“Your” Batman

17Apr12

Upon hearing the news that the new head of Warner Brothers is not only looking to make a Justice League movie soon, but will explore ways to re-launch the Batman franchise after “The Dark Knight Rises,” my friend, podcast creator and all-around nice guy Chris Vander Wal got into a conversation about the Bale/Nolan Batman. About how it sits in my mind. Put simply: “How much of the Bale/Nolan Batman represents ‘your version’ of Batman?”

Excellent question, and I’m not sure I have an excellent answer. But I might have a long complicated one, and sometimes those look like excellent answers, so here you go:

My gut reaction was to say “About 50%.” I like the drive, but not the brooding. I’m more okay with a lighter Batman, but I don’t need pure camp. I want things to be fun, but also exciting. The Bale/Nolan version delivers about half of these things, and then does their own thing with the others. But when I thought about it more, any problems I have with the Bale/Nolan Batman probably come more from the interpretations and re-interpretations of the character in the last 20 years (say, post “Knightfall”).

Another easy answer (and probably very truthful) would be to say “The Bruce Timm/Paul Dini version from the Animated Series and ‘Justice League’ cartoons.” By taking the best of all previous versions, they got it all right. Batman is never so dark that he cannot be saved from himself, nor does he ever forget his obsession and his purpose. The thing that aggravates me about current incarnations of Batman (and really, we’re talking Bruce Wayne here; as I wrote earlier, I like the Dick Grayson version Grant Morrison started for these same reasons)… what aggravates me about the current incarnations of Batman is that the death of his parents is not the reason he fights crime and seeks justice. It’s the reason for his psychosis to fight crime and seek justice. It’s a big difference. It pushes Batman/Bruce Wayne* farther into anti-hero realm, and I just don’t prefer it. It’s harder to root for him. Maybe it’s how I was raised on Batman, but I like Batman as a hero. Maybe not the most socially-capable hero, but a hero nonetheless. A hero ultimately does the right thing because it’s the right thing. The Batman of my heart (awwww…) is someone by which to set your moral compass. If Batman says it’s bad, then it must be bad. Don’t kill, don’t steal, help the innocent, punish (y’know…) the bad.

Current versions of Batman are more and more like Rorshack from “Watchmen”: a driven, brilliant madman who trusts no one because he has gone crazy. I see Bruce Wayne as a man who trusts some people. He just knows (as do we all) that he’s the best man for the job. What job? ANY job.

It’s pure escapism, I grant you, but we’re also talking about a comic book character. Whenever people want to make things a little too serious, the very nature of this character wearing a bat costume (however functional it may be) undermines the seriousness.

Here are a few other traits I feel like exemplify “My Batman.” It’s a list:

-I prefer the costume to be cloth, though I’m OK with armor.

-He is open to the idea of Robin, but remains the leader of the team.

-He is a strategist first, considering every possible outcome and decides on the best way to handle a situation, even at the loss of his own life.

This last one is a biggie, and comes up again and again in work like “The Dark Knight Returns.” For an awesome display of it, check out this clip from the finale of “Justice League Unlimited,” wherein the all-powerful Darkseid has attacked Earth, and the only people left to stop him are Lex Luthor (just trust me), Superman and Batman (the part I’m thinking of happens around 3:00).

What’s great about this is that A.) Batman saves Superman, B.) he saves Superman because he knows, logically, Superman is their ONLY chance of actually defeating someone as powerful as Darkseid, and yet C.) Batman’s still the only person to have ever avoided Darkseid’s omega beams (such a nerdy sentence). Impossible? I suppose, but that’s what makes it awesome. We actually believe Batman could do it because we believe in him. The greatness of Batman actually comes a little later when Superman says, “That man won’t quit as long as he can still draw a breath.”

That’s my Batman. A Batman you can be proud of. Is that so much to ask?

 

*What is with the slashes today?

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