There is nothing in my life that I would go back and change, even the darkest moments. All the successes and greatest joys in my life are a result of the absolute worst things. Every missed opportunity is a blessing is disguise – Ronda Rousey
1.YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK TO YOUR OLD LIFE, BUT YOU CAN REINVENT YOURSELF AND KEEP MOVING FORWARD
With the painful loss of her home planet of Krypton, her whole way of life and everything she knew – it was the toughest event that Kara Zor-El ever faced. But the loss of Krypton was the gain of Kara’s new home on earth, her new earth foster family, her new super powers and becoming the selfless iconic hero Supergirl.
Kara would never have become Supergirl if not for the death of her parents, the same way Bruce Wayne would never have become Batman without the death of his parents, or Kara’s cousin Kal-El would never have become Superman.
Krypton’s loss was earth’s gain. Kara’s ordinary life was destroyed, and she was called to her destiny on earth. But it wasn’t easy. For years she hid her powers and who she was from all but her foster family. Eventually Kara embraced her new self – superpowers, being an alien outsider on a new world and became Supergirl. She embraced living the unique life that only Kara Zor-El could live.
I love pretty much everything about our Kara. She’s pretty, strong, kind, caring, helpful, adorable and becomes badass when she has to – Reddit User ‘Furan_Ring’
2.WHEN PEOPLE LOVE YOU – KEEP BEING A HERO WHEN PEOPLE HATE YOU – KEEP BEING A HERO
Don’t let other people’s perception of who you are and what you stand for shape your core values. Whether people love, hate or are indifferent to you, you must live the life only you know how to live, and live the principles, values and choices that makes the most sense to you right now.
We can’t predict the future, we don’t know what good or bad consequences will come of our actions, but we do know the values we live by, and if we are not happy with that, we can upgrade our values to better ones and develop new habits that serve us rather than hold us back.
Heroes choose their own values, mission and code of behavior to live by, they don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do and they don’t ask permission to be who they know they have to be.
There are times when people will love and support what you do. You can accept support from others, but don’t become dependent on that, instead welcome all who choose to help you, but be self-reliant and accept no excuses for living anything less than an authentic life.
There are times when people may hate you, or what you stand for. They may openly ciriticise you, or do it behind your back. You can waste you time and efforts trying to manage others people’s perception of you, or you can simply be indifferent to people’s ideas about you – good or bad.
Being free of the need for approval or criticism means you live life on your own terms. It doesn’t mean being rude and arrogant to people you disagree with or don’t like. It does mean affirming who you are and not letting people push you around, and being immune to other people’s ideas about who you are and what you should do with your life.
Instead you must choose your own way of life and maintain an inner light that never wavers. A hero’s inner light and belief in themselves stays lit through the darkest stormiest night and brightest day and is unchanging.
The world corrupts those who are easily corrupted, while those who stand firm in their belief in themselves are untouchable by any force in this world.
So whether people love you, or hate or are indifferent to you – keep living the life only you know how to live, keep being a hero or heroine in your own unique way.
3. SOME BATTLES WE MUST FIGHT ALONE, WHILE OTHERS WE HAVE TO ASK FOR THE HELP AND CO-OPERATION OF THOSE ON WHOM WE DEPEND
We all have things we must do for ourselves by ourselves each day, and then there are tasks in life that are beyond us and our current abilities, in these times we must ask for help. We all need co-operation in our lives if want to become greater than we were yesterday, and be excited about tomorrow.
We all need friends, family, associates and well wishers to co-operate with if we want to keep overcoming obstacles in our lives, or get projects done that are simply too big for one person, no matter how smart, strong, resilient or talented.
A heroine looks after her family and friends and all those whom depend on her. And she knows the people who truly value her will be there for her when she needs them. Co-operation allows us to get large projects done and things that would be impossible for one person to ever achieve. To be greater than we were yesterday and excited for tomorrow, we need to cultivate healthy relationships with friends, family and associates.
4. FAMILY IS NOT JUST BLOOD, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO SHOW UP IN YOUR LIFE
Family are the people who show up in your life who love you and support you unconditionally. We are all born with one type of family. Some people have families that love and support them. Other people have families that treat them poorly or even abuse them. Most of us find our experience lies somewhere in between the two extremes of unconditional love and outright abuse.
But along with our biological family, are the people who show up in our lives and love us, who support us, without anyone ever asking them to, and without being related by blood.
So whether blood relative or just someone who chooses to be part of your life, family is whoever shows up and loves you, whoever supports you in your choices even when they disagree with them. Loving someone only when they agree with you is not really love. The people who show up in our lives and support us no matter what choices we make are like rare jewels in this world – they are people to be treasured and appreciated.
As Kara is an alien outsider in this world, we too at times feel likes outsiders. We all need to find our own version of fitting in and belonging. To accomplish that we can either compromise who we are and try to “fit in” with other people and their values – or we can look for a tribe that already shares our common values, that accept us for who we are, rather than belittle us for what we are not and will never be. Those who truly love us and support us are our family every bit as much as our blood relatives.
5. BE YOURSELF – THE UNIQUE SELF THAT THE WORLD NEEDS YOU TO BE
Conformity means taking on others peoples values as more important than your own. It means taking on other peoples ideas about who you are, what you should do, and their own selfish opinions about how you should live your life. No other persons “opinion” about you, should ever be more important than your own opinion of yourself.
No other person has the right to choose your values for you, or try and live your life for you. You MUST choose your own values, go your own way and be uniquely you, you must BE YOURSELF because you simply can’t be anyone else. It’s just not possible.
Only you are uniquely qualified to know how to be the best version of yourself. The world demands and expects conformity, it expects well behaved polite automatons who don’t think for themselves. But doing that means not only compromising who you are, it means depriving the world of your unique talents and abilities.
The world demands conformity and mindless drones, but what it NEEDS is unique individuals who say “YES!” to life, people unafraid to express themselves, and live their unique lives as only they can.
The world needs people who accept themselves and know it is “okay” to be you, it is okay be different. It is okay be strange and flawed, to feel doubts, insecurity and vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be human.
Our differences are what make us unique and often the source of hidden strengths.
People who live fearlessly are the ones ones who shape our future, they are often invisible leaders and trend-setters, they are paradigm busters and rebels, they refuse to be classified or labeled or held back by any kind of limiting belief. They also get scared and doubt themselves and have both spectacular successes and monumental failures in life.
They are our heroes and super-heroes. They are our family and our friends. They are our peer groups. They are YOU and me. Because no hero or heroine can accomplish anything worthwhile by themselves. We are in this life together.
Heroines and Heroes stand up for themselves and just as important – they stand up for those who are not able to stand up for themselves, for the people who have no voice in this world.
The greater our co-operation, the greater our capacity to love, the greater is our potential as everyday heroes and heroines – the kind the world needs to stand up for what they believe in and be heard with a unique voice and one of a kind perspective.
There is only six sexy days to go until Batman v Superman hits cinemas here in Australia.
Wearing this sweet black and white Batman shirt this week reminded me of how close it is.
While I’m super excited to see my main man Batman on the big screen again, I do feel like I’ve already seen a little too much of the film in the trailers. With yet another trailer released showing even more footage of the film, I decided simply not to watch it.
I’d like there to be at least some surprises when I watch BVS for the first time. It feels less like Batman v Superman at this point and more like the launching point for the inevitable JLA / Justice League movie coming down the line.
When BVS was first announced we knew nothing, then it had announcement after announcement, feeding rumors and speculation on the internet in a mad frenzy of anticipation and predictions. Eventually it morphed into the smorgasbord it is now. They threw in Wonder Woman (hooray!) and Lex Luthor (do we really need him?) they announced Aquaman (lame) but then they cast one of the manliest men on the planet – Jason Momoa.
As a fan of Stargate SG-1 and SG-Atlantis, I feel there is nobody better qualified on the planet to play Aquaman than Jason Momoa. I was genuinely excited to see them take traditionally one of the lamest and least liked of the JLA pantheon and actually make him cool.
I’ll keep this post nice and short, as I don’t see the point in talking about a movie until after I have seen it. I guess it’s something that is important to me. You can speculate all day, and sure it’s fun to talk with friends about the flick. But I don’t really want to write a damn word about it until after I have seen it.
And as big as BVS will be, it’s just a drop in the big bucket of Batman.
Batman is bigger than any comic book series, any movie, animation, video game or merchandise.
The focus of my blog always has and always will be on that timeless mythical archetypal Baman that transcends any one genre, that transcends any one medium. I’m happy to cover Batman from any medium, but I like the distance of time that gives us perspective on what is truly great and worth talking about in 70+ years of Batman history.
Some people seem to be giving Zack Snyder shit about BVS for his choices.
“It’s too dark, it’s too cynical, it’s too this, not enough of that”
I say it is important for any director to have a unique vision, and to captivate with their story, and for the two hours of so they have your hostage in that cinema, they have to make those characters their own and make you want to care about them. And so far, Snyder has impressed the hell out of me with his cinematic action style. Snyder’s style is unique, over the top and great fun. Just what I want from a comic book movie. I’ve been a fan since his Dawn of the Dead remake, and loved 300 so much I had to see it twice on the big screen.
I will say Snyder understands characters and motivation, and has a great visual style and flair – but he can’t write for shit. Take a look at Sucker Punch if you don’t believe me. It’s his only film to date where he directed and wrote the story, rather than directing with someone else writing. I wanted to love that film, on paper it was his most superhero comic-book like film so far. And it was an all women super-hero team. It was like a mix of Avengers and the Dirty Dozen. It was like the best bits of Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill on steroids.
Neither DC nor Marvel has given us anything like that on the big or little screen. The most similar thing is the upcoming Suicide Squad – which is a mostly male cast. So in that way Zack Snyder is kind of visionary and ahead of his time. Sure it was a rubbish movie, but it had some good points, and I believe he put his blood sweat and tears into that movie. With better writers, I believe it would have been something special.
I’m sure we will eventually get another all girl superhero team on the big screen, and it will be good. And whoever makes it will look at Sucker Punch and see the mistakes that were made and learn from them.
Well, if you’ll excuse me I have more articles to write and some cool Batman Podcasts to listen to. I’ve been getting into the DC Superhero shows on TV finally, after not watching any of them. Flash kicks ass, but Supergirl is my current favourite TV show.
Not my favourite comic-book show. Just favourite TV show, period. I believe this new Supergirl show if the definitive version of Supergirl in the best possible way. She’s had some shabby treatment in the comics over the decades, and always plays second fiddle to the JLA and other DC icons. DC killed her off right around the time she had a big movie in the 80’s. Way to build up your female icons DC!
I’m sure fans were confident they would see more Supergirl movies after this Crisis on Infinite Earths cover appeared in the mid eighties.
Free of the shadow of Superman and the DC Universe, it is truly Supergirl’s time to shine. The crossover announcement with the Flash TV show had me practically wetting my pants in anticipation.
If you love those DC shows, and I know you do, well at least some you – then I urge you to read my favourite kick-ass mega blog of awesomeness on the internet Girl on Comic Book World, where Nav talks about the wonderful DC Universe TV shows (and films) in brilliant insightful articles on a regular basis. She’s a big fan of both Batman and Superman and has loads of great articles on those characters and the BVS film. Check them out. You’ll be glad you did.
“When it comes to the Joker, I think there’s a lot more self-doubt than there is with other characters. He really is his arch-nemesis. He is the devil in his ear. He tells you all the things you’re most afraid of are true about you.” Scott Snyder on the Joker as Batman’s nemesis
The Joker is a character that writers love to play with, a character open to various interpretations each rich in their own subtext.
As an archetype the Joker is a Trickster – he disobeys societies rules and conventional behavior. He is a shapeshifter, a clown, he is the best class of criminal that Gotham has ever seen.
Where Batman is about control, precision and discipline and serving a higher good, the Joker is about unrestrained spontaneity and wild glorious mayhem in a whirlwind of chaos. He serves only himself. If he has a higher calling it is to cause as much harm and destruction to the people of Gotham while fucking with Batman’s mind any way he can.
Joker as Trickster
The classical Trickster archetype performs a range of functions.
In its most benign form the Trickster is a playful mischievous character (sometimes a shapeshifter) who brings attention to whatever is repressed in our individual or collective psyche. A Trickster is often an inversion of social norms.
The Trickster then is not only a character in a story, but an outer analogue for our own inner psyche. Whatever we are afraid of, whatever we keep repressed or don’t want to face, whatever is unpopular of should not be spoken of in polite society – the Trickster is going to bring attention to all of these things in its own unique way.
With the Trickster (and all archetypes) we are able to take an interior event of our psyche (1st person) and project it on to a character or archetype (3rd person) via story, film etc – in a way that personifies the qualities of that archetype. All archetypes (according to Carl Jung) live in our Unconscious mind, both individually and collectively.
This 3rd person mental abstraction (or character, exterior) then allows us a chance to work with the archetype and reintegrate our own often unconscious or disowned qualities back into our psyche (back to 1st person interior).
While classical Jungian psychology allows for and encourages a healthy relationship with archetypes, to the modern world we are most familiar with archetypes through stories – movies, novels, comics, animation, art etc. The Trickster often is an inversion of our values, of whatever we outwardly say is important. But if the Trickster were merely the opposite of who and what we are, then there would be no truth in the Archetype.
So while the Trickster may appear bizarre, abhorrent, or at least unwelcome, it is merely a reflection of a part of our psyche that we refuse to look at, to integrate or become familiar with. The Trickster then is ultimately a servant of the mind, it exists to allow us a change to come to terms with the ideas we struggle with in a playful way. The Trickster is also a representative of primal forces likes sex, death, procreation and animal instincts.
Archetypes exist in all of our world stories, myths, and legends. They reoccur whether we want them to or not for all stories are reflected aspects of ourselves, and the purpose of stories is not just to entertain but pass on symbolic life lessons and help us transition into different eras of our lives.
Stories and symbols (such as Archetypes) can contain coded information that interacts with out mind at different stages of our lives, the same story can have very different meanings as we grow and evolve. Stories then are also a kind of technology for passing on information critical to human growth. Art is not only essential to human growth and development, but has always been and will always be part of what we are at a fundamental level.
The Joker reoccurs throughout Batman mythology and follows Batman around like a bad smell. You just can’t get rid of him. For Batman to kill the Joker is to become that which he hates – those who would enforce the philosophy of death/execution on any they disagree with. For all of Batman’s psychological hang ups, he believes in the right of all people to live, he will even risk his own life to save those who would do him harm.
This could be viewed as a virtue, or as further evidence of Batman’s nuttiness – why the heck would you go out of your way to help someone who is trying to kill you? It’s one thing to say pull out an unconscious criminal from the wreckage of a prison bus hanging on the edge of a cliff. It’s another thing entirely to try and save someone from falling off a building who is awake and firing bullets at you while you do it.
The trickster is an alchemist, a magician, creating realities in the duality of time and illusion. In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior -www.crystalinks.com/trickster.html
Joker as Shapeshifter
The Trickster archetype can also be a shapeshifter, taking on the form of the opposite sex or an animal – which goes some way to explaining the different versions of the Joker across different media, and his personality varies according to whoever the current popular writer may be. The Joker’s ad hoc multiple origins and rebooted continuity (depending on what era of Batman comics you are reading) also fits with the Trickster archetype. Trying to understand the Joker or pin him down is futile.
Heath Ledger’s Joker famously made up multiple origin stories that he would tell to people just to keep them guessing. One ongoing theme in the comics is Batman trying and failing to understand the Joker. Joker’s personality and methods shift with his various incarnations. A shapeshifter is ultimately whatever it wants to be, but also sometimes reflects a twisted version of the values of the hero or protagonist.
Trying to figure out what makes the Joker tick is like asking what is the essential nature of water. Is it liquid, steam or ice? The answer of course is that water is all three of these states, and it will shift between them depending on the conditions of its environment. The Joker can change persona’s and origin stories as easily as changing clothes.
The Joker’s Many Incarnations
Bill Finger gave us the first version of the Joker, a career criminal and killer with a clown motif. Later as the Joker’s background was expanded it was established that he had been a regular criminal who fell into a vat of acid. Instead of dying a painful death – his skin and hair were chemically bleached, his mouth was damaged giving him a permanent grin. He dressed in a purple suit and went with the whole “clown prince of crime” theme. But these elements were not added until years later, so in his earliest appearances, you would assume the Joker’s face to be make-up.
Further adding to the Joker’s origins was the Red Hood persona, a simple red helmet and cape that created a new mystery man in Gotham whom Batman and Robin would have to catch. While the Joker has had a number of redacted origins over the years, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson deliberately kept the Joker’s origin ambiguous and unknown. It was only later writers who made attempts at adding a true origin to the character, or more accurately an origin of who the Joker was before he was the Joker.
The Red Hood as a gimmick is a common one in superhero genre material. Create a “mystery” character, and tease out who they really are for as long as you can, keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. The strength of this trope is that the character can be anyone, and when revealed, often the character is not whom you suspected – because the writers usually don’t know who it is either. So they throw out multiple clues for different people the mystery person could be. Then they may change the identity at the 11th hour, leaving readers puzzled and often quite angry with all the false clues.
With the censorship and forced overly conservative stories throughout the 1950’s the Joker became more a criminal who played a lot of gags on Batman, and was not particularly threatening.
It was not until the 1970’s that the Joker got his teeth back, and returned to being the more sadistic gleeful killer and maniac he had been in his earliest pre-comics code appearances. When Neal Adams and Denny ‘O Neil worked together on Batman, they made a deliberate attempt to take Batman back to his Gothic roots.
Gone was the barrel-chested smiling cop Detective, and in his place was was the lithe gymnastic Batman, the first Batman who looked like he really knew martial arts, a globe trotting James Bond in a Batman costume. This 1970’s Batman incarnation was the beginning of the modern day Batman and paved the way for the Dark Knight we know and love today. As Batman grew darker and more Gothic once again, so the Joker returned to being more of a maniacal killer, and less an annoying clown.
From the 1970’s onward the Joker has gotten progressively darker, more psychotic, more… ‘evil’ for lack of a better word.
Frank Miller made the Joker an integral part of his Dark Knight Returns story. While the Joker’s role in Dark Knight Returns is small, it sets up the nature of the ongoing adversarial co-dependent relationship of Joker and Batman for the next several decades up to the present day.
To Miller’s Joker, Batman is his world, without him Joker’s life has no meaning. Without the “game” of playing with Batman, Miller’s Joker becomes a catatonic nobody, until Batman returns from retirement.
Meanwhile, Miller’s Batman (having moved on and retired from being Batman) has no real interest in the Joker, other than stopping him once again after they both come out of retirement. A brutal fight ensues where the Joker dies after repeatedly stabbing Batman is something of a sidebar in the larger story of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns. Yet that scene remains one of the most defining moments in the history of Batman’s encounters with the Joker. The Dark Knight and the Clown Prince coming alive again to face one another, two archetypes locked in an eternal symbolic struggle, the warring conflicted selves of man’s psyche.
Grant Morrison’t Joker is both villain and temporary friend when he assumes yet another identity during the R.I.P. and Return of Bruce Wayne / Batman Incorporated story arc.
Morrison plays up the trickster angle of Joker being both benevolent and potentially harmful. Menacing and deadly in one story arc, benevolent and seemingly a friend in another story arc. I won’t give any spoilers here even though the run finished a number of years ago. If you have not read Morrison’s run on Batman it is great fun, as is Scott Snyder’s NEW 52 Batman run.
Scott Snyder’s interpretation of the Joker has become the most depraved and disgusting version of the Joker yet. While there are elements of Snyder’s Joker that I just don’t agree with, he clearly set out with a particular unique vision of Batman and the Joker, and he accomplished what he set out to do in his five year run. It is no easy task to come up with a different take on a character who has been around for 70+ years and exists across a diverse range of media.
The other notable portrayals of the Joker in the modern era have been Paul Dini’s – both his incarnation in Batman Animated –voiced by Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame, and the Paul Dini penned Arkham Asylum game series by Rocksteady Studios.
In the Arkham Asylum video games and Batman Animated series Joker is a wild fun mix of his various elements and incarnations. More toned down violence in the Mark Hamill voiced cartoons, while more ramped up over the top and graphic violence in the video games. This is the same character, again, morphing and twisting to suit the audience (meaning the age ratings and what level of violence was permitted).
He’s the same clown putting on a show, no matter the venue. If you thought Deadpool was very “meta”, self-referential, funny and psychotic – then you really need to experience more of Mark Hamill / Paul Dini’s Joker tales, because the clown prince does murder, mayhem, psychosis and hilarity better than the Merc’ with a Mouth any day of the week.
In Batman Animated the Joker manages to be just as menacing and scary as any other incarnation -despite writers having to cater to network television rules for children’s entertainment – thanks to Star Wars’ Mark Hamill voicing the animated Joker in a fan favourite performance – on and off from 1992 to 2016. That’s 24 years. No other performer has even come close to playing the Joker for that length of time.
Mark Hamill gave us a version of the Joker who was over the top, the right mix of laughter and menace. To satisfy the requirements of a network TV show, the Batman Animated version of the Joker could not be overly violent or shown to be directly killing people in a show aimed at kids. But clever writing that satisfied the censors still managed to make him a menacing character, particularly in the direct market animated feature Batman Beyond: Revenge of the Joker – where Hamill’s Joker gets cut loose – he is every bit the gleeful sick sadistic psychopath made famous in the comic books.
In live action we have the big three icons – Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Each bringing a unique vision of the Joker to life.
Cesar Romero’s Joker was a comical joking buffoon, a slapstick clown who jumped around everywhere and was very animated and over the top. Many fans found Frank Gorshin’s Riddler to be closer to the Joker from the comics. Cesar Romero’s Joker while clearly a unique take by a talented actor just has no menace at all. He’s more annoying than scary.
Compare him with his opposite in Heath Ledger’s Joker who is all menace with little to no humor. In the middle you have Jack Nicholson who is both deadly and funny. While Keaton’s Batman is a world away from the comic book Batman, Nicholson’s Joker is much closer to the comics, only one-upped by Mark Hamill who manages to be the most definitive Joker on screen in Batman Animated.
Jack Nicholson’s Joker was a great performance that veered between gleeful lunatic and unapologetic homicidal maniac. Burton’s Batman and Joker went back to Batman’s roots, emphasizing the Gothic elements of Batman like O’ Neil and Adams in the 70’s. Nicholson’s Joker was true to the earliest golden age appearances of the Joker. A career criminal who falls into a vat of acid and emerges as the Clown Prince of Crime.
Visually, Nicholson’s outfit is the closet to classical Joker we have seen on the big screen. In contrast Keaton’s Batman look is remarkable different from the comics being all black, rather than black/grey or black/blue. Keaton and Burton’s Batman look (the film and the costume) set the tone and style for all future theatrical incarnation’s of Batman, and even cosplayers today typically go with the all black costume when dressing up as their favourite Dark Knight Detective.
Heath Ledger’s Joker is a fan favourite performance, some would even say it was the performance of Ledger’s career. A more urban Joker whose hair is matted, whose face is a mess, but who still wears a nice suit with a dirty almost punk rock feel to it, Ledger’s Joker was all menace. A gleeful sadist who loves to torture Batman with indecision and doubt and keeping everybody guessing what his real plans and intentions were.
Another interesting take on the Joker was the Brian Azzarello / Lee Bermejo graphic novel “Joker”. This take sees the a hired goon tag along with the Joker for the day, and we see him get up to all his usual tricks. It’s a great read, and noteable for showing a more realist take on the Joker. Not so much his personality, but the overall setting and mood is closer to say Marvel’s the grim tone of The Ultimates or Watchmen than the usual Batman monthlies.
Origins of the Joker
The Red Hood first appeared in Detective Comics #168. In a rather convoluted page of exposition the Joker reveals to Batman the “one secret I’ve kept from you all these years”. That Joker was a lab worker who decided to steal $1,000,000 and became the Red Hood. He later swam through a chemicals making his getaway which bleached his skin and hair.
The Joker / Red Hood story is a bit silly, as were many Batman stories of its era. His origin would be told and retold over the decades, each time adding to or taking something away from the various stories he has told about who he is and why he exists. Fans still argue the true origin of the Joker to this day, and some theorists will state factually that his earliest origins are “most true”, but given 70+ years of fiction, and various writers – those details are up for debate and interpretation.
Allan Moore did his part to confuse things by writing The Killing Joke graphic novel. Moore wrote it as an out of continuity one-off story. One where he crippled Batgirl/Barbara Gordon. Then when DC published it, they went ahead and made it canon. Leaving poor Babs permanently crippled, something Moore has said he regrets adding to Batman. More ideas for Joker origins are thrown up in the air in The Killing Joke, which became a semi-canon. Until they were not any more. Well apart from Babs being crippled. They kept that part for some reasons and threw out pretty much everything else, until DC’s NEW 52 where both Joker and Babs get rebooted.
Joker as Mythic Archetype
In Snyder’s NEW 52 Batman story “End Game”, hints have been dropped that the Joker may be immortal. With images of the clown prince showing up old in photographs taken before Batman and the Joker were born.
The logical rational answer, the answer Batman has to go with is that the Joker is playing another cruel trick. The answer is that after taking a rare chemical called Dionesium (the precursor of Lazarus pits) the Joker is miraculously healed from life threatening injuries. The kicker is that photographic evidence exists putting the Joker at a least a century or two old. Older than Gotham itself. In Snyder’s end to his Joker stories (Death in the Family and End Game) the Joker gleefully torments Batman with the idea that he has been around a long, long time and is possibly immortal. Batman refuses to believe it of course, and the tale is left open ended for the reader to decide the ultimate truth of the Joker’s story, which again plays into the Archetype of the Trickster – a storyteller with multiple origins and many twisting lies and tricks.
In interviews with the site ComicBookResources.com Snyder and collaborator (artist) Greg Capullo talk about their vision for the Joker in the NEW 52.
CBR: What was your and Greg Capullo’s thinking behind that and how he appears now versus “Death Of The Family,” or even that very first “Batman” issue when Dick was pretending to be him in jail?
Snyder: The most important thing is that he looks scary, you know? The other most important thing, when we were talking about him, was that he looks reborn in some way. Classic, but a little bit darker. We talked about different possibilities. We talked about the purple suit, and then we realized, no matter how you cut it and what the suit is, it just makes him not scary in a lot of senses. So for us it became about giving him the black suit with the purple handkerchief, give him a more funeral look. Make the hair shorter on the sides, make sure his eyes are very wide, very bloodshot, the wider grin with the clownish chin and nose. Make him a little less witchy and a little more scary, someone who is in the shadows, looking at you, who is clearly a Joker, young and restarted. He’s come back saying, “This is it. If I’m moving on, I’m starting over without you.”
The cover to Batman #40 depicts and angelic Batman about to stab a Joker themed demonic creature with a staff / spear adorned with the Bat-symbol. It’s a great cover that emphasies the mythical archetypal relationship of the two adversarial characters in symbolic form.
Snyder: And to me, the reason Batman is inspiring isn’t only because he terrifies criminals, but because he empowers us to go out and overcome our own fears, and to overcome the worry that what we do doesn’t mean anything, and that we can’t make a difference, we can’t change our situation. Batman is the ultimate example of how you overcome tragedy, or you take chaos and random violence and turn it into something meaningful.
Greg Capullo: Are you trying to say that they’re kind of like married, kind of like the yin and yang?
Snyder: Exactly. And I think Bruce knows that in some way. The Joker represents everything he fights against all the time.
Trickster characters are often inversions of popular beliefs and attitudes. Tricksters take whatever is repressed, hidden or unconscious and bring it out in the open for everyone to see.
The very act of bringing unconscious material to light makes the Trickster character if not unpopular at least confronting and unpleasant.
Not all trickster characters are malevolent, Bugs Bunny for examples is a lovable non-threatening character who plays tricks on his nemesis (Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck), he is playful and challenges the ideas, values and perceptions of those he encounters.
Examples of classical mythological Trickster figures include half man-goat Pan, norse God Loki, and the African spider god/godess Anansi.
Modern Trickster figures include Bugs Bunny, Beetlejuice, The Joker and Dr. Who.
Joker as friend or benefactor to Batman
The trickster is not just a serial pest, but also acts in service to a higher purpose by bringing to light the very ideas and values we may find repulsive, and cannot stand to see in another, but which are in fact deeply embedded within our own psyches.
The more we are bothered by an other’s behavior, the greater the chance that there is some aspect of ourselves we are repressing, or refusing to own.
In this way, the trickster can symbolically help us to see our own Shadow qualities through story, song and performance.
Once these qualities or aspects of our own psyche are brought our attention, we still have to do the work of what Carl Jung refers to as “individuation” – being the war of opposites or dynamic tension between our higher and lower natures from which the “work” of real psychological growth and maturation into fully human beings comes.
The Joker at times has become a friend or benefactor to Batman (at least in his own warped view of reality). Joker sees himself as challenging Batman to be the best Batman he can be. He claims to know Batman better than anyone, as aspect that both Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison emphasized in their respective runs on Batman books.
Joker as Madman and Cipher
The Joker as a foil to Batman reminds him of his own darker impulses, and is a constant reminder of walking next to the abyss but not falling into it. Of Batman not giving in to to his impulse to simply kill the criminals and lunatics rather than catch them.
In the mythical sense, the Joker can be viewed as an aspects of Batman’s own personality given personification. Where Batman does not kill, and rarely laughs or makes Jokes, and is all about discipline and control – the Joker is wild unrestrained Chaos. Pure hedonism, the embodiment of lower animal drives and desires which in themselves are not evil (fight or flight response, sex, death, survival etc) but which unrestrained make us no better than living in an animal state of consciousness.
However, animals generally kill for food or to protect themselves, whereas the Joker kills for the sheer fun of it, making him in a sense even less evolved than an animal. He is sub-human, a gross perversion of culture and humanity reflected back on itself.
The Joker is decadence and self-indulgence and greed and excess and wanton destruction of self and environment personified.
He is chaos and a man like Batman who looked into the abyss of his own soul and rather than finding the line between his higher and lower impulses, fell in love with chaos and and raw unimpeded impulsiveness.
Will the real Joker please stand up?
The Joker can be a blank slate, a blank canvas onto which a writer can project whatever they need to for the story they wish to tell. Joker is the dark side of humanity twisted beyond recognition, a gross reflection of the chaos and unpredictability of life itself. His meanings and symbolism change with the times, reflecting cultural patterns and ever shifting values. In more conservative times he is the silly annoying clown who is more of a pest than a true threat. In more progressive times Joker is the psychotic mass murdering lunatic, always pushing the boundaries of sanity and crime as an art form.
The Joker is the nameless nobody criminal, who reinvented himself as the costumed Red Hood, who reinvented himself becoming the Joker, the clown prince of crime, avatar of chaos and madness.
Whether the Joker is genuinely insane, or merely plays at being insane because he loves to hurt people and cause trouble is up for debate. There is no “correct” answer, both versions are valid, and each Batman writer creates their own version of the Joker, with evidence to support their views in the Batman canon.
Scott Snyder’s Joker seems to be a true psychopath who enjoys murder, mayhem and torture, and his recent End Game storyline is possibly building the Joker up as as some sort of immortal, devil or pure archetypal trickster character.
The deliberate invocation, or even the suggestion that the Joker may be more than some criminal lunatic who dresses like a clown makes for compulsive reading, and leave the reader with a sense of confusion at the end of the tale.
Similar ideas have been hinted at in stories such as Dark Knight Returns, that Joker and Batman give each other meaning, and that the Joker continues to push himself to new depravities just to fuck with Batman.
An End to Madness and Laughter?
The Joker’s characterisation varies by writer and era. Sometimes he is a loveable fun trickster, at other times career criminal. He plays at being a gang leader only to routinely kill his employees. Joker has been a lunatic, psychopath, sadist and clown. Or any combination of these qualities depending on what elements a given writer wants to emphasize.
The strength of the Joker, and the Trickster archetype is that he can be put into just about any kind of story, and he works. Like water that once poured into a glass becomes the glass, the Joker becomes whatever is needed in a given story. He is the clown prince of crime, career criminal, lunatic, shapeshifter, trickster and more. He is all of these things and yet not limited by any of these facets of his personality. He evolves and devolves, taking on new forms for new stories.
Each new interpretation of the Joker adds something to the collective archetype of “The Joker” in Batman media. Each writer or actor that comes along has their choice of which elements they want to use from all the interpretations so far, as well as adding something unique of themselves to the character.
One of the great things about the Joker is that if you don’t like a particular version – there is always a new interpretation right around the corner.
The Joker and Batman have a symbiotic relationship, as do most classic heroes and villains throughout literature and film, each hero and villain representing the aspects of human potential and personality through stories. Within each person are all archetypes and possibilities, the different aspects of our psyche being reflected symbolically in stories of exciting characters having adventures, facing challenges and becoming more than what they were, or simply entertaining us with a mindless distraction from our daily lives.
When we read a comic book the page is flat and two dimensional, but beyond the borders of the panels of simple ink on paper – our imagination soars as we expand those worlds to infinite dimensions. We see hear and feel the moments of simulated joy, sorrow and high drama our heroes and villains encounter. Those larger than life characters, however spectacular they may be ultimately remind us of how human we are.
“In mythology and religion, the trickster deity breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously but usually, albeit unintentionally with ultimately positive effects. Often, the bending/breaking of rules takes the form of tricks or thievery, and their actions often end up changingthe rules in the process of breaking them, much like an act of “civil disobedience”. Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often funny even when considered sacred or performing important cultural tasks.” – TVtropes.org
One of the things I love about Batman is his utter devotion to incremental lifelong learning.
His dedication to gaining new skills, knowledge and know how.
Like Sherlock Holmes, Batman devotes his time to learning only what he needs to know to do the job or task he has before him. He doesn’t believe in wasting time in extraneous activities and learning things that are not immediately applicable.
Unlike Sherlock Holmes however, whose knowledge was very limited to his peculiar specialties Batman has a wider general knowledge, and even deeper specialist knowledge in a variety of fields.
Sherlock’s eccentric skill set is famously listed by Dr Watson in the 1887 story “A Study in Scarlet”.
Dr. Watson’s summary list of Sherlock Holmes’s strengths and weaknesses:
1. Knowledge of Literature: Nil. 2. Knowledge of Philosophy: Nil. 3. Knowledge of Astronomy: Nil. 4. Knowledge of Politics: Feeble. 5. Knowledge of Botany: Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening. 6. Knowledge of Geology: Practical but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them. 7. Knowledge of Chemistry: Profound. 8. Knowledge of Anatomy: Accurate but unsystematic. 9. Knowledge of Sensational Literature: Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century. 10. Plays the violin well. 11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman. 12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.”
-Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
From criminology, forensics,chemistry, weight lifting, gymnastics, and jujitsu to sword fighting, escape artistry, survival training and acting – Batman has an amazing skill set.
A scientist, athlete, fighter and engineer Batman builds a lot of his own equipment, or designs what he wants and has others build if for him.
At first it may seem unrealistic to learn so many various skills, but in the real world there are no shortage of people with massive skill sets that they build one step at a time. Take a look at any martial arts competitive fighter, and most have studied a significant number of contrasting fight styles. It is far more common in todays world to have multiple professions and skill sets, gone are the days when a person works the same job their entire life.
The jack of all trades, master of none stereotype is somewhat of a myth for lifelong learners and autodidacts. It is more like jack of all trades, master of a few. Batman has a mix of traditional schooling and self-taught skills.
The traditional method of studying a topic for years and years to become an “expert” can be circumvented by doing away with the wasted time, and instead learning directly from experts, rather than formal study. Most new learning, in any field takes place in the first year or two, and then after that is merely refinements of that base knowledge and skills.
How much better would that time be spent, if after mastering the basics, study time was spent studying directly with masters from various fields who have a lifetime of knowledge and skills to draw on.
There are exceptions of course. There is no shortcut to being a neurosurgeon or airline pilot. Some skills should take longer to learn if it means not only learning new skills, knowledge and theory but also an “X” factor that can’t really be taught but comes with life experience.
Plus nobody wants to have their head cut open by a bargain basement brain surgeon or fly in a plane with a pilot who has taken any kind of shortcuts to get there. Extensive testing for competency and virtual training help to ensure a high level of competence in these demanding highly skilled professions.
However many simpler skills can be easily be learned in six to twelve months, and some even in under six months. Learning a new language may take a year or more, but the basics can be learned in a few weeks.
While hardcore fans debate the details of Batman’s education – how much formal education does he have, and how much is ad-hoc and more specific to his mission, his “War on Crime”, we never really know. What is “offical canon” one week is gone the next. The canon of Batma mythos is open to reboots, revisionism, relaunches, and reinterpretation. There are no hard and fast “rules” to the fictional worlds of superhero comics. Perhaps except that everything changes, and almost nothing is sacred.
The Batman mythos are constantly being added to, revised, retconned and reinterpreted. One story has Bruce with mutiple degrees from a University in diverse fields. Another story has Batman starting younger, skipping most formal education and studying just what he needs to know in person with kooks, weirdos, secret masters and experts in hidden corners of the globe.
Whatever version of Batman we are enjoying – he makes a habit of learning directly from and being advised by existing experts, he doesn’t have time to waste with generalists in any field. Whatever he can’t teach himself at home he is going to travel wherever he needs to go to find the best people to learn his particular niche skills.
Batman has the edge over Sherlock Holmes in that he is a progressive learner, always expanding his knowledge and skill set.
If Sherlock existed in the modern day, he might be a very good detective, but not good at much else. And being a very introverted eccentric character, you have to wonder how progressive would Sherlock be?
Would Sherlock he be able to expand his skill set?
As a character, he really only works in his small world. Had Sherlock (and here I refer to the original character from the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, not any adaptations) access to modern air travel and Bruce Wayne’s fortune, would he travel the world, or remain in his homeland?
I think classical Sherlock would stick to his homeland and his strengths, being that he is at times an almost autistic like character, comfortable with being a Big fish in a small pond.
Batman however is more comfortable being a small fish in a big global pond. He exists in a world of metahumans, aliens and Gods.
While Batman may be colloquially called the “World’s Greatest Detective” – in the modern era he also has acquaintances such as the Martian Manhunter, The Question, Deadman, and other associates he relies on for assistance with his toughest cases.
Batman like Sherlock is obsessive compulsive in dedication to learning everything about a skill, but without wasting time, moving on and applying what is useful, rejecting what is useless.
Despite all his technology, wealth and multitude of skills, in many ways, Batman is a minimalist. He uses the least effort, to get the maximum effect.
“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease; hack away at the unessential.” — Bruce Lee
Let’s take a look at some of Batman’s skills then courtesy of Answers.com
Batman is a master of the following skills: All known forms of Martial Arts Criminology Mathematics History Mythology Escapology Chemistry Biology Foreign Languages Forensic Studies Driving Skills, Automobile / Motorcycle / Plane / Boat / Hang-Glider / Etc. Tracking Espionage Lock Picking Computer Hacking Aerobatics Rope and Rappel Training Diving Medical Training, Medicine and Surgery Pain Management Training Robotics Motor and Engine Knowledge Throwing Arts Battle Tactics Survival Training Peak Physical Conditioning Negotiation Skills Pick Pocketing Camouflage skills Acting skills (for undercover work) Code Breaking skills Sky Diving Knowledge of Explosives
It is a pretty long and ridiculous list, and I removed a couple of items that basically repeated other points. The original Batman from 1947 did not have all those skills, just a core few mainly – strength training, gymnastics, chemistry, detective skills and a few others that were added here and there. But over 75 years, that list has grown as new writers come along and put their stamp on the character.
The thing is, if you are super-rich and can spend your time how you damn well please rather than being a wage slave, you could conceivably master a lot of skills if you chose to. So that long list is possible when you consider that something like rappelling, or pick pocketing you could learn in a few days, or weeks. While Chemistry would take several months, and perhaps years to be more refined.
We may never learn as many skills as Batman, nor have the time. But I know for me my dedication to lifelong learning is whole hearted and never ending. That passion for knowledge and skills is another way that Batman inspires me every day.
He’s also arrogant, self-absorbed, gruff, emotionally unavailable, unapologtetic, rude and just rough around the edges.
Batman is kind of a jerk, isn’t he? Yet we still like him.
As much as I like Batman’s good qualities, I have to admit I have more in common with his personality flaws and bad habits, than his good habits.
And in a strange way, it is kind of comforting. If Batman is rude and arrogant, it doesn’t excuse my own lousy behavior in any way, but it does let me see that I am not the only guy who is like that. Batman’s flaws just make him more human. We don’t usually see Superman being a dick to other superheroes, but when Batman does it, well he gets away with it because he’s Batman.
It is not like I get up in the morning and decide to be an asshole to people. But it happens whether I want it to or not. So sometimes you’ve just got to do your best, when shit goes wrong, and not get too caught up in the whole drama of it.
Batman can be cool and stoic as he is ultimately responsible only to himself. And while I may be somewhat stoic myself, if I am like that all the time, eventually my friends and family will stop talking to me.
There is a point where being a loner can come back to bite you in the ass.
Of course Batman has his Bat-Family, he is not a true loner any more – at least in the modern Batman comics he has all sorts of friends, associates and people he can rely on for support. From Lucius Fox to Jim Gordon and his whole Bat-Family including the various Robins, Batgirl, Red Hood, Batwoman and more.
Nav K over at my favourite comicbook Blog GIRL ON COMICBOOK WORLD highlights some of the key reasons we enjoy Batman in the first place in a couple of excellent posts that I have read twice now, because they were so damn good! So don’t miss them.
I’ve finished Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography, and I am currently reading Gandhi’s autobiography, both men are personal heroes to me for very different reasons.
One thing that really struck me about both books was the honesty and straight forward stating of bad habits, flaws and imperfections.
We want our heroes to be bastions of moral virtue.
In the case of fictional characters like Superman, we can enjoy a morally superior hero. But it is a fantasy, real life is much messier. Even the best of us has done some pretty horrible things, that we often deeply regret. Heroic figures, whether real, imagined or however exaggerated are icons we want to look up to and emulate. But while some flaws are unforgivable (the hero turns out to be a serial killer like Dexter for example) other more ordinary flaws humanise our heroic figures.
In the case of Ah-Nuld and yes, even Gandhi, both men are big JERKS! Both men are also bold icons – one is the guy in the nappy who helped kick start the movement for Indian independence from British rule. The other is a guy who traveled back in time to blow some shit up while wearing dark sunglasses and talking in a monotone voice.**
Arnold cheated on his wife, which he talks about in his book pretty candidly, he is not proud of his actions. Gandhi went to see a prostitute, smoked, ate meat and did all kinds of very un-Gandhi like things before he matured into the man who is revered around the world today.
What I love about both of these autobiographies, is that both men did some really dumb things, and were big idiot jerks to their family and friends (reminds me of someone) but that they had the courage to talk about their faults, their flaws openly in their books. This does not excuse their behavior. (**The Terminator was a character, Ah-Nuld did not really travel in time, as far as you know…)
But that bold self-analysis and honesty is one of the qualities I love about Batman, he KNOWS how flawed he is, and he doesn’t try to hide it or pretend otherwise.
Batman often gets angry, frustrated, becomes even more of a loner, rejecting food, his friends and sometimes even sleep.
He gets to a place where he psyche/mind is unbalanced. But Batman has Alfred, the various Robin’s and other friends to help him through these times.
For Batman, it is not just a flaw that he does things which are ultimately harmful for him, it is his “normal” behavior, so his friends do his best to manage his behavior, because you are not going to stop Batman being moody, withdrawn or angry.
Like a storm at sea, eventually the dark moody Batman comes back to his everyday level of dark moodiness, back to his baseline or psychological norm.
Why do we look up to a guy who is so dysfunctional? Why does he remain iconic and popular despite his flaws? Why is Batman such a classical romantic and mythic figure, and just plain gosh darn cool, despite being a flawed arrogant jerk?
I feel that a big part of Batman’s popularity is because of his flaws. It humanises him. It makes him more relatable to everyday people than the demi-gods that Batman walks amongst in the JLA. Batman is the cultural myth of the self-made man, the person who succeeds in bettering himself through hard work, persistence and determination.
Batman is a Zen-Yogi-Martial Arts Warrior for our times. He sits right in the sweet spot between realism and purely romantic fiction. In some stories he is very concrete, very much influenced by the real world, and he hits like a brick to the face.
In other stories Batman is a Gothic horror story, a semi-mythical figure straight out the collective unconscious mind – he torments criminals, preying on their fears, while in other stories he is the world’s greatest Detective, the guy who never gives up, and won’t stop until he solves the case, catches the killer, a manhunter who doggedly pursues his quarry to the ends of the earth. Whether realistic or mythic, Batman can work in a whole host of different contexts, and it all plays to the strengths of the character.
BATMAN ACTS, HE DOESN’T ASK PERMISSION
One manly quality I love about Batman is that he takes action, and he doesn’t ask permission.
If we have to ask permission for every little thing we did in life, nothing would ever get done.
There are rules and laws in society that are ultimately designed to protect us as well as penalise us.
But did men like Teddt Roosevelt or Abe Lincoln sit back and let the law of the land dictate how they would live their lives? Did they “ask permission” before they took the action they felt was necessary to improve themselves?
The law aside – a man acts, he doesn’t ask permission.
Batman didn’t ask somebody if it would be “okay” to punch crime in the face a little now and then when nobody is looking. He goes out night after night and performs his duties, and he doesn’t give a damn who likes him, who hates him, who fears him. He only cares that he makes a difference in the world
In one view of this behavior and attitude, it just makes Batman look like a jerk.
But another view, expressed in the Indian spiritual classic Bhagavad Gita states:
When he [the virtuous person] renounces all desires and acts without craving, possessiveness, or individuality, he finds peace.” Bhagavad-Gita 2:71
“Always perform with detachment any action you must do; performing action with detachment, one achieves supreme good.” Bhagavad-Gita 3:19
And further passages talk about the devotees relationship to the Supreme Lord, or Godhead.
“Disinterested, pure, skilled, indifferent, untroubled, relinquishing all involvements, devoted to me, he is dear to me. He does not rejoice or hate, grieve or feel desire; relinquishing fortune and misfortune, the man of devotion is dear to me. Impartial to foe and friend, honor and contempt, cold and heat, joy and suffering, he is free from attachment. Neutral to blame and praise, silent, content with his fate, unsheltered, firm in thought, the man of devotion is dear to me. Even more dear to me are devotees who cherish this elixir of sacred duty as I have taught it, intent on me in their faith” 12: 16-20
Now, Batman ain’t religious and neither am I frankly.
But I want you to take a look at that above passage, and you can take the word God and replace it with “Justice” for Batman. Batman serves not the laws of the nation, but his own highly personal concept of Justice, which to me is closer to the classical notion, the Socratic Ideal of Justice, than, well, your modern concept we have when we watch the average episode of Law and Order or whatever cop show / legal crime drama you are into.
If Batman is too concerned about what others might think of his War on Crime, or too busy seeking permission to punch crime in the face, he is not going to be a very effective Batman.
Recently, someone on the Q&A site Quora asked the Question: Why does batman betray the JLA? (referring to the JLA story Towel of Babel by Mark Waid in JLA#43-46, 2000)
“Tower of Babel deals with Batman’s perceived betrayal to the superhuman community by keeping and concealing hidden records concerning the strengths and weaknesses of his allies in the JLA, which include plans to neutralize his allies in a fight. His files are stolen by the criminal mastermind Ra’s Al Ghul, who uses them to defeat the League through a coordinated attack in order to prevent them from interfering with his latest scheme, the reduction of the global population.”
My answer to that question was that Batman betrays the JLA because he is always three steps ahead of everybody else in the room. He’s usually solved whatever problem the JLA is facing and will do whatever it takes to save the world, stop the enemies, world ending threat etc, save Liz, meet up at the Winchester until this all blows over – even if it means he seemingly betrays the JLA.
The simple answer for me to that Quora user question is “For the greater good”
Batman will sacrifice himself if it means saving the day. He doesn’t do compromise, and he doesn’t care who gets annoyed along the way, or if he betrays his “friends”.
He’s selfless but also a son of a bitch, and he knows it.
He’s smarter than you and he knows it.
He doesn’t care if you think he is a jerk.
He’s Bruce Lee, he’s James Dean, he doesn’t give a fuck what you think, what you stand for, whether you want to help him or stab him, either way he would die to save you because he values Life, he just gets real grumpy about the way he expresses it.
In the JLA Tower of Babel story Batman betrays the JLA, or at least it appears that he does. Batman had “fail safe” key plans on how to take down each of his fellow more powerful league members – in case they went crazy, were mind controlled etc. A super-villain obtains Batman’s plans, and uses them against the JLA. During the story the JLA find out that Batman created the plans to take them out (if they went crazy/evil etc) and they feel betrayed.
It’s a cool story, and well worth reading. The trade is quite cheap, and you will find it easily enough if you search for “JLA Tower of Babel”. Don’t miss “Rock of Ages” which is another classic JLA story with Batman in a key role that really shows how devoted and fanatical he can be to his cause.
So we know Batman can be a jerk, but at his core…
Who is Batman?
Fans each have their own favourite version of Batman. and the question of who Batman really is, is up to each BATFAN.
Is Batman the real person who puts on the mask of Bruce Wayne?
Or is Bruce Wayne the man who puts on the mask of Batman?
For me the answer is obvious, Batman doesn’t do things half-assed, he puts himself 100% into whatever he does, and when he became Batman, he stopped being Bruce Wayne.
My personal vision of Batman is that Bruce Wayne is the mask, and Batman is who he really is.
Who that Batman is from day to day may seem somewhat schizophrenic. Not literally, but when you see Batman in his own core books – Detective Comics and Batman, contrasted with Batman in the JLA, Batman and the Outsiders, the Batman and Robin books, we get different equally valid interpretations of who Batman is and how he acts.
It is hard to pin down a definitive version of Batman, but core values and characteristics may him easy to identify, no matter what book he appears in (not including Elseworlds and alternate universe stories where Batman may be evil, a vampire or whatever) I talked about Batman’s core values in a popular article a while back:
And I also made up this nifty chart table thingy with what I personally feel are the core values, characteristics etc of the Batman across different media.
The values etc that have become part of how Batman is portrayed over several decades of fiction, to become what we collectively can refer to as the Batman Franchise, or Batman Media.
Missing any of these basic “ingredients” in the recipe for Batman (which is subject to change and interpretation, not set in concrete) makes it easy to see where particular interpretations differ from Batman’s core values, or just go plain wrong (in my opinion) in the case of misunderstanding the character all together. Of course other fans and writers may disagree.
Now, nowhere in that box ‘o words does it imply that Batman is a jerk. Yet, he is a jerk, more often than not.
That is, if we consider normal human relationships, how we relate to and love each other etc.
Batman is not a social butterfly, and while he can fake human interactions as Bruce Wayne, how much of that is genuine, and how much of that is his acting ability- which I would compare favourable to a professional actor, just see Batman’s undercover personas like Matches Malone for example to see what I mean – is debatable.
At times Batman is cold and aloof, and sometimes we see him as warm and gentle, but these times tend to be rare. Nobody would accuse Batman of being a “softy”.
Batman trains the various Robin characters in a harsh and unforgiving manner, like a martial arts instructor or armed forces instructor would – to prepare the student for combat / warfare etc. But Batman/Bruce Wayne also cares deeply about his adopted sons, the various Robin characters, Batgirl, Jim Gordon, Lucius Fox and his other extended Bat-Family.
The original Batman went it alone, and if he had kept going that way, he would have been dead for sure by now. I like to think that Batman’s core BAT-FAMILY don’t just keep him alive in a practical way, they also keep him more human, less of a robot.
In Scott Snyder’s run on Batman in the NEW 52, the Joker tells Batman that his Bat-Family make him weak and soft. I feel they do the opposite.
The man who has nothing to live for dies a quiet and sad death.
The man who has everything to live for, especially people he deeply loves and cherishes will NOT go quietly into that good night, but will rage against the machine, he will rise up every time you knock him down, until his dying breath. Because he cares, because he fights for a better tomorrow that he may not live to see. Because he knows that deep down, as callous and angry as he may be on the outside, on the inside Batman has the heart of a saint.
Where Superman would be evacuating the planet in a hypothetical doomsday scenario, Batman is the guy who will be there till the end, helping the helpless, and dying right next to them if he can’t save them. Batman won’t abandon those most in need, because it is not in him as a human being to do that. The very idea of not helping others, and being a proactive force for good is painful to Batman.
He never gives up, never surrenders, and he absolutely WILL….NOT…STOP.
So he may be a jerk at times but perhaps we can forgive him, after all, he is Batman.