Tag Archives: Dark Knight

Beyond the Cowl: Exploring the Benefits of Pain with Batman as Your Guide

Batman beating up goons in alley

For Batman pain is an old friend.

A constant reminder of his physical limitations.

Pain is direct feedback from his immediate environment about what his body can and can not do.

Batman has the presence of mind to be aware of pain, while not being overwhelmed by his physical pain sensations.

The suffering that comes with physical pain Batman transcends by refusing to let the signals of physical pain overwhelm his consciousness. He refuses to let his mind and judgement be clouded by physical pain.

He still feels every bit of the pain, but he does not let that physical signal that travels along his nervous system into his brain turn into mental/psychological suffering because he does not mistake the experience he is having (pain) for who he is (Batman).

Batman accepts that physical pain and injuries are part of his mission. He is not bothered by injuries, other than that they slow him down or prevent him from completing a task.

In one way of looking at Batman’s behavior, Batman abuses his body by pushing it too hard. Another way of looking at his behavior is that Batman refuses to let physical limitations prevent him from accomplishing a task in his war on crime.

Of course there are limits even to what Batman can endure and some types of pain and injury will cause immediate dysfunction and render Batman incapable of doing anything other than calling for help or retreating to heal before coming up with a new plan, tactic or strategy.

We too should know the Bat-Wisdom of when to ask for help, when to retreat, and when to heal and recover.

There are times in life to listen to the signal of pain, and back off from what we are doing – like at the gym or during sport – if we experience an injury, the smart thing is to stop what we are doing, rest, get treatment and use active recovery.


But then there are times when we must push past pain signals and ignore what our body is telling us. We must act in SPITE of pain. We must not let our body run our mind.

We must choose without any external signals to know when to push past limits, and when to respect them. Either way requires a conscious intelligent decision, rather than blind reaction.

For example you wake up and your house is on fire. You children are asleep and you must get them out or they will die.

Your body is screaming at you from the pain of inhaling smoke fumes, you may get burnt during the process or injured by debris or tripping on objects. The door handle burns your hand when you touch it, but if you do not open it you will die.

If you fail to transcend pain, your kids will die.

These are the times to rule our body with an iron fist and ignore the signals to simply get out of the house and live.

The greater perceived potential pain of death and loss helps to us to look past the immediate physical pain and very real present danger.

These are the times to be like Batman, to transcend ordinary circumstances and find our inner hero who will preserve the life of his children and family at all costs, even if it means sacrificing his own.

While we may have to perform a heroic act perhaps once in a lifetime, Batman goes out night after night and does his job, he fulfills his calling to simply “Be Batman”.

Pushing past pain just to kick a ball harder, or lift a weight heavier serves no higher purpose. They are ultimately selfish goals.

It may feel subjectively great, even euphoric to break one of our own athletic records in the moment, but what is more valuable?

Beating some personal record, experiencing a moment of euphoria that may come at the cost of months of rehab after we abuse our bodies – or the saving of a human life?

We must know our own strengths and limitations in life, and we must equally know when to gently move through them gently and respectfully, and when to break down walls like Batman in the Batmobile busting through police blockades and barriers – not just because we can, but because it serves a higher purpose.

Batman leaping yellow glow batsymbol

Batman knows his priorities. He doesn’t doubt himself, or his mission.

He doesn’t care about setting athletic records or lifting a heavy weight for the sake of it.

Batman’s training is ALWAYS practical. That heavy weight lifted in the gym translates into lifting a heavy fallen beam during a fire that has pinned some poor soul to the ground, and will be dead in a matter of moments.

That gymnastic leap, tuck and roll means he can dive through a window, his cape, cowl and gloves protecting him from serious cuts from the glass.

Those brutal training scenarios where he deprives himself of food, water and yes, even oxygen means that Batman has mentally prepared himself for all eventualities, and has a plan for how to beat every impossible scenario he can conceive of. Batman has a rich mental bank of scenarios and escape plans for every type of situation.

While he plans and prepares, Batman must remain focused in the present moment. Ever alert to opportunity and new possibilities emerging that he had not yet anticipated.

While Batman is a master planner and strategist, he is also an expert at off the cuff spontaneous creative simple solutions to difficult problems. He is the MacGyver of the Superhero world. Batman is a master in the fine art of masculine improvisation.

Give Batman a box of matches, a watch and a toothpick with some gum, and he will escape from an impossible trap, build an airplane or defuse a nuclear bomb before he has even had breakfast all while he is bleeding to death with a concussion and a dislocated shoulder.

There’s still something about the character [Macgyver] that strongly resonates. And that resonance actually goes a lot deeper than pop culture; it in fact points to an universal archetype of manliness, and a trait of masculinity that has been valued and celebrated across times and cultures: improvisation. – Brett and Kate McKay / Artofmanliness.com

Whether doing the impossible, or making the extraordinary part of his daily routine, Batman applies personal excellence to all he does in life. He transcends pain not as a masochist, but because his job demands it. He can’t afford to fall to pieces going into a burning building to pull someone out any more than a real life fireman can.

Batman can’t afford to get sloppy and let his physical sensations and emotions overwhelm his decisions on the street any more than a real life cop can. Fear and hesitation in the field can mean death comes sooner than rather than later. However the right kind of fear also can keep us alive. It takes training to trust your instincts under high stress situations, and you know Batman has trained himself for exactly that.

While it is impossible to literally be Batman, we can all learn a little from Batman that we can apply in our daily lives. Batman did not turn into a Superhero, urban vigilante and Champion of Justice overnight – he got there through gradual slow training, making mistakes, experimenting with his own life. He made 1000’s of mistakes on his way to greatness. And he will make a 1000 more mistakes as he continues to evolve as a human being.

The Art of Batmanliness then involves not only transcending pain, but knowing your limits.

It means knowing when to push forward and break down barriers, and when to retreat and lick your wounds, growing stronger with each new stimulus, with each new piece of feedback that life gives you. And being like Batman also means that every time life knocks you on your ass you have the bravery to stand back up and fight on or retreat and replan your approach to your mission.

The man who gets knocked down and stays down beats himself.

The man who gets up no matter what is impossible to beat.

Which type will you be?

Batman by Vranckx / DeviantArt

Revisiting Heath Ledger’s Iconic Joker: A Masterclass in Villainous Acting

joker ledger skateboard quotes image

When we see Heath Ledger’s Joker in Nolan’s Dark Knight film, it is NOT so much a performance, as Heath Ledger the kind hearted endearing man who is spoken of with great affection by friends and family… goes a-way, and the… Jo-kerr… well, he .. now what was it he did… oh yeah..now I remember… he emerges from the existential void of chaos like the combined ghost of Travis Bickle, Tom Waits and Alex from A Clockwork Orange thrown into a blender set to crazy town.

Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance as the lunatic Joker is the most memorable screen villain in recent decades.  He takes a very silly character and makes him believably dangerous and truly frightening.  He makes a cartoonish two dimensional clown come to vivid life before our eyes, and the scary part is, he shows us his madness is not so mad.

That we could become like him with just a little push at the right time, a tiny bit of leverage applied in the right way, at the right time and OVER the edge of sanity we go, like Holmes and Moriarty tumbling over the Reichenbach Falls.


If Nietzsche had his Overman slash Superman, then what is Heath Ledger’s Joker but the opposite of that?  He is chaos and materialism personified.  He exits in a moral vacuum of his own creation and he insists that the essential element of the universe is chaos.  His living philosophy is that life has no meaning, just chaos, random events and morality is meaningless.

That there are no causes, divine plans, no consequences or purpose to anything.  Just an existential void where you can play paint by numbers at your leisure with the entrails of your best friend or your enemy.  It makes no difference what you do or why you do it, as there is no God, no final judgement, no scales of Justice nor  Karma, just free floating pure selfish egoism in a world of chaos where everybody takes what they can get while they can get it.

The Joker sees all this and laughs, not in desperation, but with mad puppy-dog like glee.  His god is chaos.  His reason is un-reason, as a trickster character like Loki or Pan, he is there to fuck with our beliefs and world view, and he thrives on attention, on dragging people down to his level.

Heath Ledger Joker 9-PANEL-GRID-vert-5_533x800

He doesn’t want to see the world burn, so much as light the match that gets the process started.  He would rather somebody else like Batman or Harvey Dent lit that match, and his efforts to do anything are ultimately meaningless.

In a pack of cards, the Joker card is a placeholder.  The Joker card is Wild in that it can take the place of any other card, or be anything the players of the card game choose it to be.

The Joker card always matches or beats whatever it is against.  …For each character or group, the Joker has a different manner of speaking.

-Dean Trippe

Comic book creator Dean Trippe observed on his Batman Podcast The Bat Cast that some film critics of Ledger in The Dark Knight found his performance inconsistent.  Something that may not be obvious that Dean pointed out, is that the Joker is a wild card, not just symbolically but literally.

Watch any scene, and you will see Ledger adapt and change into different voices and intonations, his actions seem almost random.  But look closer, and you will see that Heath Ledger as the Joker embodies the idea that the Joker card can match any suit or trump any other card.

Ledger as the Joker matches or trumps the very characters he plays off of.  Whether the police, Batman or the mob, the Joker becomes whatever someone else needs him to become.  He is like a chameleon, hence his varied performance in The Dark Knight, which is clearly intentional rather than accidental as some film critics have implied.

Is the Joker even aware of his chameleon like nature?  There is no real way to know, but if you watch the film again, you will see it.  The way he changes up his behavior, mannerisms, tone of voice and false values, or lack of them to suit who he is dealing with in the moment.

It all adds something to the role that makes you appreciate the research, and attention to detail Heath Ledger put into the role.

Heath Ledger Joker Dark Knight Green My Card

When Batman looked into the existential void after his parents death he decided to make sense of senselessness.  As an adult, he uses the death of his parents as fuel for transcendence. He still feels pain, he just doesn’t make pain into his identity as so many of us do.

Batman acknowledges his pain, loss and grief.  But he moves on and dedicates himself to the ideal of Justice.  He didn’t get there overnight.  He went through his own deeply perosonal dark knight of the soul, he went through chaos and despair, grief and pain, and over the years he emerged on the other side of that.  This deep psychological stuff is hard work, it is not easy, it is not something we can set goals for or plan for in any rational way.

Pain happens, despair happens, depression happens, and we deal with it the best way we know how, and no two people do it in the same way.

The Joker by contrast didn’t just stare into the abyss, he fell in love with it.  He made it his personal god and he jumped into the void head first, dancing and laughing all the way.

There are valid arguments about whether Joker is truly insane, or whether he just enjoys what he does and puts on the theatrics as a cover story for why he does what he does, why he is who he is.  Some would say he is not insane at all, he just loves killing people, causing pain and chaos wherever he goes.  He is in love with being the Joker.  He is the only sane man in an insane world.

There are no real boundaries to what the Joker would say or do. Nothing intimidates him, and everything is a big joke – Heath Ledger

The beauty of Ledger’s Joker is that just when we think we have him figured out, just when we think we have him pinned down – he wriggles away like a snake shedding its skin.  He is undefinable, incomprehensible and his world view is unfathomable.  To try to understand him with logic or reason is an exercise in futility.

The Joker is a true sociopath with no empathy, no reason, who only believes in chaos and no higher meaning to life.  His constant narcissistic retelling of his own self-invented fictional origin is a good example.  He relishes dramatising his own disturbing past for people.  He gets off on the drama of the performance.  Each time inventing a new fiction as to how he became who he is or who he pretends to be for the audience.

He relishes the sheer terror and faint hint of understanding in the eyes of his victims.  That faint hint of sympathy they may have for him is his version of a cat playing with a mouse.  The Joker just can’t help himself, he likes to PLAY with his food before he devours it.

At the end of film, we are still no closer than at the beginning to understanding the Joker, nor his motivations.  He is a wild card, and each game means he holds a different value, a different role to play.  And he knows he plays a role, because life is a game to him, a big cosmic joke.  A twisted, demented game, but a game none the less.

There are elements of the Joker’s personality and habits that appeal to us, that are fun.  Ledger is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying as the clown prince of crime.  It can be fun to give in to our dark side, it can be fun to say fuck you to the world, and do things our own way.  It can be a vicarious thrill to not just self-destruct but pull others down to our level.

But unless we are willing to embrace madness or give ourselves over to true nihilism, most of us will eventually crash and burn.  Our darker self will stop being fun, we will cease to be agents of chaos, and instead will be slaves to whatever random impulse enters our sphere of influence on any given day, we become unthinking impulse driven animals, and it is a long climb back to normality from that place of spiritual unconsciousness.

Heath Ledger Joker Dark Knight Green Holding Cell

We can learn from our own dark side, and it is something in us that can not be denied.  To deny we have these impulses is to deny our very existence.  Instead we can make peace with those impulses and feelings, and find a way to express them without destroying ourselves or those around us.  I explored this idea more in depth in a previous article

I am Vengeance I am the Night Exploring the dark Psyche of Batman

Heath Ledger’s role  if you can call it that, because he IS the Joker, he inhabits him from the inside out.  Heath as the Joker became the role of his life.  He really knocked it out of the park, and he will always be remembered for that role. He is iconic, hilarious, terrifying and above all – entertaining.  While I will have more to say about him in future posts about The Dark Knight, let’s end this post with a quote from Heath himself on the role he loved.

It’s a combination of reading all the comic books I could that were relevant to the script and then just closing my eyes and meditating on it,

I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices — it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath — someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts. He’s just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown, and Chris has given me free rein. Which is fun, because there are no real boundaries to what The Joker would say or do. Nothing intimidates him, and everything is a big joke

-Heath Ledger / EMPIRE Magazine Interview


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.

Batman flames Jim Lee pin up

“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.

Batman sketch

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

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.

batman silhouette (2)edited

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

Batman the dark knight returns animated_1_600x338

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


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


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


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 bat values 101

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):


Inspiring Others


Strong Principles

Hard Work

Relentless Determination


Never Give Up

Endless Learning



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


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


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


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


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)


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.


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!


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.