Category Archives: Hero Theory

THE HEROINE’S JOURNEY: An Ever Evolving Narrative of Empowered Females in Fiction PART#1 WRITER’s Q and A

legend-of-korra-batfan-on-batman-blog-batfan-007

The Heroines Journey – An Ever Evolving Narrative of Empowered Females in Fiction

Over the last year I’ve been looking into the topic of The Heroine’s Journey through books, articles, youtube videos and of course perspectives from other writers of both fiction and non-fiction. This Q&A is several questions with some expert writers I admire and respect with differing contrasting points of view including Nicole Franklin, Kate Forsyth, Alice Li, Nav. K and Mike Madrid.

There will be an accompanying article up soon on this blog where I comment on some of the Theories and Ideas that are part of the modern version of The Heroines’ Journey, and ideas discussed in this Q&A as specific or unique from Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. So you can consider this PART#1 of #2 on The Heroine’s Journey and I will link the other article to this one once it is completed and posted.

So lets get into it, I hope you enjoy reading the insightful answers from these super-smart individuals as much as I did. It took several months to come together as people live in different time zones, in different parts of the world and are usually quite busy. Thanks so much to everyone who contributed!

NICOLE FRANKLIN

Nicole Franklin

Nicole Franklin is an award-winning filmmaker. Through her 25 years in the industry Nicole has been a television director, editor, educator, and contributing writer to such publications as The Good Men Project, Toronto-based ByBlacks.com and NBCBLK. For seventeen years, her company EPIPHANY Inc. has been producing independent films for numerous cable networks including Showtime, BET, IFC, Nickelodeon, Sundance Channel, FUBU TV and kweliTV.

In addition to the narrative feature on same-race discrimination in the workplace, TITLE VII, Nicole’s other credits include The Double Dutch Divas!, Journeys In Black: the Jamie Foxx Biography, Kids Around the World, Black Enterprise Business Report, Gershwin & Bess: A Dialogue with Anne Brown and the 10-chapter series Little Brother.   Nicole’s affiliations include DGA, PGA East, NABJ, The Black Documentary Collective (BDC) and NYWIFT. NicoleFranklin.com/cine.

nicole-franklin-heroine

Q.Why do you feel that a Heroine’s Journey is needed that is distinct from Campbell’s Hero’s Journey?  How does it differ? How is it the same? 

I think the Heroine’s Journey is needed because as a Black feminist I could not pinpoint why a number of female leads in films I grew up watching were not satisfying role models for me.  Why didn’t I root for women who could change the world—women who were on their own, not handing over the reigns to their male rescuers?  And, why didn’t I root for them on a consistent basis?

Plots and storylines are much better in recent years, but it wasn’t until I heard Alice Meichi Li articulating the characteristics of a Heroine’s Journey vs. a Hero’s Journey while she was speaking on a NY Comic Con panel that I realized most female leading roles have been under siege. Manipulation and lackluster results from a journey that thrives on a woman’s insecurities and borderline insanity seem to have been acceptable practice for years. Li made me rethink The Wizard of Oz after seeing it hundreds of times. Once certain characteristics of female-driven stories seep into our subconscious as media consumers we’re doomed!

Q.How can writers adapt the Heroine’s Journey to their stories? (Nicole: I’m combining questions 2 and 3 here)

First writers have to realize there is a distinction between successfully writing a heroine into movie history or into oblivion. As illustrator Alice Meichi Li has noted, there is a fascination with the goddess/supernatural character Joseph Campbell often describes now being a hindrance, and not at all helpful as she would be to a man on a mission. Is it more of a standard to see backstabbing and deception between women when one’s happiness is within arm’s reach? You bet.

Second, more female writers and directors need to be hired as showrunners and creatives behind the scripts and behind the camera on an equal employment basis. Putting these two very simple suggestions into practice would be a terrific start.

Next, films, books and art are part of commercial business. Audiences must support heroines who rock with their dollars. Li mapped out a guide for what writers should avoid in their storylines starring female leads when I interviewed her for The Good Men Project here: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/heros-journey-vs-heroines-journey-rewriting-privilege/

Q.What changes need to happen in society to further develop the idea of The Heroine’s Journey? (Nicole: See Question above)

nicole franklin heroines journey batfan blog.jpg

Q.What advice do you have for creators (male and female) who want to create good well rounded female characters?

I would refer creators to my article The Hero’s Journey vs. The Heroine’s Journey: Rewriting Privilege featuring illustrator Alice Meichi Li. Talking to her was so eye-opening for me as an artist, executive producer and feminist.

Q.What impact do you see The Heroine’s Journey having on the literature, films, comics etc of tomorrow?

We have a long way to go when it comes to a female protagonist whom audiences can cheer and demand sequels of beyond the small screen and printed pages of comics. Digital distribution outlets are now the widened doors independent artists have needed for years in order to reach a global audience. This is actually an exciting time to be a creator. And if recent box office numbers of Hollywood films starring talented, three-dimensional female leads are any indication, then this successful model has no choice but to continue and prosper. Bravo!

Where can people find you online, what websites do you contribute to, recommend etc?

Thanks for asking Jonny! I love connecting with people through my website, NicoleFranklin.com. Also, all of my social media profiles are there. I also am the founder of the tech education initiative Hack4Hope.org and the Executive Producer of LittleBrotherFilm.com, a 10-chapter film series with producer J. Tiggett on young Black males and their thoughts on Love.  As a writer I contribute to The Good Men Project, NBCBLK and Toronto’s ByBlacks.com.

You can also find Nicole on Youtube at  https://www.youtube.com/user/Nicoleedits/about?&ab_channel=NicoleFranklin

KATE FORSYTH

Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel when she was only 7, and is now the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 25 books, including The Wild Girl and Bitter Greens for adults, and The Puzzle Ring, The Gypsy Crown, The Starkin Crown, and Grumpy Grandpa for children. Her books have been translated into 13 languages. You can read more about Kate at www.kateforsyth.com.au

Q. Why do you feel that a Heroine’s Journey is needed that is distinct from Campbell’s Hero’s Journey?

To be honest, I see the hero in Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as being a non-gender specific term. A girl can be a hero just as much as a boy. However, both Campbell’s language in describing the mono-mythic Hero’s Journey and subsequent usages of the format are highly male-focused, so perhaps talking about a ‘Heroine’s Journey’ can open up new ways of thinking and describing a woman’s journey of self-discovery and change.

kate-forsyth-website-author-batfan-blog

Q. How does it differ? How is it the same? [as Campbell’s]

For me, the journey of all my female protagonists follow the mono-mythic pattern of moving through darkness towards light, and through a process of transformation that changes them from the beginning of the story to the end. The trials that they face, the ordeals and obstacles that they overcome, are very different according to the kind of story I am telling … and the type of person my heroine is.

The Hero’s Journey is often just a way of thinking about story structure … and in that sense, it does not matter whether the hero is male or female, or even human at all. I think the secret is not to be too rigid in following the Hero’s Journey – to think of ways to make it fresh and new and surprising. And recasting this quest in the shape of a Heroine’s Journey is one way to do so.

Q. How can writers adapt the Heroine’s Journey to their particular stories?

I always try and think – what does my hero/heroine want? What stands in their way? What is the cost of failure? What do they need to learn before they can get what they want? And then I plan their journey, placing more emphasis on the key psychological turning points in the narrative structure.

Q. What changes need to happen in society to further develop the idea of The Heroine’s Journey?

I’d love to see more movies made with strong, complex and interesting female characters. Often movie and TV makers (as well as novelists) think the way to make a heroine strong and heroic is to make her more masculine – I don’t think this is necessary at all.

kate-forsyth-author-books

Q. What advice do you have for creators (male and female) who want to create good well rounded female characters that engage the audience/reader?

Make your characters flawed, with real-life fears and problems, and then show them as they grow and change on their journey. Dynamic characters are always more interesting than ones that do not change.

Q. What impact do you see The Heroine’s Journey having on the literature, films, comics, games etc of tomorrow?

I’d love to see more films and books and games being female-centric, with strong protagonists and an interesting character arc.

Q. Where can people find you online? 

My main website is Kate Forsyth at http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/

You can also find me on Facebook, Pinterest and my Amazon Author Page at the below links:

ALICE MEICHI LI

Alice Meichi Li

Alice Meichi Li  is a New York based visual artist and illustrator for comic books, magazines, and album covers. She is the creator of the independent comic book Sherbert Lock. Alice has received numerous awards and nominations from organisations such as the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Alice also contributed words and pictures to Nicole’s article “The Hero’s Journey vs. The Heroine’s Journey: Rewriting Privilege” that inspired this BATFAN Q&A you are reading right now.

Q.Why do you feel that a Heroine’s Journey is needed that is distinct from Campbell’s Hero’s Journey?  How does it differ? How is it the same? 

In a society like ours where women have historically struggled for equality, it’s hard enough to get to a level playing field — let alone set upon a journey for self-actualization. The Hero’s Journey is exactly that: a coming-of-age story where a boy can become a fully-actualized man and surpass his own masters through trials and tribulations.

On Maslow’s Hierarchy, multiple needs must be met before a person can achieve self-actualization, including the physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem. If a story takes place in a society like ours where many women can’t even feel safe walking around in our own gender, how can we ever achieve true self-actualization?

alice_20meichi_20li_chun_20li_original

I keep stipulating “in a society like ours” because there are plenty of heroines that take the Hero’s Journey in fictional worlds where they fortunately aren’t bound to a system of patriarchy. (see: Nickelodeon’s Legend of Korra) So my definition of a Heroine’s Journey is that where a lesser-privileged protagonist, most likely a woman, sets upon a path to achieve normality or equality to that where a Hero might just be starting off.

Where there are trials that will help the Hero along his way, there are traps and tricks that await the Heroine as she tries to obtain equilibrium in a world that has seemingly gone mad. Where there are Masters to guide the Hero along, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing to manipulate the Heroine along.

Great examples of the Heroine’s Journey would be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. At the end, neither Dorothy nor Alice become lauded as great heroes. They just return to the normal lives in their normal homes that they were striving for all along.

alice-meichi-li-illustrator-michonne-from-walking-dead

Heroine’s Journeys reflect the struggles of women in a patriarchal society where being a woman basically means that the body you were born in impedes you from getting ahead the same way a man can. It can feel awfully like a world gone mad when a woman is constantly told by society that her life isn’t worth as much as that of a fetus.

That the work she does is worth around 77% as much as a man’s work, that she ought to keep at the “Drink Me” bottle to shrink small enough to fit society’s standards, or that she needs to destroy other women (Wicked Witches) to achieve her goals when in reality it’s actually a man behind the curtain who has the true power over her.


Q. How can writers adapt the Heroine’s Journey to their stories?A common piece of advice I see is “Just write a female character like a man”. Well, yes and no. If the story takes place in a patriarchy, but the woman faces zero consequences to acting like a man, then this is completely unrealistic. While I don’t agree with strictly adhering to a gender binary, I recognize that society does.People who fall outside of that gender binary inevitably face challenges from the people around them, and these challenges shape who they are.I had a great conversation with Phil Jimenez (writer/artist for Wonder Woman) once about how Superman couldn’t be written exactly the same if he were a woman, because people would treat him like a woman.
Scarlett-Johansson Black Widow.jpg
Would the Daily Planet run the same exact articles on Superman if he were a woman? Wouldn’t there be the inevitable criticisms of her appearance or choice of costume?

Look at how the press treats male actors versus female actors in interviews. (For example — the types of questions Scarlett Johannson received from the press for her role in Avengers versus the types of questions her male co-stars received.

Spoiler alert: They tended to center around her body, costume and weight-loss, whereas her male co-stars were given more difficult questions about actual acting) There’s always going to be a slant. How a female Superman would react to *that* reaction would then shape her character differently than a male Superman.

tumblr_n35ggt8ebf1qdmqlao1_1280

Q. What changes need to happen in society to further develop the idea of The Heroine’s Journey?To actually develop a Heroine’s Journey into a Hero’s Journey, we’d need to achieve true equality as a basis for all prospective Heroines to launch their journeys. Calling back to my response to the first question, it’s hard to focus on mastering any goal to a heroic extent if one’s basic needs aren’t even being met.

Q. What advice do you have for creators (male and female) who want to create good well rounded female characters?

First, read stories about real women and the obstacles they’ve had to overcome themselves. When encountering people who express the hardships they’ve experienced, listen or read with an open mind and open heart. Don’t be afraid to be wrong or question your pre-existing assumptions.

Second, don’t use rape or sexual assault as a character development tool unless you *really* know what you’re doing. And most people — men and women who haven’t been sexually assaulted — don’t. Even on Mad Mad: Fury Road, George Miller brought Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues) on board as a consultant to make sure they portrayed a wide range of rape victims realistically and sympathetically.

pawn_to_queen_by_alicemeichi-da4hafm

Q. What impact do you see The Heroine’s Journey having on the literature, films, comics, games etc of tomorrow?

Ultimately, I hope that exposing the struggles that Heroines have to deal with to achieve true equality will help others to be able to put themselves in a Heroine’s shoes and develop empathy for those who are less privileged than they are. But also, it’s just about time we had more stories focused on marginalized protagonists within their societies. In a way, the Hero’s Journey is easier to do than a Heroine’s Journey where a protagonist is just not the “right type” of person to succeed in that world.


Q. Where can people find you online? 

Here are the places you can follow my work…

http://alicemeichi.com
http://alicemeichi.tumblr.com
http://facebook.com/alicemeichili
http://twitter.com/alicemeichi

 sherbet_trade_paperback_by_alicemeichi-d7vw7ct
I’m also doing covers for my husband’s comic, Sherbet, which is a dark comedy/sci-fi story that focuses on a lesbian detective who solves paranormal mysteries in a steampunk-inspired vaguely British future. (It’s okay because he’s British, too)  Sherbet would be another example of a woman who’s not adhering to a patriarchal society’s Heroine’s Journey.
NAV K

Nav K

Nav K is a writer and Blogger in Australia, a big Superman and DC fan who writes in depth insightful articles covering the DCU in Comics, Television and Film. You can find her brilliant Girl-On-Comic-Book-World blog at https://girloncomicbookworld.com/

She also writes about the Marvel theatrical films and Netflix TV shows such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. She was last seen flying somewhere over the city of Metropolis.

Q. Why do you feel that a Heroine’s Journey is needed that is distinct from Campbell’s Hero’s Journey?

Considering Campbell’s Hero Journey structure was created a few decades ago, looking back at it you can see that it is very specific for a male hero. The structure draws upon stories that have come from the past, meaning it draws upon many stories where women were viewed more so as objects, to accompany a man, have children, be a prize etc therefore the structure isn’t completely relevant to a heroine’s journey. Because of critical social change over the past few decades it’s important to re-contextualize the hero’s journey to better fit a female protagonist.

superman henry cavill and supergirl melissa benoist.jpg

Q. How does it differ? How is it the same? [as Campbell’s] 

Universal elements from Campbell’s model that should be used in a heroine’s journey include the character being drawn into the adventure, facing psychological and/or physical threats and finishing the journey in a changed manner. However the heroine’s journey should take in aspects that are specifically related to females. The hero’s journey is often presented as a solo journey, however as women are typically communal the solo quest may not work as well. Also it’s important to incorporate the conflicting roles many women have in the life such as the family/work balance, maternal instincts etc.

Q. How can writers adapt the Heroine’s Journey to their particular stories?

Writers shouldn’t limit themselves to a strict structure for a heroine’s journey. Really what’s most important is to understand that you are writing a female’s journey, not a man’s journey, so don’t ignore feminine attributes. Not all female characters have to have some inherent maternal instinct, or longing for a community, however a heroine’s journey shouldn’t be afraid of incorporating female attributes.

Q. What changes need to happen in society to further develop the idea of The Heroine’s Journey? 

I think once this stigma is removed that no one cares about female leads, we will get a much better start on developing the idea of the heroine’s journey. Creators still choose to stick to the traditional male hero archetype as it’s a safer bet than focusing on a female lead. Once creators get an idea of greater acceptance in society for female leads, they will start creating better female characters. Just looking at the superhero sphere, there has been a lot of controversy at Marvel for their failure to recognise their female heroes as equals.

Black Widow doesn’t get toys and solo movies, and it won’t be until 2018 that we see a solo female superhero movie from Marvel. This is happening because Marvel don’t believe that a female hero can sell right now. So they will wait until Wonder Woman makes her debut and gauge the audience reaction to her so that they can commit more.

But considering there has been this controversy in the first place, from both female and male audience, recognises that there is an acceptance and want for more heroine leads. Furthermore understanding that the emotional side of a heroine isn’t a weakness can help propel the idea of the heroine’s journey, removing the idea that only the emotionless yet aggressive male heroes are the only heroic lead that works.

girl on comic book world nav k superhero blog australia.jpg

Q. What advice do you have for creators (male and female) who want to create good well rounded female characters that engage the audience/reader?

Don’t be afraid to embrace the femininity of the character. You often see creators trying to develop “strong female characters” by stripping away the very aspects that make them female, and emphasizing their masculinity.

Writers shouldn’t be afraid to show emotional vulnerability, maternal instincts, communal values etc from female characters because they may be afraid of creating a weak female character. Just looking at one of the most talked about strong female characters in film this year, Furiosa from Mad Max perfectly captured her femininity, maternal instincts and strength.

Q. What impact do you see The Heroine’s Journey having on the literature, films, comics, games etc of tomorrow?

Its clear creators are having a stronger focus on female characters. You can watch an action movie now where the female isn’t just always the damsel in distress character anymore, we have stories like Mad Max, Hunger Games etc. Especially within the superhero sphere you can see the huge impact the heroine’s journey is having.

Wonder Woman who has for the longest time been viewed as this feminist icon is finally getting her debut on film decades after her creation. And we can see in these female superheroes that they aren’t being stripped of their femininity to create a “strong female character”, these characters are embracing it.

Q. Where can people find you online? 

You can find me at girloncomicbookworld.wordpress.com which is basically a place with discussion and opinion on everything comic book related from movies to TV to actual comic books!

Follow Nav on Twitter @Nav_Kay

Nav K articles:

Comic Book Movie Articles

Comic Book TV Shows

Comic Book Character Analyses

MIKE MADRID

 Mike MadridMike Madrid is a native San Franciscan and a life long fan of comic books and popular culture. The former advertising executive is the creative director at Exterminating Angel Press. He is featured in the documentary “Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines.” He also has a fantastic TV news anchor worthy mustache.

Q. Why do you feel that a Heroine’s Journey is needed that is distinct from Campbell’s Hero’s Journey? How does it differ? How is it the same?

Traditionally in Hero’s Journey stories, the male protagonist starts out being hindered either by youth, inexperience, or both. But he often has a mentor to guide him on his journey to being a hero. However, the fledgling is never shown to actually be hammered by his gender. This is not the case with many heroines in comic books.

Women who want to take on heroic roles in comics often have their abilities questioned simply because they are female. And this skepticism often comes from their fellow male heroes. These women usually need to undertake this journeys to heroism on their own, without the help of a mentor. So, the Heroine can start off her journey facing adversity not only from her foes, but her allies as well.

supergirls cover by mike madrid.jpg

Q. How can writers adapt the Heroine’s Journey to their particular stories?

I’m not sure that a female hero has to have a distinctly different journey from a male. The motivation for being a hero should be the same for a woman or a man:the desire to make the world a better place. The end goal is going to be the same, although the woman may face additional or different challenges along the way. A woman’s methods may differ from a man’s, but that’s what will make her a believable character.

Marvel’s current version of Thor, who is a woman, is an interesting example of a female hero’s journey. The new Thor has had quickly assumed a mantle of great power, and the reader sees her jump right in and grasp her new role. She displays a formidable persona that convinces her fellow heroes of her tremendous abilities.

But through Thor’s internal dialogue the reader can experience how this heroine is evolving in this role and learning about her new life. So she seems like a real character without having to be presented as a bumbling newcomer trying to figure out how to swing her hammer.

Q. What changes need to happen in society to further develop the idea of The Heroine’s Journey? 

Well, obviously women have to be viewed as being equal to men. This is a challenge in America, where women aren’t paid the same as men and where we’ve never had a female president. As much as comic books present this fantastic view of the world, often the values seen in these stories are much the same as what we see every day in our so-called “real world”.

wonder-woman-statue-mike-madrid

Q. What advice do you have for creators (male and female) who want to create good well rounded female characters that engage the audience/reader?

It’s good that the mainstream comics industry has finally recognized that there is a sizable readership, both female and male, who will buy titles featuring strong heroines. The problem is that these characters are sometimes just written as men, with breasts.

I think the most successful recent incarnations of Marvel’s Black Widow and Spider-Woman and DC’s rebooted Batgirl are good examples of characters that are shown as strong and capable, but still also come off as believable women. A woman doesn’t need to suppress her female nature just because she has taken on a heroic role. She can be strong and brave, but still show compassion and understanding.

Q. What impact do you see The Heroine’s Journey having on the literature, films, comics, games etc of tomorrow?

I think the Heroine’s Journey can teach readers, particularly female readers, how to overcome obstacles in order to achieve their goals. However, I feel like comics often focus on this journey for too long in the case of female heroes. While people ideally continue to grow and learn new things throughout their lives, as a certain point I feel it’s important to show female characters as established heroes rather than continually putting them in the role of novice.

This has been the case with Wonder Woman throughout her long career. Male writers seem to think she is a more interesting character when she is the outsider learning what it takes to be a hero. And so we have seen her origin story continually retooled and her journey toward heroism beginning anew again and again. I prefer when Wonder Woman is simply presented as an established hero on the same level as her contemporaries Superman and Batman, rather than a few steps behind them.

Q. Where can people find you online? What projects / websites / books etc are you involved in?

Besides The SupergirlsDivas Dames & Daredevils and the companion volume Vixens Vamps & Vipers, I am doing a series of collections of the adventures of some of my favorite Golden Age heroines like Black Angel and Spider Widow. You can find more information about my books at  heaven4heroes.com.

Mike Madrid books.jpg

Note from BATFAN JOHN: I own all three of these books, and I highly recommend them, Supergirls is a fun informal history of female pulp characters and Superheroines, while Mike’s other two books contain reprints of vintage comics along with some introductory essays to the comics and their era. You can find Mike’s books on Amazon.

THANK YOU so much to everyone who made this article so much fun to put together and read. Thanks to Nicole, Kate, Alice, Nav and Mike. Words can not express how grateful I am to you all for your insightful and interesting diverse answers to my Questions.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Alice Li.jpg
Advertisements

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

Batman brooding black red background

“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

fear the batman darkness shadow upper

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.

year-one-origin Frank Miller YES FATHER BECOME A BAT

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.

the heretic grant morrison batman

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.

Batman dark knight returns animation face

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).

joe_kubert Batman

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”

Batman profile shadow 1

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.

batman bats 1 batman begins promo image

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?

Batman 700 art cover textless

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

Batman masks of Wayne 1

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.

batman_by_pungang-d4c4j56 small

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.

Batman shadow abstract angular

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.

bloodstorm batman cover

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.

batman-cartoon-dark

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.

batman__dark_knight_by_marxl-d6ueb6n

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.

The Art Of Animation Anthony Genuardi Batman

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.

Batman shadow head 1

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.

Batman Arkham Asylum realims to fantasy scale

 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

batman__dark fear the bat

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.

the_dark_knight_by_grasuc-d4202dh

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.

i am vengeance bATMAN cornholio

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.

Darkest Batman frank miller 1 shadow

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.

bat_2_by_jubran 450

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.

Batman Shadow splash

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

 

 

 

 

5 ESSENTIAL HARD HITTING LIFE LESSONS FROM BATMAN

Batman Profile 1

1. YOU CAN TRANSFORM YOUR GREATEST FAILURES AND PERSONAL TRAGEDIES INTO YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS

Youn Bruce Wayne saw his parents brutally murdered before his eyes. He swore an oath to “war on all criminals”. Instead of growing up a rich trust fund baby, he instead became the Batman, a one man army who fights a never ending war on crime with single minded determination and courage.

Batman fights the corruption that tangles like a creeper weed around the heart of Gotham City choking the very life blood of Batman’s chosen kingdom. By night Batman fights crime in the streets, and by day the Wayne Foundation fights the causes of crime like poverty., homelessness and lack of education.

Bruce Wayne is Batman 24/7. He never rests, he never stops. His dedication, and passion is unwavering, his commitment, 100%.

Batman Incorporated Wayne Foundation fights crime and poverty

Batman - Dark Detective oath to war on all criminals

batman cemetery flowers grave 1

In real life Jamie Walton was forced into a life of child prostitution. Jamie Walton is a survivor of child sex crimes in the United States and she runs the real life Wayne Foundation started by herself and Kevin Smith.

You  can find the Wayne Foundation website here

Wayne Foundation Header Jamie Walton 1

Mission Statement

The Wayne Foundation is committed to spreading awareness of CSEC (Commercial Sex Exploitation of Children) DMST (Domestic Minor Sexual Trafficking) occurring within the United States.

Vision Statement

The Wayne Foundation’s vision is for a world without child slavery. We are dedicated to providing direct assistance to those victimized by exploitation.

By starting the Wayne Foundation, Jamie Walton has taken one of the greatest most horrific things that could have happened to her in her life and turned it into a strength. By offering shelter, a network and access to integral services for young women who have been cruelly exploited – she offers them a way out, a way to start the process of escape and recovery from modern day sex slavery in America that the mainstream media barely even acknowledges and polite society doesn’t even want to talk about, let alone do anything.

Jamie Walton Kevin Smith public service announcement sex trafficing

If you want to donate to this worthy cause, or simply find out more about the organisation and it’s services, then please visit the website Wayne Foundation Donation page.

You can listen to Jamie Walton’s heart breaking true story as she tells it over a series of Podcasts with Kevin Smith. It’s very hard to listen to, but I urge you, like Batman to face darkness head on rather than run away or be afraid of that which is extremely disturbing.

2. NEVER GIVE UP ON BECOMING THE GREATEST VERSION OF YOURSELF

The Batman is always learning, always adding to his skill set. Ever-becoming, always hungry, never satisfied. His yearning for self-knowledge, growth, understanding and developing his skills knows no limits. In real life we have to learn many skills to be of any use in the world – and that is a lifelong process.

To become better people, to grow up into a healthy fully functioning human being means accepting the responsibility for your own growth process. It also means whatever we can’t do alone we should get help with. Batman may spend most of his time alone, buy he has Alfred to help him every step of the way, and Bat-Family made up of Robin, Nightwing / Grayson, Batgirl, Huntress, Catwoman and others who help him during his most challenging crises.
Bruce Wayne kid parents murdered-tile

We become better people through co-operation with others and ourselves, through building life affirming habits rather than soul destroying addictions. Becoming the best version of yourself means going beyond your own self-imposed limits. It means saying “YES!” to life and getting off your ass every day, facing your demons and doing whatever the hell you need to do today that gets you to where you ought to be. It means learning whatever skills you have to – to get where you know you need to be in life.

Becoming the greatest version of yourself must be a conscious choice. It is an ongoing process. Like Batman, simply deciding what direction to face in, deciding where your life is heading in the future can have a powerful impact on today, on how you live your life every moment from now on.

Becoming the best version of yourself means living personal excellence at all levels, and always looking to make improvements however small or incremental. It means living life not just with your head, but with your heart. It means being vulnerable and afraid, and feeling shame or doubt or any any other universal human quality, accepting all of it and using it as fuel like Batman. Constantly driving us to become better versions of ourselves, and not accepting lazy excuses or half-hearted efforts. It means taking all your failures and successed and using them as fuel to propel you forward to greatness and new heights of achievement.

lazy-batman

Batman ain’t lazy, and he doesn’t do “too hard” or “can’t be bothered today” – he charges forward with an unbreakable laser-like focus on whatever he sets his attention to, and why would you want to give anything less than your best effort?

You are your most authentic self when you show up in life and give everything you have, making no excuses for mediocrity. Total dedication, total commitment, living with purpose in every step, in every breath – is a daily choice. You may fail, but you damn well better show up and give life your best effort, nobody can fault you for that.

Batman lucky stan head and shoulders bats

3. NO MATTER WHAT DIFFICULTIES YOU FACE IN LIFE – KEEP MOVING!

No matter what tragedies, good fortune and suffering we experience in this life, there is a hard truth that we have to make peace with. WE HAVE TO KEEP MOVING.

Life is growth and movement. We stop moving – we die.

Batman running roof top Jim Lee

Giving up on ourselves or on those whom we are responsible for means remaining stationary, taking no strides towards our goals or mission in life. There are times and places to sit and contemplate, or talk with people who can help us through grief and other types of suffering. Whatever we do in life, we’re going to experience suffering. We can either be crippled by that revelation or empowered by it. If we know ahead of time, that there will good times and horrible times, we can mentally say to ourselves

“Yes, I am a going to face whatever challenges and suffering come my way in life, and like the Batman I’m going to rise up and embrace it, rather than run away or repress whatever fears I must face”

When you keep moving you have momentum, and it’s easier to change the direction of your life when you are already in motion, than when you are stationary.

Batman ready to kick ass and take names

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. The only difference is how we use them. Every day we must get out of bed , brush our teeth, get dressed and face the world. So do whatever you have to do during hard times – cry, get angry, blame the world, the economy or whatever you like while you endure the unendurable – but keep moving. Batman welcomes challenges and difficulties – they make him stronger as he inevitably finds a way to overcome them – and you can do the same.

4. WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS A WAY

I have a silly expression I often like to say to myself:

“Batman does 5 IMPOSSIBLE things before breakfast”

It is an exaggeration on the myth of Batman as BAT-GOD (being unbeatable), but when you set your attitude to being able to do the “impossible” and just turn a blind eye and ear to anyone who tries to stop you or criticize you – you end up routinely doing the impossible.

bat god jla geoff johns mobius chair

The impossible is not walking on water like Jesus, punching like the Hulk or flying like Superman – in the real world the so called impossible is often other people’s lack of faith in themselves and their own abilities projected onto you.

Or your own lack of faith in yourself and your abilities. Where would the world be if every time somebody said something was “impossible” we gave up without even trying? We would have no Batman for one thing.

DC EDITOR:  “We need another hero like Superman by Monday Bob!”

BOB KANE: “Well, that is impossible, it simply can’t be done so I won’t even try.”

When you stand for something in this world – whether you shine brightly in the sun like Superman, or do what you do best in obscurity like Batman in the shadows – well some people are going to get jealous and want to drag you back down to their level. Don’t let them do it. Be immune to critics, and do “5 Impossible Things Before Breakfast”.

Doing the impossible is not really about setting world records, or trying to impress anyone as it is about going beyond your own self-perceived limitations. You don’t know what you are truly capable of until you do it. And those who never try will seal their own fate as people dis-satisfied with life, too afraid of their own shadows to move forward and accomplish new things.

Batman kicking ass and taking names X

5. BATMAN IS NOT JUST MAN, A COSTUME, A LOGO OR URBAN BOOGEYMAN. BATMAN IS AN ATTITUDE.

I frequently refer to Batitude in my verbose rambling Batman articles.

Batitude is a fun word that was popularised with the release of The LEGO Movie. But more than a social meme, my version of Batitude represents having  a Batman like attitude to life. You are are reading about this attitude right now. I hope you also live it.

I apply the same kind of mental discipline to my physical and mental training, and values in life that Batman does.

Batman brooding black red background

You can leave out the the negative stuff about Batman – the depression, stand offish attitude and the murdered parents part, and embrace the good stuff from Batman. You can choose your own personal version of Batitude, Bat Wisdom and Bat Values and live it however you damn well please.

For me Batman is an avatar of darkness, of our individual and collective shadow self, someone who walks the line between light and darkness, denying nothing in himself and accepting everything. If you take a look at my Batman Value Grid you can see some of his overall qualities and characteristics. It’s up to you to choose the values your own values to live by.

table-of-batman-essential-qualities-by-john-sorensen

The particular values I aspire to live by in my own life inspired by Batman include:

Heroic, Determination, Goal Focused, Single Minded, Relentless, IRON WILL, Protector, Strong Man, Mission and Purpose.

However – I don’t always live up to those qualities, but I damn sure aim in that direction and take action every day of my life.

The alternative is to drift aimlessly through life standing for nothing, and being basically nothing. You know you’ve met people like that all too often, so don’t become one. Instead rise up like Batman and live the best life you can imagine for yourself and others. Find your own mission, find your own purpose and get busy being of service however you can.

BATITUDE 1

It’s up to you to choose your own values to live by, but whatever version of Batitude you apply in your own life, don’t compromise who you are, don’t give up on being the greatest version of yourself you can become. Remember that like Batman, at any stage of life you can totally reinvent yourself and go in new directions, learn new skills, and literally be a new person. No matter what tragedies you suffer, no matter what happens, you get up off your ass and keep moving. You take each day one step at a time, making steady progress towards your goals and dreams.

If you can’t remember all of that, then remember this simple mantra;

“BE LIKE BATMAN”

And remember whatever you do in life you can’t always choose the circumstances, but you can can control how you react to the circumstances and events of your life.

By choosing the right kind of BATITUDE!

batman david mazzucchelli bright night 2

Batman’s “Joker” as Mythic Archetype – The Clown Prince of Crime

batman_arkham_origins_joker

“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.

The Trickster Archetype

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).

Carl Jung Psyche model Archetype

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.

joker and harley quinn 1.jpg

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

The Trickster Archetype-tile.jpg

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.

Joker tile small.jpg

 

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.

red hood detective first appearance

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.

batman 1 punch Joker face

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.

Detective193 Joker runs newspaper.jpg

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.

Marshall Rogers Batman Joker art.jpg

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.

Batman - The Dark Knight Returns Joker dead.jpg
Sadistic Soldier and Killer Clown

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.

Batman RIP Joker Bowie grant morrison 2
The Thin White Duke of Death

 

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.

Joker-batman-arkham-asylum game.jpg
Clown, Killer, Psychotic, and all around funny-man

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.

batman robin adventures JOKER pic
The friendliest and funniest psychotic killer ever conceived in children’s television

 

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.

Joker_fights_the_new_Batman
“Ah, the new boy. The ears are too long and I miss the cape, but it’s not too shabby”

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.

Cesar Romero Joker 1
“Oh how delicious it is”

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.

Jack_Nicholson_As_The_Joker 1
“Have you ever danced with the Devil by the pale moon light?”

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.

Heath Ledger Joker The Dark Knight_Facing Forward_Looking Up_512x768.jpg
“You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with”

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.

Joker graphic novel azzarello bermejelo 1.jpg

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.

Detective Comics 168 Red Hood Joker.jpg

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.

Joker Killing Joker allan moore textless cover image.jpg

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.

 

 

 

the_joker__new_52_by_mayan kumar.jpg

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.”

 

Batman 40 new 52 joker archetype

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.

Batman Europa 2 cover art by Giuseppe Camuncoli.jpg

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.

wilee coyote bugs bunny trickster

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 dr who bettlejuice bugs bunny trickster archetype

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.

 

the_joker__selfie_status_by_mayan kumar.jpg

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.

 

Batman RIP Joker Bowie grant morrison 3

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.

Cesar Romero Joker Heath Ledger Jared Leto Jack Nicholon 1.jpg

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.

Batman RIP Joker Bowie grant morrison

“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 changing the 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

Joker Gallery.jpg

 

 

WE NEED A HERO! 3 Brilliant Writers Answer 5 Questions on Heroism

Mark D White Alex Wainer Nav K super hero non fiction writers supreme team superman batman captain america Q&A blog.jpg

It’s no secret that I love Batman as  a fictional character. I Iove to read Batman comics and also other non-fiction books on Batman, and basically anything to do with Heroes really. And if there is one thing more awesome than reading great articles and non-fiction books by super-smart people, it’s talking directly to them so see what they really feel about the topic of Heroes, Heroines and Heroism.

So kick back and enjoy this roundtable Q&A with 3 Amazing Experts! We have three Wonderful Writers whose works make my humble blog pale in comparison. Their depth and insight on the topics of Heroes, Superheroes and Heroism leaps over tall buildings in a single bound! Together they are stronger than a locomotive and faster than a speeding bullet!

So who are these talented folks you ask?

Alex M. Wainer – author of Soul of the Dark Knight: Batman as Mythic Figure in Comics and Film

Nav Kumaravithana  prolific fellow blogger on Superheroes and Comicbooks at Girl on Comic Book World who always has brilliant insights in her articles.

Mark D. White – Author of… too many books to count! Including Batman and Philosophy, Superman and Philosophy, and my favourite: The Virtues of Captain America

So let’s get to those pressing ponderous Questions dear reader!

Q: What is a Hero / Heroine (in your own words)?

Alex M Wainer 150

Alex: A hero of course is someone who goes beyond the average person in effort, courage, and competence in achieving goals, usually military, moral and who offers some form of rescue, example and inspiration to others.

|\_/|

Nav KNav K: A hero is an individual who goes above and beyond their obligations. They are morally stronger individuals who pursue their goals no matter what the obstacles are. It is their constant devotion to good and their willingness to even make a personal sacrifice and go beyond their abilities to help others that separates them from others. It’s not necessarily about saving people’s lives or anything that dramatic,

it’s just about having the compassion and empathy to go out of one’s way to help others and be a force for    good no matter what challenges confront them.

Mark D White profile 150

Mark: To me, a hero (male or female) is someone who makes an extraordinary sacrifice for another person or a principle
larger than him or her.

Q: What three qualities/skills/attributes do you feel every hero must have?

Alex M Wainer 150

Alex: Some ethical code rooted in universally shared moral values. Perseverance too. [See also Alex’s answer to the previous Question]

|\_/|

Nav KNav: Strong moral compass: Heroes have a strong sense of what’s good and bad. It’s their deep beliefs that drive them to their heroic nature. They are confident enough to choose to live and die by their personal values.

Willingness to go beyond what is expected and obliged from them: We all have certain roles that we are expected to fill in life. A hero extends their obligated roles and does more for the sake of others.

A Desire to selflessly help others: Putting others before themselves is a true test of heroism. It’s easy for the ordinary individual to be selfish and service their own needs and wants before others, and that doesn’t make them a bad person, it just makes them normal. A hero is someone who genuinely wants to and will put the needs of other before themselves. They are compassionate and empathetic enough to help others no matter what.

Mark D White profile 150

Mark: First, courage—a hero has to have courage to do the right thing regardless of physical danger as well as disapproval or ridicule from others. The latter, which we can call moral courage, is all too often forgotten, but is more important than physical courage for the kind of heroism we can all practice, such as sticking up for the downtrodden and oppressed against the crowd and saying no to everyday injustices wherever we find them.

Second, judgment—a hero needs sound judgment to decide when intervention is needed and what to do. It’s not enough to set out “to do what’s right”—the hero needs judgment to determine what the right thing to do in a certain circumstance is.

Finally, determination or resolve—it’s one thing for a hero to decide to do what’s right, and it’s another thing
entirely to stick with it in the face of obstacles and opposition.

Q: Why do you feel that heroes (whether real life heroes or heroes in fiction) are important?

Alex M Wainer 150

Alex: I could quote Aunt May’s remarks in Spider-Man 2, as they sum it up nicely. Although there is danger in some forms of hero worship, it seems all culture in all times have either wanted or needed heroes—in real life, to provide leadership and rescue, in stories to embody the ideals of that culture, and because they are simply enthralling entertainments that offers us someone with their values tested in conflict.

Nav K

Nav: The idea of individuals, whether fictional or not, being out there with the willingness to be the best person they can and be a force for good for other people, is an important and inspirational force that people need in their lives. Heroes are role models that have the capability to rise above any obstacles and weaknesses, to achieve their goals. They are resilient, selfless and remain strong in the face of challenge.

Ultimately that serves two very important functions in the world. It gives people an ideal to strive towards, and gives people the sense that even in their darkest moments there is someone good out there, giving them hope that the world isn’t that bad and they can escape that darkness. Having positive hero figures out there is about giving people hope at the end of the day. Even if the hero is fictional, it’s the overall idea that they stand for that can help an individual even at the lowest moments (after all ideas are bulletproof).

Mark D White profile 150

Mark: I think heroes are important because they show us we can be better, that we can transcend our everyday concerns and do something extraordinary for someone or something else. We’re all far too cynical these days, and heroes remind us that there is good out there—good in us—and we just need to bring it out.

Q: Who some of your all time favourite real world heroes?

Alex M Wainer 150

Alex: Oh, man, that’s a tough one. I admire many of our soldiers who did their duty in recent wars despite less than stellar leadership or policies. Ronald Reagan was the last great president we had and he acted from deep conviction without disrespecting his political opponents. The problem with real-life prospective heroes is that they haven’t finished their run yet and could still blow it in someway. (This is why the Catholic church waits till someone is deceased before starting to consider someone for sainthood, we are all running a race and it’s the end that counts.

Nav KNav: Weirdly enough I’ve never really had any definitive all-time favourite real world heroes, because of my overly sceptical natural state of self I try not to over-idealise people. But in saying that I have a great deal of respect for people who have the courage to and are willing to go against the grain, and fight for their beliefs, not matter the uphill battle it is. There are countless figures in history who have had the world mock them for their goals, only to use that hate as momentum to achieve their goals that better society.

And although I’m not one to idealise celebrities, one individual who I have a deep respect for is Emma Watson. She is a heroine in her own right. She doesn’t care how many faceless internet users call her campaign “feminazi” propaganda, she passionately pursues gender equality even in the face of the harsh spotlight. And even though feminism has become this taboo word for many actresses because of the ridiculous connotations associated with it, Watson sticks to her beliefs and is in a unique position of power to actually have the potential to make an impactful change.

Mark D White profile 150

Mark: It changes every day – today it’s the three young men who stopped the terrorist on a train from Amsterdam to Paris last week. Three people who saw danger, forgot about their own safety, and confronted danger to protect others—they’re my favorite heroes today. Tomorrow it might be the firefighter who rushes into the fire to save a family, or the soldier who jumps on a grenade to save his or her unit—or the eight-year-old girl who stands up to bullies picking on her friend on the
playground.

Q: And who are some of your all time favourite fictional heroes?

Alex M Wainer 150Alex: Well, who could that be for my main man? In comics, Batman of course, although he is quickly followed by Captain America. Daredevil often. Sherlock Holmes has endured for good reasons. Captain Kirk before the reboot. I really like Superman but it’s so hard to find good stories about him. Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. I guess those are at the top.

batman resized looking over city Nav KNav: Cliché answer but my all-time favourite fictional hero is 100% good old Superman. Yes I know it’s a slightly lame answer, but there hasn’t been a character that’s resonated more with me than Superman. He’s Clark Kent, a guy who grew up on a farm and one day found out he was an alien, and suddenly had to deal with all the expectations and sense of responsibility that comes with. He could choose to just ignore his powers and carry on with a normal life, which he would love, but instead because of his nature and the nurture of the Kents he chooses to be more.

He chooses to be there for people, and give people a sense of hope in a cynical world. For those that only know the character by name, they think he’s a boring hero because he’s a boy scout who always knows what the right thing is to do and does it. But that really isn’t true. He has to look at the world, and what he believes would be acceptable and then make base his actions off of that and what his own morals are. And sure he doesn’t always make the right decision, but he learns from his mistakes. And that’s what makes him such a great hero. He steps up to the challenge.

Superman is welcoming of other people’s ideals and views, and balances that with his own moral compass. He has the courage and strength to fight for truth, freedom and justice no matter what the adversary is. He always believes in the goodness of humanity, even when they give him every reason not to, and it’s that continued sense of hope that makes him such a great hero. Believing in people, even when they don’t believe in themselves.

All Star Superman in sun

Mark D White profile 150Mark: My favorite is (no surprise) Captain America, because he exemplifies all three attributes mentioned above.I also like Batman because he represents an extreme version of heroism—sacrificing his entire life to a mission to fight crime and pursuing that mission with flawless determination—that I wouldn’t hold up as an example for anyone, but I find endlessly fascinating to read about. Finally, I really like Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing from the Fantastic Four; he was dealt a rotten deal from the universe but, even though he feels sorry for himself once in a while, he still dedicates his life to
helping others while keeping a sense of humor about life. All superheroes, of course. 😉 But none hold a candle to the ordinary people who do extraordinary things each and every day.

cap saving folks small

Q: Where can people find you / your work online?

Alex M Wainer 150Alex: I used to have a blog until about four years ago but as you know, it needs regular input to hold readers and I couldn’t pull that off, so now my occasional articles at Breakpoint.org (nothing very recent but you can search there for past articles). Soul of the Dark Knight, of course. Googling my name will bring up quite a bit of past work.

Soul of the Dark Knight: Batman as Mythic Figure in Comics and Film is available in Paperback and Kindle format at Amazon.com.

Alex Wainer soul of the dark knight cover high res

Nav KNav: You can find me on Twitter @Nav_Kay and my Superhero / Comic Book blog at Girl on Comic Book World https://girloncomicbookworld.wordpress.com/
Check out these sensational in depth articles by Nav at her Girl on ComicBookWorld Blog:

Batman Character Analysis: He ain’t crazy but he is complex
Joker the Absurdist: A character analysis
Superman Character Analysis: More than just a guy who punches things
Batman Day: Why is Batman so popular?
Superhero Movies: What makes a great comic book villain?

girloncomicbookworld NAV K

Mark D White profile 150Mark:My website is at http://www.profmdwhite.com where you can find information about my books, articles, and what I’m working on now. I’m also on Twitter as @profmdwhite. I’m currently working on final production details on two books coming out next year: a popular book on the ethical judgment and behavior on display in Marvel Comics’ “Civil War” storyline, and an edited scholarly volume on economics and virtue ethics. [Modest Mark has also written Philosophy books on Green Lantern, Avengers, Watchmen, as well as traditional academic works, check out his Amazon author page link below]

The Virtues of Captain America: Modern-Day Lessons on Character from a World War II Superhero

Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul

Superman and Philosophy: What Would the Man of Steel Do

Mark D White’s Amazon Author Page

mark d white cap bat superman philosophy

I highly recommend Alex’s Soul of the Dark Knight book, Mark’s Batman and Philosophy, The Virtues of Captain America – all of which are excellent reading. I also recommend Nav K’s awe-inspiring Comic Book blog, I read it every week and I encourage you do the same.

These three experts on Heroism and and what I call “Hero Theory” have helped me expand my ideas of Heroes, and I am frequently inspired by these three Super-Awesome writers in my own work and life in general.

All that remains is to say a Super big THANK YOU to – Alex, Nav and Mark for taking the time to tell us your thoughts on heroes and superheroes.

This article is part of a series on Heroes and Heroines, I’ve got several more features that will be up soon, so face front true believers and stay tuned for more exciting talk about Heroes and Heroines. And be sure to check out each the works of each of these experts on Heroism.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some more BAT-reading and pondering to do in my man-cave.

batman and philosophy john reading batblog