239: Batmanalyzed

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Batmanalyzed

Batman is one of the most fascinating, multifaceted superheroes in all of comics ... as long as you don't think about him too much. Allen Varney digs a bit too deeply into the Batman Mythos and unearths some rather unpleasant character traits in the process.

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Yep. God forbid a marketable character like Two-Face or Robin gets killed off.

Commercialism will always limit the stories we can tell.

They'd never permanently kill off a major character...But can you imagine how gripping a scenario where Batman himself dies would be?

Excellent article (Yes, I can speed read).

This is something like what I touched on in MovieBob's explanation of Spiderman. If you look too deep into a hero, you come up with an impossible man.

While the Alan Moore's and Frank Miller's (*spit*) of this world try to bring the man to the hero, I believe we really need to look to the hero of the man.

Batman is a legend, like Robin Hood, Dick Turpin, Paul Bunyan and even Abe Lincoln. It would be IMPOSSIBLE to do all the things they were supposed to, (Seriously, Lincoln may have been a great guy but still...) but that's not the point.

Like when Kirk's been batted across the mess room, or Lister's just eaten a Weevil Vindaloo, you KNOW that even if that would kill a normal man, these are HEROES.

If you define someone as a Hero, they don't go to the loo anymore (unless it's dramatically appropriate). They don't have that aching feeling first thing in the morning, they don't have to remember to buy milk on the way home.

They just Hero. Hero is what they do. Ich bin ein Hero.

Not thinking about this is what makes them so enjoyable. c.v ANY show on TV.

Caveat: By actually showing Bats getting it off with one of the playgirls, you'd actually ruin the canon and thus the character. That's the bit you need to be most careful about thinking on. And often where the films fail. Batman doesn't need romance because -sigh- He's the Goddam Batman!

Thank god! Somebody actually thinks this.

Let me get this straight, I don't like Batman. The movies and games are entertaining but I've never read the comic books and just don't really like the character.

It's like the problem I have with Spiderman and Superman, the simple problem that no matter how much crime fighting they do, every episode/issue/instalment has them fighting the exact same amount of crime, which is a definite indicator that whatever they're doing isn't working at all. This is why I prefer the X-Men approach to things, it's a single cohesive world and it doesn't focus around one issue. Half the time is spent fighting fellow mutants so they can endlessly keep it interesting.

What I'm saying is, the superhero comics would be a lot more interesting if they just sticked with them fighting supervillians without all the filler. Sure, it's fun for some to watch Batman kick the shite out of the latest person 'who for some reason hasn't heard of him despite the fact he's very famous and for some reason still commits crime' and leaving it at that, to me it's just unsatisfying boring violence, especially since you know he's going to kick their asses anyway.

Allen Varney:
Batmanalyzed

Batman is one of the most fascinating, multifaceted superheroes in all of comics ... as long as you don't think about him too much. Allen Varney digs a bit too deeply into the Batman Mythos and unearths some rather unpleasant character traits in the process.

Read Full Article

Good article. I've often wished DC would have the brass to do some Batman stories where he takes on white collar criminals, especially as the current world economy stands.

But that's not the only example of Batman still being, more or less, a character with his feet firmly planted in the 1930s. Batman routinely fights Italian-American gangsters in pinstripe suits and crazy circus folk. These aren't exactly profiles of a majority of contemporary criminals. I know why DC keeps things going in this vein, and that's because Batman still works best in the type of universe for which he was originally created. That's why Bruce Timm wisely went retro-future noir with his animated and comic work, and fans love it because the quality of stories that come out of that universe is very high. But I do worry that at some point Batman's world will be too different from the contemporary one, and his comics won't pick up new readers because they can't figure out what's going on or why they should care.

Of course, he's been going strong now for more than 70 years, so maybe it won't matter. Maybe being Batman is enough. Personally I find that a little unfair, as my grandparents got to see him fighting Nazis, and my parents got to see him taking down pimps and drug-dealers. Why can't I see him taking down child molesters and white collar crooks? I don't know if he can't because DC really thinks it won't sell, or it will anger their masters. I suspect that it's simply because they're keen to go with what they've successfully sold before, so they hire artists that love the nostalgia.

I just wonder how long that can be sustained. Because I'm actually starting to get a little bored with it. Batman needs a cell-phone, TMZ invading the Batcave, and a few DNS attacks on his Bat-servers.

But he can keep the Victorian cape and cowl. Because somethings are timelessly cool.

What was the point of this? I love the Batman character and I don't really give a shit about him being a supernatural human with 200 different skill sets. He's awesome and I read the comics, watch the movies to escape from reality a bit. Many valid points were made, like him fighting the same villians over and over again. But if you think about it, there are about, what?, 50 or more villians that he fights and tries to apprehend. Sometimes he succeds. Sometimes he doesn't.

I don't know. I don't exactly feel enlightened. Batman is supposed to be for entertainment and becomes a symbol in the proccess. The psychology involved and the motivations of many of the villians aswell as Batman himself is just amazing and I'm equally surprised everytime I learn something new about the awesome characters in the mythos.

You don't dig him, fine. You dig him, fine. But why make an article about it? Even worse, why make an article about the obvious :S It's not about what's realistic and what's possible etc. It's about the impossible, that Batman does things we all dream about, at the same time too! Batman rocks

Allen Varney:
Here's a billionaire crouching all night in a dark, stinking tenement hallway, waiting to beat the crap out of some nameless junkie. Is there a better metaphor for class conflict? In that war, make no mistake: Batman works for the other side.

American Psycho, anyone?

At his heart, Batman is a rich boy acting out his revenge fantasies on a nightly basis. That is not behavior to be commended: it should be condemned. Had he spent int as a youth, IDK, dealing with the trauma, then Bruce would be a better adjusted adult. Instead, he thinks he is above the law and dons his cape and cowl.

It does not make him awesome. It makes him sad and pathetic.

I very much enjoyed this article until the very end.

"A nameless junkie"?

"A metaphor for the class war"?

I'm sorry, but that is not only an innacuracy but a wild logical leap. As far as I'm aware, Batman has never assaulted a "nameless junkie" simply to clean the streets of his presence. The reasons for Batman forgoing big business crime are numerous:

1. It's too realistic. Batman has always had that slightly surreal tint to his universe, his grittiest ever storyline was probably Knightfall and that was by no means realistic.

2. No challenge. A greedy fatcat is no obstacle for Batman, he can't defend himself, but a greedy fatcat with an army of cyborg warrior chimps, now we're getting somewhere.

3. No tangible threat. The Joker plants bombs. Two-Face hijacks public transport. The Scarecrow enslaves minds, but our corrupt city official just hiked the taxes by 3%! And he's skimming off the top! You can't compare these levels of crime, nor can you persuade the reader they are as worthy of Batman's time.

4. Hypocritical Wayne. He's the head of a huge multinational, and as a genius must be aware that some unethical practices have taken place within Wayne Enterprises, he does have to delegate a sizable portion of his decision making. So when he dangles The shoe factory owner by his ankles over the docks, how can he justify to himself, and how can the writers justify to us, that he is so different.

I really see what your saying, and your other analysis is excellent, but your final flourish lacked substance, it's an interesting idea but it doesn't float, even in the crueller versions of batman seen to date...

Well, there is one concept called "comic book logic" you know? it's right there with "Internet Security" and "Microsoft Works" in terms of contradicting names, but still...

I can't really agree with your analysis, but am too lazy to write a really long full reply.
Also I am not a Batman worshipper, so that doesn't add any motivation either...

"No, what's creepy is a healthy, athletic heterosexual man who persuades entire job-lots of Gotham City's most desirable women to fall on their back, then walks away, repeatedly, unconsummated. "

Just because one guy said this in an interview once makes it (still) true.
Plus he has this whole "the love of my life died" thing going on.

As for the whole targeting muggers instead of bad corporate big shots thing, that *does* tie nicely into his parent's tragedy. Such trauma's IRL do leave extremly deep, very hard to handle and treat -sometimes untreatable- scars. So please don't downplay this; unless your parents also died in front of your eyes you have no right to talk!

On another note, who says he does not have Wayne Enterprises people snif out and then tell officials about other businesses' wrong doings? It's just too boring for the comics, but look at The Dark Knight movie...

If Paris Hilton was actually a midnight vigilante, I would be extremely impressed. It would cut through that ditzy, rich whore image that she's so carefully crafted for herself over the years. It's like, I'm a brainless, blonde bimbo. Or am I? Then I remember it's Paris Hilton and that she doesn't possess the necessary brain power to change a tire.

You sir, are to be reviled for comparing Batman to Paris Hilton.

malestrithe:
At his heart, Batman is a rich boy acting out his revenge fantasies on a nightly basis. That is not behavior to be commended: it should be condemned. Had he spent int as a youth, IDK, dealing with the trauma, then Bruce would be a better adjusted adult. Instead, he thinks he is above the law and dons his cape and cowl.

It does not make him awesome. It makes him sad and pathetic.

No, what makes Batman awesome is his ridiculous skill set and the fact that he can go toe to toe with super-powered villains and heroes.

While I will agree with your assessment of his psyche and motivations, I don't think they make him sad and pathetic. I think they make him more of a tragic figure, who fights crazy villains, but isn't fully right in the head himself.

Excellent article.

I have to say that the appeal for me with Batman has always been that he is not perfect. He is a hideously flawed individual, in many ways worse than the criminals he catches (I have always thought Dexter was based on a slightly less extreme version of Batman). I guess it is the story of redemption that I find so fascinating.

It is like Batman wakes up and say "holy shit, I am a terrible awful person. Perhaps though, I can finally make a change that will make the world better. Then he does his best, and the world stubbornly refuses to change." The redemption though is the fact that Batman continually tries this Sisyphean Task.

To me, all of the other aspects of his personality really fade next to that drive for redemption, the curious juxtaposition of batman's incredible gifts and his horrific flaw.

This is actually why I like the Else Worlds stories better than when the writers try to keep with continuity. In an Else Worlds story you CAN have Batman accidentally murder the Joker, or blow himself up, or marry Super Man, it's just an interesting story encapsulated into maybe 3 or 4 comics., and then you can reset and start a whole other story arch.

Also I would argue that Batman is not the reason why I like Batman stories, its the villains I find the most fun and interesting.

Great article. My only question is when does Bruce Wayne sleep?

The true impossible man

(((Great article. My only question is when does Bruce Wayne sleep?)))

This point, at least, is actually addressed in the comics. Bruce learned mental disciplines in Tibet or somewhere that let him get by with only an hour of sleep per night.

Well, there was once a book which tackled the issue if Batman is possible. It is called "Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero". As renown physiologist dedicated his life to explore the idea of a "real" superhero.

His answer: It is possible. on paper. If I remember correctly it is no problem to master different styles of martial arts and attain the physical fitness. Even acquiring most of the knowledge is possible to your mid thirties if you set your life up this way.
But the limiting factors are: fatigue and sleep deprivation and of course a lot of psychic pressure.

OK, this was a really interesting article, especially the third point, and so I hate to be the person with no sense of humour about it. But.

(A friend who read a draft of this piece suspected I meant the cliché of homoerotic tensions between Batman and his current Boy Wonder - a notion that also dates from the 1950s, in Frederic Wertham's notorious anti-comics tract Seduction of the Innocent. In all honesty, this never crossed my mind because - news flash - it's stu-u-u-pid, completely unsupported by the evidence.)

Giant typewriters are fine, masks are ridiculous but whatever, Paris Hilton fighting drug crime is problematic but that's just what it is. But homoeroticism? That's just flat out 'stu-u-u-pid', too stupid to even be 'unthinkable' - which it would obviously be otherwise!

To be clear, it's not that I think there is evidence for it, outside people referencing it as an in-joke. It's just that, and I've tried to think of better ways to put this: you sound like an idiot.

Perhaps this was supposed to be a joke, or it's dismissed precisely because it's so much more likely than anything else that ever happens in comic books. But you just sound childish. Calling it stupid with such OTT inflection, referencing Seduction of the Innocent as if a) homoerotic subtext was invented in the 50s and hasn't been relevant since, and b) there is no concievable place for it in comic books except as an outdated boogie man to scare censors with... and then dismissing it entirely out of hand when you're talking about his manipulation of women, where it might actually have been relevant.

I'm just really disappointed that in an otherwise quite interesting article you felt you had to drop this in. It leaves me thinking that - news flash - class warfare aside, this is the only thing you find genuinely unthinkable. And even though it's Batman and again, I DO NOT think he is actually gay, that is really insulting.

No offense intended to gay people. I was just saying that to anyone who actually reads the stories, it's obvious Batman isn't gay - or, at least, he has nothing going on with Robin.

For someone who's able to to dig up old Denny O'Neil interviews and dissect the corporate ladder of AOL Time Warner, you sure do miss a lot of Batman.

Denny O'Neil whom you wrote about, would have Batman turn someone in for evading his taxes. In recent years we've seen Batman take on illegal animal research. He's gone toe to toe with with corrupt city politicians like Rupert Thorne, challenged billionaire industrialists, crossed federal jurisdiction to capture white collar criminals involved in billions of embezzled money, beat up and turned in a Senator for killing a prostitute he impregnated, and even challenged and assaulted the President of the United States (Yeah, he was Lex Luthor).

The Youth Counselor:
In recent years we've seen Batman take on illegal animal research. He's gone toe to toe with with corrupt city politicians like Rupert Thorne, challenged billionaire industrialists, crossed federal jurisdiction to capture white collar criminals involved in billions of embezzled money, beat up and turned in a Senator for killing a prostitute he impregnated, and even challenged and assaulted the President of the United States.

Uhh... well, okay. But, uhhm, he still has to memorize party jokes! Hey, look over there, a rhinoceros!

The worst part is, in my head I had comebacks for all the arguments, all as silly as the stuff you are mentioning him doing.

I think Alan Moore and Frank Miller summed up how messed up Bats actually is, most subtly with Rorschach who everyone knows.
I used to wonder a lot about the Summer and Winter. Does he work 16-18 hour shifts in Winter and 6 hour shifts in summer?
Ahhh! don't think about it. or the fact that modern speech analysts can tell what street you grew up on.
Or who actually builds his Batcaves? Does he call nightwing to help move a couch?
But if he called Superman to help, wouldn't superman feel obligated to help build homes in Africa?

Timeline/history:While you can call most of it cannon what you tend to focus on is the concurrent story's not all of it at once, as every other current story tends to reset the world alil bit.

Romance:It dose not matter who he's screwing as he is lonely because he keeps himself apart from others.

Masks/Hidden identity:Meh its plausible thus reasonable to think it could work.

Heros tend to trade in the normal mundane happy life for a life of complication and war with evil/crime,ect and or "self".

Enjoyed the article, some excellent points made. I would have to agree with a few of the previous posts on the "always-beats-up-junkies-not-corporate-assholes" point: If we're accepting the fact that he's still motivated by the death of his parents, those would be the guys he'd be looking to beat the crap out of. So he's a little crazy. That's awesome.

I guess my other strong feeling about this topic is that I don't worry about this kinda stuff cause its just a comic book. I would agree that a story resonates more when its realistic, but I've learned to suspend disbelief when it comes to super heros. Sure, they don't make a lot of sense. But check out Batman bashing a thug in the face with a 2x4! Aw yeah.

image

"This comic sucks!" - Linkara

We all know how and why Bruce Wayne decided to be Batman. I wont say anything further because if the writer has to make this many comments about his own articles justification then I don't like it and it's not very good.

Cosplay Horatio:
if the writer has to make this many comments about his own article's justification then I don't like it and it's not very good.

Damned if I do, damned if I don't. It's a conversation, okay?

APVarney:

Cosplay Horatio:
if the writer has to make this many comments about his own article's justification then I don't like it and it's not very good.

Damned if I do, damned if I don't. It's a conversation, okay?

I mean no offense I just gave my opinion on the article.

Hi Allen, I'm a great fan of your work.

You've taken on an impossible task here though, psychoanalyzing Batman.

The problem is that there are Batmen, not Batman. Is Bob Kane and Bill Finger's Batman the same as Alan Moore's? How about Frank Miller's? Grant Morrison's? Paul Dini's? How about the current one from The Brave and the Bold cartoon series, he should be a lot of fun.

You should really just do something easier and psychoanalyze The Goon.

Still, I'll admit it's fun. If you get the Spawn movie on DVD then you can watch action figure magnate Todd McFarlane do the same thing...

I don't read superhero comics often, for various reasons, but one is their conservative view of crime. Crime in superhero comics since the 1940s has been about bad people doing bad things. It's rarely about the situations that leads people to do those bad things. Superheroes beat up thugs, but rarely address the social problems that are the cause of most crime. I'm not a bleeding heart--someone who assaults or murders somebody else should be subjected to the full court press of the law--but most criminals are symptoms of greater problems that are almost never addressed in superhero comics.

I know I'm painting with a rather broad brush here, and that some comics writers have addressed my points above. (I also remember a bit of dialogue in Batman Begins that implied Bruce Wayne's father's philanthropic work did a lot to keep Gotham's crime rate down back in the day.) But I still find it hard to swallow the overall trend in comics, as I'll explain:

TheBluesader:
Good article. I've often wished DC would have the brass to do some Batman stories where he takes on white collar criminals, especially as the current world economy stands.

But that's not the only example of Batman still being, more or less, a character with his feet firmly planted in the 1930s. Batman routinely fights Italian-American gangsters in pinstripe suits and crazy circus folk. These aren't exactly profiles of a majority of contemporary criminals.

OK, I like The Godfather and The Sopranos as much as anybody, but as an Italian-Canadian I'm really getting sick of the shallow mobster typecasting. And I know my people don't have it half as bad as others do. One Batman trade I read was Batman: Evolution, where Batman has to clean up Gotham after the whole No Man's Land arc. And who does he have to clean up?

The black gang, the Italian mafia, the Chinese Triad, the Columbian cartel, and the Russian Mafiya. So the subtext is, the rich WASP industrialist is clearing the stereotyped ethnic vermin from "his" streets. Sigh. And this situation was essentially recycled for The Dark Knight, along with heaps more anti-Chinese sentiment, which annoyed the hell out of me.

(This comic also insulted me professionally, given its handling of databases and IT. That it was written by Greg Rucka, who I usually respect, was salt in the wound.)

I guess I'm really irritated because Batman is an intelligent guy. I like intelligent heroes. And Batman should be smart enough to know that while mobsters and muggers and the mentally ill are a problem, they're a symptom of much bigger problems. The guy can save the earth from Braniac but can't make a dent in Gotham's poverty problems?

Crimson_Dragoon:

malestrithe:
At his heart, Batman is a rich boy acting out his revenge fantasies on a nightly basis. That is not behavior to be commended: it should be condemned. Had he spent int as a youth, IDK, dealing with the trauma, then Bruce would be a better adjusted adult. Instead, he thinks he is above the law and dons his cape and cowl.

It does not make him awesome. It makes him sad and pathetic.

No, what makes Batman awesome is his ridiculous skill set and the fact that he can go toe to toe with super-powered villains and heroes.

While I will agree with your assessment of his psyche and motivations, I don't think they make him sad and pathetic. I think they make him more of a tragic figure, who fights crazy villains, but isn't fully right in the head himself.

I do not get how you got your first statement from anything I've written, but I am not going to quibble.

I get that you think Batman is Awesome. He is written that way. Literally, Batman is the only other fictional character that can use his name as an answer to anything. The only other one is Jesus of Nazareth.

Batman gets more pleasure in pulverizing thugs than he does in sleeping with gorgeous women
hmm... I think he needs to boost his libido and lower his blood pressure.

The guy can save the earth from Braniac but can't make a dent in Gotham's poverty problems?

I'm reminded of Marvel's Emperor Doom, where Dr. Doom successfully conquers the world, and solves many global problems like hunger and poverty.

However, he also has to attend boring committee meetings.

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