Category Archives: Batman

New Wave Anti-heroes, Rising Bodycounts and Batman

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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“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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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