Batman, superhero or not?

Is superheroism more about super-powers, branding or symolism?

It’s a little hard to pin down sometimes.

Batman is a vision of iconography. Recognisable silhouette, bold logo pasted on the sky (and chest), distinctive colours and recognisable peripherals.

The batmobile has looked like a hundred different vehicles, but you know a batmobile when you see one.

Of course, this is what happens when your origins lie in a visual culture, particularly in one with poor quality printing facilities and small pages. Bold and recognisable was the order of the day.

This is perhaps why comic book heroes grew up to be more about symbolism than power.

In fact, when Scott McCloud talks to us about an increasingly simplified face appearing more and more universal and identifiable, he’s telling us why comic book heroes are more than just rich guys with dead parents (for example).

It’s all fairly straightforward with Superman and Captain America. They embody justice and the American way, or something equally vague and already symbolic. Their powers are extreme, unnatural and impossible.

They represent ideals, so their power is unlimited (well, not entirely, but that’s as much for narrative purposes as anything else, and the death of a symbol is a powerful symbol in itself. Just ask Captain America…about the World Trade Center).

Batman on the other hand represents something much stranger, and much less pleasant. He is vengeance and vigilantism. He’s a feeling that the state is to weak to deal with the problems of the world. He’s the ultimate republican.

So his parents get killed. Possibly by Jack Napier, who possibly becomes the Joker (this is comics and films we’re talking about, so there’s a million possible alternate time lines here, I learnt my stuff from the Tim Burton launched film series and a few comics here and there).

It’s kind of irrelevant. The point is that his parents get killed by ‘the forces of evil’. And possibly there’s some bats involved.

So he does what any brilliantly smart but overly aggressive rich kid left on his own would to: continue to run his parent’s business empire, whilst carving out an underground cave of rage and violence. Using the time, money and resources at his hands to turn himself into something strong enough to fight the crime that killed his parents.

It’s not about radioactive spiders, or alien reactions to earth’s yellow sun, or gamma radiation, or even intrinsic field generators.

It’s just the American dream. The real one. The one where you start off rich, make more money, and then build yourself a yacht.

A yacht called ‘violent revenge’.

Like I say, it’s a republican’s wet dream.

Bruce Wayne has a morality, but it’s very comic-book. Very symbolic.

He’s a good guy, but not for good reasons.

It’s not about magic, it’s about being well off.

He’d probably say he’s using his wealth to protect the poor: pure right wing ideology.

Not certain I’ve answered the question.

But I don’t like Batman any more

Illustrated by Graeme.


About Alabaster Crippens

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
This entry was posted in Questions by Ciara, Special Guest Illustrations. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Batman, superhero or not?

  1. marzillk says:

    Love this answer. Especially the bit about the real American dream. Illustration is gorgeous too.

  2. Pingback: Unstruck | MrGraeme's Web Adventure

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