An Ode To (The) Batman
Today’s my birthday, and in honor of that occasion I thought I’d write about the character from fiction that has had the biggest impact on my life so far: The Batman. I want to talk about why I love the character so much and why The Dark Knight is a symbol of hope to me. Obviously, I’m not alone in feeling this way, many children go through a Batman phase and for many (like myself) that phase ends up lasting a lifetime. In recent years, I feel as if the public image of Batman has been perverted due to movies that show Batman as a symbol of brutal vengeance that murders his problems (thanks Zack Snyder). I got into an argument in a TikTok comment section the other day with someone who insisted that Batman is a symbol of fear and should kill his villains, and this offended the very core of my being like no internet argument ever had. So, I find myself writing this in order to pay tribute to one of my favorite fictional characters of all time.
Bruce Wayne’s slow death began at the same time as the legend of The Batman began: when a boy’s parents were murdered in front of him. That is his origin. Every superhero’s origin story is steeped in tragedy, Superman’s home planet exploded, Spiderman lost his Uncle Ben, the Flash lost his mother, and on and on it goes. Most of the time with these other heroes, they end up developing powers that they then use to fight crime, save the world, and whatnot. Bruce Wayne wasn’t blessed with such an opportunity.
The boy who swore on the death of his parents to spend his life warring on criminals had no superhuman features (although the will it takes to be Batman is surely superhuman) and instead spent years training his mind, body, and soul to become the world’s greatest detective and crimefighter. He spent years away from his home city of Gotham and his adoptive father Alfred putting himself through grueling trial after grueling trial in order to become the best version of himself he possibly could. Clearly, this is not a healthy way of coping and maybe he should have gone to a therapist instead, but to each their own.
Throughout his long journey of learning, Bruce cemented his fundamental rule that people on the internet debate about all the time. He decided that he cannot and must not kill. The reasoning behind this rule is pretty simple when you look at it through the lens of the tortured child that is Batman. If he kills his enemies, he is no better than the man who murdered his parents. Violence begets violence, and to Bruce and Batman if he kills his enemies he is inflicting the trauma that he has onto others. He does not want to become the bullet that killed his parents, he wants to stop that bullet from ever being fired, and since he can’t do that, he does what he can to stop other children from suffering as he has suffered. He wants to bring criminals to justice and to bring hope to the hopeless.
A Symbol of Fear
Once Bruce (he is still Bruce at this point) returns from his training journey, he decides to jump right into fighting crime. As depicted in Batman: Year One, this first night of his is a colossal failure. He ends up doing more harm than good, and comes back to Wayne Manor to brood and lick his wounds. It is at this moment that a bat crashes through the window.
When he was a child, Bruce fell into a hole on the grounds of Wayne Manor and bats begin to swarm him, leading him to develop a fear of bats. Realizing that it would be harder to fight the criminals he wars against if he knew he was just a man, he decides to try and become something more. This is when the story of The Batman is said to begin.
Being a symbol of fear works! He beats up a few thugs after lurking in the shadows, making them believe he’s something supernatural and the criminals of Gotham start to run scared of him. When the GCPD turns on the Bat Signal, it’s not a call to Batman. Jim Gordon could reach Batman faster if he wanted. The Bat Signal is a sign to the criminals of Gotham City that The Batman is watching in the shadows, ready to pounce on them at any minute.
To the underworld of Gotham City and the criminals of the world at large, The Batman is the devil. He watches you when you’re asleep and knows when you’re awake. At this point, The Batman isn’t the hero that he could be, he’d need some outside help to become something more than just a symbol of fear.
A Symbol of Hope
One day, Bruce decides to visit the circus and see their star act, The Flying Graysons, in action. Unfortunately, mobsters had tampered with the trapeze wires leading to the untimely deaths of John and Mary Grayson, leaving their acrobat son Dick Grayson an orphan. Moved at the sight of a traumatized boy in which he saw himself, Bruce adopts Dick who eventually becomes his sidekick and the first Robin. I could write post after post about each Robin and their relationship with Bruce, but as the first, Dick, or Nightwing as he later became, had a special effect on the big bad Batman. He brings a joy to Bruce’s life that he hasn’t felt in a long time. He lightens up the dark cave and helps Batman bring hope to the people of Gotham. The colorful costume serves as a constant contrast to Batman’s dark aesthetic, letting the victims of crime know that they’re safe.
Years after Dick moves on and becomes Nightwing, his effect is still felt. Batman more outwardly becomes a symbol of hope, and the general populace begins to see him as a symbol of hope. They begin to view him as a dark knight, a “watchful protector” as Jim Gordon put it in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
As the years tick on, Batman fights alongside and against gods and manages to come out on top most of the time. He fights and fights and no matter how many times he gets back down he gets back up again. He values every life and will give up his own to save them (which he’s done a few times). As the Batfamily grew and Robins came and went (some through more tragic instances than others), Batman’s heart grew. No longer he was a boy with only one friend in his life, he had a family. Every new person that Bruce Wayne adopts in some way ends up making him more human, and each person that he loses takes a part away but that’s a story for another day.
As The Batman matured, he became a beacon of hope for the people of Gotham and the people of the world. His legend became one that will likely outlive most people reading this, and that’s awesome.
Why I Wrote This
I never really explicitly mentioned why I love Batman in this post, but hopefully I got the idea across. I love Batman because he shows me what a human being can do (even if it is unrealistic). My obsession with the character is borderline a red flag, but that’s just because there’s something about tragedy driving a man to be truly good that is awe inspiring. That’s why I love superheroes in general, Superman is a close second to my love for Batman with Spiderman, The Flash, and The Thing all close behind. At the end of the day, nothing will ever top how much I love the Batman character and the family (particularly Alfred, who I didn’t mention enough) he’s built for himself over the years. This was a rant, and if you read this far, I thank you.
(Some of) My Favorite Batman Comics
- Batman #23 (2016) by Tom King: A beautifully illustrated story featuring Swamp Thing
- All of the main Batman run by Scott Snyder in the New 52, but especially The Court of Owls.
- Batman: Turning Points.
- Anything featuring Batman and Superman as partners, but especially Batman/Superman: Generations.
- Batman: I Am Bane (2016) by Tom King
- Batman R.I.P by Grant Morrison (followed up by Final Crisis)
- Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader by Neil Gaiman
- Batman Annual #4 by Tom King
(Some of) My Favorite Batman Panels