman, and that he has overcome his pain and insecurities and fears. Batman continues his war on crime not out of pain over the death of his parents, but remains Batman as a tribute to them and their community service. Bruce Wayne continues being Batman as a service to Gotham to honor his parents and what they stood for; social justice, reform and standing up for a cause, living your values etc.

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Batman can be many things, and is open to multiple different equally valid interpretations. It is part of the strength of the character that every fan has their own idealized Batman, and no two fan versions of Batman are exactly the same. But there is enough of the character that remains recognisable so when we talk about Batman, we can understand each others unique perspective.

And that is what it comes down to. There is no objective criteria for what Batman is, and what Batman is not. It’s all subjective. But good writers, and smart thinkers, tend to think at least some of the same ideas about the character, and that mass consensus of what we agree upon tends to form the picture of Batman the majority of us have in our minds.

Writing something that sounds plausible is a good way to keep the wheel of misinformation going. However long term Batman fans tend to look below the surface, they tend to go a bit deeper in life for answers than internet fan theories etc.

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All of these contrasting ideas  strangely play into the myth and strengths of Batman – to some he’s a vampire, to some he’s an urban commando, to others he is a ghoul in night, an unkillable wraith, more shadow monster than man. An unstoppable force. Something to be feared and talked about in hushed tones, because if he hears you… “LOOK OUT! Aw gees, the BAT! Run!”

Batman then is an urban boogeyman. So all of those crazy fan ideas you read about online are quite valid, even if you disagree with them. It’s all part of Batman’s mystique, his confusion and distraction while he accomplishes his mission. He wants you to think he’s crazy, he wants you to think he will do anything, that he can’t die. Batman wants to scare the living hell out of you, and he enjoys doing it.

Robin Rosenberg gets the final word on how nutty Batman may or may not be in her succinct book What’s the Matter with Batman:

  • Assuming that by Dissociative disorder, you mean DID, he is nowhere close to having that. He would only have paranoid schizophrenia if everything about him being batman was a delusion.It’s really hard to peg what, if any disorder he would have. The funny part about it is that one of the defining characteristics of having a mental illness is that it has to impair functioning in your life.
  • And one could argue that he successfully leads two lives, so there is no impairment, or his having to lead two lives IS the impairment.In any event, the only thing I could confidently say he suffers from is Depression, for obvious reasons. If I were to extend so far as to say that he had a personality disorder,
  • I’d put my money on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.Personally, I don’t think he has any real mental disorders outside of depression. He is a just a very rational introvert who made a very strange decision that most of society would see as a terrible, and downright crazy idea. – Robin S. Rosenberg

 

Of course if you want to believe Batman is truly crazy delusional, then The Batman Complex fan made video is made just for you…

I KEEP MY EYES WIDE OPEN ALL THE TIME, I WALK THE LINE

Batman may be an avatar of darkness, the physical manifestation of his totem Bat animal, but he is also more than than the sum of his parts. In shadow he is like a wraith or demon from the classical underworld of mythology, and those white slits where his eyes should be are creepy as hell. His costume, physicality and persona evoke something primal and mythic that we can’t help but respond to on an unconscious level. In medieval art, he would undoubtedly be labeled as a demon.

But those white slits also show the light in Batman. The bright white where his eyes are meant to be shows us symbolically that Batman in not in total darkness, but is in fact an avatar of light who masquerades in darkness to both fight the forces of darkness, and transmute his own inner darkness, his own dark knight of the soul into a force for good, for service to humanity. We have Batman co-creator Bill Finger to thank for those white eyes, Bill understood Batman at a deep level few people would appreciate and doesn’t get the credit he deserves often enough.

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The anger and pain Bruce Wayne feels at the death of his parents, that at times threatens to consume him – he channels into fuel for greatness as the Guardian of Gotham City, the cities own Dark Knight. His never ending war on crime gives an outlet to his madness, rage and pain, channeling all his dark intensity and unrelenting passion into a force for good.

Like a classical Greek hero or demigod who journeys into the underworld, Batman takes on the symbolic trappings of darkness to inspire fear in the criminals he hunts, he uses shadow and darkness as his allies, having made them his closest friends.

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To fear the dark is to live in ignorance, while to embrace the dark is to welcome the knowledge it brings. No being can live in only darkness, or only light. Either way leads to being unbalanced. Human beings need both light and dark in them. Batman walks the line and at times risks going all the way into darkness like Darth Vader or Dracula. It’s part of what makes him so damn sexy and uber-cool. He’s a good guy dressed in the cinematic costume of a bad guy or demon.

Batman is married to Gotham city, he may dabble in serial monogamy, but ultimately his mission in life is to be Batman. Batman and Gotham City are forever intertwined. In a warring city of ruthless gangs, psycho killers and cut throats Batman is Gotham’s Warlord, his word is law, his will unbreakable, his enemies and friends alike fear him and his wrath. Nobody wants the Batman’s attention, and if you ever saw him in person – you would really wish you hadn’t.

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WE ALL FALL DOWN

How does Batman avoid the corruption that characters like Dracula succumbed to? How does he use darkness rather than be consumed by it?

History is filled with those who held themselves up as heroes, as bastions of moral virtue and goodness only to succumb to their own repressed dark side, the side they never allow any healthy expression, and that you never see in the public arena that often is expressed through demented perversion in private.

Politicians and Priests provide some of the more obvious cliched and dramatic well publicised examples in our society. It seems the corruption of the few influences how we see the many, the disproportionate media focus on corrupt Priests and Politicians ignores the fact they are the minority, and that the majority are hard working honest people who capably go about their job, and look after the people they are responsible for.

None the less, when an individual is incapable of finding a healthy expression for their Shadow Self, and instead they become corrupted causing harm to themselves or others, then at those times it may be necessary for third party intervention. In cases of abuse of other individuals by that person, then unwelcome media attention can be a good thing, in exposing what lies in the shadow through the light of awareness.

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How does Batman avoid the same psychological traps? It’s not easy, he walks a constant line between who he is and who he might become. Batman doesn’t repress who he is. He lives his darkness at every level of his being, and he uses it as yet another weapon in his war on crime. He avoids falling down to his Shadow qualities by not hiding or repressing his Shadow, but embracing it and knowing it intimately.

Batman is a zealot in a way, and his unholy mission is to fight the forces that would serve to victimize the good citizens of Gotham, at the same time Batman is a hero we can relate to for his flaws, for we see the darkness and flaws in him as in ourselves.

Batman’s flaws are what make him human rather than super-human. Even if Batman took a super-pill and did gain super-powers, he would still be the same angry repressed guy. Batman remains a fantasy figure who lives an impossible life, but remains appealing due to his grounding halfway between realism and pure fantasy. Alex Wainer defines Batman’s adventures as falling between realism and fantasy as “Romance” using Northrop Frye’s scale of literary classification.

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 REALISM <<———-BATMAN———-> > FANTASY

“The romance is contrived to allow for a pleasing form that displaces aspects of myth, while at the same time borrowing a semblance of realism, to ensure a level of plausibility. Abstracting from the concrete, i.e., the realistic, toward the mythic, the romance mixes elements of the two poles to become a story form broad and flexible enough to include an enormous range of narratives.” – Alex Wainer: Soul of the Dark Knight

“…Set on a perpetual quest for justice and vengeance, Batman is more than an outraged vigilante, but less than a divine nemesis of evil. Partaking of qualities derived from earlier mythological sources and patterns, he symbolically fights against the chaos that frightens and angers us by adopting the fearsome visage of a night creature. Though apparently mortal, he transcends human limits in his keen ratiocination and athletic grace and power. Thus, as a mythic figure expressed in the comics medium, on the Literary Design Scale, he belongs at the upper levels of romance as an idealized, extraordinary heroic figure in a still-recognizable urban setting.” – Alex M Wainer, Soul of the Dark Knight: Batman as Mythic Figure in Comics and Film

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I AM VENGEANCE! I AM THE NIGHT! I AM BATMAN!

As an avatar of darkness and night time Batman fulfills a sort of elemental role. The Bat -his chosen symbol and totem animal – Batman is a creature of the night, a figment of our unconscious mind, a lord of the underworld, the bastard child of Erebus and Nyx – the illegitimate brother of Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death).

If Icarus flew too close to the sun, Bruce Wayne went too far into the Underworld, punched something dark and ancient in the face and stole its power to aid his war on crime. Touching the face of pure evil, he dares to wear its colours and mocks the unseen forces he fights against every night of his life as the Guardian of Gotham, its Dark Knight. He’s untouchable, he fears nothing, he will not stop, and he wants you to know it and be very afraid.

There is a purpose for every thing under the sun, and even the things that live in darkness have their own purpose and way of being. Batman who lives in darkness is still human and still feels connected to his humanity despite outward appearances.

To be in darkness is to know and embrace a part of our Being we often deny or don’t acknowledge. It’s something we don’t talk about in polite company or hear much about. To never explore that part of ourselves, to never metaphorically explore the underworld of our own minds is to live in fear of that darkness, of that unknown and all it entails. It is the place of creation, of sex, death , life, hunger, and all primal urges.

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We give power to our unconscious forces and primal drives by refusing to explore them. Most of us are afraid of that which is beyond words, space and time. The primordial unmanifest force that rests in the hearts and minds of all people, but is ignored due to the discomfort and pain of true self-knowledge – in favor of an inauthentic life of comfort and luxury.

The Hero’s Journey is not just a mythical “story” framework to be adapted from antiquity onto the cinema screen, but a metaphor for the necessary and essential psychological process of Waking Up and Growing Up in life that philosopher Ken Wilber discusses in many volumes of his Integral Theory. The Hero – or Heroine’s journey is our birthright. The refusal of the call, is the refusal of life, the refusal to grow and change and evolve. All things that live must grow, and that which does not heed this principle embraces death.

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To explore and stay in darkness is to give in to our own darkest impulses. However to never willingly journey into darkness is – like Luke going into the cave during his training with Yoda to cut off his own head – to never look beneath the cowl it to live in fear of our own primal forces. Take a look at Darth Vader. Nobody want’s to end up like that poor bastard. He’s a monster, and the ultimate bad-ass – YET – we still feel sorry for him. Instead of Vader passing through his own dark night of the soul, he began the process, staid there and swore allegiance to his corrupted master Darth Sidious.

The danger Batman forever faces is not that he may kill, but what happens afterward – that he may lose his humanity if he gives himself completely to darkness. Exploring our own Shadow means acknowledging all our bad habits and self-destructive choices, those we know, and those we are not aware of (and need others to point out to us) and our own repressed higher potentials. What is in shadow if often a corrupted version of what is good in us, as well as what is harmful.

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Batman is an avatar of darkness, but also a symbol of how to accept and transmute all of our own nature – light and dark – and use  it for the higher good not by denial or repression, but by acceptance and integration of all aspects of ourselves – John Sorensen

In stages of human growth, we may pass through a Spider-Man stage (child/teenager)  a Batman stage (adult /power) a Superman stage (god/transcendent) etc. As great as any of these characters are, we must not stay in those stages, but learn from them and move on. There are lessons to be learned in life wherever we turn, even in the humble pages of cheap pulp inspired comic book stories printed on flimsy paper. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, find inspiration and power wherever you please.

I think we can find inspiration is just about any good comic book or movie character. Good or evil, they all have some qualities and values that resonate with us, or we would not be so powerfully attracted to them in the first place.

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Batman is the coolest fictional character on the planet if you ask me.

Batman is cool, sexy and a bad boy. He’s rock and roll. We love him for it. Batman wears the outfit of a villain, but he’s dedicated to righting wrongs. If we look deep enough, we may learn a little about ourselves from the Boy who became a Bat. Who embraced rather than repressed his Shadow Self.

He understands pain, fear and doubt, Batman feels it all and doesn’t identify himself with it, he feels ALL of it, but doesn’t mistake pain and doubt and fear for who he is, or let it stop him from accomplishing his mission. He transcends his circumstances, he transcends body, environment and time by focusing his mind on his chosen task, he’s honed his skills through years of physical and mental training. He’s not ordinary. But even taking all that into consideration, Batman is still flawed and deeply human. His flaws are what make Batman more human and relatable. He’s human and he feels every pain and every hurt, but he looks past it and keeps moving forward.

Batman has experienced deeply personal pain and loss like many people in the real world, and that has inspired his life’s mission, to help victims of crime and poverty through the Wayne Foundation and personally preventing as many violent crimes as he can. As effective as Batman is in his world, he’s even more powerful in our world as a symbol of standing up for ourselves and others, and of true self knowledge that embraces all that we are, strengths flaws and all with an unflinching gaze of wisdom that does not misidentify what we experience and feel, for who we are.

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Fear disowned is a destructive choice, both emotionally and spiritually. It leads to all-too-happy spiritualities with beings who seek only the light. Fear starts to drive their being unconsciously. We end up seeking only goodness and pleasantness in order to avoid pain and fear.  But this is not the way. The truth is:

“To conquer fear, you must become fear”

Fear owned and embodied is a form of awakening. Batman is therefore a Realizer of Awakening through the form of Fear – Chris Dierkes / Beams and Struts