I think, at this point, I can safely assume that anyone reading this blog is familiar with Batman’s origin and history, so let’s just jump straight to my thoughts on him as a hero and his impact on me.
I always thought of Batman as the result of a perfect storm of circumstances. Truckloads of money? Check. Devastating personal trauma? Check. I think the single biggest misconception about Batman is that those were the only two things necessary to create him. They played a huge part, sure, but it was also necessary that those two things happened to the right person. Someone who was inherently tough, even if he didn’t already know it. Someone who was naturally brilliant. Someone who had just enough time to develop a frame of reference that let him filter the murder of his parents as a personal failure before they died. Plenty of people have money, and plenty of people experience trauma. It takes a special kind of someone with a special kind of axe to grind to take it upon himself to dress up like a bat and spend his life terrifying the living bejeesus out of criminals because of it.
And that person has to be crazy. I know we don’t like to say it, but Batman was every bit the lunatic as some of the whack jobs he chased down, albeit a different kind of lunatic. More focused and driven, perhaps, and less superficially motivated. But still a lunatic. This guy practically defined obsessive behavior, and his need to always work alone bordered on suicidal. But most importantly, dressing up and fighting crime outside the law is not how a normal, sane person responds to tragedy. However, I think part of what made Batman so effective at his “job” was the very fact that he could, on some level, relate to the upper level type of crazy that he had to deal with on a regular basis. One of the more fascinating aspects of his personality, to me, was the fact that, unlike most other superheroes who had secret identities, Batman’s disguise was Bruce Wayne, not the other way around. That’s how I see it, anyway. Unlike Clark Kent, who probably would’ve rather had a normal, married life working for a newspaper, or Bruce Banner, who outright resented “the other guy,” Batman was himself when he was Batman. So many other heroes do what they do because they feel a measure of responsibility that comes with their ability, but Batman had no superpower. Only relentless drive, a crazy work ethic, and a lot of anger. For better or for worse, the only life Batman wanted was precisely the one that he had. He didn’t want co-workers, he didn’t want a spouse, he didn’t even want friends. Going through life like that would make anyone nuts.
Crazy or not, Batman had a lot of hero credentials. He refused to kill, was always willing the make the ultimate sacrifice, and he out worked absolutely everyone. Within the fictional scope of the DC Universe, Batman commanded a tremendous amount of respect among his peers, even if they did find him difficult to get along with (which they often did). He was notoriously hard on everyone, but even harder on himself. One of the many reasons Batman finds himself so high on this particular list is that the standard he set for personal accountability was unrivaled by anyone else in fiction. He might have been a very flawed and disturbed person, and the line separating him from his villains might have been a thin one, but it was his moral compass that allowed that line to exist in the first place.
Speaking of villains, Batman had the best. Almost all the way across the board, he had to deal with some of the most interesting, perplexing, and frightening people you’ll ever read about. As I stated in an earlier post, villains can be used as a measuring stick for a hero. For awhile I considered doing a countdown of my favorite comic book villains, but then it occurred to me that at least nine of them would probably be Batman villains so I didn’t go to the trouble. However, I will now submit to you a list of my 10 favorite Batman villains, for your consideration…
Let the discussion begin. Some of you are probably already cursing this list for a hundred different reasons, but I say let’s just talk this out, okay? Remember, this isn’t a list of “worst to best” so much as it is a list of “least favorite to favorite.” In other words, it’s just a personal preference of mine. I would like to hear everyone else’s take on this subject, though.
Batman has had his ups and downs in TV, cinema, and games, but I think he’s weathered the storm pretty well. Back in 1989, Tim Burton’s movie “Batman” was definitive proof to the world that a good comic book movie could be made. That particular iteration of the franchise pretty much went straight downhill, but the character was revived again, for good this time it seems, in 2005 by Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, who made the first truly “believable” comic book movies. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing for comics is another subject of debate, but I personally loved all three movies in the trilogy. The themes of fear, chaos, and pain, respectively, happen to be very near and dear to my heart, and it was awesome for me to be able to see them tackled so adeptly while getting to watch Batman do his thing. Whatever iteration of the character you happen to like best, and whatever it is about his environment that you find appealing, I think we can all agree that Batman is one of the greatest superheroes of all time. Check back in soon and we’ll unveil number 2!