“I’m the Goddamn Batman.” by Jeremy Rodden
“I’m the Goddamn Batman.”
With one stroke of the pen in 2005, Frank Miller and Jim Lee escalated Batman to a new height of awesome (many critics may disagree, but memes don’t lie http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/im-the-goddamn-batman). The truth, though, is that Miller’s Batman of All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder captures an alternate reality Batman, answering the question, “Who would Batman have become if he allowed his anger and thirst for vengeance to consume him?”
I started writing this guest post in honor of Pavarti Tyler’s Shadow on the Wall release to describe why I like Batman so much. As a lifelong comic fan (I don’t consider myself an expert . . . just a fan), I’ve historically been more a fan of Marvel. The only DC property I ever really cared about was Batman. I always thought of Batman as one of the first, if not the first, real antihero in comics.
A funny thing happened during my research for this blog post. I’m beginning to question whether or not Batman even is an antihero. Some argue that he is a “dark hero” http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/DCMARVELLOVERS/news/?a=5709 and not an antihero, but it’s a narrow distinction. He most certainly is very different from early superheroes such as Superman or Captain Marvel. Maybe Batman is not as far into the antihero spectrum like the ever-popular Wolverine or Punisher characters, but it’s important to note that those two characters weren’t created until the 70’s–decades after The Caped Crusader’s debut. Another favorite–Deadpool–wasn’t created until the 90’s.
Some people like to immediately omit Batman from antihero lists because he has a no-killing policy (even though he originally did kill bad guys http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/04/22/batman-kills/), but those people fail to understand what defines an antihero. It’s easy to establish an antihero who has remorse for killing (like Rorschach in The Watchmen), but with The Dark Knight, it is a much deeper psychological issue. Batman is as tortured and demented as any of the villains he’s placed into Arkham Asylum over the years. He’s just learned to channel it in a more productive way.
Let’s for a moment just allow Batman to be either an antihero or a dark hero and move on. If you’d like to debate it with me, feel free to reply to this post and we can proceed with the verbal fisticuffs! *raises metaphorical dukes*
What else set Batman apart from the other early superheroes that started this wonderful genre of fiction? Superman was an alien with (obviously) superhuman powers. Flash had superhuman speed. Green Lantern had a magic ring. Fast-forward 20 years to the 60’s and Stan Lee’s heyday of character creation and the trend continues: radioactive spider, gamma radiation, and cosmic rays.
Batman? He was just a regular guy who had the means and desire to equip himself to fight the bad guys. It really isn’t until Ironman that we meet a “regular” person who elevates himself to superhero level. Even then, Tony Stark’s intelligence with technology comes across as a superhuman ability . . . it’s just natural, not something he’s had to work hard at developing. Batman’s encyclopedic knowledge that escalates him to the title of World’s Greatest Detective, much like his strength and agility, comes from intense study and focus.
What’s my point, you may ask? All of these other superheroes are “other”. They have something unobtainable in the real world that makes them unreal. Batman ostensibly possesses no natural ability that sets him apart from everyday people. What he has is a drive and determination that pushes him to his absolute HUMAN limits–both mentally and physically.
This is what makes Batman so great. All of this balled up into one amazing character that for over seven decades still draws us to him. He’s human. He has psychological issues. He has worked his butt off to be the best at what he does (yeah, shut up Wolverine, I said it). He represents to us regular people a somewhat obtainable level of superheroism. Of course, not all of us have limitless bank accounts like Bruce Wayne, but what’s more realistic: hitting the lottery or being born with a genetic mutation that gives telekinetic powers?
I guess what I’m trying to say is . . . I love Batman because he is real. He’s flawed. He has legitimate weaknesses. Even his infamous no-kill code comes across as a weakness at times (just ask The Joker in The Dark Knight how many lives could be saved if Batman would just break that stupid code). Batman is, in a way, a culmination of the American dream. If you work hard enough (and, yeah, the money helps), YOU can be anything you want . . . even The Goddamn Batman. The same can’t be said of pretty much any other classic superhero.
Hey, if it was on a Snicker’s commercial in the mid 1990’s, you know it’s true:
Jeremy Rodden considers himself a dad first and an author second. He is the author of the middle grade/young adult Toonopolis series of cartoon novels (including his own creation of an antihero in the novella Anchihiiroo – Origin of an Antihero), as well as the editor, publisher, and contributor to the #2 bestselling Kindle book on Fatherhood, The Myth of Mr. Mom – Real Stories by Real Stay-At-Home Dads. He can be found online on Facebook [http://www.facebook.com/toonopolisfiles] or on Twitter [http://www.twitter.com/toonopolis].