There I said it. Huh? Still don’t believe me do ya? Well let’s see what a Batman is shall we? Let’s just see exactly what made Batman so popular. Time to break down the core elements of the Caped Crusader just so we know where this is coming from.
He is the night. Batman is the safety and justice to balance out the terror and crime that constantly plagues our streets and more importantly our minds. Batman is behind every tree, ontop of each roof, and in every Taco Bell drive thru just behind the speaker sign. Which is a good thing, unless you are planning a crime or drive off with someone else’s food.
Already you should see some issues. Mainly all the bright daytime adventures you see him on. Seriously I think I’ve seen more daytime Batman than anything else. This isn’t just a nitpick mind you. If it was I’d bring up the “I am vengeance” stuff as well as “Batman doesn’t use guns” slock people throw around. That bit needs an asterisk like most American Baseball records from the 90s. Revisionist history at it’s finest. Also he killed a lot of people. Usually one or two an issue. I won’t go into it here because that stuff was rad. Once he strangled a mentally infirm guy and was like “Eh, it’s better this way” no really.
Yet none of this is half as bad as him being out in the day. Because Batman is supposed to be an unknown. He strikes fear into criminals because they don’t know what he is. Not just who he is, mind you, this is a world with frickin’ Superman in it. He could be anything from a man, to an alien, to a ghost, a demon, or anything else. All they do know is he is here in Gotham.
Or… not apparently. I don’t mind one offs or established times when Nightwing comes in to watch Gotham while Batman is needed elsewhere. Those add to the excitement and sell a few issues with some snazzy variant covers. See Batman is Gotham, even early Justice League stuff had him decline. Not because he wasn’t able to be of help, but because he was busy. A day job, a social life for the tabloids, and up all night. I’m sure commissioner Gordon loves it when he calls Batman and has to wait because he was dicking around all damn day on the moon.
These are not issues for Batman as a character. I enjoy plenty of it. Hell I wish he’d stay out of Gotham and leave it to his son or any number of the Bat Family. Because once you have something like this.
Well fighting muggers seems like a nonstarter. Let alone the Riddler. The level of threats he was designed for and what he has and regularly does is way unbalanced. Batman is a street level hero. Yes he can do all those bigger things. The question is would he, hell should he be doing them. I don’t think so.
Gordon even says so himself. Some authors get it. A few writers try to bring him back where he belongs just the greater narrative will always take him away from it. Because everyone loves Batman, and everyone loves consistent canon storylines. So we will always be in this awkward middle ground that has Batman slaying immortal gods and demons one day and being outrun by Danny DeVito the next.
Batman stands at the core of what is wrong with comics today. It’s not reboots or bad Netflix adaptations or Teen Titans Go! it’s the fact that we come from an era of multiverses set up in the 90s to an omniverse we use now. Used to be Batman in the Justice League wasn’t Batman from his own series and neither of them were the Detective Comics Batman. Now somehow and for some reason we made them all the same Batman. Used to be the title of the comic was the timeline/universe it was set in. Just for some reason we walked away from that. Batman was personal, emotional, and fragile. He put himself in real danger every night. One miss step and he could be crippled or worse. Let us not forget Knightfall.
A story so powerful and one that resonated so we’ll it got revisited more times than Superman dieing. One where they even bring it full circle and Batman cripples another antihero. Which might I bring up Red Hood? No? Okay, well another time then. So yeah, what makes Batman who he is? Being human. Being at a loss for words and struggling with what he wants, what he should do, and if there is a God or any faith. Issues we all deal with.
A small scene from when Batman was getting married to Catwoman. Joker was going to kill them, but well he found out his mother passed on. He honestly needed a moment and someone who would care. So he turns to Batman. Yes Batman hates the Joker but he isn’t so cold as to forget his own loss. There are so many great scenes showing things just like this. Cutting a lot out of this for the sake of time and honestly it’s not about if Batman is catholic in this article so look at this bit from when Bruce Wayne was a juror in case against Me Freeze who was arrested with no evidence aside from Batman said so.
In this story he came face to face with the reality of what Batman was to so many people. He had to face the fact that he was infact just vengeance not justice. He made a vow after that, and finding Mr. Freeze innocent due to lack of evidence, that he would be better. That he would go back to who he was and how he started. To bad that only lasted a few months.
Comic companies want their cake and try to eat it too. This fundamentally does not work. Batman was a hero we can all aspire to be. He was a man turning his pain and loss into strength. A man with seemingly everything a person could desire with his money, looks, and good public image as Bruce Wayne. Yet he ignores that and tries to help. Not on some superficial level he actually cares.
Batman showed us that doing what is right is often thankless. That at times you would be hated and misunderstood. That a person should be good regardless of what they can get from it, and even if it means losing everything to save just one more person. I feel Ghostbusters 2 put it best with this line.
So maybe Batman should leave the watch tower. Maybe it’s time we stop asking for every hero to be some world saving titan and be fine with seeing the heroes that help those around them. That a real hero is someone who makes their world a little better with selfless caring acts that sometimes require a double fisted Batman punch to the face of a crazy cat lady. So yes Batman is everything wrong with comics, because he used to be everything that made them great.