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

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

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YES FATHER… I SHALL BECOME A BAT

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

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

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.

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BATMAN – SAVIOR OR HERETIC?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE STATE OF BATMAN’S MENTAL HEALTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE BATMAN OF MANY THEORIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WE ALL FALL DOWN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 REALISM <<———-BATMAN———-> > FANTASY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To conquer fear, you must become fear”

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

 

 

 

 

5 ESSENTIAL SUPER LIFE LESSONS FROM MELISSA BENOIST’S SUPERGIRL

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There is nothing in my life that I would go back and change, even the darkest moments. All the successes and greatest joys in my life are a result of the absolute worst things. Every missed opportunity is a blessing is disguise – Ronda Rousey

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1.YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK TO YOUR OLD LIFE, BUT YOU CAN REINVENT YOURSELF AND KEEP MOVING FORWARD

With the painful loss of her home planet of Krypton, her whole way of life and everything she knew – it was the toughest event that Kara Zor-El ever faced. But the loss of Krypton was the gain of Kara’s new home on earth, her new earth foster family, her new super powers and becoming the selfless iconic hero Supergirl.

Kara would never have become Supergirl if not for the death of her parents, the same way Bruce Wayne would never have become Batman without the death of his parents, or Kara’s cousin Kal-El would never have become Superman.

Krypton’s loss was earth’s gain. Kara’s ordinary life was destroyed, and she was called to her destiny on earth. But it wasn’t easy. For years she hid her powers and who she was from all but her foster family. Eventually Kara embraced her new self – superpowers, being an alien outsider on a new world and became Supergirl. She embraced living the unique life that only Kara Zor-El could live.

I love pretty much everything about our Kara. She’s pretty, strong, kind, caring, helpful, adorable and becomes badass when she has to –  Reddit User ‘Furan_Ring’

Supergirl illustration Melissa Benoist

2.WHEN PEOPLE LOVE YOU – KEEP BEING A HERO WHEN PEOPLE HATE YOU  – KEEP BEING A HERO

Don’t let other people’s perception of who you are and what you stand for shape your core values. Whether people love, hate or are indifferent to you, you must live the life only you know how to live, and live the principles, values and choices that makes the most sense to you right now.

We can’t predict the future, we don’t know what good or bad consequences will come of our actions, but we do know the values we live by, and if we are not happy with that, we can upgrade our values to better ones and develop new habits that serve us rather than hold us back.

Heroes choose their own values, mission and code of behavior to live by, they don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do and they don’t ask permission to be who they know they have to be.

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There are times when people will love and support what you do. You can accept support from others, but don’t become dependent on that, instead welcome all who choose to help you, but be self-reliant and accept no excuses for living anything less than an authentic life.

There are times when people may hate you, or what you stand for. They may openly ciriticise you, or do it behind your back. You can waste you time and efforts trying to manage others people’s perception of you, or you can simply be indifferent to people’s ideas about you – good or bad.

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Being free of the need for approval or criticism means you live life on your own terms. It doesn’t mean being rude and arrogant to people you disagree with or don’t like. It does mean affirming who you are and not letting people push you around, and being immune to other people’s ideas about who you are and what you should do with your life.

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Instead you must choose your own way of life and maintain an inner light that never wavers. A hero’s inner light and belief in themselves stays lit through the darkest stormiest night and brightest day and is unchanging.

The world corrupts those who are easily corrupted, while those who stand firm in their belief in themselves are untouchable by any force in this world.

So whether people love you, or hate or are indifferent to you – keep living the life only you know how to live, keep being a hero or heroine in your own unique way.

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3. SOME BATTLES WE MUST FIGHT ALONE, WHILE OTHERS WE HAVE TO ASK FOR THE HELP AND CO-OPERATION OF THOSE ON WHOM WE DEPEND

We all have things we must do for ourselves by ourselves each day, and then there are tasks in life that are beyond us and our current abilities, in these times we must ask for help. We all need co-operation in our lives if want to become greater than we were yesterday, and be excited about tomorrow.

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We all need friends, family, associates and well wishers to co-operate with if we want to keep overcoming obstacles in our lives, or get projects done that are simply too big for one person, no matter how smart, strong, resilient or talented.

A heroine looks after her family and friends and all those whom depend on her. And she knows the people who truly value her will be there for her when she needs them. Co-operation allows us to get large projects done and things that would be impossible for one person to ever achieve. To be greater than we were yesterday and excited for tomorrow, we need to cultivate healthy relationships with friends, family and associates.

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4. FAMILY IS NOT JUST BLOOD, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO SHOW UP IN YOUR LIFE

Family are the people who show up in your life who love you and support you unconditionally. We are all born with one type of family. Some people have families that love and support them. Other people have families that treat them poorly or even abuse them. Most of us find our experience lies somewhere in between the two extremes of unconditional love and outright abuse.

But along with our biological family, are the people who show up in our lives and love us, who support us, without anyone ever asking them to, and without being related by blood.

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So whether blood relative or just someone who chooses to be part of your life, family is whoever shows up and loves you, whoever supports you in your choices even when they disagree with them. Loving someone only when they agree with you is not really love. The people who show up in our lives and support us no matter what choices we make are like rare jewels in this world – they are people to be treasured and appreciated.

As Kara is an alien outsider in this world, we too at times feel likes outsiders. We all need to find our own version of fitting in and belonging. To accomplish that we can either compromise who we are and try to “fit in” with other people and their values – or we can look for a tribe that already shares our common values, that accept us for who we are, rather than belittle us for what we are not and will never be. Those who truly love us and support us are our family every bit as much as our blood relatives.

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5. BE YOURSELF – THE UNIQUE SELF THAT THE WORLD NEEDS YOU TO BE

Conformity means taking on others peoples values as more important than your own. It means taking on other peoples ideas about who you are, what you should do, and their own selfish opinions about how you should live your life. No other persons “opinion” about you, should ever be more important than your own opinion of yourself.

No other person has the right to choose your values for you, or try and live your life for you. You MUST choose your own values, go your own way and be uniquely you, you must BE YOURSELF  because you simply can’t be anyone else. It’s just not possible.

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Only you are uniquely qualified to know how to be the best version of yourself. The world demands and expects conformity, it expects well behaved polite automatons who don’t think for themselves. But doing that means not only compromising who you are, it means depriving the world of your unique talents and abilities.

The world demands conformity and mindless drones, but what it NEEDS is unique individuals who say “YES!” to life, people unafraid to express themselves, and live their unique lives as only they can.

The world needs people who accept themselves and know it is “okay” to be you, it is okay be different. It is okay be strange and flawed, to feel doubts, insecurity and vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be human.

Our differences are what make us unique and often the source of hidden strengths.

Supergirl hands on hip confident smile Melissa Benoist

People who live fearlessly are the ones ones who shape our future, they are often invisible leaders and trend-setters, they are paradigm busters and rebels, they refuse to be classified or labeled or held back by any kind of limiting belief. They also get scared and doubt themselves and have both spectacular successes and monumental failures in life.

They are our heroes and super-heroes. They are our family and our friends. They are our peer groups. They are YOU and me. Because no hero or heroine can accomplish anything worthwhile by themselves. We are in this life together.

Heroines and Heroes stand up for themselves and just as important – they stand up for those who are not able to stand up for themselves, for the people who have no voice in this world.

The greater our co-operation, the greater our capacity to love, the greater is our potential as everyday heroes and heroines – the kind the world needs to stand up for what they believe in and be heard with a unique voice and one of a kind perspective.

Supergirl Melissa Benoist with Super Girl Scouts

The Secret About ‘Why We Need Superheroes’ Everybody Should Know

 

SUPERHEROES ARE AN INSPIRATION AND REMINDER OF THE GREATER OFTEN UNTAPPED POTENTIALS OF HUMANITY AND IN YOU

Superheroes are a reminder in our darkest times of our inherent potential for greatness.

As we grow from children to adults, we need role models to imprint on, who are usually our parents and people in our immediate environment. Sometimes those people are good role models, other times they are not.

When we are kids, superheroes are most appealing for their bright colors, and exciting action packed adventures. As we mature into teenagers and adults, superheroes are more appealing for their moral character and the way they challenge us to better ourselves. They are living inspiration, their dynamic exciting adventures allow us to see how our values play out in a story, and the consequences of our actions.

The moral development of Superheroes (or lack of) can inspire us to be better people. While characters like Captain America and Superman are reminders of the best qualities in humanity – courage, strength, resilience, compassion, hope, empathy etc characters like Wolverine or The Punisher – avatars of anger, vengeance and hatred are reminders of people and values we don’t want to aspire to.

EVERY KID AND ADULT NEEDS INSPIRATION BEYOND THEIR ORDINARY EVERYDAY LIFE

The stark contrast in values from say Superman to Batman to Wolverine or Wonder Woman challenges us with moral complexity. Reading these characters forces us to take some sort of view, to agree or disagree with their actions. Seeing them in action forces us to look at our own values and think “What would I do in that situation?”

Other inspirations from superheroes include physically weak children who like the strength of superheroes and grow up to be people who work to grow stronger both physically and mentally in their daily lives.

Some people are inspired by the Superheroes mission, purpose or creed and find their way in life goes a little smoother when they choose a purpose of their own.

Some people are inspired by the superhero ideal of selfless service to humanity, standing up for your values, or being a force of positive social change – which reflects real life heroes such as Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King or the Dalai Lama – all of whom are tireless servants who work for a better tomorrow, whose lives are living examples and tributes of the values they embody, who work towards peace and lifting up those of us who are most vulnerable in a sometimes cruel and hostile world.

WE INVENTED SUPERHEROES TO REMIND US OF HOPE AND ALL THE BEST QUALITIES AND POTENTIALS OF HUMANITY

It’s no accident that Superman turned up around the time of Hitler being in power in Nazi Germany. For evil to exist in the world, there needs to be a counterbalance, and although Superman is a fictional character – Superman is far more important than Hitler will ever be.

And although he’s not real, Superman (and all other great archetypal superheroes) have inspired millions of people in the real world not only to have hope and courage, but to better  themselves and stand up for their fellow human beings, and to live with purpose and gratitude. Taking responsibility for themselves, and those whom depend on them.

Superheroes are like lightning rods for unleashing our own inherent potentials. By seeing our heroes in action, we are reminded how important in life is the ongoing process of Waking Up, Growing Up and Showing Up, of being our most authentic self in daily life.

SUPERHEROES ARE WAKING DREAMS THAT EXIST AS PURE IMAGINATION WHILE INFLUENCING OUR REAL WORLD

While comic book superheroes are a modern invention, we’ve had some form of hero story around as long as we have been on this planet, in one form or another. Every culture in every age has had its hero/heroine stories – and those that didn’t just went ahead and invented new heroes. Superheroes don’t come from “out there” in the exterior world, they come from “in here”, from the depths of our hearts and souls.

They are idealised figures that represent our best greatest hopes, dreams, values in a form that is far more immediately engaging and entertaining that mere abstract words and ideas could ever convey.

batman motivational 400 a hero can be anyone

Superheroes in their purest form are mythic archetypes, they are pure ideas of inspiration and a reminder of the great potential of humanity. Their strength lies in their home dimension of imagination. Trying to make them “realistic” is kind of missing the point of their very existence.

Superheroes are here to inspire us and raise us up metaphorically. They are not here to replace us, or do the hard work of living for us. Each of us must find our own hero within , our own values, mission and purpose in life if we wish to live a truly satisfying life.

superman motivational 400 never stop fighting

5 ESSENTIAL HARD HITTING LIFE LESSONS FROM BATMAN

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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

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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!

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Batman v Superman – 6 Days to Go until Batman Punches Superman in his Smug Face

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There is only six sexy days to go until Batman v Superman hits cinemas here in Australia.

Wearing this sweet black and white Batman shirt this week reminded me of how close it is.

While I’m super excited to see my main man Batman on the big screen again, I do feel like I’ve already seen a little too much of the film in the trailers. With yet another trailer released showing even more footage of the film, I decided simply not to watch it.

I’d like there to be at least some surprises when I watch BVS for the first time. It feels less like Batman v Superman at this point and more like the launching point for the inevitable JLA / Justice League movie coming down the line.

When BVS was first announced we knew nothing, then it had announcement after announcement, feeding rumors and speculation on the internet in a mad frenzy of anticipation and predictions. Eventually it morphed into the smorgasbord it is now. They threw in Wonder Woman (hooray!) and Lex Luthor (do we really need him?) they announced Aquaman (lame) but then they cast one of the manliest men on the planet – Jason Momoa.

As a fan of Stargate SG-1 and SG-Atlantis, I feel there is nobody better qualified on the planet to play Aquaman than Jason Momoa. I was genuinely excited to see them take traditionally one of the lamest and least liked of the JLA pantheon and actually make him cool.

I’ll keep this post nice and short, as I don’t see the point in talking about a movie until after I have seen it. I guess it’s something that is important to me. You can speculate all day, and sure it’s fun to talk with friends about the flick. But I don’t really want to write a damn word about it until after I have seen it.

And as big as BVS will be, it’s just a drop in the big bucket of Batman.

Batman is bigger than any comic book series, any movie, animation, video game or merchandise.

The focus of my blog always has and always will be on that timeless mythical archetypal Baman that transcends any one genre, that transcends any one medium. I’m happy to cover Batman from any medium, but I like the distance of time that gives us perspective on what is truly great and worth talking about in 70+ years of Batman history.

Some people seem to be giving Zack Snyder shit about BVS for his choices.

“It’s too dark, it’s too cynical, it’s too this, not enough of that”

I say it is important for any director to have a unique vision, and to captivate with their story, and for the two hours of so they have your hostage  in that cinema, they have to make those characters their own and make you want to care about them. And so far, Snyder has impressed the hell out of me with his cinematic action style. Snyder’s style is unique, over the top and great fun. Just what I want from a comic book movie. I’ve been a fan since his Dawn of the Dead remake, and loved 300 so much I had to see it twice on the big screen.

sucker-punch-cast 1 zack snyder movie

I will say Snyder understands characters and motivation, and has a great visual style and flair – but he can’t write for shit. Take a look at Sucker Punch if you don’t believe me. It’s his only film to date where he directed and wrote the story, rather than directing with someone else writing. I wanted to love that film, on paper it was his most superhero comic-book like film so far. And it was an all women super-hero team. It was like a mix of Avengers and the Dirty Dozen. It was like the best bits of Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill on steroids.

Neither DC nor Marvel has given us anything like that on the big or little screen. The most similar thing is the upcoming Suicide Squad – which is a mostly male cast. So in that way Zack Snyder is kind of visionary and ahead of his time. Sure it was a rubbish movie, but it had some good points, and I believe he put his blood sweat and tears into that movie. With better writers, I believe it would have been something special.

I’m sure we will eventually get another all girl superhero team on the big screen, and it will be good. And whoever makes it will look at Sucker Punch and see the mistakes that were made and learn from them.

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Well, if you’ll excuse me I have more articles to write and some cool Batman Podcasts to listen to. I’ve been getting into the DC Superhero shows on TV finally, after not watching any of them. Flash kicks ass, but Supergirl is my current favourite TV show.

Not my favourite comic-book show. Just favourite TV show, period. I believe this new Supergirl show if the definitive version of Supergirl in the best possible way. She’s had some shabby treatment in the comics over the decades, and always plays second fiddle to the JLA and other DC icons. DC killed her off right around the time she had a big movie in the 80’s. Way to build up your female icons DC!

I’m sure fans were  confident they would see more Supergirl movies  after this Crisis on Infinite Earths cover  appeared in the mid eighties.

dc crisis cover death of supergirl 1

Free of the shadow of  Superman and the DC Universe, it is truly Supergirl’s time to shine. The crossover announcement with the Flash TV show had me practically wetting my pants in anticipation.

If you love those DC shows, and I know you do, well at least some you – then I urge you to read my favourite kick-ass mega blog of awesomeness on the internet Girl on Comic Book World, where Nav talks about the wonderful DC Universe TV shows (and films) in brilliant insightful articles on a regular basis. She’s a big fan of both Batman and Superman and has loads of great articles on those characters and the BVS film. Check them out. You’ll be glad you did.

Girloncomicbookworld.com

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Do you have the Unbeatable Attitude and Relentless Determination of the Batman?

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Batman always wins!

Really, Batman ALWAYS wins?

I don’t think so Tim.

I call bullshit on that “Batman always wins” idea that floats around the internet from uninformed people. Sure some of versions of Batman Always Wins are memes like the image above, but there are some people who really don’t understand Batman.

The reality is it is more like Batman gets beaten often and regularly and just keeps going. He get’s beaten physically and psychologically perhaps more often than most other superheroes. He is human after all.

I like to ask myself, who is more dangerous…

The guy who gets beat and stays down – or the guy who gets beat and keeps coming at you – no matter what you throw at him?

The guy who keeps coming up with new plans and strategies, studies every move you make and looks at your every weakness, who is determined to beat you no matter what temporary losses he experiences along the way.

Who has unlimited money and resources, and a single minded determination to accomplish whatever task he sets himself to.

Who has an Iron Will and a disciplined mind that will focus on solving any problem he sets his attention on, even going for days without food or sleep with an unbroken Zen-like laser focus.

Batman is not about being some sort of Bat-God, he is not about being better than other superheroes. Batman is about focus,  precision, and an attitude, and most of all Batman is about having an iron will and unbeatable determination.

Simple Determination and Persistence are the Batman’s greatest super-powers.

Batman is not the kind of guy I would want to mess with, because like the Terminator – he absolutely will not stop. He doesn’t know how to quit. Not quitting is Batman’s biggest flaw and his greatest strength.

 

batman never quits

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

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“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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

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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.”

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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

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Batman 2015: The Merry Batsmas Year in Review

It’s December, the time for a Merry Batsmas day and Joker’s New Year, so let’s take a look at the Batman in 2015 year in review.

Batman had another strong year with new animated films, some fantastic comic collections being released and more than a few surreal moments that nobody could have predicted, including being replaced in his own comic by Jim Gordon in a robot suit, and oh of course Batman became a literal Bat-God over in JLA, when he wasn’t too busy mixing it up with the Ninja Turtles. Plus Batman and the Joker were merged into one Frankstein-like monster over in the craptacular Future’s End. Yeah it was pretty fucked up…

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Early in 2015 saw Robin going up against Midnighter in the Grayson series that reinvented the original Robin/Nightwing as a fun spy book with decent action and art. Later Grayson teams up with Midnighter, and then of course they fight again. Batman turns up in an issue or two for a cameo, but he never meets Midnighter.

Once DC’s New 52 incorporated some of Wildstorm’s old characters like The Authority, Grifter and others into their mainline DCU, it was only a matter of time before some of them crossed paths with the Batman Family.

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Probably the most surreal moment of the several Grayson / Midnighter team ups that took place in both books was seeing the two lads going undercover to a bathhouse.

With Midnighter being an openly gay character, who started out as somewhat of a parody of the Batman archetype it is next to impossible for long term comic readers not to think of the Frederick Wortham “Seduction of the Innocent” fiasco that saw the morality of comics on trial, and pretty much set back the evolution of comic book storytelling ( in North America) about twenty-years, and is at least partly responsible for the stifling of the entire medium, while other mediums such as film and novels were able to continue to evolve and experiment with new methods.

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Midnighter’s training methods were more unorthodox than Batman’s

The relaunched Midnighter monthly is an action heavy gimmicky as hell book that is also surprisingly funny, and has some real potential to be one of those undiscovered gems in trade format. Midnighter seems to be a character who has a chance to evolve beyond his parody / archetype of other “hard-as-nails” antiheroes.

Also at the beginning of 2015 we got the animated feature Justice League: Throne of Atlantis that was so awesome I fell asleep in the middle of the day watching it, and I have never gone back to it. I’m not even going to put an image in here, that is how uninspiring it was. Moving on…

Batman was replaced in his two core books in 2015(Batman and Detective Comics) by Jim Gordon in a robot suit. The design of the suit to me immediately recalls one of my favourite Manga/Anime stories – Appleseed, and the character Briareos, who is a human cyborg. His head has very rabbit like ears, and not much of a face – as does the new Robo-Bat-Suit worn by Gordon, who is basically now Batman and Robocop in one.

RoboCop Briareos Appleseed Jim Gordon

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Towards the end of the year some cool Batman books were released. The first part of the much anticipated Batman / TMNT crossover came out, but I have not read it yet. Being a lifelong fan of both Batman and the Turtles, I am genuinely excited to read it. But let’s face it, most crossovers are crap. I still have a pile of nearly every Batman (inter-company) crossover next to me on the bookshelf here though – including Dredd, Spidey, Hulk, Cap, Daredevil and friends.

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December in 2015 saw the release of two awe-inspiring Batman books. The trade of (Hellboy creator) Mike Mignola’s three issue The Doom that Came to Gotham was released. I’m a big fan of Mignola’s stories and art. Sure his art is not for everyone, it is a very particular Lovecraftian Gothic Horror style he uses in his stories.

Personally I Iove all types of Horror, and Batman has Gothic Horror in his very roots, so to me Mignola and Batman are a natural fit. Batman stories by Mignola tend to be like the best episodes of the Twilight Zone and X-Files. You get super weird and scary shit, and at the heart of it is some sort of actual Detective story. Batman tends not to use those powers of Detective-ness often enough these days, he’s too busy running around in armored suits or messing about with the JLA, I love seeing the simpler solo style stories that Mignola creates.

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The other release that got me super excited was the Batman Golden Age Omnibus. Collecting DETECTIVE COMICS #27-56, BATMAN #1-7, NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR COMICS #2, WORLD’S BEST COMICS #1 and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #2-3 it is a mammoth tome of classics Batman stories, on high quality glossy paper, beautiful hardcover all wrapped in a dust jacket by one of all time favourite comic artists Darwyn Cooke (author of the classics The New Frontier, Batman: Ego and Catwoman: Trail of the Catwoman)

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The tasty first volume already sits next to me here as I write this, and it is a beautiful book. The Batman Golden Age Omnibus V2 is scheduled for next year, along with the companion volume of the The World’s Finest Golden Age Omnibus. No sign of a Golden Age Wonder Woman book yet (there is a already a Superman Golden Age Omnibus out) but I guess they are holding off closer to the Wonder Woman / JLA movies considering the World’s Finest Omnibus comes out around the time of the BVS movie.

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Mid to late 2016 saw Batman riding a robot dinosaur… and becoming a god of Bat-Knowledge in Geoff John’s fun run on JLA.

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Hmmm, do you think they watched Transformers 4 much?
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You can tell that first picture is just an excuse for me to include this sweet internet fan art

Meanwhile over in JLA during the Darkseid War Batman became a literal Bat-God (or at least a temporary New God) when he sat in the Mobius chair.

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The Geoff Johns JLA  is a great read. Not classic, but great FUN, you know the thing that comics are sort of meant to be when they are not trying to be too damn clever.

And why was Batman riding a bloody robot dinosaur? I guess because it is cool.

In 2015 Batman Eternal came to an end without a *hint* of irony.

Batman Eternal is a book I have mixed feelings about. I’ve read the whole run so far, and there is some really good stuff in there. Overall I think it is a great book, but you get so much thrown into a 52 week / 52 issue Batman Eternal story that there is just no way you are going to have consistent quality to the tale. The least favorite part for me was anything to do with the Harper Row / Bluebird character.

I like the Harper character, at first I just round her annoying and redundant, like how on the TV show 24 they have several stories in parallel, and any time you are not seeing Jack Bauer you are watching some annoying character that you have no interest in, some 3rd tier idiot who will be gone five episodes from now. Harper Row to me is that 3rd tier annoying character you wish would go away that DC is trying to push up to 2nd Tier status (equal to Robin, Batgirl etc).

The Harper character did grow on me however, and I started to really like her. Until they put her in THAT “my first superhero Halloween costume that I made in 5 mins but ran out of material halfway through so I threw on whatever I had lying around at the time” look.

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The living fashion faux-pas that is Bluebird (You DID have a choice Bluebird, you really did)

Bluebird feels so contrived and ridiculous to me. It’s like they want her to be the next Robin / Oracle / Spoiler all rolled into one. They want her to be Batman’s secret helper, a hacker, she messes with power grids, Robin is teaching her to fight and she has the inevitable crush on Robin that is so twee and boring.

Making Harper / Bluebird a jack of all trades – master of NONE to me is a mistake. Make her a Robin type or a Spoiler type, or a Batgirl / Oracle type. But don’t try and sandwich bits of all of them into one clumsy character that just screams “awkward”. A good character needs to be well defined, and so far when I get to anything with Bluebird I just want to skip it altogether and read the real parts of the story.

I hope this character improves. Maybe some people like the character? I don’t know, I have not heard from them. So far to me out of costume she is a good character, but in costume to me she is the Jar Jar Binks of the Batman Universe. The creators want so bad for us to like her and to perceive her as cool that is it just so forced and un-natural.

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Running Away From Explosions, now with Chicken Dance Dude

I’m all for empowered female characters (like the impressive female lead in the new Star Wars film) in comics that are no sexist misogynist male fantasies, and so far Harper is an okay character with potential. I hope she stays around, and the writers improve her parts of whatever story she is in, mainly in what they want her to be, her fundamental character motivation and aesthetic rather than any particular dialogue or anything like that.

Overall I think Batman Eternal works as a book. It was a bold experiment that I genuinely enjoyed, and had really no expectations going in after reading bits of DC’s other two maxi-series Future’s End and Convergence – both of which were a total let down to me, and confusing as hell.

With Batman Eternal wrapped up, we now have the Batman and Robin Eternal book already up to issue #12 or so. I’ll be waiting for reviews on this one. And it it’s good I’ll grab the softcover trades so I read good chunk of story over a couple of days. Because Batman Eternal is the 24 of Batman comics, it’s pointless reading/watching one, you need to binge to really enjoy this book.

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Jumping back a bit, why was Batman riding a Dinosaur? Well 2015 saw two animated features released under the new Batman Unlimited brand. The movies and cartoon are based heavily around toy designs, and while that sounds like a recipe for a cauldron of steaming shit, the show is… not bad. It’s a show clearly aimed at a younger audience, it has a strong art style and some great action sequences. It has a decent voice cast and for a show aimed at a younger audience, I think it is pretty cool. There are things about it I don’t like, but it would be nit picking to even mention them. Batman Unlimited is not aimed at me so I am not going to apply the same level of criticism at it as I do with products that are aimed at my age group.

Batman Unlimited is based on a toy line, and has Batman showing off all sorts of cool gimmick costumes, and the show manages to spotlight other cool DC U characters like Flash, Green Arrow and Cyborg.

Speaking of animated features, announcements were made for 2016:

Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman: Bad Blood, and Justice League vs. Titans were all announced as projects for 2016.

Former Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson will be voicing Lucius Fox and the Amazon like Yvonne Strahovski (Dexter, Chuck, 24, Mass Effect) will voice Batwoman in Batman: Bad Blood

Yvonee Strahovski Ernie Hudson Batman animated

There is currently bugger all information on the JLA / Titans animated movie. But the super-exciting part is that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill will return to voice Batman and the Joker in the fan favourite Killing Joke animated feature, which will be the darkest Batman tale ever seen in animation.

batman killing joke animated

2016 also will see the release of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. So we’ll get both animated and live action version of the Joker in 2016, and we’ll get to see two all time classic stories adapted into other mediums (The Killing Joke and the fight from Dark Knight Returns, which has previously been seen in the animated version of Dark Knight Returns).

suicide squad movie and comic
Hey, what happened to the Shark head guy? We get Killer Croc?
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Nevermind, there he is on the Flash

Mid year 2015 also saw the release of the kick-ass third chapter in Rocksteady’s Arkham video game series with Batman: Arkham Knight. Sadly I don’t own a PS4 yet, so I will have to wait to play it next year. I did watch all the trailers though, and replayed Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and Arkham Origins all in a row, and they are still amazing games, just as fun as the day they were released.

Batman Arkham City 6

 

DC and Marvel both had a strong year on the small screen with fans endlessly talking about Agents of Shield, Arrow, The Flash, Daredevil, Supergirl, Jessica Jones and the one I really despise Got Ham. Or Gotham if you prefer.

While Marvel is keeping their universe somewhat coherent between their big live action movies and small screen serials DC is changing things up by keeping their TV and movie universes separate – which means we will soon see two different actors portraying the Flash and the inevitable confusion that comes with it. Will DC find an excuse to have two versions of the Flash in their JLA movie, or at least a cameo? Probably not. But it would be cool seeing as how there have been several version of the Flash in comics that have turned up simultaneously.

Supergirl champion roar TV

What else happened in 2015?

Well, both Marvel and DC kept on letting the cat out of the bag and trying to one-up each other with announcement after announcement and master plans unveiled in the style of a BOND villain who will just not shut up. Their collective plans for all their big movies from now until pretty much when I am dead have been announced. I need to sleep now.

Batman vs Robin was released as an animated featured and while it was watchable, I found it frankly boring after the fun of reading the Grant Morrison penned Damian Wayne stories.

Harley Quinn’s star kept on rising with key appearances in Batman comics, and other DC mini-series like Injustice: Gods Among Us which started out pretty awful, but has managed to improve and become a book worth reading for crossover and alternate reality tale fans.

The Suicide Squad film commenced principal photography and it seemed YouTube was going to show us the whole film before it is even released with more leaks than the Titanic.

we are robin book

And two more Robin themed books were released: Damian: Son of Batman and the why does it even exist We Are Robin book.

So all up it was a pretty strong year for Batman, that guy sure gets a lot done in 12 months. I think he would give 24’s Jack Bauer a run for his money.

In case you need another reason not to read DC’s Future’s End alternate reality maxi-series tale of awfulness here’s cyborg Lobo, Frankenstein: Agent of Shade a cyborg Gorilla and the Joker about to be mind fucked to Batman both figuratively and literally.

WHAT the WHAT?

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Welcome to Conundrums ‘R Us, where every day is confusing
Oh and Terry McGinnis Batman is the main character in the story which has nearly every major DC character in a tale of confusion and stupidity where everybody basically dies thank to Batman (Wayne) and Mr Terrific basically creating Skynet from the Terminator movies. but yeah it’s really dumb and mostly boring.
My fav part of the Future’s End maxi-series was Deathstroke’s love / hate relationship with a sort of adopted daughter who happens to be a pscyhopathic killer and an artificial being with incredible near limitless power. Seeing Wildstorm’s Grifter palling around with Deathstroke in their own odd-couple / 80’s buddy cop movie side story was fun, but even that got old after a while.

 

And hawkman in his own band of merry space pirates (more Wildstorm forgettables) having Star-Jammers like adventures… why is THAT not an ongoing book ?

If you are scratching your head looking at this image above, well you’ll have to read / suffer it for yourself, I’m not going to regurgitate the nonsensical plot here. My advice: don’t read it, and don’t hold me responsible if you do.

Here’s to Batman in 2015 and more good things to come in 2016. I can’t wait for the BVS movie and the World’s Finest Omnibus.

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Batman: Tough and Humble

batman by tyler kirkman

I love reading biographies and autobiographies.

Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Jack Lalanne, Bruce Lee, the Dalai Lama and others are dudes I really admire.

Not so much for their heroics and their achievements, which are well known and certainly impressive.

No, the reasons I admire these dudes more than anything is for their humility and radical honesty.

In a world of criticism and constant judgement, guys like Martin Luther King, Bruce Lee or old Tenzin Gyatso (the Dalai Lama) had the kind of honesty and integrity you just can’t fake. They were not afraid to stand up for what they believed in, and openly challenged their critics and those who would seek to take them down a notch or two.

Reading autobiographies and personal memoirs makes these titans, these demi-gods who seem so impossibly high on the mountain of Olympus with their incredible achievements of self-actualization, generosity, kindness and social reform seem more human and relateable.

When I read about some of Gandhi or Bruce Lee’s bad habits and think “yeah, I’ve done that too”, it makes them so much more human and ordinary.

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Those flaws and quirks are also one of the things I love about Batman. He’s more human than other superheroes in my eyes, despite being awesome at practically everything.

Batman is arrogant, brash and at times obnoxious, but he is also humble and honest. He owns his flaws.

You can say the same of Bruce, Mohandas, Jack, Tenzin or Martin.

You can talk trash about somebody, and try to cut them down – but when they are their own worst critic, and have already openly talked about their worst faults, flaws and character traits, what could you hope to accomplish by cutting down such a character?

Batman is the same. On the one hand, he don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. He is immune to criticism – be it malicious or well intentioned – Batman’s mind, his thoughts, his self-perception is his own domain, not to be polluted with the stinking thinking of those who feel the often unconscious need to judge others.

Batman is his own man, and lives on his own terms, basically answering to nobody. But along with that he is also humble and he never forgets where he came from, and he never forgets to give back to the community. He’s no saint, he’s got problems no doubt, but ever day he gets up and faces whatever challenges come his way.

Batman lives by his own internal principles and values, and at times he is like a rock that can not be moved, such is his iron will.

The world keeps on spinning, and no matter what is popular, or how society changes, the values Batman lives by do not change.

He is brave and tough and ferocious, but he is also humble and yes, even kind when he wants to be.

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Batman’s skill set vs Sherlock Holmes’ skill set

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One of the things I love about Batman is his utter devotion to incremental lifelong learning.

His dedication to gaining new skills, knowledge and know how.

Like Sherlock Holmes, Batman devotes his time to learning only what he needs to know to do the job or task he has before him. He doesn’t believe in wasting time in extraneous activities and learning things that are not immediately applicable.

Unlike Sherlock Holmes however, whose knowledge was very limited to his peculiar specialties Batman has a wider general knowledge, and even deeper specialist knowledge in a variety of fields.

Sherlock’s eccentric skill set is famously listed by Dr Watson in the 1887 story “A Study in Scarlet”.

Dr. Watson’s summary list of Sherlock Holmes’s strengths and weaknesses:

1. Knowledge of Literature: Nil.
2. Knowledge of Philosophy: Nil.
3. Knowledge of Astronomy: Nil.
4. Knowledge of Politics: Feeble.
5. Knowledge of Botany: Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Knowledge of Geology: Practical but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
7. Knowledge of Chemistry: Profound.
8. Knowledge of Anatomy: Accurate but unsystematic.
9. Knowledge of Sensational Literature: Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.”

-Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

From criminology, forensics,chemistry, weight lifting, gymnastics, and jujitsu to sword fighting, escape artistry, survival training and acting – Batman has an amazing skill set.

A scientist, athlete, fighter and engineer Batman builds a lot of his own equipment, or designs what he wants and has others build if for him.

At first it may seem unrealistic to learn so many various skills, but in the real world there are no shortage of people with massive skill sets that they build one step at a time. Take a look at any martial arts competitive fighter, and most have studied a significant number of contrasting fight styles. It is far more common in todays world to have multiple professions and skill sets, gone are the days when a person works the same job their entire life.

The jack of all trades, master of none stereotype is somewhat of a myth for lifelong learners and autodidacts. It is more like jack of all trades, master of a few. Batman has a mix of traditional schooling and self-taught skills.

The traditional method of studying a topic for years and years to become an “expert” can be circumvented by doing away with the wasted time, and instead learning directly from experts, rather than formal study. Most new learning, in any field takes place in the first year or two, and then after that is merely refinements of that base knowledge and skills.

How much better would that time be spent, if after mastering the basics, study time was spent studying directly with masters from various fields who have a lifetime of knowledge and skills to draw on.

There are exceptions of course. There is no shortcut to being a neurosurgeon or airline pilot. Some skills should take longer to learn if it means not only learning new skills, knowledge and theory but also an “X” factor that can’t really be taught but comes with life experience.

Plus nobody wants to have their head cut open by a bargain basement brain surgeon or fly in a plane with a pilot who has taken any kind of shortcuts to get there. Extensive testing for competency and virtual training help to ensure a high level of competence in these demanding highly skilled professions.

batman skills list x

However many simpler skills can be easily be learned in six to twelve months, and some even in under six months. Learning a new language may take a year or more, but the basics can be learned in a few weeks.

While hardcore fans debate the details of Batman’s education – how much formal education does he have, and how much is ad-hoc and more specific to his mission, his “War on Crime”, we never really know. What is “offical canon” one week is gone the next. The canon of Batma mythos is open to reboots, revisionism, relaunches, and reinterpretation. There are no hard and fast “rules” to the fictional worlds of superhero comics. Perhaps except that everything changes, and almost nothing is sacred.

The Batman mythos are constantly being added to, revised, retconned and reinterpreted. One story has Bruce with mutiple degrees from a University in diverse fields. Another story has Batman starting younger, skipping most formal education and studying just what he needs to know in person with kooks, weirdos, secret masters and experts in hidden corners of the globe.

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Whatever version of Batman we are enjoying – he makes a habit of learning directly from and being advised by existing experts, he doesn’t have time to waste with generalists in any field. Whatever he can’t teach himself at home he is going to travel wherever he needs to go to find the best people to learn his particular niche skills.

Batman has the edge over Sherlock Holmes in that he is a progressive learner, always expanding his knowledge and skill set.

If Sherlock existed in the modern day, he might be a very good detective, but not good at much else. And being a very introverted eccentric character, you have to wonder how progressive would Sherlock be?

Would Sherlock he be able to expand his skill set?

As a character, he really only works in his small world. Had Sherlock (and here I refer to the original character from the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, not any adaptations) access to modern air travel and Bruce Wayne’s fortune, would he travel the world, or remain in his homeland?

I think classical Sherlock would stick to his homeland and his strengths, being that he is at times an almost autistic like character, comfortable with being a Big fish in a small pond.

Batman however is more comfortable being a small fish in a big global pond. He exists in a world of metahumans, aliens and Gods.

While Batman may be colloquially called the “World’s Greatest Detective” – in the modern era he also has acquaintances such as the Martian Manhunter, The Question, Deadman, and other associates he relies on for assistance with his toughest cases.

Batman like Sherlock is obsessive compulsive in dedication to learning everything about a skill, but without wasting time, moving on and applying what is useful, rejecting what is useless.

Despite all his technology, wealth and multitude of skills, in many ways, Batman is a minimalist. He uses the least effort, to get the maximum effect.

“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease; hack away at the unessential.” — Bruce Lee

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Let’s take a look at some of Batman’s skills then courtesy of Answers.com

Batman is a master of the following skills:
All known forms of Martial Arts
Criminology
Mathematics
History
Mythology
Escapology
Chemistry
Biology
Foreign Languages
Forensic Studies
Driving Skills, Automobile / Motorcycle / Plane / Boat / Hang-Glider / Etc.
Tracking
Espionage
Lock Picking
Computer Hacking
Aerobatics
Rope and Rappel Training
Diving
Medical Training, Medicine and Surgery
Pain Management Training
Robotics
Motor and Engine Knowledge
Throwing Arts
Battle Tactics
Survival Training
Peak Physical Conditioning
Negotiation Skills
Pick Pocketing
Camouflage skills
Acting skills (for undercover work)
Code Breaking skills
Sky Diving
Knowledge of Explosives

Batman rapelling

It is a pretty long and ridiculous list, and I removed a couple of items that basically repeated other points. The original Batman from 1947 did not have all those skills, just a core few mainly – strength training, gymnastics, chemistry, detective skills and a few others that were added here and there. But over 75 years, that list has grown as new writers come along and put their stamp on the character.

The thing is, if you are super-rich and can spend your time how you damn well please rather than being a wage slave, you could conceivably master a lot of skills if you chose to. So that long list is possible when you consider that something like rappelling, or pick pocketing you could learn in a few days, or weeks. While Chemistry would take several months, and perhaps years to be more refined.

We may never learn as many skills as Batman, nor have the time. But I know for me my dedication to lifelong learning is whole hearted and never ending. That passion for knowledge and skills is another way that Batman inspires me every day.