Batman: A Symbol Of Hope And Justice?
Hero or Anti Hero?
Batman 1939 version
Batman DC UNIVERSE INFINITE 2021 version
Since 1939, Bob Kane and Bill Finger's crystallization of Batman has spawned multiple iterations, adaptations, and reinventions that continue to capture the hearts of fans from all eras. In this piece, we will investigate the characteristics that have made Batman a beloved symbol in modern culture and why he has remained such an enduring figure.
Real Facts Comics
DC Comics released to fans as "real facts" in 1946 an account of how Bob Kane created Batman by himself. This was inaccurate. So one has to wonder did 3 national magazines follow Batman's exploits in the 1940's because Batman comics were so popular at the time?
However, there are multiple Batman characters throughout the DC Universe. Some of them are villains, but the majority of them are heroes. Batman has shown himself to be courageous, performing great and daring deeds that help others. However there is a duality to Batman’s motives that presents the question: Is Batman a hero?
Batman Bruce Wayne
Batman's secret identity is Bruce Wayne, a wealthy American industrialist. As a child, Bruce witnessed the murder of his parents, Dr. Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne, leaving him an orphan to be cared for by the family butler Alfred Pennyworth which ultimately led him to craft the Batman persona and seek justice against criminals.
DC Batman's Origin Story
His character is plagued with a darkness and trauma from his childhood that has left him scarred. In the early Detective Comics iterations of Batman his story is essentially a revenge story. And revenge is something that is often associated with villains. One could say that Batman’s dark origins paint a different picture of Batman, making him less of a hero and more of a vigilante with his own agenda.
1940 DC story about the Reaper
While Batman is widely known for refusing to kill his opponents, in the very early DC comics storylines Batman was fairly brutal and unapologetic towards taking the life of a criminal in Gotham with a gun. In fact, his origin years are filled with examples of him using a gun. During 1939 and 1940, in both Detective Comics and later his own title, Batman, the character was shown carrying and using a gun.
DC Comic Batman with a Gun
However, at some point in the early 1940’s an editorial decision was made and Batman would no longer carry a gun. The modern rationale for Batman hating guns and consequently not carrying a gun is that he witnessed his parents' murder by one. In alternate universe Earth versions of Batman he has carried guns. And occasionally as seen in the 2014 Final Crisis by writer Grant Morrison Batman is featured confronting Darkseid with a gun. "I made a very solemn vow about firearms," they said, but then pulls out a gun and adds, "but for you, I'm making a once-in-a-lifetime exception."
DC Knightfall Saga 1990's Bane breaking Batman's back
Unlike other superheroes with cosmic connections, or super-human strength, Batman is essentially a mortal human without any supernatural capabilities. He is an ordinary human being, but with remarkable physical and psychological power who has given his life to thwarting crime and shielding Gotham City. This makes him more approachable and credible than other heroes, and it allows us to relate to him on a deeper level. Many say that Batman serves as a heroic example. He not only protects those in Gotham City, but also stands as a symbol of hope and justice giving them belief in a better future.
Saving an Innocent Child
However, there are some storylines where this is not true. There have been a number of different portrayals of Batman over the years. Although Batman displays his cooperation with Gotham police and how they in turn use him to help rid the city of crime, the citizens of Gotham eventually view Batman as a menace whose involvement only makes everything worse. Consider Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy of film, The Dark Knight where Gordon, Gotham’s commissioner says “he’s not the hero Gotham wants, but the hero Gotham deserves”. So does Batman falls into the antihero category? Again, in the film, The Dark Knight, there is a scene between the Joker and Batman where the Joker goads Batman to the point where he is so angry Batman beats the Joker to a pulp. Is this the actions of a hero?
Batman vs. Joker sketch by Norm Breyfogle (COLORED)
Artist: Norm Breyfogle (Penciller)
Artist: Tom Ziuko (Colorist)
Artist: Norm Breyfogle (Inker)
While Batman’s intentions may be always good, the way he goes about them is often questionable.
Batman possesses intricate depths and layers. He is not just a straightforward champion, but an imperfect and faulty individual. The memory of his parents' death disturbs him constantly, pushing him to do everything he can to bring justice. His loneliness and exclusion are something that follow him no matter where he goes, due to the difficulty of trying to balance two lives. The intricacies render him an intriguing and riveting figure, enabling us to emotionally bond with him in a much more profound way.
Does Batman exemplify the concept that an individual can have a positive effect, no matter how minor they may be? His unshakable commitment to his mission, and his preparedness to put himself in danger to defend other people, speaks to his audacity and altruism. Such story lines illustrate that even in periods of difficulty, we can discover the fortitude to defend what is correct.
Batman is an expert in both tactical planning and investigation. Rather than relying entirely on physical strength to overcome adversaries, he draws from his intelligence and cunning to gain the upper hand. He exhibits impressive investigative abilities, utilizing forensic science and logical reasoning to address criminal cases and unravel mysteries. This creates an even more nuanced and sophisticated protagonist, granting us the opportunity to observe the varied dimensions of his personality.
If you hold true that “The brave man proves himself only on the days of battle. The true hero shows his virtue every day.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, then Batman is a hero.
In the end, Batman is a symbol of justice and morality. He is viewed as a sign that good will always triumph over wickedness, and that we all need to comply with a code of morality. His adamant persistence for fairness, his dedication to staying true to his beliefs, and his bravery to take a stand for the right causes, even when it is not simple, serves as an illustrious representation of how a hero should conduct themselves.
Does this explain why Batman t shirts are in such demand? Rather it may be due to the fact that Batman has more comic book stories than any other DC or Marvel character, along with countless films, TV and video adaptations, toys, books, theatrical extravaganza tours of thrilling stunts, acrobatic acts and illusions and lots of fandom sites that have created and kept engaged legions of fans.
For decades, Batman has been an icon of adoration for people and there is no sign of Batman, the hero, diminishing in popularity any time soon.
Here is a book available on Amazon that leans into the Batman hero mythology
Be More Batman: Face your fears and look good doing it
Hardcover book May 4, 2021
by Glenn Dakin (Author)
If you're looking to find a new mission in life, create the perfect cave-based hangout, or update your wardrobe, channel your inner Super Hero and ask yourself: "What would Batman do?" With his strength, sophistication, razor-sharp wit, and unrivaled gadget collection, Batman has all the advice you'll need to become a legend!
A Cultural Icon
A cultural icon is a person or an artifact that is identified by members of a culture as representative of that culture. Wikipedia
Is Batman is a cultural icon?
In 2001 a book was published addressing this question: Available on Amazon:
Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon Paperback
Published September 18, 2001
by Will Brooker (Author)
The reviews say it is surprisingly complex.
“A historical, detailed, deep analysis of Batman as a cultural icon in America. This isn't a simple polemic or surface-shallow analysis. This is deep stuff-analyzing art styles, histories, individual panels, cultural concepts, and historical documents…. plenty of startling revelations and analyses…This is a stunningly well-done, intelligent book. It's proof that comics are not throwaway ephemera, but real, vital, analyzable parts of our culture. It's also a must-have for the hardcore Batman fan and comics fan-who doesn't mind some ideas being challenged.”
The last thing I expected when I picked up this book was an academic treatise on Batman's impact on culture. Brooker starts and ends his book with discussions of readings and authorship - discussing ownership and fandom, interpretation and critique. Who owns Batman? Who determines who Batman is? As much a dialogue on Batman as it is a discourse on interpretation of art and literature, they bookend an interesting cultural chronology. In between, he takes a tour through Batman, beginning with his roots and his participation (or non-participation) in World War II and on through the censorship of the 50's, the camp of the 60's, and into Batman in the 90's. On the journey, he touches on many things, including the merchandising crazes of the 40's and the 60's, when Batman was not only the best thing since sliced bread, but you could even get Batman sliced bread.
Amazon reviewer 2014
Film still from Tim Burton’s The Dark Knight 2008
But in a simpler and more obvious presentation, we would point out that yes, Batman is a cultural icon for these reasons.
Recognition: One of the most obvious signs that Batman is a cultural icon is his almost universal recognition. Batman is among the most well-known characters globally, and his famous attire and logo are promptly recognizable to people of every age.
Staying Power: A further signal of Batman's legendary status is his staying power. For more than eight decades, Batman has been a beloved figure, and he has held up against the test of time. Notwithstanding the numerous changes and transformations throughout those years, his basic traits and beliefs have stayed consistent.
Adaptability: Batman's adaptability is further evidence of his status as a cultural icon. His dark and gritty persona, shrouded in mystery, is enough to make him iconic. Add in his flawless combat skills and state-of-the-art gadgets, he becomes one of the greatest fictional heroes of all time. He has been featured in many comic books, TV programs, films, video games, and other types of media including posters, puzzles, toys, facemasks and Halloween costumes, lego pieces etc.. Batman has been illustrated in manifold styles, from lively and vibrant to dark, gritty, and moody. Despite these fluctuations, Batman has sustained his status as a beloved persona and a symbol in culture.
Merchandise: Batman's popularity is also reflected in the amount of merchandise featuring his likeness. Batman action figures, Batman t-shirts, costumes, and other products are widely available, and they are popular among fans of all ages.
Impact on society: Batman has had a strong influence on the ethical standards of behavior in our society. His values and principles have influenced the way that people think about justice, heroism, and the role of individuals in society.
Batman's Iconic Bat Logo 1966