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

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“When it comes to the Joker, I think there’s a lot more self-doubt than there is with other characters. He really is his arch-nemesis. He is the devil in his ear. He tells you all the things you’re most afraid of are true about you.” Scott Snyder on the Joker as Batman’s nemesis

The Joker is a character that writers love to play with, a character open to various interpretations each rich in their own subtext.

As an archetype the Joker is a Trickster – he disobeys societies rules and conventional behavior. He is a shapeshifter, a clown, he is the best class of criminal that Gotham has ever seen.

Where Batman is about control, precision and discipline and serving a higher good, the Joker is  about unrestrained spontaneity and wild glorious mayhem in a whirlwind of chaos. He serves only himself. If he has a higher calling it is to cause as much harm and destruction to the people of Gotham while fucking with Batman’s mind any way he can.

The Trickster Archetype

Joker as Trickster

The classical Trickster archetype performs a range of functions.

In its most benign form the Trickster is a playful mischievous character (sometimes a shapeshifter) who brings attention to whatever is repressed in our individual or collective psyche. A Trickster is often an inversion of social norms.

The Trickster then is not only a character in a story, but an outer analogue for our own inner psyche. Whatever we are afraid of, whatever we keep repressed or don’t want to face, whatever is unpopular of should not be spoken of in polite society – the Trickster is going to bring attention to all of these things in its own unique way.

With the Trickster (and all archetypes) we are able to take an interior event of our psyche (1st person) and project it on to a character or archetype (3rd person) via story, film etc – in a way that personifies the qualities of that archetype. All archetypes (according to Carl Jung) live in our Unconscious mind, both individually and collectively.

This 3rd person mental abstraction (or character, exterior) then allows us  a chance to work with the archetype and reintegrate our own often unconscious or disowned qualities back into our psyche (back to 1st person interior).

Carl Jung Psyche model Archetype

While classical Jungian psychology allows for and encourages a healthy relationship with archetypes, to the modern world we are most familiar with archetypes through stories – movies, novels, comics, animation, art etc. The Trickster often is an inversion of our values, of whatever we outwardly say is important. But if the Trickster were merely the opposite of who and what we are, then there would be no truth in the Archetype.

So while the Trickster may appear bizarre, abhorrent, or at least unwelcome, it is merely a reflection of a part of our psyche that we refuse to look at, to integrate or become familiar with. The Trickster then is ultimately a servant of the mind, it exists to allow us a change to come to terms with the ideas we struggle with in a playful way. The Trickster is also a representative of primal forces likes sex, death, procreation and animal instincts.

Archetypes exist in all of our world stories, myths, and legends. They reoccur whether we want them to or not for all stories are reflected aspects of ourselves, and the purpose of stories is not just to entertain but pass on symbolic life lessons and help us transition into different eras of our lives.

Stories and symbols (such as Archetypes) can contain coded information that interacts with out mind at different stages of our lives, the same story can have very different meanings as we grow and evolve. Stories then are also a kind of technology for passing on information critical to human growth. Art is not only essential to human growth and development, but has always been and will always be part of what we are at a fundamental level.

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The Joker reoccurs throughout Batman mythology and follows Batman around like a bad smell. You just can’t get rid of him. For Batman to kill the Joker is to become that which he hates – those who would enforce the philosophy of death/execution on any they disagree with. For all of Batman’s psychological hang ups, he believes in the right of all people to live, he will even risk his own life to save those who would do him harm.

This could be viewed as a virtue, or as further evidence of Batman’s nuttiness – why the heck would you go out of your way to help someone who is trying to kill you? It’s one thing to say pull out an unconscious criminal from the wreckage of a prison bus hanging on the edge of a cliff. It’s another thing entirely to try and save someone from falling off a building who is awake and firing bullets at you while you do it.

The trickster is an alchemist, a magician, creating realities in the duality of time and illusion. In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior -www.crystalinks.com/trickster.html

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Joker as Shapeshifter

The Trickster archetype can also be a shapeshifter, taking on the form of the opposite sex or an animal – which goes some way to explaining the different versions of the Joker across different media, and his personality varies according to whoever the current popular writer may be. The Joker’s ad hoc multiple origins and rebooted continuity (depending on what era of Batman comics you are reading) also fits with the Trickster archetype. Trying to understand the Joker or pin him down is futile.

Heath Ledger’s Joker famously made up multiple origin stories that he would tell to people just to keep them guessing. One ongoing theme in the comics is Batman trying and failing to understand the Joker. Joker’s personality and methods shift with his various incarnations. A shapeshifter is ultimately whatever it wants to be, but also sometimes reflects a twisted version of the values of the hero or protagonist.

Trying to figure out what makes the Joker tick is like asking what is the essential nature of water. Is it liquid, steam or ice? The answer of course is that water is all three of these states, and it will shift between them depending on the conditions of its environment. The Joker can change persona’s and origin stories as easily as changing clothes.

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The Joker’s Many Incarnations

Bill Finger gave us the first version of the Joker, a career criminal and killer with a clown motif. Later as the Joker’s background was expanded it was established that he had been a regular criminal who fell into a vat of acid. Instead of dying a painful death – his skin and hair were chemically bleached, his mouth was damaged giving him a permanent grin. He dressed in a purple suit and went with the whole “clown prince of crime” theme. But these elements were not added until years later, so in his earliest appearances, you would assume the Joker’s face to be make-up.

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Further adding to the Joker’s origins was the Red Hood persona, a simple red helmet and cape that created a new mystery man in Gotham whom Batman and Robin would have to catch. While the Joker has had a number of redacted origins over the years, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson deliberately kept the Joker’s origin ambiguous and unknown. It was only later writers who made attempts at adding a true origin to the character, or more accurately an origin of who the Joker was before he was the Joker.

The Red Hood as a gimmick is a common one in superhero genre material. Create a “mystery” character, and tease out who they really are for as long as you can, keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. The strength of this trope is that the character can be anyone, and when revealed, often the character is not whom you suspected – because the writers usually don’t know who it is either. So they throw out multiple clues for different people the mystery person could be. Then they may change the identity at the 11th hour, leaving readers puzzled and often quite angry with all the false clues.

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With the  censorship and forced overly conservative stories throughout the 1950’s the Joker became more a criminal who played a lot of gags on Batman, and was not particularly threatening.

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It was not until the 1970’s that the Joker got his teeth back, and returned to being the more sadistic gleeful killer and maniac he had been in his earliest pre-comics code appearances. When Neal Adams and Denny ‘O Neil worked together on Batman, they made a deliberate attempt to take Batman back to his Gothic roots.

Gone was the barrel-chested smiling cop Detective, and in his place was was the lithe gymnastic Batman, the first Batman who looked like he really knew martial arts, a globe trotting James Bond in a Batman costume. This 1970’s Batman incarnation was the beginning of the modern day  Batman and paved the way for the Dark Knight we know and love today. As Batman grew darker and more Gothic once again, so the Joker returned to being more  of a maniacal killer, and less an annoying clown.

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From the 1970’s onward the Joker has gotten progressively darker, more psychotic, more… ‘evil’ for lack of a better word.

Frank Miller made the Joker an integral part of his Dark Knight Returns story. While the Joker’s role in Dark Knight Returns is small, it sets up the nature of the ongoing adversarial co-dependent relationship of Joker and Batman for the next several decades up to the present day.

To Miller’s Joker, Batman is his world, without him Joker’s life has no meaning. Without the “game” of playing with Batman, Miller’s Joker becomes a catatonic nobody, until Batman returns from retirement.

Meanwhile, Miller’s Batman (having moved on and retired from being Batman) has no real interest in the Joker, other than stopping him once again after they both come out of retirement. A brutal fight ensues where the Joker dies after repeatedly stabbing Batman is something of a sidebar in the larger story of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns. Yet that scene remains one of the most defining moments in the history of Batman’s encounters with the Joker. The Dark Knight and the Clown Prince coming alive again to face one another, two archetypes locked in an eternal symbolic struggle, the warring conflicted selves of man’s psyche.

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Sadistic Soldier and Killer Clown

Grant Morrison’t Joker is both villain and temporary friend when he assumes yet another identity during the R.I.P. and Return of Bruce Wayne / Batman Incorporated story arc.

Morrison plays up the trickster angle of Joker being both benevolent and potentially harmful. Menacing and deadly in one story arc, benevolent and seemingly a friend in another story arc. I won’t give any spoilers here even though the run finished a number of years ago. If you have not read Morrison’s run on Batman it is great fun, as is Scott Snyder’s NEW 52 Batman run.

Scott Snyder’s interpretation of the Joker has become the most depraved and disgusting version of the Joker yet. While there are elements of Snyder’s Joker that I just don’t agree with, he clearly set out with a particular unique vision of Batman and the Joker, and he accomplished what he set out to do in his five year run. It is no easy task to come up with a different take on a character who has been around for 70+ years and exists across a diverse range of media.

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The Thin White Duke of Death

 

The other notable portrayals of the Joker in the modern era have been Paul Dini’s – both his incarnation in Batman Animated –voiced by Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame, and the Paul Dini penned Arkham Asylum game series by Rocksteady Studios.

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Clown, Killer, Psychotic, and all around funny-man

In the Arkham Asylum video games and Batman Animated series Joker is a wild fun mix of his various elements and incarnations. More toned down violence in the Mark Hamill voiced cartoons, while more ramped up over the top and graphic violence in the video games. This is the same character, again, morphing and twisting to suit the audience (meaning the age ratings and what level of violence was permitted).

He’s the same clown putting on a show, no matter the venue. If you thought Deadpool was very “meta”, self-referential, funny and psychotic – then you really need to experience more of Mark Hamill / Paul Dini’s Joker tales, because the clown prince does murder, mayhem, psychosis and hilarity better than the Merc’ with a Mouth any day of the week.

In Batman Animated the Joker manages to be just as menacing and scary as any other incarnation -despite writers having to cater to network television rules for children’s entertainment  – thanks to Star Wars’ Mark Hamill voicing the animated Joker in a fan favourite performance – on and off from 1992 to 2016. That’s 24 years. No other performer has even come close to playing the Joker for that length of time.

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The friendliest and funniest psychotic killer ever conceived in children’s television

 

Mark Hamill gave us a version of the Joker who was over the top, the right mix of laughter and menace. To satisfy the requirements of a network TV show, the Batman Animated version of the Joker could not be overly violent or shown to be directly killing people in a show aimed at kids. But clever writing that satisfied the censors still managed to make him a menacing character, particularly in the direct market animated feature Batman Beyond: Revenge of the Joker – where Hamill’s Joker gets cut loose – he is every bit the gleeful sick sadistic psychopath made famous in the comic books.

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

In live action we have the big three icons – Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Each bringing a unique vision of the Joker to life.

Cesar Romero’s Joker was a comical joking buffoon, a slapstick clown who jumped around everywhere and was very animated and over the top. Many fans found Frank Gorshin’s Riddler to be closer to the Joker from the comics. Cesar Romero’s Joker while  clearly a unique take by a talented actor just has no menace at all. He’s more annoying than scary.

Compare him with his opposite in Heath Ledger’s Joker who is all menace with little to no humor. In the middle you have Jack Nicholson who is both deadly and funny. While Keaton’s Batman is a world away from the comic book Batman, Nicholson’s Joker is much closer to the comics, only one-upped by Mark Hamill who manages to be the most definitive Joker on screen in Batman Animated.

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“Oh how delicious it is”

Jack Nicholson’s Joker was a great performance that veered between gleeful lunatic and unapologetic homicidal maniac. Burton’s Batman and Joker went back to Batman’s roots, emphasizing the Gothic elements of Batman like O’ Neil and Adams in the 70’s. Nicholson’s Joker was true to the earliest golden age appearances of the Joker. A career criminal who falls into a vat of acid and emerges as the Clown Prince of Crime.

Visually, Nicholson’s outfit is the closet to classical Joker we have seen on the big screen. In contrast Keaton’s Batman look is remarkable different from the comics being all black, rather than black/grey or black/blue. Keaton and Burton’s Batman look (the film and the costume) set the tone and style for all future theatrical incarnation’s of Batman, and even cosplayers today typically go with the all black costume when dressing up as their favourite Dark Knight Detective.

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

Heath Ledger’s Joker is a fan favourite performance, some would even say it was the performance of Ledger’s career. A more urban Joker whose hair is matted, whose face is a mess, but who still wears a nice suit with a dirty almost punk rock feel to it, Ledger’s Joker was all menace. A gleeful sadist who loves to torture Batman with indecision and doubt and keeping everybody guessing what his real plans and intentions were.

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“You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with”

Another interesting take on the Joker was the Brian Azzarello / Lee Bermejo graphic novel “Joker”. This take sees the a hired goon tag along with the Joker for the day, and we see him get up to all his usual tricks. It’s a great read, and noteable for showing a more realist take on the Joker. Not so much his personality, but the overall setting and mood is closer to say Marvel’s the grim tone of  The Ultimates or Watchmen than the usual Batman monthlies.

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Origins of the Joker

The Red Hood first appeared in Detective Comics #168. In a rather convoluted page of exposition the Joker reveals to Batman the “one secret I’ve kept from you all these years”. That Joker was a lab worker who decided to steal $1,000,000 and became the Red Hood. He later swam through a chemicals making his getaway which bleached his skin and hair.

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The Joker / Red Hood story is a bit silly, as were many Batman stories of its era. His origin would be told and retold over the decades, each time adding to or taking something away from the various stories he has told about who he is and why he exists. Fans still argue the true origin of the Joker to this day, and some theorists will state factually that his earliest origins are “most true”, but given 70+ years of fiction, and various writers – those details are up for debate and interpretation.

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Allan Moore did his part to confuse things by writing The Killing Joke graphic novel. Moore wrote it as an out of continuity one-off story. One where he crippled Batgirl/Barbara Gordon. Then when DC published it, they went ahead and made it canon. Leaving poor Babs permanently crippled, something Moore has said he regrets adding to Batman. More ideas for  Joker origins are thrown up in the air in The Killing Joke, which became a semi-canon. Until they were not any more. Well apart from Babs being crippled. They kept that part for some reasons and threw out pretty much everything else, until DC’s NEW 52 where both Joker and Babs get rebooted.

 

 

 

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Joker as Mythic Archetype

In Snyder’s NEW 52 Batman story “End Game”, hints have been dropped that the Joker may be immortal. With images of the clown prince showing up old in photographs taken before Batman and the Joker were born.

The logical rational answer, the answer Batman has to go with is that the Joker is playing another cruel trick. The answer is that after taking a rare chemical called Dionesium (the precursor of Lazarus pits) the Joker is miraculously healed from life threatening injuries. The kicker is that photographic evidence exists putting the Joker at a least a century or two old. Older than Gotham itself. In Snyder’s end to his Joker stories (Death in the Family and End Game) the Joker gleefully torments Batman with the idea that he has been around a long, long time and is possibly immortal. Batman refuses to believe it of course, and the tale is left open ended for the reader to decide the ultimate truth of the Joker’s story, which again plays into the Archetype of the Trickster –  a storyteller with multiple origins and many twisting lies and tricks.

In interviews with the site ComicBookResources.com Snyder and collaborator (artist) Greg Capullo talk about their vision for the Joker in the NEW 52.

CBR: What was your and Greg Capullo’s thinking behind that and how he appears now versus “Death Of The Family,” or even that very first “Batman” issue when Dick was pretending to be him in jail?

 

Snyder: The most important thing is that he looks scary, you know? The other most important thing, when we were talking about him, was that he looks reborn in some way. Classic, but a little bit darker. We talked about different possibilities. We talked about the purple suit, and then we realized, no matter how you cut it and what the suit is, it just makes him not scary in a lot of senses. So for us it became about giving him the black suit with the purple handkerchief, give him a more funeral look. Make the hair shorter on the sides, make sure his eyes are very wide, very bloodshot, the wider grin with the clownish chin and nose. Make him a little less witchy and a little more scary, someone who is in the shadows, looking at you, who is clearly a Joker, young and restarted. He’s come back saying, “This is it. If I’m moving on, I’m starting over without you.”

 

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The cover to Batman #40 depicts and angelic Batman about to stab a Joker themed demonic creature with a staff / spear adorned with the Bat-symbol. It’s  a great cover that emphasies the mythical archetypal relationship of the two adversarial characters in symbolic form.

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Snyder: And to me, the reason Batman is inspiring isn’t only because he terrifies criminals, but because he empowers us to go out and overcome our own fears, and to overcome the worry that what we do doesn’t mean anything, and that we can’t make a difference, we can’t change our situation. Batman is the ultimate example of how you overcome tragedy, or you take chaos and random violence and turn it into something meaningful.

Greg Capullo: Are you trying to say that they’re kind of like married, kind of like the yin and yang?

Snyder: Exactly. And I think Bruce knows that in some way. The Joker represents everything he fights against all the time.

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Trickster characters are often inversions of popular beliefs and attitudes. Tricksters take whatever is repressed, hidden or unconscious and bring it out in the open for everyone to see.

The very act of bringing unconscious material to light makes the Trickster character if not unpopular at least confronting and unpleasant.

Not all trickster characters are malevolent, Bugs Bunny for examples is a lovable non-threatening character who plays tricks on his nemesis (Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck), he is playful and challenges the ideas, values and perceptions of those he encounters.

Examples of classical mythological Trickster figures include half man-goat Pan, norse God Loki, and the African spider god/godess Anansi.

Modern Trickster figures include Bugs Bunny, Beetlejuice, The Joker and Dr. Who.

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Joker as friend or benefactor to Batman

The trickster is not just a serial pest, but also acts in service to a higher purpose by bringing to light the very ideas and values we may find repulsive, and cannot stand to see in another, but which are in fact deeply embedded within our own psyches.

The more we are bothered by an other’s behavior, the greater the chance that there is some aspect of ourselves we are repressing, or refusing to own.

In this way, the trickster can symbolically help us to see our own Shadow  qualities through story, song and performance.

Once these qualities or aspects of our own psyche are brought our attention, we still have to do the work of what Carl Jung refers to as “individuation” – being the war of opposites or dynamic tension between our higher and lower natures from which the “work” of real psychological growth and maturation into fully human beings comes.

The Joker at times has become a friend or benefactor to Batman (at least in his own warped view of reality). Joker sees himself as challenging Batman to be the best Batman he can be. He claims to know Batman better than anyone, as aspect that both Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison emphasized in their respective runs on Batman books.

 

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Joker as Madman and Cipher

The Joker as a foil to Batman reminds him of his own darker impulses, and is a constant reminder of walking next to the abyss but not falling into it. Of Batman not giving in to to his impulse to simply kill the criminals and lunatics rather than catch them.

In the mythical sense, the Joker can be viewed as an aspects of Batman’s own personality given personification. Where Batman does not kill, and rarely laughs or makes Jokes, and is all about discipline and control – the Joker is wild unrestrained Chaos. Pure hedonism, the embodiment of lower animal drives and desires which in themselves are not evil (fight or flight response, sex, death, survival etc) but which unrestrained make us no better than living in an animal state of consciousness.

However, animals generally kill for food or to protect themselves, whereas the Joker kills for the sheer fun of it, making him in a sense even less evolved than an animal. He is sub-human, a gross perversion of culture and humanity reflected back on itself.

The Joker is decadence and self-indulgence and greed and excess and wanton destruction of self and environment personified.

He is chaos and a man like Batman who looked into the abyss of his own soul and rather than finding the line between his higher and lower impulses, fell in love with chaos and and raw unimpeded impulsiveness.

Will the real Joker please stand up?

The Joker can be a blank slate, a blank canvas onto which a writer can project whatever they need to for the story they wish to tell. Joker is the dark side of humanity twisted beyond recognition, a gross reflection of the chaos and unpredictability of life itself. His meanings and symbolism change with the times, reflecting cultural patterns and ever shifting values. In more conservative times he is the silly annoying clown who is more of a pest than a true threat. In more progressive times Joker is the psychotic mass murdering lunatic, always pushing the boundaries of sanity and crime as an art form.

The Joker is the nameless nobody criminal, who reinvented himself as the costumed Red Hood, who reinvented himself becoming the Joker, the clown prince of crime, avatar of chaos and madness.

Whether the Joker is genuinely insane, or merely plays at being insane because he loves to hurt people and cause trouble is up for debate. There is no “correct” answer, both versions are valid, and each Batman writer creates their own version of the Joker, with evidence to support their views in the Batman canon.

Scott Snyder’s Joker seems to be a true psychopath who enjoys murder, mayhem and torture, and his recent End Game storyline is possibly building the Joker up as as some sort of immortal, devil or pure archetypal trickster character.

The deliberate invocation, or even the suggestion that the Joker may be more than some criminal lunatic who dresses like a clown makes for compulsive reading, and leave the reader with a sense of confusion at the end of the tale.

Similar ideas have been hinted at in stories such as Dark Knight Returns, that Joker and Batman give each other meaning, and that the Joker continues to push himself to new depravities just to fuck with Batman.

 

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An End to Madness and Laughter?

The Joker’s characterisation varies by writer and era. Sometimes he is a loveable fun trickster, at other times career criminal. He plays at being a gang leader only to routinely kill his employees. Joker has been a lunatic, psychopath, sadist and clown. Or any combination of these qualities depending on what elements a given writer wants to emphasize.

The strength of the Joker, and the Trickster archetype is that he can be put into just about any kind of story, and he works. Like water that once poured into a glass becomes the glass, the Joker becomes whatever is needed in a given story. He is the clown prince of crime, career criminal, lunatic, shapeshifter, trickster and more. He is all of these things and yet not limited by any of these facets of his personality. He evolves and devolves, taking on new forms for new stories.

Each new interpretation of the Joker adds something to the collective archetype of “The Joker” in Batman media. Each writer or actor that comes along has their choice of which elements they want to use from all the interpretations so far, as well as adding something unique of themselves to the character.

One of the great things about the Joker is that if you don’t like a particular version – there is always a new interpretation right around the corner.

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The Joker and Batman have a symbiotic relationship, as do most classic heroes and villains throughout literature and film, each hero and villain representing the aspects of human potential and personality through stories. Within each person are all archetypes and possibilities, the different aspects of our psyche being reflected symbolically in stories of exciting characters having adventures, facing challenges and becoming more than what they were, or simply entertaining us with a mindless distraction from our daily lives.

When we read a comic book the page is flat and two dimensional, but beyond the borders of the panels of simple ink on paper – our imagination soars as we expand those worlds to infinite dimensions. We see hear and feel the moments of simulated joy, sorrow and high drama our heroes and villains encounter. Those larger than life characters, however spectacular they may be ultimately remind us of how human we are.

Batman RIP Joker Bowie grant morrison

“In mythology and religion, the trickster deity breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously but usually, albeit unintentionally with ultimately positive effects. Often, the bending/breaking of rules takes the form of tricks or thievery, and their actions often end up changing the rules in the process of breaking them, much like an act of “civil disobedience”. Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often funny even when considered sacred or performing important cultural tasks.” – TVtropes.org

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Batman Is a Jerk And So Am I

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What do we like so much about Batman?

He’s strong, he’s brave, he’s manly and tough.

He’s also arrogant, self-absorbed, gruff, emotionally unavailable, unapologtetic, rude and just rough around the edges.

Batman is kind of a jerk, isn’t he? Yet we still like him.

As much as I like Batman’s good qualities, I have to admit I have more in common with his personality flaws and bad habits, than his good habits.

And in a strange way, it is kind of comforting. If Batman is rude and arrogant, it doesn’t excuse my own lousy behavior in any way, but it does let me see that I am not the only guy who is like that. Batman’s flaws just make him more human. We don’t usually see Superman being a dick to other superheroes, but when Batman does it, well he gets away with it because he’s Batman.

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It is not like I get up in the morning and decide to be an asshole to people. But it happens whether I want it to or not. So sometimes you’ve just got to do your best, when shit goes wrong, and not get too caught up in the whole drama of it.

Batman can be cool and stoic as he is ultimately responsible only to himself. And while I may be somewhat stoic myself, if I am like that all the time, eventually my friends and family will stop talking to me.

There is a point where being a loner can come back to bite you in the ass.

Of course Batman has his Bat-Family, he is not a true loner any more – at least in the modern Batman comics he has all sorts of friends, associates and people he can rely on for support. From Lucius Fox to Jim Gordon and his whole Bat-Family including the various Robins, Batgirl, Red Hood, Batwoman and more.

Nav K over at my favourite comicbook Blog GIRL ON COMICBOOK WORLD highlights some of the key reasons we enjoy Batman in the first place in a couple of excellent posts that I have read twice now, because they were so damn good! So don’t miss them.

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Why is Batman so Popular?

Batman Character Analysis – He ain’t Crazy but He is Complex

Bat Family by Phil Cho deviantart
Bat Family by Phil Cho http://phil-cho.deviantart.com/

I’ve finished Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography, and I am currently reading Gandhi’s autobiography, both men are personal heroes to me for very different reasons.

One thing that really struck me about both books was the honesty and straight forward stating of bad habits, flaws and imperfections.

We want our heroes to be bastions of moral virtue.

In the case of fictional characters like Superman, we can enjoy a morally superior hero. But it is a fantasy, real life is much messier. Even the best of us has done some pretty horrible things, that we often deeply regret. Heroic figures, whether real, imagined or however exaggerated are icons we want to look up to and emulate. But while some flaws are unforgivable (the hero turns out to be a serial killer like Dexter for example) other more ordinary flaws humanise our heroic figures.

In the case of Ah-Nuld and yes, even Gandhi, both men are big JERKS! Both men are also bold icons – one is the guy in the nappy who helped kick start the movement for Indian independence from British rule. The other is a guy who traveled back in time to blow some shit up while wearing dark sunglasses and talking in a monotone voice.**

gandhi vs the terminator

Arnold cheated on his wife, which he talks about in his book pretty candidly, he is not proud of his actions. Gandhi went to see a prostitute, smoked, ate meat and did all kinds of very un-Gandhi like things before he matured into the man who is revered around the world today.

What I love about both of these autobiographies, is that both men did some really dumb things, and were big idiot jerks to their family and friends (reminds me of someone) but that they had the courage to talk about their faults, their flaws openly in their books. This does not excuse their behavior. (**The Terminator was a character, Ah-Nuld did not really travel in time, as far as you know…)

But that bold self-analysis and honesty is one of the qualities I love about Batman, he KNOWS how flawed he is, and he doesn’t try to hide it or pretend otherwise.
Batman often gets angry, frustrated, becomes even more of a loner, rejecting food, his friends and sometimes even sleep.

He gets to a place where he psyche/mind is unbalanced. But Batman has Alfred, the various Robin’s and other friends to help him through these times.

batman animated angry rage

For Batman, it is not just a flaw that he does things which are ultimately harmful for him, it is his “normal” behavior, so his friends do his best to manage his behavior, because you are not going to stop Batman being moody, withdrawn or angry.

Like a storm at sea, eventually the dark moody Batman comes back to his everyday level of dark moodiness, back to his baseline or psychological norm.

Why do we look up to a guy who is so dysfunctional? Why does he remain iconic and popular despite his flaws? Why is Batman such a classical romantic and mythic figure, and just plain gosh darn cool, despite being a flawed arrogant jerk?

I feel that a big part of Batman’s popularity is because of his flaws. It humanises him. It makes him more relatable to everyday people than the demi-gods that Batman walks amongst in the JLA. Batman is the cultural myth of the self-made man, the person who succeeds in bettering himself through hard work, persistence and determination.

Batman TM medtiation

Batman is a Zen-Yogi-Martial Arts Warrior for our times. He sits right in the sweet spot between realism and purely romantic fiction. In some stories he is very concrete, very much influenced by the real world, and he hits like a brick to the face.

In other stories Batman is a Gothic horror story, a semi-mythical figure straight out the collective unconscious mind – he torments criminals, preying on their fears, while in other stories he is the world’s greatest Detective, the guy who never gives up, and won’t stop until he solves the case, catches the killer, a manhunter who doggedly pursues his quarry to the ends of the earth. Whether realistic or mythic, Batman can work in a whole host of different contexts, and it all plays to the strengths of the character.

 BATMAN ACTS, HE DOESN’T ASK PERMISSION

One manly quality I love about Batman is that he takes action, and he doesn’t ask permission.

If we have to ask permission for every little thing we did in life, nothing would ever get done.

There are rules and laws in society that are ultimately designed to protect us as well as penalise us.

But did men like Teddt Roosevelt or Abe Lincoln sit back and let the law of the land dictate how they would live their lives? Did they “ask permission” before they took the action they felt was necessary to improve themselves?

The law aside – a man acts, he doesn’t ask permission.

Batman didn’t ask somebody if it would be “okay” to punch crime in the face a little now and then when nobody is looking. He goes out night after night and performs his duties, and he doesn’t give a damn who likes him, who hates him, who fears him. He only cares that he makes a difference in the world

In one view of this behavior and attitude, it just makes Batman look like a jerk.

But another view, expressed in the Indian spiritual classic Bhagavad Gita states:

When he [the virtuous person] renounces all desires and acts without craving, possessiveness, or individuality, he finds peace.” Bhagavad-Gita 2:71

“Always perform with detachment any action you must do; performing action with detachment, one achieves supreme good.” Bhagavad-Gita 3:19

And further passages talk about the devotees relationship to the Supreme Lord, or Godhead.

“Disinterested, pure, skilled, indifferent, untroubled, relinquishing all involvements, devoted to me, he is dear to me. He does not rejoice or hate, grieve or feel desire; relinquishing fortune and misfortune, the man of devotion is dear to me. Impartial to foe and friend, honor and contempt, cold and heat, joy and suffering, he is free from attachment. Neutral to blame and praise, silent, content with his fate, unsheltered, firm in thought, the man of devotion is dear to me. Even more dear to me are devotees who cherish this elixir of sacred duty as I have taught it, intent on me in their faith” 12: 16-20

Batman doing Tummo meditation Tibetan
Batman / Bruce practicing Tummo Meditation

Now, Batman ain’t religious and neither am I frankly.

But I want you to take a look at that above passage, and you can take the word God and replace it with “Justice” for Batman. Batman serves not the laws of the nation, but his own highly personal concept of Justice, which to me is closer to the classical notion, the Socratic Ideal of Justice, than, well, your modern concept we have when we watch the average episode of Law and Order or whatever cop show / legal crime drama you are into.

If Batman is too concerned about what others might think of his War on Crime, or too busy seeking permission to punch crime in the face, he is not going to be a very effective Batman.

vengeance_and_night_by_kuroi_tsuki-d3iccuo
Art by Drake Tsui http://quirkilicious.deviantart.com/

Recently, someone on the Q&A site Quora asked the Question: Why does batman betray the JLA? (referring to the JLA story Towel of Babel by Mark Waid in JLA#43-46, 2000)

“Tower of Babel deals with Batman’s perceived betrayal to the superhuman community by keeping and concealing hidden records concerning the strengths and weaknesses of his allies in the JLA, which include plans to neutralize his allies in a fight. His files are stolen by the criminal mastermind Ra’s Al Ghul, who uses them to defeat the League through a coordinated attack in order to prevent them from interfering with his latest scheme, the reduction of the global population.” 

  • Source: wikipedia.org/wiki/JLA:_Tower_of_Babel
JLA Tower of Babel Mark Waid Batman Ras Al Ghul
‘OWNED’ BY THE BAT

My answer to that question was that Batman betrays the JLA because he is always three steps ahead of everybody else in the room. He’s usually solved whatever problem the JLA is facing and will do whatever it takes to save the world, stop the enemies, world ending threat etc, save Liz, meet up at the Winchester until this all blows over – even if it means he seemingly betrays the JLA.

The simple answer for me to that Quora user question is “For the greater good”
Batman will sacrifice himself if it means saving the day. He doesn’t do compromise, and he doesn’t care who gets annoyed along the way, or if he betrays his “friends”.

He’s selfless but also a son of a bitch, and he knows it.
He’s smarter than you and he knows it.

He doesn’t care if you think he is a jerk.

He’s Bruce Lee, he’s James Dean, he doesn’t give a fuck what you think, what you stand for, whether you want to help him or stab him, either way he would die to save you because he values Life, he just gets real grumpy about the way he expresses it.

In the JLA Tower of Babel story Batman betrays the JLA, or at least it appears that he does. Batman had “fail safe” key plans on how to take down each of his fellow more powerful league members – in case they went crazy, were mind controlled etc. A super-villain obtains Batman’s plans, and uses them against the JLA. During the story the JLA find out that Batman created the plans to take them out (if they went crazy/evil etc) and they feel betrayed.

It’s a cool story, and well worth reading. The trade is quite cheap, and you will find it easily enough if you search for “JLA Tower of Babel”. Don’t miss “Rock of Ages” which is another classic JLA story with Batman in a key role that really shows how devoted and fanatical he can be to his cause.

JLA Tower of Babel Superman betrayed

So we know Batman can be a jerk, but at his core…

Who is Batman?

Fans each have their own favourite version of Batman. and the question of who Batman really is, is up to each BATFAN.

Is Batman the real person who puts on the mask of Bruce Wayne?

Or is Bruce Wayne the man who puts on the mask of Batman?

For me the answer is obvious, Batman doesn’t do things half-assed, he puts himself 100% into whatever he does, and when he became Batman, he stopped being Bruce Wayne.

My personal vision of Batman is that Bruce Wayne is the mask, and Batman is who he really is.

Batman Mr Freeze cover small

Who that Batman is from day to day may seem somewhat schizophrenic. Not literally, but when you see Batman in his own core books – Detective Comics and Batman, contrasted with Batman in the JLA, Batman and the Outsiders, the Batman and Robin books, we get different equally valid interpretations of who Batman is and how he acts.

It is hard to pin down a definitive version of Batman, but core values and characteristics may him easy to identify, no matter what book he appears in (not including Elseworlds and alternate universe stories where Batman may be evil, a vampire or whatever) I talked about Batman’s core values in a popular article a while back:

How to Be Like BATMAN PART#3: CORE VALUES

And I also made up this nifty chart table thingy with what I personally feel are the core values, characteristics etc of the Batman across different media.
The values etc that have become part of how Batman is portrayed over several decades of fiction, to become what we collectively can refer to as the Batman Franchise, or Batman Media.

Missing any of these basic “ingredients” in the recipe for Batman (which is subject to change and interpretation, not set in concrete) makes it easy to see where particular interpretations differ from Batman’s core values, or just go plain wrong (in my opinion) in the case of misunderstanding the character all together. Of course other fans and writers may disagree.

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

Now, nowhere in that box ‘o words does it imply that Batman is a jerk. Yet, he is a jerk, more often than not.

That is, if we consider normal human relationships, how we relate to and love each other etc.

Batman is not a social butterfly, and while he can fake human interactions as Bruce Wayne, how much of that is genuine, and how much of that is his acting ability- which I would compare favourable to a professional actor, just see Batman’s undercover personas like Matches Malone for example to see what I mean – is debatable.

Bruce Wayne dinner party Batman funny
“Batman’s Poker Face” by Kevin McShane http://fcfcp.com/tag/dinner-party/

At times Batman is cold and aloof, and sometimes we see him as warm and gentle, but these times tend to be rare. Nobody would accuse Batman of being a “softy”.

Batman trains the various Robin characters in a harsh and unforgiving manner, like a martial arts instructor or armed forces instructor would – to prepare the student for combat / warfare etc. But Batman/Bruce Wayne also cares deeply about his adopted sons, the various Robin characters, Batgirl, Jim Gordon, Lucius Fox and his other extended Bat-Family.

The original Batman went it alone, and if he had kept going that way, he would have been dead for sure by now. I like to think that Batman’s core BAT-FAMILY don’t just keep him alive in a practical way, they also keep him more human, less of a robot.

In Scott Snyder’s run on Batman in the NEW 52, the Joker tells Batman that his Bat-Family make him weak and soft. I feel they do the opposite.

The man who has nothing to live for dies a quiet and sad death.

The man who has everything to live for, especially people he deeply loves and cherishes will NOT go quietly into that good night, but will rage against the machine, he will rise up every time you knock him down, until his dying breath. Because he cares, because he fights for a better tomorrow that he may not live to see. Because he knows that deep down, as callous and angry as he may be on the outside, on the inside Batman has the heart of a saint.

Where Superman would be evacuating the planet in a hypothetical doomsday scenario, Batman is the guy who will be there till the end, helping the helpless, and dying right next to them if he can’t save them. Batman won’t abandon those most in need, because it is not in him as a human being to do that. The very idea of not helping others, and being a proactive force for good is painful to Batman.

He never gives up, never surrenders, and he absolutely WILL….NOT…STOP.

So he may be a jerk at times but perhaps we can forgive him, after all, he is Batman.

Batman portrait by Kia Asamiya

Batman’s Love Affair with Physical Pain – The Benefits of Pain

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.

batman-death-mask-1_cover-art

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?

let__s_stop_whining____by_vranckx-d56huj7
Batman by Vranckx / DeviantArt

More kick ass art by Vranckx @ http://vranckx.deviantart.com/

SUPERHERO THEORY 101 – Create Iconic Well Defined Characters

 

One of the things I love about Batman…

Is that he is such a well defined character, with such specific values, and a particular look and feel to him, that you have to have some sort of reaction no matter if you encounter him in a comic book or a film.

Batman is iconic not just because he is popular and well known, but because he was designed to be iconic from the beginning.

The silhouette, color scheme and chest insignia make him instantly recognisable. Costumes and colours are key features of designing Superheroes.

Scott McCloud has a great section in his book Understanding Comics on color and specifically the colours of Superheroes, take a look at the two pages below.

Understanding Comics_191 x Understanding Comics_192 xGreat stuff, I never get tired of reading McCloud’s ideas and theories.

Good characters such as Batman have strong values that distinguish them from other characters.

Crap characters that are ill-defined are easily mixed up with similar characters.

Characters such as Spider-Man, Hulk, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are easily identifiable by their unique look, costume and colours, and their personalities, villains, world/setting/background in their respective fictions.

The more simple a characters costume, potentially the more iconic it is. The more symbolic it is not only of the character, but the values they embody, the adventures and fantasy they stand for and the genre they appear in.

The repeated use of the same colours for superheroes (particularly from the 1940’s-1960’s) came to symbolise the characters themselves as Scott McCloud discussed in work magnum opus Understanding Comics.

Superman Spiderman Hulk Batgirl doodles for iconic colors

Now, I can’t draw to save my life. But take a look at my scribbles above and see if you can recognize the characters from their colour schemes and iconic symbols. Hint: that one with the Bat symbol is NOT Batman.

You can see from my terrible picture that superhero colour schemes may have come about due to the technology (or lack of) at the time for printing what was basically works of art on glorified toiler paper – but they are still recognisable even when a someone like me scribbles down somewhat abstract interpretations of genre classics.

The colour schemes that were a limit of technology came to be an essential feature in the iconography and design of superheroes. Today we have a far more rich and deep colour palette available for both digital and print productions, not to mention colour separations and special lighting effects comparable to movies that just were not possible in the 1940’s. I am glad that limitation was there, because without it, superhero fiction may not have developed the same iconic tropes that they are known for.

While it’s easy to look at a classic Superhero and notice how ridiculous they look, an important feature of Superheroes is that they are larger than life. Their costumes, colours and chest symbols make them instantly recognisable, and distinguish them from ordinary mortals and other types of generic Heroes from different genres.

One of the reasons it is hard to create an original superhero characters today that are as instantly iconic as Superman or Batman, is that it is very hard to distinguish your character from all the other characters that have already been created.

Like walking into a restaurant where every table is full, many of the great iconic costume designs, colour schemes and basic personalities and superhero archetypes are already taken.

This makes it hard for a creator to distinguish their character from all the similar characters already in print.

Sometimes a creator will do something unorthodox that makes the character stand out in some way, what you would call in video game terms a “modifier”.

A modifier is simply taking something familiar and changing one or two things about it.

For example if you are playing a first person team based shooter – on a tropical island – a generic Mercenaries vs Marines game or whatever. An environment modifier may be to change from day to night. An objective modifier may be playing capture the flag, team death match or whatever, while a thematic modifier may be now one team is all zombies, and the other team are humans with very basic weapons such as knives instead of RPGs.

Taking this modifier example to superhero fiction we get simple, but powerful ideas such as:

“This guy is like Batman… but he kills everybody” (moral/behavior modifier)

“This guy is like Superman… but he’s a Nazi in World War II” (setting modifier)

“Here’s a Wonder Woman character… who is openly gay” (character value modifier)

You can take any basic hero archetype and modify one or two things. You keep the archetype recognition value of costumes, powers, chest symbol etc. But you make something just different enough that people think “hhmmmm… interesting” or “boy that looks like gimmicky crap”.

Until we read the imaginary story from one of the above three examples (or a review) we don’t really know if the elevator pitch is any good or gimmicky crap. There is a fine line being being clever and just making a spectacle for the sake of spectacle. Most of the time we get crap in comics, and sometimes we something unique or actually worth reading.

Some writers, such as Warren Ellis manage to do the gimmicky and bizarre stories, with loads of spectacle to get reactions from people, but he also has substance in his stories (most of the time).

apollo and midnighter kiss the authority

It is easy to churn out gimmicky stories that get attention.

“Superman and Batman as gay lovers” (Apollo and Midnighter from The Authority)

It is harder to do the gimmick, but have a decent story to go along with it

“Superman and Batman as gay lovers… in a morally complex Orwellian world where the JLA has decided to take over the world for the benefit of humanity, who are too useless to look after themselves.”

kick ass hirt girl mark millar  Three examples of commercial superhero fiction that COULD have been gimmicky crap, but turned out to be pretty good that I really enjoy are:

  • The TV series HEROES which can be described as “powers without costumes”
  • Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass (character and story) can be described as “costumes without powers”
  • Brian Michael Bendis / Michael Avon Oeming’s POWERS can be described as “detectives without powers who investigate the crimes of those who do have superpowers.

heroes tv show jeph loeb

These three ideas manage to make themselves easily understood, while distinguishing their intellectual property from all the other similar comics, novels, TV, films etc already out there with subtle modifications to superhero genre tropes

While quality can vary during a project, I feel that Powers, HEROES and Kick-Ass were all really solid ideas. They were entertaining and managed to do something new with something familiar (superhero genre conventions), or at least they felt fresh and new, even if we had encountered some of the same ideas in other stories. They may not maintain the same quality all the way through, but the initial idea and execution is solid.

To do something interesting in the superhero genre, you either have to create something that is very very very good so that it can stand out from other works. Or do something that is so unique and different that you can honestly say it has not been done before.

Or do both.

Be unique and very very good,

and the property is more likely to be noticed amid the noise of other properties,

but quality is no guarantee of success.

Powers brian micheal bendis avon oeming

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic book is very very VERY good. I really enjoy reading the book, and also watch the brilliant AMC adaptation of the show. However if The Walking Dead was with a minor publisher that had crap distribution, it likely never would have sold as well, and it never would have been turned into a successful television show on a swanky network like AMC that does “proper television”.

Fortunately The Walking Dead was published by IMAGE comics, a company started by comic books writers and artists that values creator rights and royalties. If The Walking Dead had been published by a smaller publisher, we most likely would have never heard of it, let alone have our friends and relatives telling us how good it is. My mother watches The Walking Dead, and she has never read a comic book in her life, or watched a Zombie film. She has watched all of Joss Whedon’s Angel at least twice though. So she does enjoy some genre material.

the walking dead tv series michonne comic kill zombie 11

If The Walking Dead had been published by a bigger brand publisher like DC or MARVEL then Robert Kirkman would have had no real stake in the intellectual property. The Walking Dead  most likely never would have been made into a television show. It probably would never have built much of an audience as DC and Marvels’ bread and butter is superheroes, not zombie fiction.

Because of the success of The Walking Dead as a property, and Robert Kirkman’s success as a writer, we got to read fun projects like Marvel Zombies. Where the entire Marvel Universe is turned into Zombies and they eat the whole planet, before leaving to eat people on new worlds with the powers they absorbed from eating Galactus. The Incredible Hulk eating Silver Surfer’s head in one of my favourite scenes from Kirkman’s Marvel Zombies series. It is as gut-wrenching and disgusting and grim as any issue of The Walking Dead, but it is also laugh out loud hilarious throughout the series. Even Robert Kirkman himself (in the trade collection introduction) could not believe what Marvel let him do with their iconic characters.

hulk eat silver surfer head mostly skull

Superhero fiction then works best when we know the genre tropes. Writers can surprise us by subverting or modifying these tropes to make something new, or that at least FEELS new, or interesting.

I love post-modern superhero fiction. But I wish more of it was hilarious like Marvel Zombies, and less grim and boring like Allan Moore’s Miracleman.

Yes I just said that. Miracleman is brilliant and important and blah blah blah. But it also DEAD BORING! It doesn’t even have one good zombie in the whole story!

Give me Mark Waid’s Irredeemable any day of the week over Miracleman. It has any evil Superman that tries to kill the whole planet. It’s 30 issues of exciting superhero fiction that manages to be iconic, subvert genre tropes and it is not CRIMINALLY BORING!

Well I’m done.

More on this topic in the near future no doubt.

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

ROCKY_1 Sylvester Stallone

I’ve always said Rocky was semi-autobiographical.  Having grown up in the streets, I knew a million down and outers.  I knew what they ate, where they worked, how they thought.

Most of all, I understood their broken dreams.  I’m a guy who basically had to build himself from scratch.

-Sylvester Stallone

Many men who are now strong and confident were once weak and timid.

The way to build self-confidence, strength of character and physical strength is slowly.

Brick by brick, piece by piece.

Every day of every year you add a little at a time.

Until one day the person you were is no more.

From old timers like Charles Atlas, John Wayne and Jack Lalanne to modern day self-made men like that “wolf guy” from True Blood Joe Manganiello, Ah-Nuld Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone and of course Bruce Wayne who would become the Batman, they are self made men who chose to develop themselves and their abilities.

These self made champions did not settle for what life handed them, but chose to mold their own destiny.

Sly Stallone Transformation skinny kid to muscle man and hero_resized
Old Rocky Rambo himself at age 10, in his 20’s, 30’s and 60’s (from left to right)

SYLVESTER STALLONE

Because of birth complications, Stallone suffered from a severed nerve in his face that left him with partial paralysis in parts of his face, giving him his trademark droopy faced snarl, and at times slurred sounding speech.

As kid, Stallone was teased by his peers and he didn’t like it one bit. His role models included Superboy, Steeve Reeves (a bodybuilder an on screen “Hercules” and of course his parents. His father was a physically robust hard working man and his mother opened one of the first Women’s gyms in Washington, DC in 1954.

Mom started exercising with her father (who knew Charles Atlas) when she was very young, and grew up hitting a punching bag and tossing around a medicine ball – Sylvester Stallone, from his book “Sly Moves”

Stallone struggled for years to become an actor, working all sorts of dead end jobs just to get by. That his breakout film Rocky was such a hit was in his own words “a million to one shot“. Stallone wrote the story of Rocky himself, and eventually succeeded in selling it to a studio with himself attached to star in the film, despite not being a bankable name.

To pull off that sort of magic you need unrelenting determination, belief in yourself, dogged persistence, a “can do” attitude that never quits and yes, ENORMOUS self-confidence. If you can’t convince yourself of how important you and your dreams are, then you don’t have a chance in hell of convincing anyone else in this world how important you are.

Joe Manganiello skinny kid to celebrity man candy

JOE MANGANIELLO

Joe Manganiello used to be a timid skinny geek who grew up to be “that werewolf guy” on True Blood. Joe Manganiello became even more popular with his co-starring roles in Magic Mike and its sequel Magic Mike XXL. Joe has also released his own fitness and training/bodybuilding book and has hosted an episode of WWE Monday Night Raw with Hulk Hogan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Joe defied cultural stereotypes by being both a genuine Geek and simultaneously an athlete as he grew up. What he learned along the way, is that you have to want to change and find that place in yourself, that reason to better yourself. He admits that alcohol was problem for him for a while, that is long behind him now, and he also gave up cigarettes, which were hurting his conditioning and level of fitness and health.

It’s not about what you can get away with, it’s about becoming the best you can possibly can be. It’s not about the exterior. The aesthetics wind up becoming a bi-product of this internal work. It’s more about motivating and being the best person you can be, and as a result your body will transform. It’s not about vanity it’s about evolving as a person. – Joe Manganiello on his workout ethos / GQ Magazine Online UK

John Wayne Football kid western legend

JOHN WAYNE

John Wayne was born Marion Mitchell Morrison, a name he didn’t much care for. Some local firemen he would pass on the way to school gave him the nickname “Duke” and that name stuck around long enough for the boy to become a man and a screen legend beloved in America and around the world.

The good Duke rode off into sunsets and into our hearts as the model of hard work, integrity, kindness, dignity, strength, pride, self-confidence and self-reliance. John Wayne tried a bit of everything as he grew up. He was an athlete, and involved in 101 extra curricular activities through school and college. John Wayne was not afraid to try many different things, he was not afraid to fail and try new things.

Duke Morrison started as not just an extra but an all rounder on film sets, pitching in and getting involved with anything he could. John Ford took an interest in the young man, and eventually after a decade of B-Westerns Ford put Wayne in the film that would become his breakout role and a genuine Western classic – Stagecoach.

But John Wayne did not become a living legend overnight. He worked, harder than most other actors, and he built himself from who he was – Marion Mitchell Morrison, into who he became – America’s most beloved screen Cowboy The Duke one step at a time.

Captain-America Steve Rogers skinny to mantabulous

STEVE ROGERS

Captain America is the fantasy of every skinny kid who wants to grow up big and strong. While Steve Rogers gained tremendous muscle and power from the super soldier process and seemingly did not have to work for his strength, he still had to train himself in combat. Steve Rogers the man possessed tremendous willpower, kindness, bravery and self-confidence before he ever became Captain America.

In stories where Cap lost his powers, Steve Rogers the man still showed the same courage, will power, determination and resilience that is at the heart of Captain America.

Captain America sayings

Steve Roger’s bravery, heart, guts, integrity and character did not come from the super soldier process, they were there to begin with. He built those qualities brick by brick. A lesser man would not have been chosen for the Super Soldier program.

Steve Rogers is every skinny kid in America who wants to grow into a “real” man. While muscles and an athletic physique are naturally desirable (and a worthwhile pursuit) being a “real” man is every bit as much about developing character, confidence and the courage of ones convictions – and that is something that every person can develop in themselves if they choose to. The Sentinel of Liberty may have been gifted genetic enhancements by science, but the man and his self-confidence and belief had to be built up brick by brick.

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BRUCE WAYNE

Bruce Wayne could have lived a soft and cushy life of comfort, he could have given up on himself and on life after the brutal murder of his parents before his eyes when he was as child. Instead he remade himself into a modern day urban legend. A mountain of a man – he wills himself to be the best detective, and crime fighter in the world and he puts in the hard work to become what he imagined he wanted to be.

Bruce Wayne remade himself piece by piece, step by step, brick by brick until the timid terrorised child  was no more. In his place was a man of iron will, courage, determination, passion and devotion to his never ending war on crime. Batman’s desire to stop criminals and serve the needs of others knows no limits. He knowingly fights an impossible battle he can not ever win.

Bruce Wayne fights a never ending war on crime in his persona as Batman. He stops the maniacs and the mob that are beyond the reach of ordinary cops. As Bruce Wayne – businessman and philanthropist – Wayne invests in the community, social programs and more to not only fight the symptoms of crime, but build a better future, a better Gotham by addressing the true needs of the people he serves.

As Batman he punches crime in the face, and he will not stop. EVER. Everyday Batman rededicates himself to his cause, he renews his vows to war on crime and terrorise the underworld the way they terrorised him as a child.

Batman Begins Quote Compassion Ras Al Ghul

Being Batman means making sacrifices, it means giving up on luxuries and soft living, it means utter and total dedication to ones cause with little time for the “normal” activities of life. In this sense Batman is somewhat of a Zealot, he is fanatical in his training, in his application of intelligence, to being the best version of himself he can be.

Batman proves that man who CAN make a difference, that an individual can stand up for the common good, to crime and corruption, one man can say “ENOUGH” to the insanity of crime the mob and corrupt cops and “YES” to Justice.

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The transformation from scared child to unrelenting crime fighting machine did not happen over night for Batman. He trained himself in various arts step by step. As his skills and abilities grew, so did his confidence. Bruce Wayne built self-confidence brick by brick, one piece at a time.

If we choose to, we can do build the same type of self-confidence in our own lives. We can build confidence through real world experience, and we don’t have to suffer through some horrific tragedy to inspire us to be the strongest version of ourselves.

One day you wake up and the person you were is no more.

The transformation from a timid child to a confident man is total. People you meet in life feel your immediate presence. They feel your firm handshake, your warm smile, your good posture, physical strength and strength of character.  You radiate charm, confidence and sincerity. The kind of confidence that Batman / Bruce Wayne has that you just can’t fake.

This type of transformation is not easy it takes time, and it takes a lot of effort.  Above all it takes the will to try, to experiment with new behaviors and new learning.  And it takes a consistent effort day by day that never wavers.

It takes a consistent and even effort day by day to reach new heights and stop making excuses for living a mediocre life. To stop justifying why you can’t do something and simply believe in yourself and in your plan. Whatever your goals in life may be, you move towards them one step at a time and live the life you intend.

Building Self-Confidence is one of the most important things any man or woman will ever do. I am a man so I tend to use the male pronoun in my writing. But male and female, young or old can take the same lessons and apply them. Confidence is not the domain of any one individual or group.

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You don’t have to be a weight lifter or athlete or Batman to develop self-confidence, but it doesn’t hurt.

What does matter is that you cultivate your body and your mind. Neglect either and your total self-confidence will never be what it could be.

Neglect any part of yourself and that weakness will show through to every person you meet without ever saying a world.

A confident person carries themselves with a spring in their step. They know that life is on their side, and they spring out of bed with something to look forward to each day. The man of true self-confidence is always learning and growing and challenging himself as a human being, and continually pushes past artificial self imposed limits.

Those who have no confidence in themselves and their own abilities can never convince others of their worth. The confident man gets the job or makes the sale or accomplishes the task he set himself not through inflating his sense of self, but by honestly expressing himself and daily taking action towards his dreams and goals.

People who live without self-confidence in their actions remain in patterns of self-defeating behavior that will sabotage their efforts for a lifetime.

Any “confidence” they project will be false and worthless, a man (or woman) of real confidence, strength and integrity is unshakable, their will is absolute.

Real self-confidence expects nothing, and gives everything.

Confidence, sincerity, passion, enthusiasm and honesty are the values that will thrust an individual in the direction of their dreams like an unstoppable force of nature, like the unstoppable Batman who just keep moving forward no matter what. These are the values epitomised by characters like Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman and other great timeless heroic characters.

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When faced with difficulties and challenges in life, the confident self-assured person facces them knowingly and willingly, knowing that struggle and challenge are the proving grounds of life.  We are never saddled with a challenge or difficulty in life without also the ability to also overcome that challenge, to use that struggle as fuel to grow into a more evolved and well rounded person.

Real self-confidence comes not from any external source, but from the power within our own hearts and minds. Confidence is not dependent on being an athlete or physical culturist, those are just examples – Christopher Reeve for example was still a vital confident and outspoken man after he lost the use of most of his body. Christopher Reeve continued to be an inspiring real life hero after his career as the worlds best on screen Superman.

Chris Reeve’s books Still Me and Nothing is Impossible memoirs are testaments to hard work, determination, strength of character, strength of will and unbeatable confidence.

The man who can be beat is the man who gives up on himself and his dreams.

The man who never gives up, can never truly be beaten. It is one of the reasons we love Batman. It is why Christopher Reeve in real life is just as inspiring as his persona of Superman.

The confident man who takes a hard road day by day. He builds himself one brick at a time.

His efforts are ceaseless and untiring.

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There is no great secret to being this kind of person, other than choosing to be who you already imagine yourself to be in your heart of hearts.

To find our way out of the confusion of doubt, insecurity, and indecision the simplest way is to look for good role models and emulate them. To find people who have already done what we seek to achieve and see HOW they went about their accomplishments. We model those who have come before us who have done great things so that we too may be great.

Batman learned from the example of The Shadow and Zorro, forerunners who helped to inspire him in his quest for Justice and War on Crime.

It is up to your seek out your own role models and find out how they became good at what they do. Confidence comes with practicing our abilities, talents and skills and applying them daily in the art of living.

The confident man is the man who chooses to be confident. Who experiments with his own life. Who tries new things and instead of beating himself up when he fails, learns from his failures and moves on. The confident man is too busy celebrating and mentally reliving his victories in his mind, creating powerful emotional associations that help him build on his successes.

No matter how big or small his victories and successes the man of confidence keeps a record of his greatest mental movies and he reviews them regularly. He may do so daily or weekly. The confident man sees failure not as failure but as essential feedback in the ongoing process of self-actualization. He builds on his successes and learns from his failures.

The man of true confidence sees and experiences failure as a great benefit to his way of being. Those who have not failed in life, can never truly succeed for they have not dared to go to places where they must to become who life is asking them to be.

The World’s Finest - Created by Vassilis Dimitros

Where there is pain there is growth, where there is struggle and resistance comes new learning and transcending of ones circumstance. The strongest sword is forged is the hottest fire. The strongest most confident individual is not the man with the cushy life of soft living luxury and excess, but the man with the difficult life who makes the best of it and accepts his challenges with gratitude. Knowing that every action, every plan that does not work is driving him closer to his goals, closer to the plans and actions that DO work out.

The pain young Bruce Wayne went through when his parents were shot right before his eyes was horrific. But as horrible as that event was, Bruce would not become Batman without that defining moment. From his tragedy came great strength. From his tragedy came the fire of passion and pain that would eventually forge young Bruce Wayne into the living weapon that is Batman. From that one tragic moment was born the fire in Bruce Wayne’s heart that always burns.

In that moment of unspeakable tragedy, the seeds were sown that would eventually transform Bruce Wayne from an ordinary mortal into a modern myth – the Batman. An unrelenting one man army who never stops in his crusade to terrorise and dismantle Gotham’s underworld.

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

A man of confidence is not infallible. He may have doubts and make mistakes. We are all human.

The difference is the CAN DO confident man gets off his ass and takes action every day.

the “can’t won’t don’t” man refuses to lift a finger to help himself, does nothing and justifies his every vice when he should instead be building virtues.

The can do man relives mental movies of all his successes and greatest joys in life daily.

The failure man relives mental movies of all his greatest failures and excuses and wonders why he feels miserable.

The can do attitude man and the failure attitude man – Which one will YOU be?

As babies we learn to crawl, then walk, then run.

It is hard for a baby to crawl.

It is hard for a baby to even lift its heavy head.

But without that challenge, the babies leg and torso muscles would never grow strong enough to for it to be able to walk at all. A baby lifting its head gets one hell of a workout. From resistance comes strength and growth.

No resistance = no strength, no growth

Christophe Reeve the real life Superman

Christopher Reeve after his paralysis inducing horse riding accident instead of becoming a weaker broken man, became a man stronger in mind and spirit. How did he find that inner strength? It may be different for each person, but we all have to reach down into out very depths and find our own motivation, our own mission in life. Chris made his mission helping others through being a spinal cord research advocate, as well as his work with various charities and organisations around rehabilitation and stem cell research.

His body may have become weaker after his accident, but his mind became stronger. As a man he radiated the same confidence and charm he had before he had his accident. Proving that you don’t need to a bodybuilder or athlete to be confident in who you are. Self-confidence comes from authentically being who you already are, owning every strength and every flaw, not making excuses or trying to justify your existence to anyone for any reason.

If there is something you don’t know how to do, rather than faking your way through life like a con-man in a B-movie, instead learn the skills you need to become confident at your chosen task or responsibility.

You build on your strengths, and while you don’t ignore your weaknesses, you don’t let them hold you back.

Celebrate, build on and yes – mentally relive your greatest successes in vivid detail, but learn also from your failures, and vow to be a little better tomorrow than you were yesterday.

Men such as Jack Lalanne and Joe Manganiello who were once weak in mind and body humbled themselves and learned what they needed to do to transform into the men they imagined themselves to be.

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Bruce Wayne imagined himself as highly trained and capable in his mind, then he went out in the world and became what he had already imagined himself to be.

Joe Manganiello imagined himself as big, confident and strong – and found a way.

Steve Rogers imagined being the man he wanted to be in his mind first, before it happened in reality.

Jack Lalanne, American fitness pioneer – and one of the fittest and strongest men that ever walked the planet – was once a skinny kid who ate “mostly junk food” and knew nothing about Nutrition or Strength Training. That kid grew up to open some of the earliest gymnasiums in America and promote healthy lifestyles and healthy foods all over the world for decades. What was Jack’s secret?

He IMAGINED who he wanted to be in his mind first. Jack Lalanne saw Paul Bragg on stage and knew he wanted to be healthy and strong like his role model. Jack may not have known how to become like Paul Bragg, but he knew it was possible, and he found a way to better himself through emulating his role model.

A young Sly Stallone looked up to Steve Reeves and saw what was possible.

A young Arnold Schwarzenegger looked up to and emulated Reg Park, and saw “what was possible”.

What did these men all have in common? They had the burning desire to better themselves, to be more than they were. They had the passion and determination to find a way, BEFORE they knew how to grow confident and strong. They could see in others what was possible.

Most importantly they had to admit the POSSIBILITY into their own minds that they too could better themselves, they had to get past their own self-imposed doubts, insecurities and thoughts like “I can’t do it”.

These men of confidence and will power all had to dig down and find a way to believe in themselves and in their dreams, and you too need to find that place in yourself if you truly want to better yourself.

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These men of confidence and determination had to beat lousy doubt riddled thinking into the ground with a hammer. When thoughts of lack and failure once again entered their minds, they beat back those thoughts once again. They fed their mind over and over again with thoughts of confidence, bravery, strength, success and examples of those who had gone before them.

They hypnotised themselves again and again into knowing that they could succeed at their hearts desire. They showed the unrelenting determination and persistence of the Batman who has no place for doubt and insecurity in his mind.

How did Bruce Wayne transform himself from timid child to a mountain of a man? He imagined he was already who he wished to be in his heart of hearts. He then practiced daily over and over being that person, until he was that person. He mentally rehearsed becoming the best most strongest version of himself he could imagine, and built himself into that man day by day, step by step, brick by brick.

Bruce Wayne burst through the barrier of cultural indoctrination and well meaning others who tell us what we “can’t do” in life, and who encourage us to “set limits”, “don’t overdo it” and never do anything truly worthwhile.

Bruce Wayne went to that place where all great men and women must go. Into the very fire of their own being, into the very depths of their psyche. Into the depths of their own heart and soul, and emerged a stronger man. Reborn, with a mission and a purpose. To “BE BATMAN”.

We first build the best version of ourselves in our own mind through imagination – then find a way to create that version of ourselves in the exterior world.

The Batman knows his own mind, his own values and he is confident in and at peace with who he is and what he stands for. While he is tormented by the death of his parents, time and again he reaches deep down into his own psyche and finds a way to rise above his circumstances in life. While he may lose his edge and sometimes his sanity in the comic books, Batman always comes home to who he is. He always comes back to his core mission, and to being the best Batman he can be.

Batman Dark Knight Jim Lee

Despite Batman’s numerous failures he keeps trying. He keeps moving forward atoning for his mistakes by renewed unwavering dedication to his war on crime.

Batman’s terrible childhood tragedy could have destroyed him but instead it made him stronger.

Something in that young Bruce Wayne emerged the day his parents died that would later develop into the character we know as Batman. A deep vital feeling that he would leave the world a different place than when he entered it.

One night after months of training his various capacities, in an introspective moment sitting in his fathers chair, Bruce Wayne looks out the window and sees a bat. A moment of inspiration strikes him. He decides to become a self-invented myth. To strike fear into the hearts of “superstitious and cowardly” criminals, to wage a one man war on crime that never ends.

Batman choose to go beyond his own self-imposed limitations, he choose to rise. He choose to reinvent himself. Batman did not just reinvent himself once time. He reinvents himself daily.

While as children we are dependent on others to help us build self-confidence, as adults we must take responsibility for our own sense of self-worth and confidence. If we don’t treat ourselves right, how can we expect others to?

However we feel internally is what we project to others in social situations. The man who feels love and respect for himself loves and respects other people. But the man who feels miserable and worthless inside feels that others are also miserable and worthless. He is incapable of seeing another’s world view.

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As adults we can consciously seek out healthy environments to develop all types of skills. We can find clubs, groups, teams etc to be a part of where we practice something we enjoy, and get positive accurate feedback and criticism from others who care about us and want us to succeed not only in life, but in being who we already are.

The man  who fears genuine criticism is afraid of change and afraid of growth. To become out best self we must get accurate feedback from trusted sources. We are free to embrace or ignore the feedback from others. But if we consistently get the same message from trusted sources, then there is a fair chance we have a habit or character flaw that needs addressing.

The bullish unthinking idiot continues down a path of self-destruction blindly, the wise man knows he is also an ignorant fool but seeks to improve himself daily.

The wise man considers others people’s point of view but ultimately he is the judge of his actions. Only he knows his true motivations and intentions. Only he can decide what changes may be necessary, what skills he may be lacking, what direction to evolve in next.

I will learn to stand upon my feet and express myself in clear, concise, and simple language, and to speak with force and enthusiasm, in a matter that will carry conviction. I will cause others to become interested in me, because I will first become interested in them. I will eliminate selfishness and develop in its place the spirit of service. – Napoleon Hill

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The fire of pain and suffering is not meant to drag us down to make us drown a thousand small deaths. Suffering is there to motivate us to go beyond our personal story and drama, suffering is there as feedback in life that motivates us to better ourselves, to grow, to evolve – not to hold us back.

Men and women of great self-confidence share various traits. They don’t get lost in the “story of suffering” and their personal life dramas. They choose to rise above it.

They tend to have a more accurate view of themselves and their abilities, no matter what other people tell them.

A confident person knows that their own opinion of themselves is a million times more important than any other person’s opinion about them.

They know that are worthy, that they matter, that they have a unique and essential place in the universe.

They know and feel this in every cell in their bodies, in every bone and muscle, in every atom, in every thought, feeling and emotion.

Their essential worth as a human being of the confident man is never in doubt. No matter what troubles doubts or insecurities they may encounter in life, the man of self-confidence knows he has a right to live and express himself and feels himself to be neither superior nor inferior to any other human being on this planet. Regardless of social standing, wealth, status or privilege.

The self-confident man knows he is here for a reason, and he is too busy getting on with his life’s mission to be wasting time indulging in anything other than that.  He has no time for naysayers, nor the doubting Thomas’ of the world.

Like Batman we each have our own unique purpose in life, it is up to us find out what that is, to choose our own purpose and live it.

We test ourselves daily in trying out new things, in being unafraid to be who we already are, our unique self.

Being confident in who you are doesn’t mean throwing away all your bad habits and trying to live some impossibly perfect life – that road is a short path to misery. Being confident and at peace with who you are simply means accepting yourself exactly as you are RIGHT NOW in this moment, not in some imaginary future that never arrives.

It means that if you have things you are not happy with in your own character you take steps to do something about that, but you still have to accept yourself where you are right now and not beat yourself up – the world will do that for you.

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Being confident means being at peace with your flaws and your strengths and not being caught up in the game of believing you are better or worse than any other person. you acknowledge where you are at in life, and continue to grow and improve in whatever way suits you best. Every person has a right to love and accept themselves exactly as they are.

Push back the mask and Bruce Wayne seems lost and unsure. Slip it on and he becomes someone else, more confident in action, more definitive in deed. On the inside maybe Bruce Wayne is not that much removed from a little boy who lost his parents so very long ago. But Batman—the guy Bruce becomes when he’s in costume—can’t afford to express doubts or insecurity. His mask doesn’t just hide his features: it helps define them. – Paul Asay – God on the Streets of Gotham

Being confident doesn’t mean being a jerk to people and never apologising for anything. It does mean that we work on ourselves daily, beating our bad-habits into submission like Batman beating up some punk in an alley. Not to live to please others but to live an authentic life. A life where we don’t accept mediocrity, excuses and laziness as an excuse for living an unsatisfying life.

We each live the life we choose, and if we don’t like the life we have chosen so far, at ANY time we can reinvent ourselves like Batman did and live a new life. The thing is what you do in life doesn’t matter all that much. The events of your life don’t matter a whole lot, but how you process them and whay you do with them in your own mind DOES matter. Will the events of your life as an excuse to be miserable or as excuse to transcend who you were yesterday?

Being truly confident means that we stand up not only for our own rights, but those of others. The sane man, the confident man admits to his failings and mistakes, but doesn’t let his flaws hold him back, doesn’t use his mistakes or character flaws as excuses for not living the life he intends to live.

What does matter is the energy and attention you bring to what you do.

What does matter is the concentration and focus you bring to your daily tasks in life.

What matters is that you are at peace with who you are and what you stand for. Even when surrounded by people who question your motivations and character, even while you serve the needs others and taking care of them, even when you don’t agree with them. Even when your Bat-Family is telling you to go in one direction, and you defiantly insist on marching in another direction.

At times Batman becomes unbalanced and his Bat-Family plead with him to stop being so self-destructive. Sometimes Batman is right and goes his own path. Sometimes he is dead wrong – be he still goes his own way.

Batman’s will is absolute – even when he is absolutely wrong. Batman follows a course of action to its conclusion. His friends such as Alfred Pennywoth, Jim Gordon and his Bat-Family will still be there after the crisis has passed to support him. Even when Batman truly goes off the deep end they still support him, and sometimes that means they walk away and leave Batman alone until his bout of madness has passed.

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What can we learn from Batman?

That it is better to do something wrong with total conviction, than do something right in a half-arsed way.

You learn more by trusting your own instincts that constantly readjusting you values and actions to suit other people. Even when you are wrong, you are wrong with integrity. You can pause and examine your own actions and make changes. You can make mistakes with the awareness of how you will do something differently next time.

Better to make conscious mistakes than unconscious successes.

That is how Batman never truly fails. Whether Batman succeeds or fails he throws himself at life 100%, never doubting himself or his abilities. But when Batman does make mistakes, he later has the introspection and conscious attention to admit them first to himself, then to others. Batman takes actions to correct his bad habits as much as possible.

But life is unpredictable, and we can not afford to drift through life living on auto pilot. We must pay attention not only to what we do but WHY we do it, and when we veer off course – have the wisdom to correct our course in life and the courage to seek help from others when we are unable to do this for ourselves.

There is a difference between beating your self-defeating habits, and being manipulated by others into believing something is a flaw that may actually be a strength.

We must cultivate the wisdom to question our own actions and the effect they may have on others. But not in the middle of when we have already embarked down a particular road. If we are constantly doing U-turns in life, constantly starting new projects and never finishing anything, then we don’t get to that place of satisfaction of having completed and seen the full consequences of our choices.

Leaders who question themselves openly in front of their group sow seeds of doubt with disastrous consequences in those who follow them.

A leader such as Batman must act with total confidence and faith in himself even when he is full of doubts about his chosen course of action, lest the doubt spread to those he leads.

Only after we have made our choices can we in retrospect look back and say we made a bad choice. It is impossible to know the full repercussions of any of our choices in life. We must act and decide with limited information, and not be crippled by doubt and indecision. Rarely is making no choice at all, or hiding from our responsibilities better than making a conscious decision, even if it is later seen as a bad decision.

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Our confidence grows the more the more we come to know who we are and what we are about.  The more we express ourselves openly and honestly. The more we know our own mind and don’t apologise for who we are and what we stand for, the more we settle into ourselves.

If we want to become like Batman it means owning our faults and flaws, but not using them as excuses to hold us back. Like Batman we become confident beings by living life the best way we know how. We work daily to banish the demons of doubt, insecurity and self-loathing from our mind. We become who we intend to be by accepting ourselves as we already are, while making strides to daily better ourselves. We ask others not to adapt to our bad habits, but accept that we are all beautifully flawed in totally unique ways.

True self-confidence is not about dominating others, getting ahead, being successful in worldly terms or proving anything to anybody.  True self-confidence comes from within and is not based on external values.

My will to do springs from the knowledge that I CAN DO. I’m only being natural, for there is no fear or doubt inside my mind. – Bruce Lee

True self-confidence is about inner integrity, about knowing your place in the world, what you are about, what you are for and living that daily.  When one lives a life of honest integrity where nothing is forced, nothing is faked, confidence naturally flows from who we are and what we stand for.  There is no need for motivational courses and endless marketing tricks, props or supports that elicit temporary euphoria but do not enact real lasting change in the individual’s psyche or daily habits.

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To be confident in who we are and how we apply ourselves to our daily tasks may mean starting from scratch, building ourselves up brick by brick.  Perhaps we are an expert at kung-fu or sewing or swimming. But then we try Formula-1 racing or building a house or something as simple as mowing a lawn for the first time – and we are back at square one, like a little baby finding its way in the world.

Building our confidence brick by brick means being humble, learning from those who already know that which we wish to learn, and modelling “what works”.  The more we immerse ourselves in high quality knowledge, principles, and hands on practical experience, the faster we grow and learn.  The more we act on our learning, try, test and fail, hypothesise and try again, the more feedback we get and the faster our confidence, skill and ability grows.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett

True self-confidence then is not about fooling others, but is based on genuine experience in living.

Anyone can “fake” being confident.  A man may walk, talk and act “tough”, but the moment he steps into the ring with a professional boxer, wrestler or MMA champ, all that false confidence and bravado goes straight out the window.

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The man who learns day by day a little at a time, always making subtle improvements and further distinctions grows in confidence slowly but assuredly. Batman is the man who is forever learning and growing, but like his progenitor Sherlock Holmes he limits his learning to what is relevant to his war on crime.

The man who is unafraid to express who he is and what he stands for daily grows more confident than the man who never lifts a finger to help himself or others. Who never stands up for himself or others, and never expresses his most heartfelt desires or takes any steps towards their manifestation.

Life is action, life is motion.

The universe demands conscious aware people. Life demands that we stand up and pay attention to who we are, and honestly express ourselves.  If we never act, we never fail.  If we never fail, we never truly succeed at anything. If we never try we never learn from our failures, we never learn to fail better.

Without resistance, without feedback, there is nothing to gauge our efforts against.

Without resistance there is no impetus to grow, no demonstrated lack of ability that causes us  to self-assess our own abilities and find them lacking.

To be good at something, to be confident at something, or to be merely confident in who we are, happy in our skin is one and the same thing.

There is no “practice” in life, therefore every day in life is “practice”.

There is no true “winning” or “losing” in life, merely perception. Therefore all we have is our daily lives and how we feel about who we are.

Batman is the man who is daily practicing his skills and talents. He is always prepared, ever alert to opportunity and takes action not in haste, but after careful consideration of the numerous tactical options available to him. Batman focuses his efforts like a laser beam concentrated and unbroken in his intensity.

He treats every rehearsal, every practice element in building his skills as the “real thing”, therefore when faced with true danger he remains calm and detached from the situation. Batman relies on his highly conditioned physical reflexes, his vast knowledge of escape artistry and perhaps his greatest asset  – his infinitely flexible mind.

The Batman remains flexible and adaptable in any situation. Able to turn the odds in his favour or pull a victory out of a seemingly impossible situation. His art is that of infinite adaptability and pliability. He is present in the moment, and able to respond in exactly the right way in exactly the right moment, using his calculated precise tactics to the maximum effect.

Give Batman a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and he will move the world.

In a battle with Batman if you give him an inch, he will take a mile. Batman is so confident, strong and adaptable in his abilities that he can take whatever his adversaries throw at him and use it against them. He uses his iron-will and mental abilities to be five steps ahead of any opponent.

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What does self-willed mean? Does it mean “having a will of one’s own?” The human herd instinct demands adaptation and subordination, but for his highest honor man elects not the meek, the pusillanimous, the supine, but precisely the self-willed man, the heroes.

– Bruce Lee

What actions we take to change how we feel on any given day give us new opportunities to develop self-confidence. We take action and we get feedback. Whether we succeed or fail in our task we have the satisfaction of knowing that we gave it everything we had. We have the peace of mind that follows living life with integrity.

The man who always has the support of his family, friends and peers may feel confident.  The man whom finds himself without tragedy or struggle may feel confident. The man who feels that all things in life come easily to him may also feel confident.

But no man knows true self-confidence who has not also known pain, struggle and defeat.

No man knows true confidence who has not known adversity, hopelessness and been to his lowest of lows.

Batman  has been down in the very gutters of his mind time and again. Batman has been at his absolute lowest and he always finds a way to bounce back. He finds a reason to continue, he has the need to RISE like the phoenix. Reinventing himself time and again, turning struggle and adversity into indomitable strength and resilience.

When a man has experienced every kind of horror and rises up, pulls himself back from the depths of despair and desperation, like Rocky, Bond or Batman – he has applied all he learned to bettering himself in every conceivable way. Then he can claim to possess true self-knowledge and self-confidence that is unshakable, that is unknowable to anyone other than him.

People directed by external events and circumstances are unconscious creators, they refuse to be the agent of change. They refuse to be the authors of their own life story.

To these outer directed people, inner directed confident individuals who take their cues not from the world out there, but their own heart and mind in here such as Batman – life is somewhat of a mystery.

But to any who would confidently claim their own self, who would stand up and be who they already are, who express themselves openly and honestly, and boldly march forward – the world makes way for such people.

Living not from  a sense of entitlement, but a knowing that life has the meaning and depth that you give to it, that you invest in yourself and in those you love and are responsible for.

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The Batman is a man who has explored the depths of his own psyche. He has explored pleasure and pain, he knows true suffering and true joy.  He lives as a mountain of a man, unshakable in his convictions.

The Batman lives his life on purpose with total confidence in his abilities and total conviction of his purpose.

Batman knows his actions matter, that he matters and that his confidence in his trained abilities is total and uncompromising.

Faced with impossible situations, deadly encounters, poisons, death traps, ferocious foes and allies alike, The Batman pauses for a breath, savors the moment, for all of this “drama” out here is merely a warm up, merely a respite from his own intense training.

Whatever his enemies put him through, whatever tortures they may dream up to “break” the Batman, he has already willingly put himself through far worse by  his own hand.

The Batman know that daily life is mere practice. Every little step Batman takes is feedback, it may destroy him or fuel his greatness. The stuff of life is there for us to experience and use as fuel to transform our own lives. We may not have control over many of the events of our lives, but we always have the ability to choose out attitude to life.

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Batman’s confidence is total, he acts like it all matters, but in his heart he knows whatever difference he makes in the world will be insignificant and small, he knows that can not rid the world of crime permanently.

But that doesn’t matter.

Batman throws himself time and again into impossible situations no matter the danger, no matter the risk, no matter if it means today he dines in hell, HE NEVER STOPS.

Batman fights the impossible fight.  Batman accomplishes five impossible things before breakfast while we sleep. Why? Because he’s Batman. That is what he does. But also because he chooses to do the impossible. Batman will not accept ordinary limitations saddled on him by society.

Batman dedicates himself to a cause that is unwinnable that will never end, that can only bring pain and misery.  He sees all this and laughs, for it is good to struggle. It is good to have a boulder to carry or roll up a mountain every day. For struggle and resistance gives us something to push against, it is how he grow in self-confidence and real world abilities. Struggle and resistance are how we build true strength and iron will. Not through soft living, but through sheer will power and determination.

The Batman struggles and he is grateful for it, how else would he test his limits. How else would he transcend himself.

The Batman rededicates himself to his cause daily. His training never ends. His practice never ends. His determination never ends. His courage, determination and strength of character never end. His life may be defined by one moment of suffering, but suffering to Batman is only another type of knowledge, another of life’s experiences to live and transcend. To feel deeply, passionately and intimately in full awareness, yet not be bound by his suffering.

In a way, however horrible the circumstances that lead Bruce Wayne to becoming Batman, he is grateful because every experience he has endured has made him into the best Batman he can possibly be. Into the man who dedicates himself in service to a higher good, to serving the people of Gotham as their Guardian and eternal protector.

Batman Incorporated pin up cover variant

Some train and live and grow weak in the best of conditions.

Some people – like the Batman – forge hearts of iron and minds of steel in the worst possible conditions.  They thrive under adversity. The Batman doesn’t shrink away from adversity and challenge in life, he rises like the immortal phoenix, time and again reinventing himself and meeting life’s challenges head on with total confidence, courage, passion and conviction.

He commands body and mind to do his bidding, no matter the external circumstances of his life.

Men of confidence bring their best self forward. Their true self emerges in the white hot fire of pain, difficulty and suffering. They see it all and rise above it, refusing to give an inch, refusing to be a victim, to give up and go home, to crawl away and die somewhere in a corner.

Like Batman, men of confidence have fire in their belly and grit in their eye.

Whether they stand alone or with others, they are naked and unashamed in the world, and they would have it no other way.

Destiny waits for no man.

But destiny will bend and serve those who call it master.

Destiny will serve those whom command themselves to be in alignment with life.

Faced with the choice of being a coward who sinks into mediocrity or being a confident man like Batman who rises – which will you choose?

As for my choice? It’s the same choice I make every day. The one that fills me with determination to face life head on whatever comes my way.

BE LIKE BATMAN!

I am Batman I am the night I am vengeance

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#3: CORE VALUES