Tag Archives: Bruce Wayne

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

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

Some people learn fast, others slow.

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

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

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

Or sometimes don’t learn much at all.

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

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

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

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

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

Pick your skills and learn them.

Learn them well.

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

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

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

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

 

So slow down,

take a breath…

make it a deep one,

and whatever you do next today…

do it with more Focus…

do it with total Concentration…

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

Today, Be a master of your own mind.

Exercise your BATITUDE

Let no obstacles stand in your way

BE LIKE BATMAN!

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

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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.

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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.

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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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How to Be Like Batman PART#2: Develop an IRON WILL

Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent
-Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States

An Iron Will Fist of Iron

To be like Batman takes an Iron Will.

It takes hard work, determination, persistence, an attitude of never giving up.

A habit of doing things that are uncomfortable, a habit of doing what we dislike doing but know is good for us.

It is one of the fundamental qualities of Batman that is rarely understood.

Possessing an Iron-Will can come across as being arrogant, conceited, self-important, dogmatic, inflexible, stubborn, and other qualities that may seem at first to be a negative trait.

But the perception of that negative trait is in the eye of the beholder, not in the mind of the person who is being judged.

To the one who possesses  an Iron-Will, it is a great asset, an Iron-Will can move mountains, move nations, inspire people to better themselves, an Iron-Will can mean a person of character who is unwilling to let fate or any external force choose their thoughts, attitude or actions for them, a person who is unmoved by the threat of imprisonment or execution who stays the course for a greater good.

An Iron-Will is not to be confused with those who would seek to dominate and hold power over others.  While a dictator or despot may have an Iron-Will, a true man (or woman) of courage and virtue is a master over their own mind and habits.  They have zero interest in dominating or controlling others.  Truly, those who dominate others are cowards who live in constant fear of losing their illusory power, if even one individual rises up against them, their illusion of power is shattered, or at least questioned.

Developing an Iron-Will does not mean putting on a symbolic suit of armor, and shutting ourself off from our emotions or other people, it means that we acknowledge and respect the needs of others, but do not compromise our core values just to fit in or conform with popular opinion.

Exercising will power at first is hard, especially as we modern people have grown terribly soft and lazy, having never faced the crucible that the generations who lived through World War II did.  Tough times make for tough and resilient people.  In contrast the more luxurious and comfortable a society becomes, the more it breeds people accustomed to soft living.

We live in an era were if we want to be challenged, to build strength of character, we must choose our own challenges rather than wait for the world to provide them for us.  A life where we never challenge ourselves is really no life at all. The man who strives to better himself and his circumstances enjoys greater joys than the man who has everything handed to him on a plate without ever lifting a finger.

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight 19 Cover Batman vs Shark

When it comes to mental training, there is only one method.  Believe in yourself 100%

-Vince Gironda

The Batman didn’t get to be who he is through self-doubt and neurosis, he believes in what he does 100%, there is no space in his mind for any erroneous thoughts to enter.  He may have been born into a life of privilege and soft living but he chooses to forge his Iron-Will through struggle, difficulty and his relentless pursuit of personal excellence and adaptive learning in any task he applies himself to.

Batman chooses the road less traveled, he embraces obstacles and lives a life of hardship by choice, he would not be who he is without his obstacles and flaws, Batman uses his obstacles as a path to self-knowledge and constantly challenges his skills and abilities, using each opportunity (or crisis) to adapt, improvise and overcome.

The more we exercise our will power, the more natural it becomes to be in command of our own senses, our own minds and bodies, and the circumstances of our lives.  It takes discipline to get up early and train or be willing to do what most people will not do.

But once begun the momentum of self-discipline pays rich dividends.  After a time it is no longer discipline, but a joy to be living a conscious life of creation, rather than a life of constant animal-like unconscious reaction to everything that vies for our attention on any given day.

A life of blindly following the herd to mediocrity and mental death from lack of exercising our own will, our own decision making abilities. The more we exercise our ability to make decisions and exercise our will power, the more we grow as individuals and stop being second-hand citizens who complain and gripe about everything in life, but are unwilling to lift a finger to help ourselves.

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“The development and discipline of one’s will-power is of supreme importance in relation to one’s overall success in life. No man can ever underestimate the power of an iron will. It is a part of our human nature, and the quality of our very existence depends upon it.”
– Orison Marden

Forging an Iron-Will is a lesson we all could learn from Batman, and an essential quality on the road to being a hero or superhero.  Batman’s will is so strong it could almost be considered a super power. Where lesser men would fall or give up, he pushes through pain, fatigue, and injuries. He pushes through or around every obstacle that comes his way.

No matter how severe the situation, no matter how impossible the task, Batman never admits the idea of failure into his mind. His will power is supreme.

That is the critical difference that some say defines Batman from his contemporaries.  Few other characters in the DC Universe possess his mental resolve – perhaps DeathStroke The Terminator would be next in line, followed by Superman and Lex Luthor.  Batman’s mental training, never say die attitude, his ability to never give up, are not abilities has was born with, but what he chose to develop through progressive incremental training.

His never-give-up attitude should not be misunderstood as never knowing when to walk away.  Batman knows how and when to withdraw and come up with new plans and strategies when he is in over his head.  The Batman knows his limitations, he knows when to push beyond those limits, and when to walk away to live to fight crime another day.

In the comic books Batman is regularly beaten to near death, captured, tortured, or trapped in dangerous situations that should result in death. However many times this happens, he is never truly beaten, because even if he is beaten physically, he comes back after training and preparing himself to best his opponent.  His worst defeats he uses as further victories, further opportunities to iron out his weaknesses and improve his mental resolve.

His true super powers are his Iron Will, Discipline, Preparation and Planning, Determination, Persistence, a refusal to quit, a refusal to die, a refusal to give up or abandon his cause.  A man may reach great heights of achievement, but he will never succeed beyond the cause he devotes himself to.  Batman’s personal mission, his calling in life is his never ending War on Crime and his commitment is total.

One of the secrets of a successful life is to be able to hold all of our energies upon one point, to focus all of the power of our mind upon one single place or thing

-Orison Marden

Of all the JLA, or the other DC super heroes, his will is supreme. Batman can beat the JLA, or any of his infinitely more powerful peers not because he wants to, but because he can. He develops numerous strategic plans.  He methodically studies his potential foes weaknesses. When Batman is taken by surprise he improvises, but eventually one way or another, Batman wins.

Some people are critical of this version of Batman, as some sort of unbeatable “Bat-God” as he has been dubbed in online fan communities.

But to call him “Bat-God” is to miss the point.

Batman is not unbeatable.

He gets beaten physically and mentally regularly in the monthly comics, he uses those defeats to grow beyond his previous limitations, he uses obstacles as fuel for greatness.  It is fair to say that Batman is a little different in his own stories, versus stories where he is with the JLA or wider DCU community in a large company wide crossover.  Different elements of the character are played upon depending upon the context of the story.  Critics may say that Batman is inconsistent, fans say he adapts to the environment, he is as versatile as Deathstroke or Wolverine, with Batman we never know exactly what he will do, even after countless adventures.

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The Batman’s character has not varied that much over the decades.  He has gone through superficial changes, but at his core Batman remains the same character.  The science fiction stories and imaginary stories era of DC is probably Batman at his worst.  But even those stories contribute to the mythos, and unpopular as they are, they are party of the Caped Crusaders history.

Spectacular stories of Batman teaming up with Superman, the JLA or other DC heroes and villains have been staples of the DC Universe since the 1950s.  Whether Batman is in Gotham City, on the dark side of the moon or in a haunted mansion, it is all fair game.  Batman has been a detective hero, science fiction hero, traditional superhero and more.

Batman fits comfortably in science fiction, film noir, hard boiled crime stories, gothic horror, or universe hopping tales on alternate worlds.  Each fan has their personal favourite version of Batman, but to say there is only version of Batman that is the true Batman, or that any of the other versions are wrong or less worthy is to live in denial of the characters history.

Batman is bigger than any one medium, he exists as a multidimensional fictional entity that can be expressed in a multitude of ways in parallel, each as valid and useful as the other, and all contribute to the greater whole, the gestalt of the imaginative ideas that represent Batman.

The camp Batman of Adam West or the Brave and the Bold cartoon with Diedrich Bader is just as important and significant as Frank Miller’s cynical laughing maniac Dark Knight Returns Batman or Denny O Neil’s even minded slick ladykiller James Bond Batman.  Every version of Batman contributes something to the whole.

An important lesson we can all learn from Batman is that he never gives up, and his Iron-Will allows him to be that person who never gives up.  We as individuals can face all the difficulties in life that the world seemingly thrusts upon us.  We can be starved, beaten and tortured, but we always have the ability to choose our attitude to life.  We can literally go through hell on earth, and we can not only survive but thrive.  No force in the universe can choose our attitude to life for us, only we can do that.

Our bodies may break, but our minds are free, we can only be beaten when we allow ourselves to give up all hope in life.

Batman is a master of not giving up.  While he is a dark brooding character, he is also the eternal optimist. Batman sees the worst in people, and plans for things to go wrong.  But he still ultimately believes that Gotham City and its citizens are worth saving, or he would not go out night after night to fight crime.

If someone inflicted the life of Batman on an unwilling individual, it might seem like a cruel unending torture.  To be Batman means a life of constant struggle, like the Greek legend of Sisyphus who was condemned to push a giant boulder up a hill over and over.  Each time he completed his task the boulder would roll back down to the bottom of the hill, thus making his efforts pointless, this was his unending punishment.

“He was punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.” – Wikipedia

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Like Sisyphus, Batman endlesly performs an impossible task

Batman performs an endless task, when he is dead and gone there will still be crime.  His actions in the context of Sisyphus and his boulder are futile, one could say pointless.  Batman knows this and he still takes action, he is totally committed to a goal that is impossible, unlike Sisyphus Batman chose his own affliction.  At least poor Sisyphus got a good workout every day pushing that damn boulder.

Batman performs his duties in the mode of service to humanity, it is his calling in life to be Batman, and to inspire others to join him in his campaign.  It takes discipline, courage and intense focus to get up every day and train and keep your body in condition to be Batman.

It takes effort and willpower to stay the course, not to quit too early, to study many disciplines over many years.  To increase ones knowledge and skills, in ever deepening circles of influence.  Resolve and determination are essential, as is the ability to do one thing, to focus on a single task thus not dissipating ones energy.

A wise man will be the master of his mind. A fool will be it’s slave.

-Publilius Syrus

Batman is a master of his mind, and not a slave. His mental abilities dwarf his physical abilities, however advanced they may be. He is a master of logic, deduction, and reasoning in the classical Greek style. He is a master of meditation, martial arts, criminology, escape artistry, a master swordsman and more.

All of these disciplines take time to study.  They take incredible focus and determination to see the field of study through to the end, to stay the course over weeks, months and years.  Batman never rests on his laurels.

He innovates and improvises his own techniques and methodology in addition to what he has learned from others, improving upon what he has learned and embodied.  Like Tony Robbins, Batman makes constant infinite incremental improvements to whatever he applies himself to.

Many people never attempt anything worthwhile in their lives, or give up without ever really attempting to do anything worthwhile.  The Batman is the man who does not attempt to do everything at once, but can focus on a single goal or task in the present moment.  He pursues his given task with relentless laser-like mental focus and determination, he never wavers from his task.

Like Sherlock Holmes, once Batman has the scent of a clue, his mind never rests until he has his resolution, or breakthrough moment.

Batman has acquired his skills slowly over many years.  His studies lead him to mastery, and to subtle progression and further distinctions as he grows more advanced in his fields of expertise, learning from those who are smarter and more wise than he is.  The Batman has conditioned his mind/body/brain/muscles/nervous system so well that many of his abilities are automatic, reflexive and instinctual.

An essential element to Batman’s character is that he does not panic, no matter how extreme the situation. Astronauts at NASA are trained over and over again not to panic, but to perform whatever task is necessary, no matter the external conditions.

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The potential astronauts accomplish this by rehearsing every aspect of their mission over and over, down to the most minute details, they desensitise themselves to panic and fear through repetition and simulated extreme situations and as realistic as possible role plays.

The Batman has applied the same basic principles as those potential astronauts.  He has conditioned himself to become a master of his internal states. He has experienced states of panic and extreme fear under controlled conditions, learned all he can from those states, and how to overcome them.  Of all the things the Batman can do that we can also do in the real world, this is perhaps the most useful skill set to train.

However few people ever bother to try.  Being a master of your internal states and your body does not seem exciting or sexy enough for most people to bother with.  Yet it is a skill that can be used in any arena of life, and many people are addicted to their own self-created dramas, having no interest in maturing as adults.

We don’t need to be masters of the martial arts or mountain top sitting gurus to benefit from mental training.  How grateful are we when a police officer, doctor or paramedic attends to our loved ones in the most extreme situations possible with total calm and reassurance?  How effective would those professionals be in their jobs if they gave in to panic and anxiety at every opportunity?

The man of will understands that it is not the amount of work that can be accomplished at a fever-pitch, stretched in all directions, but it is persistence of focus that keeps us at our best. It is the long, steady pull, the unconquerable purpose, the unbroken effort, that wins the battle of life.

-Orison Marden

Being a master of your own internal subjective state, be it emotion, feeling or bodily sensation does not mean being cut off from or ignoring our emotions, our humanity. It means fully experiencing all states and emotions including fear, but not being controlled by fear, or any other extreme state and allowing it to overwhelm us.

In an emergency situation such as a fire, or scene of an automobile accident, giving in to panic, fear, worry or anything that takes out of the present moment can mean death. Only by staying in the present moment, dealing with what is right in front of us, can we have any control over the external situation or our internal states. Only by breaking things down to little steps, focusing on one task at a time in the present moment can our actions have any potency.

When we are lost in thoughts of any moment other than this one, our actions are ineffective.  In true crisis situations, our ability to remain calm rather than panic, our ability to stay in the present moment, rather than not be present and choose worrying thoughts over presence can literally be the difference between life and death.

Rather than the mistaken impression of a feel good new age philosophy, the power of “now” is a requirement for conscious living.  An experiential process that means paying attention to ones own behavior, habits, attitude, actions, and reactions, rather than blindly stumbling through life thinking only of an imaginary conceptualised past or future, which exist only in our mind.

Worry and panic are luxuries we can no longer afford to indulge in if we wish to be the captain of our own ship. Our bodies do what we tell them to do, our physiological states follow our intentions, thoughts and emotions.

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight 20 Drowning

If Batman is thrown into a river in straight jacket and panics he will almost certainly drown.  If he is worrying about what the neighbors think of him or the football score, he is as good as dead.  Only by choosing to be a master of his own mind can he concentrate on the immediate task at hand, narrowing his perception to his most immediate task. Only by breaking things down to small, manageable steps can he allow himself to escape one death trap or impossible scenario after another.

Escaping from a pair of ordinary handcuffs would take no conscious thought or real effort for Batman as he has done it successfully so many times, whether on land or underwater in complete darkness.  He has practiced his skills and abilities endlessly.  Once he has escaped those handcuffs, let us say he is still underwater and relatively blind, his fight or flight response will be active whether he wants it to be or not.

Some states, like the fight or flight response are activated automatically in response to real dangers and threats. However, all too often we activate our fight or flight response not to any actual real danger, but to a perceived danger such as an argument with a workmate or at home with a family member.  Once the fight of flight response is activate, we temporarily lose some of our fine motor skills, while our overall strength goes up.

So after our body enters a state of hyper-alertness, it is a really bad time to try and sit down and write a letter or an essay, our thoughts will be erratic, our hand trembling perhaps too much to write anything legible.  But it is a good time to throw a punch, throw a spear, swing a club, fight or run away.  The alternative is freezing like a deer in headlights and doing nothing.

This freezing and immobility can be overcome through training, the Batman does not freeze up when confronted with life threatening danger, he leaps in to action, having put himself through hundreds of dangerous scenarios, some of his own design, some at the hands of his enemies.  Actual combat  and danger is like a respite from Batman’s psychologically demanding routine.

The athlete trains for his race; and the mind also must be in constant training if one is to win the race of life. “It is,”‘ says Professor Mathews, “only by continued, strenuous efforts, repeated again and again, day after day, week after week, and month after month, that the ability can be acquired to focus the mind to one subject, however abstract, to the exclusion of everything else.

-Orison Marden

Batman the dark knight returns animated vs mutant leader crowbar

What is defeat?  Nothing but education.  Nothing but the first steps to something better.

-Wendell Phillips

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Through repeated conditioning, the Batman takes advantage of Neuroplasticity.  He creates himself as the being he wishes himself to be, repeated conditioning sets up new neural networks in his brain with the only real limitation being aging and injuries.  But what does this mean?

It means that for Batman, many of his skills and abilities are relatively easy to perform, his neural-shortcuts allow him to do far more in less time, to be more efficient and use less total energy to accomplish the same task than someone who has not learned his unique skill set.

Old world science speaks of limitations.  Modern neuroscience has not so much thrown open the rusty door on these old beliefs – as busted the door clear off the hinges – creating a permanent opening to new ideas that empower people, reminding them they are who they choose to be.  Their environment may have shaped them, but they can train their minds to think new thoughts, their bodies to feel new feelings and associations, building new neural networks and re-inventing themselves daily.

Many people do not due to the false and limiting beliefs that we can not change, that we have some invisible barrier holding us back in life.  In a sense we do, that barrier is our own attitude.  Our attitude conditions our thought patterns, repeated thoughts become beliefs, repeated beliefs become character traits.  Then we say that we can not change or do anything different.  But where did this pattern start?  With our attitude, with out choice to how we perceive our lives and react to the world.

The Batman makes new choices and is not held back by yesterdays thoughts and beliefs.  Those neural networks don’t just “happen”, they are created through repetition.  So Batman trains himself relentlessly not just in his existing skills, but acquires new skills, new learning all the time, constantly challenging himself, growing more skilled and growing smarter daily.

If we want to be like Batman it means not accepting yesterdays reality, but creating each day anew, putting aside self-imposed limitations, which are after all only perceptions, or our attitude to life, they have no objective existence whatsoever.

The process of obtaining this level of self-mastery — this complete command of one’s mental powers — is a gradual one, its length varies depending upon the mental constitution of each person; but its acquisition is worth infinitely more than the cost of it’s labor.

– Orison Marden

Batman Zero Year Cover Cowl Greg Capullo_566x600

To be Batman, or like Batman means total dedication to being the best version of yourself you can be.  It means saying yes to life and yes to challenges and hardship.  It means taking action, rather than making excuses.  If you are going to make excuses, make them for why you have to do something important that truly matters to you, rather than put off what you most value in life.  Second hand citizens are dis-empowered because they allow themselves to be.  No man nor god can choose our attitude in life for us.

Nobody but us is ultimately responsible for the direction of our lives.   We may not know where we are going or where we will end up.  But the steering wheel on that ship is in our hands, we can at least pick a direction and plot a course, and hope for the best.  And when trouble comes looking for us, we can stand proud and laugh in its face, for we all have the Iron-Will of Batman within us if we choose it.

Struggle only makes us stronger.  Batman welcomes adversity, it keeps him sharp, it keeps him on his toes, it keeps him at his best.

“No one ever won success without great will-power to eternally hold himself to his goal, even in the face of great difficulties and obstacles. Even if you possess great abilities, without will-power, they are of little use, for they are not forced to leave their mark. They are never fully developed into the great gift that they were meant to be.  For the person of only medium talents, but who possesses a great strength of will, can, by remaining focused on this one thing, win great success.”

– Henry Ward Beecher

READ MORE ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#1: Mental Training and Physical Conditioning

How to Be Like BATMAN PART#3: CORE VALUES

HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#4: Build Self Confidence Brick by Brick

How to Be Like BATMAN PART#3: CORE VALUES

Always Be Batman Meme

We understand instinctively that Batman is more than the sum of his tools. Yes, he was made to be Batman, but he made himself, too, molding his mind and honing his talents to better serve Gotham and its people  -Paul Asay

While the values of the Batman have changed over the decades, there remains key values, qualities and inherent characteristics that remain the same.  This is a large topic that I could talk all day on, so I will cover it in multiple posts, as part of my ongoing series on “How to be Like Batman”.

What are some of those core values, qualities and characteristics?  Broadly they can be said to be a mix of the qualities Batman embodies by who he was before he became Batman, and those qualities he developed through training on his way to becoming Batman.

Then there are and the qualities that we the reader ascribe to him or associate with him.  Let’s take a look at some examples off the top of my head (not a definitive list, it will be sure to expand as I explore this topic).  The list is kind of long, feel free to skip ahead and come back to it later, you don’t need to know em all to read the sections below.

But if you are obsessive compulsive like me about super-heroes, you WILL read the list.  I converted the list into the below table as otherwise it went way too long down the screen, and between you and me I hate tables, they are as exciting as Batman sitting down for a whole issue and doing nothing, but this particular table I like.

Batman Child of Dreams Manga

Batman Character Value Grid

Table of Batman Essential Qualities by John Sorensen

Some of those qualities repeat or overlap, but I think you will agree that the list covers the basics of who Batman was in his inception, who he has become over the decades and includes his near-mythical status in popular culture outside of the comics themselves.

There are also the qualities that we ascribe to him as readers, or are inspired by, as Cary Friedman talks about in his book Wisdom from the Batcave (these are some, but not all of those qualities):

Willpower

Inspiring Others

Idealism

Strong Principles

Hard Work

Relentless Determination

IRON WILL

Never Give Up

Endless Learning

Discipline

Resilience

I’m going to explore some of those key core values and characteristics of Batman (as well as other qualities) in these articles, in no particular order.  No doubt I will forget something that will have you screaming at the screen

“How did you miss that! You call yourself a Batman fan you maniac!”

So if there IS something obvious you feel I have missed, please put it in the comments and I will consider adding it into the next installment of the article series.  This first installment will cover the following sub-topics: Dark Knight, Self-Invented Myth, Wrathful Deity, Morality, Relentless and Determined, Death Defying Daredevil.  The “How to be like Batman” Series will cover the qualities of Batman, but also other unrelated topics in future installments.

Well, enough fluffing around… let’s get into it.

Batman Dark Knight Dynasty
I hope that is not Batman on a Robot Unicorn that Attacks

DARK KNIGHT (KNIGHT ASPECT)

Knights in the classic literary and mythic sense are known for valor, bravery, honor, chivalry, strength, generosity, courage, justice, mercy and faith.

Scott Farrell of the “Chivalry Today” website on the topic of Nobility says “Although this word is sometimes confused with “entitlement” or “snobbishness,” in the code of chivalry it conveys the importance of upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching”  That sounds like Batman to me, he is incorruptible and uncompromising in his code of ethics and morality.

An inversion of the “good” Knight archetype, Batman lives in the night as a shadow, while he fights with bravery and integrity and valor, his dirty win at all costs tactics would not be considered honorable in the classical sense.  However, when viewed in the modern context of the corrupt Gotham City, the Batman is indeed an honorable and noble protector.  A Guardian of Gotham.

If we look at the example of real life classical knights, or modern soldiers, a life or death struggle has no real “rules”, anything goes if the aim is conquest or survival.  By the same reasoning, anything goes for Batman, as long as he does not intentionally kill someone, that is his main rule, or code of behavior whether pursuing criminals or protecting the citizens of Gotham.

As a vigilante, Batman exists outside of the civil law.  His mission is the ideal of “Justice”, not law enforcement.  Justice can be an obscure and indefinable concept, that has little meaning to the person it is being applied to, and really only holds value for the one who is applying the punishment or consequence.

If a man steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, and is sentenced to prison where he is repeatedly raped, beaten and murdered, do we call this Justice? Clearly the value or idea of Justice is open to interpretation, Batman’s ideal of Justice may be very different than our own personal idea of justice.

In the Knightly value of generosity, the most obvious examples are not as Batman, but Bruce Wayne.  His considerable philanthropic efforts through fund raising events, anonymous donations, business expansion and more demonstrate Bruce Wayne’s clear determination to transform Gotham City into a better city for every citizen.  While Batman handles crime in a manner of crisis management, using similar tactics to peace keeping troops in tactical locations, his role as Batman is ultimately reactive.

While as Bruce Wayne his role is creative in building new infrastructure and resources to replace the rotten old guard of Gotham, the previous owners of Gotham being chiefly the mob who keep a stranglehold on the city in cahoots with the corrupt police force.

His ultimate goals as Batman and Bruce Wayne are not to end crime permanently, which is clearly not possible.  His role is to leave the world a better place than when he entered it, and all his efforts are devoted to that single vision.  While some may disagree with his tactics, his relentless persecution of organised crime allows the city breathing room to get back on its feet.

Batman does what law enforcement can never do, he goes directly to the heart of the problems in Gotham City, persecuting and tormenting the criminal elements not only with fear, but Justice. He is a inspiring example of moral values in a corrupt city, and standing up to oppression.

He is a bad boy, a rule breaker who operates outside of the law, because the law is so corrupt in Gotham that is it basically the government sponsored arm of the mob.  Batman enforces his own version of law and Justice as the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader and Guardian of Gotham.  In Batman’s value system, Justice holds a higher value than the laws of the nation.

Old SChool Batman

SELF-INVENTED MYTH

While his reactionary behavior is extreme, it is a crisis management response than in the long term, hopefully allows the infrastructure of Gotham City (law, civics, education, commerce, resource management etc) a chance to grow into a healthier more vibrant city.  While not all the people of Gotham look to Batman as a source of inspiration, enough do that it is clear he makes a difference, not just in putting criminals behind bars, but in giving hope to the citizens, where before there was only bleak hopelessness and desperation.

In this sense, he fulfills his role as a mythic figure, an idea whose time has come.  Batman the myth has more resonance and power than any one single man could ever hope to achieve.  By becoming an intentionally mythic, scary and heroic figure, he transcends mortal limitations, and becomes the Guardian of Gotham, the Dark Knight.

Batman taps into the vein of the universal unconscious and archetypes that Carl Jung frequently talked about, (click the link to see the full article) that primal part of human beings that responds to images, symbols and mythology.  The part of us that inherently recognises mythic figures for what they are in a very raw, visceral and immediate fashion.  It is one of the reasons Batman works best as a comic book character, and less so in films and other adaptations.

Even with no knowledge of the character, to see the comic book art of Batman is to encounter a physically dynamic, kinetic explosive force of living shadow and dream, a monster from the corner of your eye, a figment of your imagination given bold and vibrant life on a two dimensional pulp inspired plane.  Like a freight train at full speed, to encounter the Batman on the comic page is to find a relentless unstoppable force who bursts right off the page and into your mind, and once there, refuses to leave.

Batman is an expert in human behavior and what motivates our actions, he reinvented himself as a cultural myth, an urban boogeyman, a creature of shadow and mystery that plays on people’s fears of the night and the unknown. Unlike classical mythic characters, who only become myth in the eyes of others by accident, Batman invented his own myth, and lived it.  He tapped into the power of the human need to tell stories and fables, using it as another weapon in his war on crime.

Batman NOEL Graphic Novel

WRATHFUL DEITY

While not intentional, Batman in the mythic sense can be viewed metaphorically as a wrathful deity.  His anger, frustration, pain and devotion are channeled into an unrelenting and focused fury that will never ever stop once unleashed.  He takes a fearsome form in order to render service to other beings.

“True to their name, in Tibetan art, wrathful deities are presented as fearsome, demonic beings adorned with human skulls and other bone ornaments”  -Wikipedia

The Batman is a fear inspiring figure, he wears horn-like pointed bat ears upon his cowl that in silhouette give him the resemblance of a devil or demonic figure.  He dresses primarily in dark colours, to better blend in with the night and shadows.  Shadows and the night time have long been often associated with the unknown, and danger.  To be in complete darkness IS dangerous, as without a source of light, we can trip, fall and even die from injuries.

The Batman’s eyes were intentionally made into small white slits (rather than eyeballs) at the suggestion of Bill Finger.  To give him even more of an other wordly appearance, he seem to be less or more than human.  He wears a bat on his chest, a symbol of an animal that represents many things in different cultures.  A bat as animal totem can be symbolic of the earth, death and rebirth, unwavering devotion, heightened senses, being in touch with inner demons, journeying to the underworld of reality and more.  A bat is a most appropriate symbol for Bruce Wayne’s fanatical devotion to his cause.

“My disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts.  I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible…” -Bruce Wayne

MORALITY OF BATMAN

While Batman has his own ethical and moral codes, how these are interpreted are up to the writer.  At times Batman is very moral, to the point of total inflexibility such as in the Wonder Woman story The Hiketeia.  Wonder Woman is protecting a young woman whom she has sworn an oath to protect under the ritual of Hiketeia.  She is not aware that the woman she is protecting is a murderer, the woman killed several men who were sex slavers who had also killed her sister.  Batman is tracking the young woman who is wanted by the law, and confronts Wonder Woman, demanding she hand over the young woman / criminal, and Wonder Woman refuses, leading to a very one sided fight where Wonder Woman kicks Batman’s ass.

Wonder Woman The Hiketeai Batman Boot On Face

In contrast to this story, in the Allan Moore penned Swamp Thing’s #52-53, Swamp Thing comes to Gotham City and in his wake, everything starts growing, until trees and forests overwhelm the city.  Batman tries to reason with Swamp Thing, and then later fights him, burning him with a flamethrower.

When Swamp Thing grows multiple copies of his body Batman learns that he can not beat the creature, nor can anyone. Swamp Thing’s lover is being held by the city, and he wants her back, the city officials want to arrest Swamp Thing as a criminal. In a passionate and angry speech Batman argues that Swamp Thing is not even truly human – but more a force of nature whom laws do not apply to.  Batman knows that if they do not release the woman, they may lose Gotham City with no hope of recovery.

“Either we find some way to release the Cable woman, or we begin evacuation right away.  There are no other options. That thing out there is very nearly a God.  It can crush us.” – Batman

Saga of the Swamp Thing vol 1 issue 53 Batman (3)

RELENTLESS AND DETERMINED

Batman has faced defeat time and again over the decades is his career as the Guardian of Gotham City.  Often he has faced impossible odds, and whether he wins or loses, he does not give up.  The quality of “not giving up, no matter what”, is a quality he shares with his spiritual brother Superman.  It is one of core defining elements of the Batman, along with his iron-will, incredible self-discipline and regulation of his impulses.

In Batman: The Cult, – by Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson – Batman faces Decon Blackfire, a religious cult leader whose imprisons Batman, then has Batman beaten and psychologically tortured seemingly without end.  Eventually Batman escapes, and recovers, but not immediately.  And not without consequences, as Batman was brainwashed by Decon Blackfire and takes a long time to fully recover, it is one of Bruce/ Batman’s  most humiliating and soul destroying defeats throughout his career.

batman the cult issue 1 Jim Starlin Bernie WRightson_X

Similarly in the Grant Morrison Batman R.I.P. storyline, Dr. Hurt tortures Batman psychologically, but this time Bruce Wayne has prepared a “back up” personality, the Batman of Zur-en-arrh who is basically a version of Batman without Bruce Wayne.

Dr Hurt triggers a post hypnotic suggestion that triggers Bruce’s transformation in to the Batman of Zur-en-arrh, and also leaves him in a state of withdrawal from synthetic drugs. Batman is effectively homeless, without his usual resources and out of his mind in the story.  Despite his condition, he still manages to be very dangerous.

Batman 678 Zurenarrh Grant Morrison_2_382x600 (2)

Morrison plucked the idea of the gaudy Zurr-en-arrh costume from an old Batman story.

Batman – The Superman of Planet-Xin appeared in Batman #113, 1958.  In the story, Batman meets his doppelganger from the planet Zur-en-arrh, he travels with him to the alien planet, where he magically has Superman like powers.

It is a fun nonsensical throwaway story typical of that era.  The Zur-en-arhh Batman in the ridiculous bright red purple and yellow costume tells our Batman that he observed him through a powerful telescope, and was inspired to become his own Batman.  No explanation though about the wacky colours that look like Robin and Batman mixed together.

batman 113_batman - the superman of planet x

In Batman: Venom by Denny ‘O Neil, Batman becomes addicted to an experimental steroid drug, after failing to rescue a young girl trapped beneath a heavy object, he decides he is not strong enough, even with more training.  He reluctantly accepts a drug from a chemist who turns out to be a criminal planning to take down Batman.

Batman gets out of control with the chemical addiction, and eventually locks himself in the Batcave for a month to detox himself, with Alfred on hand only to give him food.  Eventually Batman kicks his chemical addiction and comes back to beat the bad guys, who can not believe the will power Batman exorcised to get off the drug, as most of his new test subjects have gone crazy on the super-drug.

Batman - Legends of the Dark Knight 17 and 18 Venom story Batman on Drugs

In Batman: Knightfall a run down, overtired and sick Batman is faced with recapturing all of the inmates of Arkham Asylum after Bane breaks them out.  At this point, Batman has never seen Bane, who uses Batman’s own psychological tactics against him.

When Batman does face Bane, he is exhausted, outmatched and has no real hope of beating Bane.  Bane then swiftly breaks the Batman’s back.  Beating Batman physically by breaking his back was just the icing on the cake, Bane’s real goal was to leave Gotham without its Guardian, to beat Batman psychologically as well as physically, leaving him truly “broken”.

Detective Comics 664 Bane breaks Batmans back victorious_404x600

In Batman: The Court of Owls Bruce Wayne is tormented by the un-killable owl assassins in and out of his Batman costume.  His enemies seem unbeatable, finally after non-stop attacks around, in and under Gotham City, the owls invade Bruce’s Batcave, the one place that he likes to be left alone.

A pissed off Bruce Wayne runs and hides in a panic room with Alfred.  Just when it seems he is out of options and out of plans, he turns down the temperature of the room to below freezing, the one weakness the Talon assassins seem to have.  Cold slows them down temporarily, their re-animated corpses become vulnerable, eventually the cold will put them into a state of suspended animation if they are kept cold long enough.

Bruce emerges from his panic room in a kick-ass suit of armor that recalls Iron Man’s antique Mk.1 suit, and then he cleans house, mercilessly beating the Court of Owls Talon Assassins, kicking ass, taking names and taking out weeks of frustration after many dead ends in pursuing his investigations into the mysterious Court of Owls.

Batman Court of Owls armor

In all of these examples, Batman comes back from his physical and/or psychological defeats.  He rises up like the immortal phoenix of legend, from the ashes of his old self he rebuilds and reinvents himself time and again.  He is the ultimate unbeatable foe in that he never gives us, all defeats are feedback he uses as fuel to get stronger, to learn more about his opponents or whatever impossible situation he faces.

In our world any person like this would be dead a hundred times over, but in the world of comic books, Batman is immortal.  He is an idea that can not be beaten, and if he is, he only comes back stronger, each temporary defeat only makes him more determined and relentless.

DEATH DEFYING DAREDEVIL

Another example of Batman’s never say die attitude is his inevitable escapes from perilous death traps.  The camp TV show Batman from 1966 starring Adam West and Burt Ward played up this element of the Batman character to dramatic effect.

Episodes would air twice a week, with the full episode broken in half, the cliff-hanger in the middle that ensured the viewers would tune in later in the week to see how Batman would escape another fiendishly diabolical death trap.

In the Batman comics – and most adaptations in other mediums – Batman is a master escape artist who would do Houdini proud.  His relentless determination, never give up attitude and IRON-WILL are truly challenged each time he performs another desperate death defying escape from each new nefarious death trap from some diabolical fiend

Batman Adam West Death Trap Batman 66 Harry Houdini Chained Up

Well… that about does ‘er.  I don’t know any other Superhero that I could write so much about and never get bored, perhaps Superman or Wonder Woman.  But Batman is, and always will be “the guy” to me. I hope you enjoyed this article, I have more plenty more to say on “How to be like Batman”, and other topics, so keep your ear to the ground, set your phasers to stun and smoke me a kipper, because I’ll be back for breakfast.

And don’t forget to read How to Be Like Batman PART#1.  If you are wondering “where the heck is PART#2” ? Don’t worry, I have written it, but it is still not quite finished yet.  I am still putting the final touches on it.

Between you and me, PART#2 of How to Be Like Batman is one of my favourite topics, so I went DEEP on this one.  I don’t want to give away what that topic is until it is posted.

But I’ll give you a hint, is one of THE most important characteristics of Batman, I have mentioned it several times in this article and in other recent articles, and well… the clues are there – you’ll find out soon enough.

Each part of this series can be read in any order, but is part of a larger series, so relax about it and enjoy!

READ MORE ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#1: Mental Training and Physical Conditioning

How to Be Like Batman PART#2: Develop an IRON WILL

HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#4: Build Self Confidence Brick by Brick

Why Christian Bale is the Batman Gotham Deserves

Christian Bale Batman Bruce Wayne

I never want to feel that I’m playing it safe. -Christian Bale

A few years ago… well, MORE than a few years ago my best old mate would not shut about some guy called Christian Bale.

“Who’s he then?  Never heard of ’em” I said.

“Oh, he’s good, you gotta watch him in The Prestige, or The Machinist!” he replied.

“I don’t know what the hell you are talking about, I’ve never heard of those films… and I don’t know I care to continue this conversation, good DAY Sir!”

“Trust me, you have GOT to watch them, you’ll thank me man”

And so it went.

Except the “good DAY Sir part” from Willy Wonka, I added that in just now.

So one lazy afternoon, weeks later after I had finished work and *completely* forgotten the conversation with my friend I ambled into a video rental store from the last century and saw the cover of some movie that proclaimed it was “Memento meets Fight Club!”  Well, balderdash and poppycock!  I love both Memento and Fight Club, and surely this was another wild and irresponsible claim that would prove to be a bald faced lie.

But then I remembered my mate who was raving about The Machinist from a few weeks back. I decided that it would probably be crap, but I would watch it just to prove whoever wrote that steaming pile of hyperbole dead wrong.  I watched The Machinist later that night, towards midnight, the perfect time for a paranoid fever inducing film of madness and insomnia.

That quote on the front cover turned out to be pretty accurate. Fast forward in time and I watched The Bale in The Prestige, which became my favourite film for several years.  Not because of Bale, but because our man (I live in Oz) Hugh Jackman was in it, and I liked him in everything, even the crap films. Also,  David Bowie was keeping up appearance as Nicola Tesla, and Bowie is my favourite musician of all time, so I knew I had to watch it, at least for old Ziggy Stardust. Hugh Jackman Christian Bale The Prestige_800x532 The Prestige is without a doubt, Christopher Nolan’s best film.  The internal structure is so sound, that it makes criticisms of the plot in his later films such as The Dark Knight Rises and Inception even more poignant.

To be fair, The Prestige was based on a book, while Inception was not.  Inception is my favourite Chris Nolan film by far, and the one I have watched most next to The Dark Knight.  But while Inception is my personal favourite, I think that The Prestige is Nolan’s best overall film so far.  It became the mold for most of his following films, it established his working relationship with Christian Bale and “good luck charm” Michael Caine.

The Prestige sets up two warring adversaries – not unlike the Joker and Batman, and it features women marganalised by career obsessed men who abandon their loved ones perhaps for a higher calling, or perhaps just because they are selfish – similar to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, Cobb in Inception and Cooper in Interstellar.  While similar ideas were explored in Memento and Insomnia, The Prestige became the prototypical blueprint for a “Nolan” film, one he has not deviated far from ever since. After watching The Machinist and The Prestige I sought out any other films with Christian Bale.

American Psycho was tremendous fun, I loved Bale’s performance, Harsh Times was another highlight.  Bale became someone I went from never having heard of, to eagerly anticipating any upcoming film he might be in. I was genuinely excited when he was announced as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Batman Begins, but  I never went to the cinema to see it.

Why not?

Two words: Joel Schumacher.

Joel SChumacher director Batman and robin Forever_800x571 Nicole-Kidman-and-Val-Kilmer-Batman-Forever George Clooney Bruce Wayne The bad taste in my mouth was still there from the previous off the rails lunatic high camp low intelligence Schumacher directed Batman films that I did not care for.  Every performance was turned up to ’11’, and not in a good way. Christian Bale brings a certain kind of intensity, passion and devotion to any role he inhabits.

The funny thing is, if you look at the other actors who have played Batman (not including the shitty old movie serials), all of the actors are pretty decent in their own way.  The two Schumacher films are total rubbish in my view, but both Val Kilmer and George Clooney I really like in a variety of other roles.

Val Kilmer I really dig in Spartan (that co-starred a young Kristen Bell, later sassy TV detective and crush of a million nerds Veronica Mars) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Robert Downey Jnr.  Kilmer, while only briefly in Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans alongside Nicolas Cage makes a strong impression that recalls his best work, and had me pleading to the movie gods to rescue Kilmer’s long dead career from Micheal Madsen levels of bargain basement crap.

George Clooney I have enjoyed in just about everything.  Out of Sight and Oceans’s 11, The Descendants, Micheal Clayton, Three Kings, Good Night and Good Luck, Up in the Air etc.  Yet his Batman is shockingly bad, so much so that Clooney has publicly acknowledged his performance was not good. Yet, I don’t blame Kilmer or Clooney for their performances.  An actor who does their job follows the lead of the director, writers and producers.  With the exception of the power players like Pitt, Dicaprio, Russel Crowe and friends who write their own ticket these days thanks to Producer credits, and long term friendships with bankable name Directors.  They can make or break a project if they choose to. Christian Bale Buff Batman Begins Shirtless vs The Machinist super skinny Body Transformation The Schumacher Batman films followed the Batman ’66 idea of over the top camp, there is nothing wrong with that – but they did it as a time when people wanted a darker version of Batman – at least the public did.

Meanwhile, the film studios felt that Tim Burton’s Batman movies were “too dark”.  Studios have been saying Burton’s films are too dark for over two decades now, despite the fact that most his films really are not that dark, if anything his films have become lighter in tone with the exception of the genuinely dark Sweeney Todd. How does any of this relate to Christian Bale?  Well, he is known for his passion and dedication to a performance.

But interestingly, if you look at the previous Batmen – Micheal Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney – all of them I would call passionate and dedicated actors.  Except we don’t see that so much with them as Batman, but more in other films. Although, they don’t tend to put their bodies through physical extremes for roles like Bale in The Machinist, Rescue Dawn  The Fighter and Batman Begins. Bale’s dedication to total physical transformation, going from one extreme to another recalls the classic Bobby Deniro/ Scorsese pictures Raging Bull and The King of Comedy.  Denero transforms himself into a lean and mean athlete for the boxing movie Raging Bull, and then later an overweight comedian in The King of Comedy. The King of Comedy Rupert Pupkin Robert Deniro Raging Bull Taxi Driver Body Comparison Micheal Keaton for example is far darker as a recovering addict in the brilliant Clean and Sober.  Val Kilmer is far darker and more passionate as Jim Morrison in the Oliver Stone directed The Doors, or David Mamet’s Spartan.  George Clooney is far more brooding and dark in Syriana.  So each of these actors was quite capable of being a darker dark knight in the style of Chris Nolan and Christian Bale or Frank Miller or Denny O’Neil and Neil Adams. That they were not was really a reflection of the times, and what the studio wanted to put on screen more than anything.

It is easy to blame actors and directors for a poor movie, but for a studio blockbuster film made by committee, the fault equally lies in the people who dictate what the tone of a movie will be before it is shot, or a word of the script is written. The studio – in this case Warner Brothers – wanted a lighter tone for Batman and Robin after the dark films of Tim Burton.  In Batman Returns the movie starts with parents trying to murder their own baby, who later grows up to be the Penguin, despite their efforts.

The Penguin consumes a raw fish and later vomits blood in generous amounts, and yet later in the film Batman is harassed by cartoonish real Penguins with rockets strapped to their backs. The style of Batman Returns (thematically, not visually) is a bit of a mess.  In some ways it is the darkest Batman film ever made, in other ways it was already heading towards Adam West Batman ’66 style camp, BEFORE Joel Schumacher ever came along to ruin the dreams of a million children around the world. The idea that Nolan’s Batman is the darkest is somewhat erroneous.

For example, Micheal Keaton’s Batman kills goons left and right and dumps his love interests at the first available opportunity.  He seems amoral and uncaring, close to the original Batman in Detective Comics #27. By contrast, Christian Bale’s Batman goes out of his way to save lives, and is like a lovesick puppy-dog when he realises the love of his life has spurned him when he returns to Gotham.  So the idea that Burton’s Batman or Nolan’s Batman is “darkest”  kind of misses the point, both the Keaton and Bale versions of Batman are dark in their own way, and both are influenced by the same source material. Chrsitian Bale Batman Bruce Wanye Mansion

I start from scratch with each movie; I wipe the slate and I certainly don’t rely on some bag of acting tricks I’ve amassed over the years  -Christian Bale

Christian Bale came arrived at the right time.  He arrived when the world was ready to see another cinematic Batman that was more in line with the darker version of the Batman character that has been around since the 1970s. The foundations of the modern day Batman were laid down by the Neal Adams (artist) and Denny O’ Neil (writer) run in the 1970s.

They re-established Batman as a super cool character.  A globe trotting spy and man of action like James Bond, who had over the top adventures, and he even got a cool Bond like villain in the form of Ra’s Al Ghul. Frank Miller established the darkest version yet of the Batman in The Dark Knight Returns in the 1986 prestige format four issue mini-series that was later reprinted in a single volume and has remained in print ever since.

Dark Knight Returns is the single most influential Batman story ever published. Miller followed this up with Batman: Year One which Nolan’s Batman Begins draws on heavily for its story and themes.  Allan Moore wrote The Killing Joke in 1988, the only story as dark, if not MORE dark then The Dark Knight Returns. Batman 404 1987 Year One_390x600 The Killing Joke well and truly re-established the Joker as a psychotic amoral mass-murdering lunatic, and that version has become the main version of the Joker in recent decades.  The Joker had been portrayed in many different styles over the decades, sometimes he committed pranks and robberies, sometimes he was a killer, his personality varied with the times, as did Batman.

The Killing Joke, and a few other key stories would lead to the eventual metamorphosis Heath Ledger would undergo for The Dark Knight. All of the great Batman stories ultimately paved the way for a dark knight that was embraced in the modern era, who was closer than ever to the modern comics version of the Caped Crusader.  Christian Bale had the intensity, passion and dedication to pull off both Bruce and Batman in a believable manner, quickly becoming a fan-favourite Batman on screen.

Of all the big screen Batmen, he perhaps is closest to the character in his values. Bale is passionate, dedicated, unrelenting and determined in his acting career, and I feel that this puts him a cut above any actor to put on the cape and cowl so far.  To be Batman means being the best version of yourself you can be, it means making sacrifices instead of being soft and lazy, to be Batman requires that unwavering dedication and iron-will, and Christian Bale has no shortage of that.  He is by far my favourite live action Batman, and I am glad he took the role seriously.

The Best Batman Graphic Novel Nobody is Reading

Batman Death by Design is a fantastic original Graphic Novel by Chipp Kidd and Dave Taylor that I am sad not to see on on any of the TOP 10 Batman Graphic Novels Lists.

Death by Design is on my personal TOP 10 Batman Graphic Novels list, and I’m scratching my head trying to figure out why more people are not into it.

death-by-design-batman-chip-kidd-e1321383028124_319x480

It is easily one of the best Batman graphic novels ever published.  The story is entertaining and not derivative of any other stories in 75+ years of Batman fiction.

That alone makes it interesting.

It is not easy to come up with a new story for a character who has been around so long in monthly publication.

The book was published in 2012, and the cover boasts the bold copy “New York Times Bestseller” which doesn’t mean a hell of a lot in today’s overcrowded market of print and digital products.

The reviews on Amazon are mixed, and some of the reviews leave me wondering whether the reviewers actually read the book at all.

But that is Amazon reviews for you.

Perceptual learning is the process of learning improved skills of perception

death by design 1

Booze, Brains and Batman

Professional wine tasters are able to taste much finer flavors, and make finer distinctions in the wine they taste, or the wine they may drink at home.

Wine tasters develop new neural networks in their brains allowing for a more sophisticated sense of taste, they are able to make more subtle distinctions in flavors that a non-wine taster would be incapable of perceiving.

The wine tasters have enhanced their perceptual learning through direct experience.  Of course this applies to any field of perceptual or experiential learning in life.  I used the wine tasting example as a snobbish cliche.

That “perceptual learning” quote does sound bloody ridiculous and obvious, but it is an important distinction, the kind of small detail that a wine taster, or perhaps the ever obsessive Batman might pay attention to.

Do people who have no appreciation for black and white cinematography, classic pulp adventure heroes and architecture  get the same perceptual enjoyment as people who DO appreciate those topics?

Probably not.

I wonder if at least some of people who read Death by Design will fully understand its brilliance.

Good art asks more of us than just viewing it.  We need to perceive it.  We need to feel it.  We may need to grow and evolve to even appreciate and understand it, it means educating yourself on why something is good, even if you don’t understand it.

We are told the Mona Lisa is “good” art.  But I don’t appreciate the Mona Lisa painting, nor understand it, my perceptual intelligence is just not up to the task.

Art is a funny thing, and very subjective.  But I don’t know, I love to read voraciously – not just comics but mainly non-fiction books on a variety of topics.  I love art, all kinds of art.  I know nothing about architecture whatsoever, but I appreciate the aesthetic beauty of old buildings, especially ones that have a history to them, or are particularly beautiful.

I enjoy black and white cinematography, photography and original comic art before it is inked or coloured or cleaned up for print.  Their is a raw primal beauty to a pencil sketch that you don’t get with a digitally manipulated image.

I feel that black and white cinema is a very pure art form, and not many people are very good at it in the modern era, as it is not so popular since color cinema came along.

Death by Design Batman Chipp Kidd Batcave Alfred

Batman: Death by Design combines the loves of architecture, black and white pencil sketches and pulp-era Batman detective stories into one cohesive whole that is far more than the sum of its parts.

The story in Death by Design involves the usual rampant corruption in Gotham City.  This time the focus is on old buildings that while beautiful and historic, were built illegally with inferior materials, below safety standards, or what would be reasonably termed an acceptable quality of building materials and quality of construction.

The Batman investigates who made those dodgy buildings and why, the story is a very mellow pacing, and takes place in the 1940s.  The art, clothing and buildings reflect the era Batman was conceived in.

The advantage is that the book is created by a talented artist – Dave Taylor who gives us the best of modern comic book art, but shown through a 1940s filter.  The pacing of the book is one of a film, and not a comic book.

Long establishing shots, close ups and more are used so well within the book that you won’t even notice, as you will be immersed in the story.  Death by Design really pulls you into its world, and that is a good thing, you WANT that in fiction.

You want to lose yourself in the story, forget the real world for a while and be carried away by the plot.

Death by Design has a real feeling of going at its own pace, and you get a chance to really settle in to the world, and you don’t always get to do that in comics.

It is a real luxury we typically get from people like Allan Moore, Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman – whose imaginary worlds seem more real than some real world places, thus is their resonant collective power.

The book reminds me of the pacing in films by my favorite director – Akira Kurosawa (director of Seven Samurai), who took his sweet time telling any story, the average length being a wandering three hours.  Akira Kurosawa was not just a director but an auteur – like James Cameron or Ridley Scott – who was obsessively involved in every stage of film production from initial concept to execution and post production.

Often in comic books you rush through a twenty to thirty page story like Jack Bauer mowing down terrorist threats in 24, blindly charging into the next chapter of the story to see what happens next.  I love 24, but you burn through them like you burn through monthly comics, and it just never FEELS satisfying, you want satisfaction, but instead get the buzz of never ending stimulation.  Like eating junk food compared to a good home cooked meal, it is just not the same.

In Batman: Death by Design we get a story completed in around 100 leisurely pages.  Chipp Kidd and Dave Taylor establish a decent prologue, main story, epilogue etc and it never feels rushed.  It is a book you deliberately read at a slower pace because the art is unbelievably gorgeous, the scans here really don’t do it justice.

Death by Design Batman Batcave Chipp Kidd_1

Death by Design Batman Batcave CLOSE UP ZOOM Chipp Kidd_2

Death by Design is one of most aesthetically pleasing Batman books I have ever read, and I have read a lot of Batman stories.  But judging by comments I have read online (other than comments by professional reviewers and writers)  I get the impression that the book may have a niche audience as the average reader of the monthly Batman comics is just not likely to appreciate the book.

It is hard to see how nice the art is, from the scans I made of the print version.  But take a look at the close up lift-out panel I have zoomed in on above this paragraph, of Batman at his bank of monitors in the Batcave.

The level of detail and polish is just stunning.  There is not a wasted panel in this book, no sketch has been rushed, each has been labored over like individual frames in a film.  Each panel is beautiful and meaningful.  I would very much like to see more of Dave Taylor’s art.

I particularly enjoy modern artists who are able to evoke something of the pulp era Batman such as Dave Taylor, Darwyn Cooke or Dave Bullock without sliding into nostalgia.  You may be looking at the old version of Batman, but with fresh new eyes.   It is like seeing Batman for the first very first time, and that is a good thing.

I LOVE this book, it is bloody brilliant

But perhaps it is TOO clever for the average Batman reader, perhaps it is too artsy-fartsy.  A few years down the track, no doubt some of those readers will mature in their tastes, tired of crappy gimmick stories where nothing of any real consequence happens – they may come to appreciate the book and wonder how they looked past it.

But some people will never be into it, and that is fine.  Not every story is for every person.  We all have our personal tastes.  I’ve read the book in both digital and print formats, and it looks beautiful in both.  But overall I prefer the printed version, as the art just shines when you see it on the page, and you can hold it close enough to see all the details, without having to zoom in like you would in the digital version.

Death by Design Chipp Kidd Batman_1

You may feel that my comments here make me come across as a pretentious wanker, and well… that doesn’t bother me, because I know that most readers will not bother reading this brilliant original graphic novel.  Feel free to prove me wrong.

Because most of the time we don’t want something new and different, we want more of the same. More superhero battles, cheap deaths, lazy plots and generic characters to rotate in and out of monthly books giving the illusion of change, but never really changing anything.

So to the few who read this post and say “Wow, that is a beautiful book”, I promise you will not regret reading it.  The story is good, the art is amazing, I’m already reading it for the third time this year when I decided to write this post, because I just love this Batman book, and more people ought to be reading it.

Why does Batman endure? From Superman clone to Dark Mythic Figure

Why is Batman such as appealing character?

I don’t really know.

Batman was created as a commercial character.  Superman was intentionally created to be a sort of inspiring figure, a sort of Space Jesus, or Moses, depending on whether you go with the classic Moses-like Superman, or the more modern Christ-like Superman.

Batman on the other hand was not intended to inspire anyone.  He was designed to be dark and scary.  He was created as a response to the sales of Superman in Action Comics, a sort of paint-by-numbers superhero.

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His cover pose swinging on the cover to Detective Comics #27 a swipe from a Flash Gordon drawing, right down to the rope.  A mask swiped directly from Lee Falk’s The Phantom, that was later changed into a larger mask and cowl.  Wings like DaVinci’s flying machine that later were changed into a cape like Dracula or Zorro.  A gun and a don’t-mess-with-me-attitude swiped from the Shadow, not to mention Batman’s first ever story was a direct lift from an old Shadow story Partners of Peril from The Shadow became The Case of the Chemical Syndicate in Detective Comics.

It is easy to say some guy stole this from that character, and this part from that guy and that guy etc.

But in any of the various arts people swipe, or steal things all the time.  It is one thing to be influenced by another artists work, another to steal someone’s work and pass it off as your own.  One is influence, another is plagiarism.

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Fortunately Batman was a mix of enough different elements, that nobody could successfully sue National Periodical Publications (later DC Comics) for making what was at the time, a relatively generic character, as were many of the heroes and antiheroes of the pulp era.

Batman before he appeared in print was a blonde-haired Superman clone in a red jumpsuit.  The wings and domino mask being the only visually distinctive additions to make him a little different.  Bob Kane’s Batman only became the Batman we know at the suggestion of Bill Finger, who suggested the colour black, cape and cowl and making the Batman’s eyes into small white slits rather than eyeballs.  What would Batman have been like without Bill Finger’s contributions was the subject of this amusing strip by comic artist Ty Templeton.

Batman without bill finger Ty by Templeton

So Batman was created as a cheap visual knock-off of Superman, he then evolved into a cheap knock-off of The Shadow.  However you look at it, he was a character created by numbers purely for commercial reasons, to make a buck in the rapidly emerging market of superhero comic books.

In his first year Batman was a nasty selfish brute, who killed without mercy.  A spoiled rich kid who got his jollies by putting himself recklessly in danger, and did not perform a whole lot of community service.

I doubt that version of the character could have lasted for 75 years.  Batman changed with the times of course, he became an iconic character along with Superman and Wonder Woman during World War II, promoting war bonds and supporting the troops on the covers to his comic books.

He became a sort of smiling cop and public servant in his post war years.  Later he became a science fiction hero in increasingly bizarre stories, followed up by a return to the smiling Batman, but this time with added camp value and over the top death-traps.  He morphed yet again into a James Bond-like hero, sans Robin.  He continued changing,  becoming a dark avenger character once again, like his original inception.

Batman is not a fixed character who is always the same, like any other superhero he changes with the times, reflecting our values and what is going on in the real world outside the borders of the panels of his monthly adventures.

Who would have thought that such a commercial, selfish, cynical character would one day inspire millions around the globe?  Who would have thought that Batman would last for over seven decades, while other generic heroes lived and died in quiet desperation, some not so much forgotten as never found in the first place.

Batman by Matt Wagner_Monster Men

Who would have thought that Batman would inspire fan films, documentaries, custom toys, real life custom built Batmobiles, more T-shirts than there are days in a year and multiple star-studded films.

Who would have thought that Batman could stand up to critical analysis from psychologists, film theorists and literary theorists?

I don’t think anybody could have predicted the staying power of Batman.  I don’t think anyone could have suggested that one day this cheap pulp knock-off would grow into his own self-invented myth, and be known around the world, inspiring children and adults alike.

Why are more people inspired by Batman than Superman?  Do we relate to the darkness in him, his flaws perhaps.  Is Superman the future of the human race?  Did Superman arrive too early and maybe we are not ready to be like him just yet, perhaps we need Batman to pave the way for us.  I like to think that each of the great superheroes arrived when we needed them the most, and they continue to live on as inspiring figures in hearts and minds around the world.

Perhaps we need characters like Batman to help us move away from our personal history of barbarism, torture, war and inhumanity to one another.  Maybe we need the darkness in Batman to acknowledge all that we are, and have been while stepping boldly into the future, diving off into the unknown like Batman  diving of a skyscraper, a mix of perverse joy and fear in his eye.

No tree has branches so foolish as to fight amongst themselves – Native American Proverb

To acknowledge that right now we are like Batman, still obsessed by our collective fear, trauma and pain, but one day we may be Supermen and Wonder Women, leaving behind our obsessions, transcending our collective pain, healing the individual and collective psyches of humanity, forgiving those who might do us harm, and no longer engaging in wars, whether wars of bombs and guns or wars of words and ideas.  I hope that we all follow Wonder Woman’s example and become ambassadors of peace and embody higher values within our own communities.

Batman Superman Wonder Woman by Dave Bullock Cliff Chiang Jim Lee

Superheroes are whatever we want them to be.  Simplistic Avatars of violence, messengers of the future potential of humanity, or just fun characters whom we see ourselves in, and use as vehicles to tell timeless tales.  Not unlike the stories of great heroes and heroines told around camp fires for thousands of years.  A heroic figure by definition is a character of inspiration, a character that hints at something greater than the everyday mundane world.

Whether we live a mundane existence, or accept the challenge to be the greatest version of ourselves we can imagine individually and collectively is up to us.

Our real challenge in life is not to turn away from our struggles and difficulties, but to embrace them and see them as essential to our own growth, to be the every day heroes of our own lives, especially for our loves ones, and those whom depend on us to take care of them.

I’m proud of our superheroes, they may be beings of pure imagination, but they inspire real lives, real emotions and real hearts.  I hope you find your own inner hero, and if you are not ready to do that just yet, I hope you can acknowledge that the potential exists in you right now, there is a place in you that already knows how to be a hero.

That inner hero is waiting for you to take action, to bust out of the chains of doubt, fear and insecurity, that inner hero is waiting to boldly live the greatest life you can imagine.

“I am Vengeance I am the Night” – Exploring the dark Psyche of Batman

Batblog Carl Jung Kicks Ass Edition

Batman’s weakness isn’t kryptonite, silver, or some otherworldly thing: it’s his own, very human nature. And that’s part of what makes him so compelling.

Sure, Batman sometimes acts as a savior stand-in. But for the most part, he’s not a Messiah figure. He’s us.

 – Paul Asay, God on the Streets of Gotham: What the Big Screen Batman Can Teach Us about God and Ourselves

Carl Jung Comic_1_Batblog Number One Batfan

Sometimes I like to imagine “What If…? Carl Jung Had Survived Into Our Modern Day” and if he did, who would be his favourite superhero?

Maybe he found the secret fountain of youth, the cosmic cube or I don’t know, the Tardis, it doesn’t really matter.  The answer of course to who our man Carl’s favourite superhero would be is obvious, it would be Batman.

Wait a minute… who the heck is Carl Jung?

Why he’s a world famous Swiss Psychiatrist, an explorer of the human psyche, a boffin, a super deep thinker and an all around genius, whose work has influenced not only psychotherapy but the worlds and studies of religion, art and literature and popular culture – that’s who.

Joseph Campbell used some of Jung’s ideas in his magnum opus “The Hero’s Journey”. Joseph Campbell was friends with George Lucas, you know that guy who made Star Wars and used Joseph Campbell’s theory of the “Hero’s Journey” as the model for the way to tell the story. So yeah, now basically ever Superhero film ever uses the work of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, whether they know it or not.

A lot of Hollywood writers have actually read and applied “The Writer’s Journey – Mythic Structure for Writers” by Christopher Vogler, which is basically a cliff notes version of Jung and Campbells works as applied to screen writing and popular fiction. Batman Begins used the “Hero’s Journey” as a model for the mythic structure of the story, and it is a big part of why the movie was so gosh darn awesome.

“Carl Gustav Jung often referred to as C. G. Jung, was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. His work has been influential not only in psychiatry but also in philosophy, anthropology, archaeology,
literature, and religious studies. He was a prolific writer, though many of his works were not published until after his death.

The central concept of analytical psychology is individuation—the psychological process of integrating the opposites, including the conscious with the unconscious, while still maintaining their relative autonomy.
Jung considered individuation to be the central process of human development.

Jung created some of the best known psychological concepts, including the archetype, the collective
unconscious, the complex, and extraversion and introversion.” – Wikipedia

This article then, explorers the mind / psyche of Batman, one of literature’s richest, most well developed, popular and resonant characters. It is very long, so I’ll forgive you if you don’t have the stamina and endurance of Batman to read it on one sitting. But by the time you get to end, your mind muscles will be well exercised.

Of all the costumed adventurers and dual-identity characters, Batman has the most psychological depth to him. Plus, he’s the coolest character in town. He embodies the kind of effortlessly cool and heroic bad boy attitude epitomised by the likes of James Dean and Bruce Lee. Batman exists in the upper echelons of timeless iconic pop-culture figures, and seems destined to remain there. I can see Carl Jung spending five minutes with Superman, then getting rather bored and hanging out for the day with Batman.

Carl Jung put forth many ideas in his numerous volumes of work.  One of the more popular ideas was his popularization of concepts such as individuation, a process of healthy integration of the various aspects of one’s psyche, such as the archetypes of the self, which we encounter through the recurring symbolic imagery of archetypal characters, events and motifs.  The hero who goes on a quest. The religious figure who goes to hell and heaven, or the underworld and limbo.  The mother who raises children and personifies the love of God/Goddess and life energy.

Carl Jung Batman THe Brave and The Bold_1
The all boring “couch issue” of Brave and the Bold

Taken symbolically, rather than literally, Jung’s ideas provide a useful framework for looking at stages of our own life.  Conveniently, those same ideas can be applied to works of popular culture such as novels, films, comic books etc. Anything with a story really -for when we want to explore the depths of a character, the themes in their stories, and see how we relate to them. Not all stories can be viewed in Jungian terms, some stories really just don’t fit that mould.  Perhaps Batman doesn’t fit that mould, but Batman is pretty damn cool, and I think I ought to give it a go, for this is not the blog Batman asked for, but the blog that Batman deserves.  That is Jung  up there on the right and left smoking his pipe and pontificating on the mysteries of the Batman in what I can only imagine would have been a very dull issue of the Brave and the Bold involving too much talk and not enough punching crime in the face.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to Jung’s psychological theories, he was constantly expanding and refining his ideas, adding a bit here, throwing something out there. So there is no sense in being dogmatic about his ideas when discussing and applying them to ourselves and the stories we tell. For the sake of simplicity however, I’ll throw out some basic ideas here, that are generally well known and applied critically to popular film and literature.  But this article is by no means intended to be a definitive explanation of Jung’s ideas on individuation and archetypes nor Batman. It is written as a playful exploration of ideas, and nothing more.

When we talk about the “Hero’s Journey”, then we are are talking about the work of Joseph Campbell, who was a friend and commentator on Jung’s work and theories, so it is only natural that the ideas of the two friends blended together as they are applied in today’s world towards film criticism and theory. Jung specialised in the mind or psyche, and motivations for human behavior, formulating ideas about archetypes or predictable culture free specific patterns that humanity followed in its development through stages of life.

Campbell specialiased in the journey in life that a person, or hero takes, rich with all of life’s symbolic meanings and parallels told through myth and story across many cultures throughout history. That journey or monomyth Campbell described typically involved several stages in a cycle.  I’m not going to cover every aspect of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, but just give a brief outline, a further exploration of his ideas will be a topic for another article.

The hero is typically called to adventure, refuses the quest, meets a mentor, and travels beyond the ordinary world into the unknown.  This may involve actual travel or not, symbolically the hero journeys into their own mind, to confront death and their greatest fears.  Having conquered their fears, they gain some type of power, sometimes a special artifact such as a magical sword or talisman, which symbolises self-knowledge.

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The hero returns to the ordinary world to be of service to their community or nation.  Heroes who never accept the quest, fail the quest, or complete the quest but do not render service and serve only themselves can be called failed or fallen heroes.  Characters such as Darth Vader or Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day) are examples of failed heroes, who have failed or abandoned their quest at various stages and given in to their own darkness, refusing to reach full maturity, choosing to serve their own needs, rather than the needs of others.

Carl Jung talked about individuation as being the integration of the various elements of one’s psyche, which include the Ego (surface personality), Persona (the mask we present to the world, our false face of conformity and social obligation) the Shadow (our dark side, all our hidden, naughty or traumatic repressed secrets, feelings and primal life instincts, sex, death, birth).  The Self, unified whole that connects consciousness and unconsciousness, it is the light that shines in darkness until it becomes so bright that there is no more darkness, nothing more hidden from awareness.  Then there is the Anima and Animus, the aspects of the unconscious mind or true self in males and females.

The Anima is the female part of the male psyche.  The Animus is the male part of the female psyche.  Ignoring these or any other aspects of ourselves means seeing the opposite sex as objects, or opposites, rather than complementary to one another.  The integrated psyche in Jung’s theories is a healthy mind that represses no part of itself, and is fully aware of its various elements, whether literally or symbolically.  A mind or person that is at peace with their higher mind or intellect, embraces intuition and heart feelings, feels their emotions deeply, is empowered by their sex and animal instincts.  Nothing is hidden or repressed.

Now let us take a look at [Jung’s ] ideas about the individual, as they may apply to a popular fictional character we all know and love who wears a black cape.

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Let’s start with the fun stuff. Hands up who remembers Darth Vader? Okay, of course you do, we’re going to talk about him for a bit, hope you don’t mind, we’ll get back to Batman soon enough.  Darth Vader provides a good contrast and parallel to Batman of a character who has embraced darkness, but uses it for evil rather than good.  What was it that Vader gave into? Too easy, his dark side of course.

The Shadow self in Jung’s theories is the unknown that the hero journeys into when confronting their own subconscious mind. When Luke fought himself in the cave on Dagobah – you know the cave with the fifty dollar smoke machine that somebody left on overnight – he literally was facing his own dark impulses and the part of him that might become like his father.  This was one of his greatest fears “I will never become like you Father” or whatever the heck young Skywalker said, it was something along those lines.

Visually, we see Luke fighting Vader in the smoke machine cave, but of course he is fighting his own dark impulses, which he is afraid of. Entering the cave is a metaphor for Luke going into his own subconscious mind.  Seems like a waste of time if you ask me, he could have been ridding the galaxy of those annoying Ewoks as Skywalker Pest Control one light-sabre swipe at a time instead of “discovering” himself like a whiny self-indulgent teenager, but let us move on.

Now, this Vader guy of course never completed the hero’s journey, which meant returning from the Shadow and integrating its power into his whole self. If you imagine Vader fighting himself in a dark and cheesy smoke machine cave, well then he lost that battle to his Shadow.  Vader never literally fought himself in any of the Star Wars movies of course, I only use that idea here as an example of how Vader gave in to his negative Shadow.

Darth Vader’s Shadow self was all his core values (good and bad) pain, trauma, evil thoughts and intentions, ambitions, and impulses.  He gave in to those impulses and let the negative aspect of the Shadow self take over.

Just because Vader was a total bad ass, does not mean that our Shadow is bad or evil.  The Shadow is a necessary part of our psyche that represents our individual subconscious mind in the collective unconscious of humanity. The Shadow is neutral like fire or water, you can swim in water and have a great time, or you can drown in it, or be burned by fire instead of cooking a tasty meal for dinner. The trick is to know how to harness these natural forces for our own use, rather than get consumed by them or obsessed with the power of our Shadow for its own sake.

Darth Vader = Bad Ass

While in the case of Vader going over to the dark side meant giving in to the negative side of his Shadow and subconscious mind, it doesn’t have to be that way. Our personal subconscious is also the place of sex, survival and life instincts.  Without the primal forces that shape us, life would cease to have meaning. However if we were ruled entirely by these primal forces then we would live as animals, rather than living as free thinking and feeling human beings.

In classic folk tales and psychoanalytic theory, the subconscious mind has been something to be afraid of, a dark depository of everything bad and wrong about us, or at the very least strange, unusal and unpredictable.  Take for example Alice in Wonderland, which was originally titled “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”  in the first short version, before the full length story was written.  Wonderland was a synonym for “Underland”, meaning the place beneath, or the subconscious mind.  The place where dreams and the intuitive spontaneous self have been wrongfully imprisoned out of fear, rather than integrated into a whole healthy individual.  Whatever we deny or repress we give power to, and when it erupts like a Volcano into our lives, we are rightly afraid of this torrent of mental “stuff” that seems so unwelcome in one hit, but is better digested in small bite size chunks.

Like playing with fire, if we go messing around in our own mind, we may get burned by the memory of old pains and trauma, reliving it, or at least some would suggest that this is so.  It is fair to say that if someone has been through massive trauma – war, poverty, starvation, loss of a family member etc, that the last thing they want to do is go stirring up all the dirt in their mind.

Even the very labels of subconcious or unconscious mind (interchangeable terms, although for this article Jung’s Universal Unconscious implies a vast network of non-physical minds or quantum information that make up the collective potential and knowledge of humanity) implies that is it something unknowable, or below our every day awareness.  This is really a fallacy, as any part of our mind is open to us, should we bother looking.  The very term unconscious mind creates false beliefs in people that lead them to feel cut off from the very deepest parts of themselves.

Talking to a professional therapist is one valid way to let go and process our emotions in a healthy way, in a safe context free of judgement and fear of reprisal. However, this is rather costly and impractical for most people.  Many individuals find their own way to process their own trauma, through meditation, yoga, alternative therapies, encounter groups and numerous other methods with varying results.

The association of the subconscious mind as the storehouse of past trauma, leads us to believe that it is too dangerous to go messing around in by ourselves, hence this is why in mythic tales the hero must follow a mentor or guide so they do not get lost in their journey or burned by the flame of Gnosis or knowledge. However, trauma is not the only reason to explore our own minds.

If we never explore our inner selves, then we are no more human beings than mindless automatons, full of reactions and pre-conceived ideas about life. If we rely only on guides however, if we passively wait for someone to guide us or fix us, we never become mature self-reliant adults.  We must become our own hero and explorer of our own minds, if we are to be healthy, sane mature adults.

The subconscious mind is not something to be feared, but embraced, this is a key defining point in Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming Batman. Bruce learns to make friends of pain, fear and uncertainty.  In short he makes the unknown known through the light of introspection and facing ones fear and primal urges and instincts. He joins his most base impulses with wisdom and discipline, becoming a master of his own mind and body. He transforms his own pain and uses it as fuel for awakening to his own greater potential and his quest in life, to become the Batman, and war on crime.

Darth Vader Transformation_My My this here Anakin Guy
That’s gotta hurt

In the example of Darth Vader, he never completed his journey. He stopped at the Shadow self, and embraced that as his new Persona – the face he presented to the world. But he also gave in to the wild energy of the Shadow not just in the outer physical world, but in his heart. Vader was no longer human. He underwent his transformation from a human Jedi warrior into an unthinking and unfeeling cyborg, more man than machine, but this happened first in his own heart, and then his body followed his inner most impulses and desires, to be inhuman, to give up his emotions and feelings.

Vader giving into his Shadow self is symbolic of modern man’s over emphasis on intellect, logic and rational thought, at the expense of all else. The mechanical modern man is a creature of thought and the head, who has cut himself off from the female aspect of heart, emotion, intuition, love and devotion to and respect for all life.
Only when the forces of head and heart combine, are we fully human. Otherwise, like Darth Vader we are denying an essential part of ourselves.

 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

In the comic book story Batman: Ego, writer/artist Darwyn Cooke explores Batman’s Shadow and Egoic self. Bruce has a dialogue with a demonic primal shadow entity that has the face of Batman, minus anything human.

The entity tells hims that he is the very heart of Bruce, not just a persona or costume that he can just take off or walk away from. Bruce refuses the claims and when the Batman entity demands that Bruce give himself over to him, to let him have free reign and kill the Joker, Bruce refuses. The entity then says that he will drive Bruce insane, or alternatively Bruce can kill himself, as the wraith like Bat entity refuses to let go of its hold on Bruce Wayne’s mind.

Bruce begrudgingly realises that the Batman entity is an inescapable part of himself, that cannot be denied or suppressed. However he will not give himself over completely, he will not become a killer and a maniac like the super-villains he hunts. Instead Bruce makes a bargain with the Batman entity (his Subconscious mind, his Shadow) that each will live their part of the life of Bruce Wayne and The Batman. When Bruce puts the mask on he gives himself over to The Batman, the dark primal figure who terrorises criminals in the night.  It is basically the same scene where Luke sees Vader (his own fears) in the cave on Dagobah.

In Cooke’s story, Bruce encounters his very real fears symbolically through his Shadow. Realising the undeniable power of his Shadow Bruce Wayne moves through stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

Batman Ego_Darwyn Cooke Art
Batman “EGO” by Darwyn Cooke

He knows his Shadow cannot be denied and instead comes to an acceptance of this part of his psyche.  Bruce integrates the aspects of the subconscious that he may have otherwise suppressed and denied or given himself over to and become a killer. He strikes a balance. Without the integration of his Shadow self, Bruce would always be living a lie, torn between  two worlds – his desire to be the dutiful son of philanthropists Thomas and Martha Wayne, and his burning desire for vengeance, justice and righting wrongs as Batman.  How does Bruce accomplish this integration of his psyche?  Through allowing, non-resistance, through willing submission to his own Shadow self, but only on the terms that work for him, thus integrating his Shadow in a positive way, rather than giving in to the negative demands of his Shadow self like Darth Vader did.

Some parts of the tale Ego are a little clumsy, and Cooke is rather critical of his own story in the introduction to the collected edition of Batman: Ego. However, the story is unique, and addresses something that other Batman stories really only hint at by tackling it head on.

Did Bruce Wayne really choose to be Batman, or was he incapable of NOT being Batman?

Were the conditions and forces that drove Bruce Wayne to become Batman too much, was it inevitable that he become Batman.  Once Bruce gave himself over to that force, that burning desire to become Batman, could he ever give it up permanently? Was the death of his parents part of some higher order, that orchestrated the creation of Batman as a servant and protector of Gotham.  This idea is at the heart of many Batman stories. Some would call it fate, others a calling or simply a mission, Bruce being Batman gives a clear and definite purpose to his life, being Batman makes sense of the chaos his life had become.

Batman means order, structure and routine discipline.  Bruce without Batman is a lost soul.  This primal conflict makes for suitably dramatic – if not repetitive – stories where Bruce temporarily gives up being Batman, only to return with an almost religious zeal and rejuvenation to continue his war on crime, usually admitting that it was a mistake to walk away from being Batman, or feeling that the city truly needs him, that he is irreplaceable.

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Batman “Mask” by Bryan Talbot

In Legends of the Dark Knight #39-40, 1999 by Bryan Talbot in the story Mask – Batman is kidnapped by a criminal maniac posing as some type of therapeutic doctor. He drugs Bruce, keeps him in a hospital bed for weeks causing his muscle mass to atrophy.  The false Doctor further convinces Bruce that he is an alcoholic homeless man who only imagines that he is a superhero.  That Bruce retreats into a fantasy world of his own imagination, having never coped with the death of his parents.

“You see the world as meaningless chaos. You feel that you need to impose order. It’s a fundamentally fascist impulse that many people share. When you put on that mask, a different personality takes over. Powerful. Dominant. Able to cope with things.”  – LOTDK#39

The story is pretty twisted, and really gets into the mind of Bruce Wayne.  The two part Mask story has some interesting ideas that give insight into the subjective nature of Batman’s particular brand of madness, or at least possible theories about Batman’s existence. A tormented sedated Bruce Wayne lies helpless in bed while the maniacal manipulating fake doctor tries to convince Bruce even further of his sickness, his fantasy life as Batman.

The doctor torments Bruce with a poor copy of the Batman’s true costume hanging in the corner.  A pale Halloween imitation of Batman’s costume that is sad and pathetic, filthy and falling apart at the seams, much like Bruce Wayne’s mind which has gone to pieces in his desperate struggle in the hospital bed.  Bruce struggles to find some semblance of self, to make order of the chaos he finds himself in.

The monologue from the fake doctor continues, giving the reader a convenient capsule meta-analysis of Batman as a mythic figure, and making us, the reader question if this really is Batman / Bruce Wayne or someone else altogether.  The fake doctor sews seeds of doubt in both Bruce’s mind and the mind of the reader, making for a brief but deliciously demented two-issue tale:

“Did you know that the word “Persona” originally meant “Mask”? According to Jung, this is the personality assumed by an individual in adaptation to the outside world. There’s your mask Bruce, and you didn’t make it just to hide your face. Some masks were used in battle to frighten the enemy. What that your idea with this one?

Some are symbols of deep religious or personal belief systems. They could transform an ordinary person into a supernatural being. In Africa, people saw their fellow tribesmen transformed into spirits, demons, animals. Australian aboriginal “Bush Soul” masks conferred to the wearer the power of the animal or bird they represented.

When you put on your mask, a different personality takes over. Why choose a bat?

Something from your childhood I’ll bet. But it’t not that simple. The bat represents darkness. It’s associated with witchcraft, black magic, vampirism.

In Christian mythology it is “the bird of the Devil”, an incarnation of the prince of darkness. Satan is often depicted with bats’ wings. Do you see what I’m getting at? Batman is your dark side, your negative side.”

Legends of the Dark Knight #39 Mask_Interior

Of course, Batman inevitably triumphs in the story, but not without the aid of a nurse (whom he hallucinates is Catwoman) who takes him off the various drugs and sedatives that kept Bruce weakened in a fugue state, and more susceptible to the suggestion of the angry vindictive fake Doctor.  The fake doctor/criminal feels that Batman made him a victim and blames Batman for the death of his parents, even though in fact it was the mob who killed his parents after his father became an informant for Batman.

The potential danger of analysis is that the analyser often makes erroneous assumptions about their patient, they look at little pieces and assume they understand the whole. Another character who tried to analyse and understand Bruce Wayne / Batman was Dr. Hugo Strange, who has popped up infrequently throughout Batman’s history, right from the very earliest stories.  Dr. Strange (no relation to Marvel) made various assumptions about Batman, many of them completely wrong.

The problem with another person viewing Batman is that they assume that Batman is like them, but he is not.  Rather than viewing our heroes and assuming they are “like us”, instead we can look at Batman and assume that he is not like us, that he is more psychologically together than we might suspect, and lives at a whole other level compared to us average Joe’s.  This erroneous assumption proved to be Hugo Strange’s undoing, at least in the early stories, eventually Hugo got his revenge in later stories where he dressed up and tried to become Batman himself.

The two part story in Legends of the Dark Knight #39-40 is a good deconstruction of the various elements of Batman.  It breaks him down and builds him up in two brief issues, managing to competently explore Batman/Bruce’s psyche without over staying its welcome nor being too philosophical or preachy for the reader. It was typical of the LOTDK title which aimed to do something different than the usual monthly marathon of punching crime in the face and finding clues that conveniently were there like bread crumbs to be found only by Batman.

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Legends of the Dark Knight was a more cerebral, intelligent title, the thinking persons Batman if you will, that often dealt with more mythic elements of the character, with stories that mainly focused on his early years.  LOTDK managed to tell tales that were deeply engrossing and thankfully avoided being pretentious.  The stories in LOTDK also tend to be more timeless than the regular multi-part monthly books and all too often big event crossovers that are like junk food to readers – exciting at first, but ultimately shallow and unsatisfying, with rare exception.

Where Vader gave himself over to his negative Shadow self, and became the Persona of Darth Vader, Bruce Wayne gives himself over to the positive Shadow self, he uses the power of dark forces, but remains in his heart, a good moral and sane man. He may not think of himself as a good man, but his actions say otherwise.

He knowingly became a self-invented urban legend and myth, the Caped Crusader, Dark Knight Detective, the Guardian of Gotham, a Sentinel of Justice and virtue.  Unlike Vader, Wayne journeys into his Shadow and returns, having mastered the power of the Shadow and integrated this part of his psyche into himself.  Whether Hugo Strange, the Scarecrow or the fake doctor/criminal from the Mask story, Batman proves himself time and again to be mentally stronger than his adversaries had anticipated, and it is usually leads to their undoing.

Over the years Batman has worn may costume variants, and specialised suits, he adapts to the task at hand, appearing in different forms in different times. His metamorphosis is ongoing, some say Bruce Wayne wears a mask, others say that Batman is the man, and Bruce Wayne the mask of normality.  From time to time that mask of sanity slips, and perhaps even Bruce Wayne does not know whether he is really the Man or the Bat.

Bruce Wayne wears many masks and displays multiple personas. There is the rich irresponsible playboy on display for the public. There is the Batman who punches crime in the face and creates terror in the hearts of criminals. His irresponsible undisciplined Playboy behavior as Bruce discredits the idea that Wayne could ever be Batman.

Batman is sleek and refined, like a jungle cat.  Wayne is sloppy and obnoxious, lending further credit to Bruce Wayne’s acting abilities.

Then there is Bruce Wayne behind closed doors, perhaps sans Persona. Bruce Wayne in the Batman costume, with his cowl and mask removed sitting in his Batcave, usually in front of a bank of monitors and screens – neither fully Bruce nor fully Batman, but a third hybrid personality. Is this his true personality? Is this the ‘self’ that he subjectively feels he is, behind closed doors, when nobody else is watching?

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Batman “Shaman” by Denny ‘O Neil

In Legends of the Dark Knight #1-5, 1990 by Denny ‘O Neil, the story Shaman, deals literally with the power of masks, personas, transformation and the channeling of unknown mythic powers unto the bearer of a totem mask.  In the Shaman story Bruce Wayne is critically injured and near death during his travels, he is taken in and nursed by a Shaman and his grand-daughter.

The Shaman heals Bruce by telling him a story, the story is a magic ritual to access the hidden powers of the universe.  Bruce Wayne recovers, but is baffled how he could have survived or how could he be healed by a story.  Wayne is a man of Science, and the Shaman state is beyond him.  In later Batman stories over the years, we see Batman meditating, or journeying willingly to deaths door via Tibetan death meditations.  We also see him practice Yogic disciplines such as the slowing down of all bio-rhythms including the heart to near death to survive in low oxygen environments, a handy trick for Batman’s inevitable escape from the death trap of the week.

Legends of the Dark Knight #4_Shaman_Panel

But Batman’s Yoga/Meditation derived abilities are of a different order than the Shaman’s healing powers, which leaves him with no frame of reference for how a healing of life ending injuries could be possible.  The story later continues in Gotham with some maniac wearing a similar mask to the healing mask causing trouble in Gotham, and some other guy with yet another mask that seems to have a hypnotic power over people.  The details don’t matter so much, it is a fun read and one that is certainly under-appreciated, if a little confusing.

A key scene (which takes place during Batman’s early years) takes place when Batman tracks down the medicine man / Shaman years later to see what the connection may be to the maniac running around Gotham in the healing mask.  He finds the medicine mas has lost the old ways and become an alcoholic, to the shame of his grand-daughter.  He still manages to tell Bruce a piece of timely advice however: “Wear the mask.  Become the mask”.

The Shaman hints at the totem/animal connection of Bruce as Batman, and the possibility that his mask has more power than he yet knows.  The Shaman also seems to have a sixth sense, how does the Shaman know that Bruce wears any kind of mask, is he just guessing?  No matter how the Shaman knows, it is a powerful scene in the story, and adds a little more to Batman’s inspiration than just the bat flying through the window.

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While Batman has been involved with various potential female love interests over the decades – Silver St Cloud, Vicki Vale, Julie Madison, Kathy Kane, Nocturna –  perhaps the most significant female throughout his masked crime fighting career has been Catwoman.  Catwoman may be seen as a representation of Batman’s Anima (the feminine aspect of a male psyche).  The various models Bruce Wayne dates are distractions, part of the public mask of Bruce Wayne, and never serious love interests.  The models are far too mundane for a man who is equal parts James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Zorro.

A man who dresses up in a fetish like costume would naturally be more attracted to a female who also dresses up in costume, and is not afraid to fight with Batman, nor to exist in his night time world, the seedy underbelly of Gotham, away from the prissy daytime glamour of Bruce’s false love interests.  But Bruce can never fully embrace Catwoman due to his morality, and Catwoman’s immorality.  She is a criminal, he lives to end criminals.  If Catwoman were to reform and give up her cat burglarly jewel stealing habits, Batman could conceivably have a deeper relationship with her.  But Batman would have to give up something to have a relationship with Catwoman also, whether he gave up being Batman altogether, or spent less total time fighting crime would mean compromise.  And Batman doesn’t do compromise, it undermines his whole work ethic and values, perhaps if he retired around age 40-50 and one of the various Robins took over as Batman, he may have a chance to fulfill the parts of his life he denies himself.

Catwoman by Darwyn Cooke Sketch
Catwoman / Selina Kyle by Darwyn Cooke

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A relationship where Selina Kyle (Catwoman) would be part of both of Bruce’s worlds.  The night time adventures of Batman and Catwoman, and the day time romance of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.  The only other significant woman over Batman’s long career who could truly match him is perhaps Tali Al Ghul.  Talia, daughter of the relatively insane Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman’s most maniacal Bond-like villain with a plan to wipe out most of the world’s population to save the planet) had a passionate on again/ off again affair with Batman starting in the fan favourite 1970s Denny ‘O Neil / Neal Adams run.

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Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul

The trouble with Talia is that she is allied with her criminal father, and is a criminal herself, the same basic conflict that prevents Bruce from being with Catwoman also applies to Talia.  Batman’s morality is absolute and uncompromising in his modern stories.  In the graphic novel Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia Batman hunts a young criminal girl who has murdered several people who abused/harmed her.  When he finds the girl has invoked the protection right of Wonder Woman through the pact of Hiketeia, Batman doesn’t care and attacks Wonder Woman and continues his pursuit of the girl, whom he can only see as a criminal.

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Batman#363 Nocturna and Bruce Wayne
Bruce and Nocturna

In some stories Talia al Ghul is less a criminal and more aligned with Bruce Wayne’s values, such as in the Elseworlds tale  Batman: League of Batmen.  A near future sees Ra’s Al Ghul at least partially successful in killing off most of the worlds population (including Batman, whose corpse Ra’s keeps as a trophy).  The son of Batman fights to reclaim the mantle of the Bat from Ra’s Al Ghul, who has turned his league of Assassins into a League of Batmen, trained killers who enforce his will wherever he directs them.  Talia in this story fights back against her increasingly insane father with the aid of her and Batman’s son.

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Talia Al Ghul

Superhero stories where the hero gets married and lives happily ever after mostly don’t work.  Those ideas work fine in a self-contained story, but not in ongoing comics stories such as Superman, Spider-Man and Batman.  Spider-Man and Superman both have been married, and then eventually separated as the stories suffer when the character is married, and the writer is forced to derail the story to include domestic scenes of sitting on the couch watching television.

Nobody wants to read superhero comics with their action heroes sitting on the couch.  Unless there is a market for a Big Brother comic book with a bunch of idiots in a house who have super-powers, I don’t think we will see  a demand to marry off more heroes.  The same basic idea applies to James Bond.  You can have the one true love, or the wedding story, but basically those stories are only there to turn bad and provide motivation to the main character, which is lazy cliched writing at best, and downright sexist at worst.

Batman is a deeply engaging character, the multiple interpretations through film, video-games, animation and other media are a testament to the strength of the basic design and themes of the character.  You can run Batman through many different filters, different theories and perspectives that may or may not lead to a deeper understanding of the character.  The strength of Batman is that he defies categorisation, but it is still interesting to explore the ideas that make up this popular fictional character.

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell’s ideas were just theories. However popular they may be, popularity alone does not make them into some unshakable truth.  If something such as truth exists, then perhaps it is flowing, living and dynamic, rather than static, fixed and unchanging. One of the few truths we may come to know is that we are alive, we exist and we grow. If life is growth, then how can truth ever be static, fixed and unchanging. If Life is truth, then truth should also be constantly evolving and growing.  This is the problem of trying to conceptualise the unknowable in a few words, with limited human perceptions through the medium of language.

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Ultimately however we describe reality, we are only using symbols, if we remember that we are using symbols, then we need not get lost in arguments over whose symbol is more important or more true, so we can playfully explore reality through different filters, that some may call beliefs, ideas, values, theories etc. The more different filters we are able to apply to our own lives, the more contrasting perspectives we are able to hold at one time, the larger our mental picture of reality grows, however it is still only symbolic of the whole of reality and not definitive.

Is Batman a kind of truth?  I really don’t know if he is, I just know that I experience very real feelings and emotions reading the comics and watching the movies, and I share many of his most sacred values.

Persistence… Determination… an IRON-WILL forged in the heart of self-knowledge

Let us just imagine for a moment for arguments sake that Batman is a kind of truth, if he represents some dark and primal archetypal force that is embedded within the hearts and minds, DNA, cells and ancestral memories of humanity, then I suggest the idea that he is a flowing dynamic constantly changing and evolving truth.   I don’t see him as a static figure, even though he may appear on a comic page, he is full of life and motion.

Batman may be a truth that is open to multiple valid simultaneous interpretations.  The more he expands as a cultural idea as fiction, fable and myth, the more he is consciously explored, the more we learn about ourselves.  How our values en masse and as individuals are reflected in him.  How the emphasis of his stories changes with the times, within the multiple competing cultural narratives, while something of the character, some core element… that is almost indefinable… remains.

What does this all this airy-fairy jibber jabber mean? In simple terms we always recognise Batman, no matter what permutations (changes and transformations) he goes through.  Whether on the comic book page, the big screen or the little screen, the idea of Batman is so strong that he punches through the comic panels to pull our attention into his world.  Somehow when we read the flat two dimensional pages of a comic book, an imaginary character comes to life within our own minds.  We care about whether he is victorious in his war on crime, we feel his pain and defeats, we enjoy the vicarious thrill when he escapes a hopelessly desperate situation.

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Batman is an idea that refuses to go away, at 75 years young, he only gets stronger and more popular.  Let us take a brief look at how the various elements of Batman come together, his character, his values and his journey from man to urban pop-cultural mythic figure.

Batman remains a timeless engaging character, a self-made man who reminds us of our own core values, or lack of values. His bold nature and contrary nature force us to see him in a particular view.  To encounter Batman is to encounter our own morality or lack thereof reflected back at us.  Unlike Superman who was basically born Superman, Batman became Batman by choice through hard work, persistence, determination and sheer will power.

All good values for people who dare to live the best life they can imagine for themselves.  Rather than being impractical, tough minded determination and an iron will combined with an unshakable morality are highly practical qualities to cultivate in a confused world of rapidly changing values.  The world needs people of good moral character to be leaders and figures of every day inspiration in their own communities.  It already has its share of dictators and people who try to change the world through bending others to their will, rather than co-operation.

Developing a good moral character may seem old fashioned and boring, it sure isn’t sexy or exciting.  It means hard work and discipline.  It means not giving up when times get tough.  It means standing for something in this world and staying the course through this storm and the next.  Many people will just go along with the crowd for fear of standing on their own two feet.  But not Batman, he stands as a shining example of what one man can accomplish through hard work, an iron will, intelligent training, persistence and determination and service to humanity.  He is an inspirational and mythic figure who transcends the boundaries of the comic book pages he was born in.

Batman inhabits a strange and wonderful comic book world where time is more fluid and aging has little effect.  Where the laws of physics are perhaps a little different, where a city can reflect the twisted psyche of its criminally insane as well as its flawed Guardian.

A world where a bold adventurer can jump off of roof tops repeatedly without destroying his patella or connective joint tissue and tendons, and where life threatening injuries are conveniently healed by the next chapter in the story.  A world where multiple versions of characters exist, characters run into their own evil twins or doppelgangers, time travel is common place and one’s thoughts can be read as thought balloons and speech bubbles by people from another dimension looking down into your world.

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The Batman is a fear inspiring figure, he wears horn-like pointed bat ears upon his cowl that in silhouette give him the resemblance of a devil or demonic figure. He dresses primarily in dark colours, to better blend in with the night and shadows. His cape is a clear inversion of the gaudy 4-color superhero archetype, black often being the colour worn by villains in Hollywood movies and popular fiction, he also exists as the counterpoint to Superman’s sunny cheerfulness and bright costume.

The dark cape is perhaps one of the most direct references to Zorro, Dracula and The Shadow. Shadows and the night time have long been often associated with the unknown, and danger.  To be in complete darkness IS dangerous, as without a source of light, we can trip, fall and even die from injuries. Thus Batman’s costume itself taps into out very primal, and very real fears, while Superman’s bright primary colours are more reassuring and comforting.  Fear can be purely irrational and confusing, and also keep us alive in the face of real physical dangers, a fact Batman knowingly uses against his foes.

The Batman’s eyes also were intentionally made into small white slits (rather than eyeballs) at the suggestion of Bill Finger. To give him even more of an other wordly appearance, he seems to be less than human, and more of a wraith like demon in a cape.  The white eyes would become a key visual feature of the character through the decades, giving him an almost instant mythic look.  His pointy ears, cape and spiked gloves mean he is always recognisable in silhouette, an important feature when designing iconic characters.  Matt Wagner makes good use of the Batman’s iconic face / silhouette  on the cover to Batman/Grendel: Devil’s Bones Book #1.

Batman Grendel Devils Bones Book 1 Cover 390 x 600

Character designers in animation and comics typically (though not always) make their characters recognisable in silhouette form, see how many characters you can recognise in the chart below.  I got all of them except for that character in the bottom right corner.

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Batman Action Figure Silouette_Batblog

While Batman is a character of extreme moral virtue and discipline, his early appearances portray him as a somewhat sloppy avenger with a devil-may-care attitude regarding death (both his own potential death and his enemies) and violence. He would spend all his efforts busting into a villains lair then get caught in a convenient and ridiculous death trap.  His powers of concentration so focused on his inevitable escape from the death trap that a presumably fatigued Batman would then clumsily stumble into the path of an oncoming bullet.  So much for training and preparation.  This was not yet the near invincible Batman that would be encountered over the years.

In his early days Batman had not yet learned how to dodge bullets, a feat he accomplishes at a near superhuman level in the modern comics. Notably, in his earliest appearances, Batman matter of factly killed his adversaries, frequently by shoving them over railings in abandoned factories, or out of second story windows.  One of those criminals of course became the Joker.  Whoops.  If he had gone to prison instead of being shoved carelessly into a chemical vat, we the reader would have no Joker stories to enjoy.  Batman’s careless actions in this case unwittingly created not only his greatest villain, but gave us years of memorable stories to enjoy.

In Batman #1, 1939 Batman fights Hugo Strange and his giant monster men, one of the monster men is cruelly hung from the Bat-gyrocopter, yet another machine gunned to death by Batman in an crop duster style plane. Batman coldly commenting that it “was probably for the best”.  No mercy is given by this grim avenger.  Given that the monster men were mindless beasts, it seems a rather cruel and unusual fate to have been hung by the Batman, an execution method usually reserved for law breakers, not mindless possibly mentally ill monsters genetically engineered by a madman.

The point may be argued whether the monster men were human at all, they had human DNA, large humanoid bodies and were closer to human beings than say Chimpanzees or Gorillas.  Killing them may have been cruel, but possibly not murder if they were not truly human.

The changing morality of Batman over the years has muddied how various writers and fans interpret and argue about the character.  Two things seemed to have remained though, after that initial year where all bets were off.  Batman doesn’t kill (which mainly applies to human beings, but does NOT apply to robots, animals, A.I., viruses, fungi, bacteria, and some alien species) and he doesn’t use or like guns.

However at times Batman has used gun like devices that do other things like shock people for instance, and in a couple of oddly out of place stories years later, he did use guns again several times.  The other exceptions of course are Elseworlds stories and imaginary stories, again, where all bets are off.  So Batman doesn’t kill, unless he does, and he does not use guns…. except for the times that he did use guns.  Confused yet?  Good, let’s move on then.

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Batman #1 Hugo Strange and the Monster Men

Batman is a self-invented myth, created intentionally by a man who manipulates the psyche of criminals and average Joe’s alike. Being an intentionally manufactured mythic figure however, takes away nothing of the effect he has on Gotham City and its citizens. He does not disrespect the power of myth, so much as tap into myth as another tool in his crusade against crime and injustice.  What would Carl Jung think of Batman’s early days as a bit of a maniac who dressed up like a Bat and killed people?  His community service and war on crime was not very effective in his early years either.

Is Batman a schizophrenic?  There is a popular seventeen page article on the internet which suggests so, in reference to the 1989 Batman movie.  The article is titled “Put on a Happy Face: Batman as Schizophrenic Savior” by Robert E. Terrill and is well worth reading.  Batman later reformed of course, and from then on it was no killing, no guns.

Would Carl Jung see this as evidence of a man who was starting to develop his morality as an adult, and move beyond mere reactionary fascist fantasy behavior of trying to control the external world?  Or would Jung see Batman as a man-child who had never recovered from his child hood trauma?  Who acts out in the only way he knows how, by retreating within himself, creating a Persona that is bold and powerful, while Bruce the man hides his weakness and pain, beneath the mask of the Titan of Gotham.

Batman taps into the vain of the universal unconscious and archetypes that Carl Jung frequently talked about in Jungian Psychology, that primal part of human beings that responds to images, symbols and mythology. The part of us that inherently recognises mythic figures for what they are in a very raw, visceral, immediate and undeniable fashion.

It is one of the reasons Batman works best as a comic book character, and less so in films and other adaptations. Even with no knowledge of the character, to see the comic book art of Batman is to encounter a physically dynamic, kinetic explosive force of living shadow and dream.  A dark monster from the corner of your eye, a figment of your imagination given bold and vibrant life on a two dimensional pulp inspired plane. A crusading avenger of extreme morality and ‘goodness’, who fights the good fight and has the courage of his convictions.

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But take away the preparation, strategising, gadgets, tech, wealth and resources of Batman, and you just have a guy who never gives up.  His iron will is so strong he WILL beat you no matter what you throw at him.  No matter how many times you knock Batman down, he just keeps getting up.  No matter how impossible the situation Batman refuses to back down or give up hope.

Lessons from Batman #52 Adversity, Batman vs Darkseid_Batblog

Has Batman completed the Hero’s Journey?  I don’t know, perhaps he has not.  Perhaps he is a psychologically damaged individual who is deeply flawed but does the best he can.  Perhaps we love him for his flaws as much as his strengths.  He may not be an ideal role model, but he sure does embody many good qualities, values and morals.  Most heroes have some kind of flaw, Batman just has more than his fair share.

I don’t know that anyone can ever have the final word on Batman, as his character is still growing, his stories are still being told.  You could argue that he doesn’t fit into Carl Jung’s ideas, because Jung’s ideas in recent decades were basically hijacked and applied to fictional characters, in ways that perhaps he did not intend when he originally conceived them for actual human beings.

With the popular Denny ‘O Neil Batman we get a tortured soul racked with grief and guilt over the events of his life and choices he has made.  In the Grant Morrison version of Batman he is more of a Zen-Yogi-Warrior, a being who lives in the present moment and adapts to his every changing environment.  In some stories Batman is a globe trotting manly James Bond with no regrets, in others he is a near manic-depressive racked with guilt over the death of his parents.

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Will the real Dark Knight please stand up?

Is one version of Batman more valid than another?  Which is the real Batman, the Batman in the comics or the Batman in live action films?  The Batman in the Arkham Asylum video games or the Batman in the various animated cartoons, or the Batman from the old no-budget movie serials?  No version of Batman is truly definitive, because Batman is all of these ideas and more, his whole is more than the sum of his parts.

Some writers and artists leave more of an influence on him than others, but each contribute to a greater canvas.  A giant constantly evolving multidimensional Batman mosaic that defies categorization, triumphantly blazing through the collective minds of humanity.

Like a freight train at full speed, to encounter the Batman on the comic page is to find a relentless unstoppable force who bursts right off the page and into your mind, and once there, refuses to leave. He is the real life “Inception”, as are all mythic figures who lodge themselves in the very depths of our collective and personal psyches, and stubbornly refuse to leave no matter our emphasis on scientific material progress. Our disbelief in magic and imaginary super powers is strangely at odds with our heart felt desire to possess real magic and powers.

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Perhaps the most relatable aspects of Batman are not just his self-realisation through training, the self-made man of hard work and discipline, who, with a bit of hard work and applied effort we could become more like if we chose to.  Inspiring a figure as he is, what keeps him grounded and relatable to kids, adults, movie goers, readers, fans, academics, working class stiffs and others is that Batman is deeply flawed.  He is a bit of a mess, at times he is confused and conflicted, we see something of ourselves in him.  He is not invincible like Superman, a bullet can kill him, but his real wounds are deep psychological wounds over his failures in life.

He makes all sorts of bone headed mistakes, goes back to the drawing board and starts again.  He is bull-headed, stubborn and frequently cuts himself off from human contact, to his own detriment.  Batman’s character flaws and suffering help make him more sympathetic and human.

He is neither man nor god, but somewhere in between.  In training his mind and body, he transcends ordinary human limitations.  But unlike Superman to whom the impossible is the every day, Batman shows us the way to be who we truly are.  Neither demon nor saint, hero nor villain, but a real person of angst and joy, pain and pleasure, light and dark, with nothing denied, every part of us owned, embraced and welcomed.

Batman is not Superman. Batman is deeply flawed and in his own words “Not a good person”.
Batman fits right in with the rest of us. Sometimes he seems hardly the same superhero. One decade he’s a dark loner, the next he’s a veritable family man, surrounded by batwomen, batgirls, and batpets. In one graphic novel, he’s a wreck, torn asunder by compulsion and neurosis. In another, he’s a rock, a pillar of goodness and virtue. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get with Batman – just like us
– Paul Asay, author of God on the Streets of Gotham

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10 Kick-Ass Actors I would LOVE to see play Batman in a Live Action Movie

Jon Hamm Batman

Jon Hamm as Batman from Detective Comics #27, May, 1939

 He smokes, he drinks, he’s a womanizer.  He does not give a fuck about anyone but himself. Who better than to play the Gotham Playboy.  This Bruce isn’t a persona or mask, he is just a terribly selfish man.  This isn’t the sensitive young green horn from Miller’s Batman: Year One.  This is the original ass-kicking, take no prisoners Batman who knocks teeth down throats and throws bad guys out of windows and off of balconies without a second thought.

A rough and tumble Batman who has yet to meet Robin or question his own tactics or morality in his war on crime.  This is Batman as drawn by Matt Wagner or Darwyn Cooke.  This Batman is pure ego and alpha male aggression.  A nostalgia free trip back to 1939.  A corrupt and violent world, Gotham the biggest cesspool of organised crime and dirty cops in America, Batman the only force willing to stand up in a city that has lost all hope of redemption, a dark avenger for a dark city.

“We were magnificent then, an unholy instrument of vengeance, relentless as a shark, blacker than their dark hearts…” – from Batman: Ego by Darwyn Cooke

Clint Eastwood Batman

Clint Eastwood (at age 60) in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Batman

It almost happened, this movie could have been mind-blowing. Then again, had it been made I’m sure some clueless studio executive would have forced them to put a giant spider in the third act or found some other way to ruin a perfectly good film, like turning Batman into one of those obnoxious singing chipmunks.  For over a decade, this was the dream casting that fans were salivating for.

The wiry but fit and strong Eastwood could have been he perfect bitter cynical sixty year old Bruce Wayne pulled back out of retirement in a world where superheroes have been phased out or are persecuted by a government that previously turned a blind eye. Eastwood’s iconic turns as the Man with no Name, Dirty Harry, and a dozen other tougher than nails and old shoe leather personas make him the pick for the morally decaying Gotham City that forgot it needed Batman to not just keep it in check, but hold it back from sliding right into hell on earth.  Eastwood Batman does the job that you can’t interview for, and no sane person would ever want.

Karl Urban Batman

Karl Urban as Batman from Frank Miller’s Year One

He was awesome as Judge Dredd.  He’s got the chin, the gruff manliness and tough S.O.B attitude and is still relatively young enough for a Frank Miller Year One Batman.  While Nolan’s Batman Begins uses elements of Year One and other stories, this is a fantasy list where I pick any cast at any age.  I’m talking about a total adaptation of Miller’s Year One, not just elements borrowed from it.

While we are are here, let’s keep Bryan Cranston as Gordon.  He voiced young Jimbo in the animated version of Batman Year One.  Cranston is too old you say? I don’t care, make him look younger with make up, die his hair rusty auburn and your eyes will be glued to the screen.

Chris Pine

Chris Pine as Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond

He’s been Kirk and Jack Ryan, I say he can be the cocky young and arrogant Terry McGinnis  in a live action version of the animated DC show.  Set it a few years after the animated show, with McGinnis in his mid to late twenties.  Throw in Clint Eastwood as our man Bruce as the mentor to Terry – retired of course -and don’t forget the big black dog that keeps Bruce Wayne company as he guides young Terry.  Chris Pine did a fine job as the young arrogant and over-confident James Tiberius Kirk, and he would make a damn fine young arrogant hot shot Terry McGinnis in my opinion.

Daniel Craig Batman

Daniel Craig as Batman in the 1970s

Playboy? Check.  Intense stare? Check. Brooding angst? Check.  Bond Batman, or Batman Bond, it just makes sense.  One of the most popular versions of Batman is the Denny ‘O Neil / Neil Adams run from the 1970s.  Here Batman was transformed from a local crime fighter to a lean mean tumbling machine, he could dive and roll like nobodies business, full of athletic grace and realistic muscles, this Batman was a globe-trekking Bond in all but name, heavily influenced by the best Bond movies and he even had his own would be world conqueror villain – Ra’s Al Ghul, the Demon’s Head, the immortal Alexander of the modern age.

To have Batman actually be played by Bond may cause a tear in the fabric of space and time, but I don’t care, I would love to see that film and damn the consequences.  Make it a period film set in the 1970s with as much globe trotting and fancy suits and parties as an actual James Bond film, and this time make Ra’s Al Ghul the arrogant immortal madman he is, and not some watered down version who is too cowardly to admit who he is to Bruce Wayne’s face for fear of not being one of Batman’s Facebook friends.  The famous sword fight between Al Ghul and a bare chested Batman in the desert is of course essential, and makes for a thrilling climax to the film.

Ron Perlman Batman

Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy era) as Dark Knight Returns Batman

Dark Knight Returns Batman on Horse

While he doesn’t have the same pull with studios as Clint, Ron Perlman would be a perfect physical shape (as in bulk) to fill out Miller’s chunky stylized vision of the darkest Dark Knight of all.  We’ve seen him in enjoyable runs in Beauty and the Beast, Hellboy and Sons of Anarchy.  In a cynical corrupt world , shades of Batman’s pulp origins combine with Ron Perlman’s chin and Robert Rodriguez on directing duties, in a 1980’s set post cold-war tale of constantly shifting moral ambiguity and ultra-violence, with QT as producer.  He rode a horse and wore a cape in that crap Season of the Witch movie with Nic Cage, now just imagine the cowl and the stubby ears… and look at that square jaw!

Idris Elba Batman

Idris Elba as the modern day Batman

Born in Gotham, educated in the UK, a dark and intense Bruce Wayne terrorizes the criminals of Gotham in his never ending war on crime with the aide of his trusted Butler and mentor, Alfred Pennyworth.

The Butler? Daniel Craig or Ray Stevenson, as a special forces trained mentor to Bruce Wayne ripped from the pages of Geoff Johns’ Batman Earth 2.  Idris Elba has gone from strength to strength.  Sure he’s done his share of dodgy movies to keep those sweet meal deal checks rolling in, but anyone who has watched him as the obsessesively driven brooding and violent John Luther in the British drama series Luther knows that Idris Elba is perfect for Batman, and my top personal favourite choice from this list.

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Micheal C. Hall as Batman in Arkham Asylum

One word: DEXTER

His entire persona of “Dexter” is a false face of normality he wears to fit in, to hide who he really is.  Bathed in the blood of his parents, He knows Ju-Jitsu and spends a lot of time creeping around in the dark.  It was no accident that the writers of the Showtime hit Dexter, the story of serial killer who takes out other killers – wrote the lead character as a dark avenger.

Dexter serves some kind of indefinable dark purpose.  Call it Justice, the dark passenger, an evil deity, call it whatever you like, but put on that cape and cowl and see the instant transformation from man to myth.  From Dark Knight Detective to an unhinged crusading Demon in a Cape.  Then lock him in Arkham Asylum with all the freaks and let him go to town.  Have him bark Rorschach’s immortal line:

None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me!

 

Micheal Fassbender Batman

Micheal Fassbender as Batman in Cataclysm / No Man’s Land

He’s brilliant in everything from Fishtank and Shame to X-Men:First Class, A Dangerous Method and Prometheus. His well wicked turn as the intense man on a mission

007: Magneto BOND in X-Men:First Class was the highlight of the movie for me. His intense shark like portrayal of the most conflicted and yet relatable X-Men villain glued my eyes to the big screen.  A cold-hearted unforgiving bastard , a devil in a suit (and later a cape) who scares the living hell out of his enemies.

Sounds like Batman material to me.  Have him fighting to survive in No Man’s Land, the post viral outbreak, post earthquake disaster zone state that US Government is content to ignore as if it doesn’t exist.  Fassbender Batman and allies fighting to take back the Quarantined City of Gotham one block at a time makes for a riveting tension filled movie.

Damian Lewis Batman

Damian Lewis as Thomas Wayne / Flashpoint Paradox Batman

Thomas Wayne Batman

The dapper gent with the glowing red eyes and twin pistols.  A more vicious and deadly Batman (more like his inspiration The Shadow) lives in the alternate universe DC Story Flashpoint Paradox.  When Bruce Wayne and Martha Wayne died in the arms of Thomas Wayne, Thomas went on to become a Batman who runs casinos and has alliances with the mob.  A darker Batman for a broken world, I can think of nobody better than Damian Lewis, co-star of Homeland (with the under-rated Claire Danes) to become the tortured and broken violent man that is Thomas Wayne’s Batman.

Welcome to The Cut List TM&© Cutty McCuttington

He’s cut.  And him, oh that guy too, and you better believe that guy over there is cut. This may be a fantasy list, but that doesn’t mean ruthless cuts were not made in the name of keeping this list lean and mean like the Batman himself.

While the range of actors here are all people whose work I really enjoy, some guys just didn’t make the cut.  Not that they are not worthy of the Bat, all of them could conceivably be Batmen.  But these guys, good as they are in their various roles, just don’t FEEL  quite right to me as Batman.

Tommy Lee Jones Batman

Tommy Lee Jones

Maybe it’s the Texan accent, or that I associate him Western movies, real cowboys and The Fugitive.  Or the fact that he is a bit old to be jumping off of roof tops, although he generally does keep in good condition.  I see present day Tommy Lee Jones as more of a Jim Gordon than a Batman, and he would suit that role just fine.  But knock off a few years, and Tommy would do just fine as a possible Batman, dapper smooth gent that he is.

DRIVE Ryan Gosling as Batman

Ryan Gosling

This guy was really hard to cut, my girlfriend and my brother both tease me about my Ryan Gosling man crush.  Like the McConaissance, Tom Hardy or Leo, Ryan Gosling has been on a nearly unbroken run of must see film roles in recent years.   He is another internet fan favourite for Batman.  My favourite role was Gosling in Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE, my favourite film of all time.  DRIVE is my very favourite post modern neo-noir existentialist fairy tale,  hell it is probably the only post modern neo-noir existentialist fairy tale.

Gosling is nothing less than mesmerizing as the Man with No Name (right down to the toothpick in place of a Cigar).  He exists in a twilight zone place between worlds, he haunts the Micheal Mann esque streets of a neon-infused eternal night.  A hypnotic fever dream of getaway driving, bad deals and worse consequences on the streets of L.A.  He’s got guts, charisma and makes a great outsider/ loner anti-hero.  Sounds like Batman to me.

Ray Stevenson Batman

Ray Stevenson

Ray Stevenson is good in well…. EVERYTHING.  So why don’t I Iike him for Batman?  Well, he just looks evil.  So evil I’d say make him a villain in a Batman film.  He was brilliant in Dexter as a ruthless killer and average in Punisher War Zone.  But which villain should he be?  Not one of the usual lunatic parade, instead have him be an anti-Batman.  An evil/ amoral Batman doppelganger who kills without hesitation and Bruce Wayne must take him down as fast as he can before the body count rises.  There are no shortages of Batman doppelgangers, take your pick: Owlman, The Wrath, Killer Moth, Catman, Batzarro, Zur-en-ahh.

The Wrath vs Batman

Big Daddy_Nic Cage Kick Ass Movie

My pick would be have to him play The Wrath.  Let Ray’s booming voice scare the hell out of Bruce Wayne when he beats him within an inch of his life, Batman only escaping when Robin saves his ass.  But update The Wrath’s ridiculous costume.  Great character, dumb costume.  Lose the bloody purple and have him wear something closer to the Big Daddy costume from the Kick-Ass movie worn by Nic Cage.  Throw in Nic Cage as Catman if you like, who gets killed in the first act by The Wrath.

Riggs is Crazy and Buff

Mel Gibson

“You want to get nuts?  Come on, let’s get nuts!”

Riggs is crazy!  Another contender – the third in this list for Dark Knight Returns version of Batman.  He’s done crazy and tough.  He’s done crazy and passionate and funny.  He’s done crazy and sensitive and um… crazy.  As DKR Batman he would kick ass and take names.  And have you seen how he looks lately… check out those arms.  Sorry Micheal Keaton, you just got out-crazied by the master.


Dark Knight Returns Trade Edition Cover
Absolute Edition Dark Knight Returns Cover

Batman’s 75th Anniversary – The Final month of Celebration

As I write these words in a post Christmas 2014 haze of comic books and video games, it is the last, and I mean the LAST week of the year long celebration of Batman’s 75th Anniversary.  The Year of the Bat has been good to the Brotherhood (and Sisterhood) of the Bat, leaving us spoilt for choice in how we enjoy Batman across a diverse range of media.

Batman's 75th Anniversary

It has been a hell of a year for Batman fans, who have been spoiled for choice in comics, films, video games, toys, animated features and more.

2014 was the year I officially met and moved in with my girlfriend.  We started talking over Skype last year.  She not only doesn’t mind my superhero and Batman/Superman/Spider-Man obsession, she even encourages my unending passion.

For my birthday she gave me several Batman Tshirts. For Christmas she gave me not only the 1960s Batmobile toy, but an Adam West Batman action figure to sit in it, along with the Batman ’66 versions of the Riddler and the Penguin. On our anniversary (of when we first met over Skype) we went out to dinner, she gave me yet another Batman Tshirt which I wore to dinner with the lady of my dreams.

Where does he get those wonderful toys PART 2

2014 was the year I reread the very first ever Batman stories by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and the various underpaid and under recognised ghost artists to gain a deeper understanding of the character.

2014 was the year I read Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s excellent Court of Owls and Zero Year Batman comics.  It was the year I discovered Chipp Kidd’s Bat-Manga book and read Grant Morrison’s Supergods and Les Daniels Complete History of Batman.

2014 was the year that Marc Tyler Nobleman turned up the heat on the Bill Finger awareness campaign.  Slowly people are starting to realise that Bill Finger contributed perhaps as much as 90% of the Batman character we know and love.  While Bob Kane sat back taking the credit and the fat royalty checks, Bill Finger got little to no credit during his heyday, was booted out of the company he helped grow by writing Batman and later died without a funeral to be placed in an unmarked grave.  I can’t wait to see Marc’s Bill Finger documentary .

2014 was the year the documentary Legends of the Knight was released to gushing praise and adoration by BAT-FANs around the world.

2014 was the year I played Lego Batman 2 and was thrilled to enjoy Will Arnett’s take on Lego Batman in the LEGO theatrical film, and crossed my fingers that we would see another film with Will Arnett voicing LEGO Batman once again, and it looks like that will be happening.  His unique take on the character left me with a belly full of laughs.

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2014 was the year I watched Nolan’s Bat-Trilogy for around the fifth (or possibly tenth) time.

2014 saw the release of the Batman ’66 TV show finally becoming available to buy on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital after being lost for years in a tangled never ending legal mess.  It felt like Spider-Man movie rights syndrome all over again.

2014 was the year I replayed the Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and Arkham Origins video games back to back over several weeks.  Still drunk on the art style of Arkham City, I went to the fields of ebay and then ordered a box set of Batman toys based on the Arkham versions of Batman, Joker , Harley Quinn and Scarecrow.

2014 was the year I reread the Dark Knight Returns as I do every year and enjoyed the dream come true animated version told over two epic installments.

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2014 was the year DC made one announcement after another about the plans for their conquest of the box office with their cinematic Universe rapidly expanding in the wake of The Dark Knight, Man of Steel and Marvel’s Avengers.

We will soon see new movies featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and friends, and perhaps even more anticipated than Superman vs Batman, the LONG overdue appearance of the Justice League on the big screen.

The Justice League have appeared in numerous comics, animated TV shows (Superfriends, JLA, JLA Unlimited) and a not insignificant number of direct market DC Animated Movie specials.

The appearance of the JLA on the big screen is long overdue, most welcome, and when released is sure to be one of the biggest nerdgasms since fans and non-fans alike flocked in record numbers to see DC’s The Dark Knight and Marvel’s  Avengers at the multiplex. Of course we also have Batman vs Superman to look forward to, and despite what the haters are saying, I think Ben Affleck is going to knock it out of the park.  He’s directed some excellent films, and made a name for himself in memorable film roles.  He’s smart and articulate.  While he’s not the box office draw of a Tom Cruise or George Clooney, he is every bit as smart and passionate as those headliners.  To all those who dismiss him I say;

“Some men, master Bruce… just want to watch the world burn” – Alfred

Fun Loving 70's JLA Batman

Perhaps most significantly for me, 2014 was the year that while reading Carey Friedman’s “Wisdom from the Batcave” and listening to Kevin Smith’s “Fatman on Batman” podcast that I was inspired to find a way to give back to my favourite fictional character of all time.

2014, or as I call it the “Year of the Bat” was the year I decided that my enthusiasm for Batman could no longer be contained within my own mind, and had to be unleashed. So far I’ve written a handful of articles, but I am just getting started.

2014 was also the year I wore 14 different Batman Tshirts if you are wondering what’s up with the pictures of Batman Tshirts.

I have topics planned for over 200 more articles to write about in depth on this blog.  While some will be more light hearted articles, most will be in depth features with an emphasis on writing the kinds of articles I just don’t see anyone else writing. Not online, nor in print.  The exception being Back Issue magazine, which has more of a historical scholarly well researched basis to their articles, my articles have a little of that, but I am more interested in exploring the themes and ideas of Batman and I am equally excited about his future as well as his past.

Before I started this blog, I went online to find good quality Batman related articles. In an overpopulated world, surely there would be no shortage of quality content. While there are great news sites, and up to the date information on the comics, games, films and animated features, there is not much else for those who crave something more.  For those who like Batman in whatever medium and like to go beyond the surface of things, and head into the real depths of a topic or field of knowledge, and immerse themselves.

Grim 'n Gritty Batman

The British cult magazine SFX put out a wonderful magazine called Comic Heroes, and sadly that magazine ended recently.  It was filled with the kind of in depth features that were fun to read and you felt a little smarter after reading them, I love those types of articles, well researched and full of passion.

Feature articles that don’t just tell us about a characters history, but talk about what that character means to us, a real celebration of comic books and superheroes by people who live and breathe comics.

Two Morrows Publishing of course publishes long running magazines such as Back Issue, Alter Ego and Jack Kirby Collector.  More of their content is now available to read on digital platforms, as well as in print through the direct market.  If you’ve never read it check it out, as they have some fantastic articles.

I loved the all Batman issue of Back Issue #73, which is available for under $5 for the digital version.  As good as that issue was, be sure not to miss Back issue #50 which was another Batman focused issue, full of awesome articles, the digital version again for under $5.  You can find them here:

Back  Issue #73

Back issue #50

Scroll down below the yellow box to find the option to buy the digital version.  Currently the are $4 US each, a real bargain.   I am so grateful I found those issues, they made for great Christmas reading on my Nexus tablet.

The Two Morrows Publishing articles are wonderful, but sometimes a little too dry for my tastes, in contrast I really loved the fun attitude of Comic Heroes Magazine, it will be missed.  But any magazine that cares enough about comics to dedicate page after page, month after month to fictional characters gets my interest.  Despite the proliferation of superheroes in Hollywood blockbusters now several times a year, real life comic books (whether print or digital) are still somewhat of a niche.

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There is no shortage of lightweight Batman related content online, it serves its purpose and hey I’m not complaining, I am grateful for the free articles and news that spread the good word about the Bat.  But the thing to remember is that many of those sites exist purely to sell advertising, you could say the same about any print magazine.  I don’t know why it is, but a magazine can manage to have decent content and ads, and it doesn’t bother me.

But when I see sites that exist purely to generate web traffic to crummy articles, and are there just for clicks and ads, well something in me dies a little.  I love Batman, and I think that filling the internet with lightweight articles of little substance does a dis-service to the Dark Knight Detective.  He deserves better in my opinion.

For those who like to go above and beyond good articles, and enjoy their Batman theory and essays, there are some wonderful books available, and I am going to cover every single one of them here on this blog, at length in the coming year.  I’m hoping to do some brief Q&A’s with authors of various Great Books about Batman, some of whom I have already been in contact with.    Books such as The Complete History of Batman by Bat-ologist Les Daniels Soul of the Knight by Bat-Theorist Alex M. Wainer and Improving the Foundations: Batman Begins from Comics to Screen by Bat-Apostle Julian Darius of Sequart.com

I don’t want to give away all my bag of tricks, but I have a number of multi-part articles and regular features that will be showcased here on this blog in the near future, that you will not find anywhere else on the internet, nor in print magazines.  You may see some similar content, but every article here is written and researched by me in my spare time, and I love every grueling minute of it.

One of my most recent articles (not yes posted) I’ve been working on for over three weeks, I went away and read more books, articles and comics just so I could make it the best article I can possibly write right now.  I retreated into my Batcave and went over every little detail searching for clues I could have missed, because some things you just can’t rush.  When you work for print publications you always have a deadline, but you write for yourself you can take your sweet time about it, and put in everything you want to.  The danger is that you over-think something, and over-write it, instead of finishing it and moving on to the next project.

Well, my mantra of 2014 has been  “Done is better than perfect”, borrowed from a wise man by the name of Fred Gleeck who I have learned a lot from.  It means if you have something to do, get it done and stop making excuses.

I’ll leave you here with one final picture of my bargain basement PC surrounded by Bat-Men, you may as well chain me to it, as I so much more to say about Batman.

Where does he get those wonderful toys?

“Ladies. Gentlemen. You have eaten well. You’ve eaten Gotham’s wealth. Its spirit. Your feast is nearly over. From this moment on…none of you are safe.”
Frank Miller, Batman: Year One