Archives for posts with tag: Batman

It should be fairly common knowledge that Batman is the greatest superhero of all time (Suck it, Achilles, you knock-off Beowulf). People have been trying to figure out why this truism exists since it’s fairly difficult to qualify superheroism outside of subjective preference. It has been argued that since he’s just a guy in a costume facing off against the same world-ending events as an invulnerable Kryptonian, it is his courage and willpower that makes him the greatest. He is the most at-risk, and continuing to fight in those circumstances is more noble than say, someone who is constantly protected by a lime-green hue.

I disagree. I don’t think people really believe that Batman is more at-risk – he’s fucking Batman. He figures it out. He’s fine. What makes Batman the greatest superhero of all time is his villains. What people love about Batman is he fights against Jungian versions of his shadow self. Batman represents humanity’s struggle to combat the darkness in ourselves, and that is what makes his character more relatable than being a braver-than-usual fleshy meat sack.


They are not at all subtle about it

Let me give you an example. Two-Face is a very clear symbol of the duality between darkness and light. Harvey Dent always begins as a friend to Bruce Wayne (in all the iterations of the character that I’ve seen, at least), and that’s why Bruce will pay for the plastic surgeries to repair the scarred side of Harvey’s face – to return the character to his lighter origins. However, thematically it’s always more than that. Bruce struggles to save Harvey from Two-Face because he needs to save the humanity in himself. Two-Face is the most obvious facsimile of Batman with one crucial difference that highlights the thesis of this post. Two-Face will always enact the dark side of his personal Manichean struggle, regardless of coin tosses, and Batman will always triumph in the light. That’s how the protagonist/antagonist relationship works.


It’s a comic about a guy in a bat-suit. It was never going to be subtle.

Our favourite Oswald that didn’t shoot a Kennedy, Penguin, fits into this thesis too. Penguin was born into the wealthy Cobblepot family. With that inherited privilege, he embodies the sin of greed and demands more. Penguin is the graphic representation of a Marxist wet dream excoriating the bourgeoisie. Bruce is again similar. He did nothing to earn the billions afforded to him from his familial inheritance, and he became the CEO of a mega-corporation rivaling LexCorp without any relevant education or business acumen. It is unclear what Wayne Enterprises actually does (Thomas Wayne was a practicing physician, not a businessman), but who cares. It’s been argued that a class critique of Bruce Wayne would prefer him systematically redistributing his wealth rather than acting out his well-funded revenge fantasy against “crime”, but within the liberal paradigm of Batman comics, Bruce Wayne is essentially a good, charitable dynasty billionaire to Penguin’s evil, selfish one.


Batman is better. Batman is always better.

Scarecrow, Jonathan Crane, is another Jungian villain that begins to show the edge to Batman’s battle with himself. Scarecrow uses fear gas to terrify the populace into submitting to his criminal schemes. Batman dresses like a bat because he was scared of bats as a boy, and embodies that fear to intimidate his foes to make his vigilantism more effective. He uses fear just as intentionally as the Scarecrow, but on a different demographic. Fear is acknowledged as a devastating tactic, and must be precise in its implementation lest one slip into villainy. Batman walks that tightrope like a champ.

Superstitious and Cowardly

Children are a superstitious, cowardly lot

This leaves the Joker. The Joker’s whole deal is that he’s an insane clown, but not like the John Wayne Gacy type. He could have easily been a forgettable villain, overblown by too much camp and vanishing into the dustbin of history like the ICP, but against all odds, the Joker became the most iconic Batman villain. He did this by embodying Bruce Wayne’s madness. The Joker infamously believes that all it takes to drive a sane person mad is one bad day, and while he is proven wrong on many occasions, he is accurate in his analysis of Batman. Bruce had one bad day, and became a driven, megalomaniacal vigilante in response to it. He is held in check only by his single-minded focus on justice. The Joker broke under pressure, caving to unchecked violence, but Batman held on to his values just enough to stay in the light.

Two Guys in a Lunatic Asylum

What do you think I am? Crazy!? You’d turn it off when I was halfway across!

There are obviously a lot more Batman villains, and not all of them fit so neatly into this kind of categorization. Catwoman, sure, is as ethically grey as Batman, and her darkness slightly edges over the light much in the same way Batman’s light slightly edges over darkness, and as much as they want to, they can never quite meet in the middle. However, that’s just as much a Jungian conflict of coming to grips with one’s own ethical ambiguity as it is a Montague and Capulet love story. And I swear to God, if anyone brings up Calendar Man I’m going to lose it. The point isn’t that every villain perfectly represents Batman’s struggle with himself, but that the emblematic villains that define Batman as a character are lasting because they reflect his own inner demons.

This is what makes Batman the most interesting character that happens to be categorized as a superhero. The thing is, though, despite the socially agreed upon categorization, Batman is not a superhero. Not because he doesn’t have superpowers, but because a hero is someone you’re supposed to aspire to. Imagine genuinely believing that it is okay to terrify others in order to dominate and control their social behaviour – you’d be a monster. Who wants to aspire to madness? Or Manichean angst? Batman isn’t a hero, he’s a criminal. He knows he’s in the wrong, and strives for a world where he himself would not be welcome. If anything, Batman is a supervillain fighting against cartoon versions of himself in order to protect the world from his own potential for darkness.

BatmanTDKR3-135 Hunt The Dark Knight

Batman, the libertarian fantasy, pointing out the reality of the libertarian fantasy

The idea that Batman is a superhero has pretty dark implications. Kyle Rittenhouse was found innocent in his own vigilantism through claims of self-defense, which, legally speaking, would have similarly applied to the men he had killed if they had killed him instead – not exactly a glowing exoneration. The micro legality of it is less important than the macro perspective that sees a young boy leave his hometown with a semi-automatic rifle in order to protect property from those he sees as criminals. Kyle Rittenhouse and those who canonize him genuinely believe that it is right and good to basically pretend to be Batman. The reality is that Kyle Rittenhouse created a situation where people died because he wanted to live out his own revenge fantasy against “crime“. It doesn’t matter that he is legally innocent of murder, what he did is counterintuitive to the ongoing functionality of civilization.

On a more abstract level, Batman is truly a villain in that the impact of the superficial ideals of superheroism he represents is a net negative on the world. People tend to look at Batman and don’t see a man fighting against himself, they see a man fighting against incorrigible criminals. They see social systems as not being sufficient and true justice requiring individual citizens to rise up against otherwise unstoppable evil. They don’t learn to fix the social systems through collective action, they learn to use violence to bully degenerates into conforming to normative standards. They see a fairly traditional superhero.

Hockey Pads

I mean, he is pretty often portrayed that way. This is really only my own opinion as a Batman apologist

What makes Batman great is that he doesn’t have to be a superhero. If we see him as a villain, then we recognize that he is no one to aspire to. He can just be an interesting character dealing with the loss of his parents by combating anthropomorphized versions of his inner demons. He can be someone we can relate to when we have to face our own shadow. He can help us find the light by repudiating himself rather than uncritically celebrating his single-minded madness. To borrow a phrase: Batman is not the villain that we deserve, but the one we need.

A dark knight.

No two superheros are more iconic than Batman and Superman. If you’re a Marvel fan, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. Go home. Though both are similarly dedicated to the pursuit of justice and both similarly possess righteous infallibility, the ways they approach their superhero-ing business are quite opposite. Superman is good-natured and morally upstanding: the boy scout. Batman is broody and outside the law: the dark knight.

Now, as much fun as I would have talking about Batman for an entire blog with a few snippets about Superman here and there, I’m going to link the celebrity of each of these Superheros to the cultural state of mind of their respective eras. Though both originated in the late 1930s, the popularity of Superman was at its height probably from the 1940s until the 1970s, whereas Batman didn’t really come into his own until the late 80s/early 90s. You could argue that the Adam West Batman gained some popularity for the character, but I’m talking about when Batman really developed his own pathos. Adam West was an interchangeable guy in tights who solved mysteries akin to those solved by Scooby Doo and the gang. More camp than character. Batman is grim, spawned in heartbreak and isolation, and he is just as deranged as the villains he faces off against, with the only difference between them being Batman’s rigid and absolutist moral code.

Superman, on the other hand, landed just outside of Smallville: an idyllic, rural countryside where he was lovingly raised by two wonderful parents, Ma and Pa Kent. There are those who claim that Superman is exceptional because the Kryptonian, Kal-El, is the real persona of Superman, and it is Clark Kent that is the mask. This is contrary to all the other superheros out there, but I would disagree. Superman is Clark Kent, not the other way around. The boy raised in Smallville, who loves and intermingles with the populace, dedicating his life to humanity, is who Superman is. That’s what he fights for: humanity. Lex Luthor, as any good antagonist will be, represents the direct counterpart to his hero. Just as Superman represents the best aspects of humanity, truth and justice (and shut up, work with me here), Lex Luthor represents the worst, greed, power-mongering, and cruelty. They are two sides of the same coin, fighting for the perpetuation of their own version of human nature.

That’s why the symbol on Superman’s chest represents hope. Superman is the hope that humanity can overcome its dark side. That we can recognize the value of compassion, truth, and humility: the attributes of Clark Kent, and that they can survive the dark times we live in and be reborn anew when the time comes. This is why Superman was popular during the conflict years of World War 2 and Vietnam. We wanted to believe we could be better, and Superman was a symbol of that longing.

Then, in 1992, Superman died. As explained in the video in the hyperlink, DC was trying to make Superman relevant again. For some reason, the ideals of Superman had lost their allure. Cue the world’s greatest detective.

Batman is dark. Like, seriously dark. The Killing Joke in 1988 is a perfect example of that. Batman doesn’t fight for the happy return of ideals once lost because Batman’s past is filled with just as much suffering and strife as his present. Batman fights to keep his head above the water. There is an apathy, an unfeelingness, to his brand of justice as he resorts to scare tactics and bullying to dole it out. There is no hope in Batman, just the certainty that criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot, and that we are in an unending war against them.

Society today is deeply cynical. Possibly more cynical than we’ve ever been before. We suffer a deluge of horrors every day in the form of our news media coverage, and this oversaturation of atrocities has dulled our reaction to it. We are desensitized and demoralized. As much as we might think that we are more compassionate, our apathy and laziness reduces any idealism into a status update or a meme. We still recognize that the world is a terrible place, but there is no hope anymore. No wishful thinking of better days to come, just a melancholic acceptance of the state of the world. We idealize Batman because he maintains his Sisyphean battle against the ills of the world, but we embrace his mythology because of its recognition of the ultimate invariability of it.

Today, Batman is successful because he is as brutal and miserable as the world believes itself to be. We also haven’t had a good Superman movie since Christopher Reeve because now we’re trying to turn the boy scout into the dark knight, which is like trying to fit a square peg into a bat-shaped hole. So now we must ask ourselves, will a renascent Superman rekindle humanity’s hope for the future, or must we wait for a cultural revolution before we get a good Superman movie again?


The word had a funny sound to it, which seemed ironic because so far it seemed pretty dull in comparison to the alternative. I wanted to speak it out loud to see if it sounded as funny as it did in my head, but the two orderlies escorting me out might begin to start disagreeing with my new diagnosis if I started talking to myself.

I didn’t exactly come in to this asylum under the most orthodox of circumstances, so when I got to the front desk, they gave me clothes provided by the city for me to change into. My new too-big jeans and Knights t-shirt felt awkward and uncomfortable compared to the gown I had grown accustomed to, but this was my life now, and it was just something I would have to get used to.

The receptionist told me that I would have to contact a Ms. Thompkins as soon as I reached my new residence, and then gave me a card with a phone number on it. I put the card in the back pocket of my new jeans, and thanked her.

I walked out the front door for the first time in a long time completely on my own. No orderlies, no doctors, no day passes. Home free. I giggled at the absurdity of it, and curtsied to the guard at the door. Suddenly I felt embarrassed. Do sane people curtsy? Had I just blown years of struggle and hard work just by partaking in a silly, theatrical gesture? Luckily the guard smiled, and gave his own garish bow. I decided that I liked this man, but there was still something just a tiny bit off about him. Was it the way he smiled at me? Was there condescension? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I hurried out through the gate, and sat down onto the bench to wait for the bus.

Riding the bus, I saw my city in a whole new light. Not just because I hadn’t seen it in years, but because I was literally seeing it from a whole new perspective. It was quieter, which was nice. There was still the traffic, the yelling, the music, the laughing, and the regular city noise, but there was no pounding in my head. No screaming in my ear drums. Unfortunately it also seemed less vibrant. The colours weren’t bouncing off the walls; the lights weren’t dancing across the sky… Everything seemed a bit greyer. I looked down at my clothes and tugged at them, trying to adjust them into a more comfortable position, before giving up to suffer in silence.

I wasn’t sure if I liked this new reality, and I wondered if that meant that my new-found sanity was under any kind of threat. I concluded that since I didn’t actually feel like hurting anybody, then I must be fine. Maybe the way to tell if you’re sane is if you’re unhappy with the way the world looks to you. It would certainly explain how miserable normal people always seem to be.

Normal people. I had to remind myself that I fit into that category now too. I giggled again. It wasn’t so bad. At least there was still laughter.

I got to my new apartment, generously provided again by my great city. They worked so hard for me, trying to make me better. I made a mental note to do something to give back. Maybe I’d bake a cake for the mayor. People still like cakes, right? I perused the kitchen to see what I had to deal with. I wasn’t sure if I had everything I needed for any baking right off the bat, and I looked through my pots and pans to see if I would need to do any shopping. As I staked out my kitchen, I saw something that stopped me cold. There was small collection of knives hanging innocuously off a magnetic strip on the side of a cupboard. I hadn’t seen anything sharp for so long, and here were half a dozen knives, glinting in the fading afternoon sun. The hospital didn’t even allow plastic knives while we ate, and preferred to give us food in bite-sized pieces. But now…

I wanted to test one. To see if it really was sharp. To see if it could… cut something. I scoured the fridge for an apple, or… or, anything. Just to see. There was a small supply of oranges in the crisper down at the bottom, and I pulled one out. My palms were sweaty as I placed the blade of one of the knives on top of the glistening orange. I made the smallest incision into its orange flesh, before dropping the knife and running out of the kitchen, my hands shaking.

It wasn’t the sharpest blade I had ever used, but it would do. It would… I could… I could make the cake. I could definitely make a cake.

That night I dreamed of oranges wearing ill-fitting clothing. Not really a nightmare, but still a dream I felt good waking up from.

The next morning I decided I needed to give a boost to the ol’ self-esteem. And what better way for a girl to feel better about herself than to spend her allocated welfare on clothing! Retail therapy. They don’t teach you that in an asylum!

I walked to the mall. The traffic seemed louder today. The honks and engine coughs echoed inside of my skull, bouncing off my brain pan. I covered my ears and focused on the grey sidewalk.

I got to the mall and wandered blindly for almost three hours. Finally, on my second time passed this one dress shop, I saw a cute little number hanging on the back wall. It was bright, crimson red, with a subtle black pattern running down the sides. It seemed to glow on the rack, and I asked if I could try it on.

It fit me perfectly. I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt in this dress, this colour. I twirled around in the fitting room, and laughed at the way that it flared at the bottom. I needed this dress.

I walked out of the store, only to be followed by a voice calling out, “Excuse me, Miss?” It turned out I hadn’t actually paid for the dress. I stumbled through an apology; I felt so natural in the dress that I had forgotten it wasn’t mine. The clerk laughed awkwardly as she rang me through. Her fake politeness irked me. Her fake laugh. I stared at her in disgust as she took my money. Her smile was all wrong.

I walked back home. When I arrived, there was a flashing red light on my answering machine. There were three messages from a Dr. Thompson or something telling me I was late or that I was supposed to be somewhere. It didn’t seem important, and if it was, I’m sure she would call back again.

I sat down at my kitchen table. The orange was still on my counter, its wound gaping. Its juices pooled underneath it. Fruit flies had begun buzzing around it like vultures, picking away at a fresh corpse.

I needed to get out of here.

I decided I wanted to go dancing. Loud music always drowned out my thoughts. I needed to… I needed to drown them out.

I got to the club, and immediately threw back two shots of tequila. Government-funded mind numbing therapy. I had burned through all of my monthly welfare cheque in a single day, but somehow that seemed unimportant. I headed to the dance floor. The press of bodies made me feel claustrophobic, but I didn’t mind. It reminded me of the asylum. The feel of the walls closing in on me. The stink of sweaty flesh mixed with barely-controlled madness.

I felt something grinding into my thigh and turned around. It was a fairly attractive young man, all his arrogance showing in his wolfish grin. He said to me, “Hey doll, you look hot. What say you and I find some place quiet to sit and chat?”

He had a malicious glint in his eye. I could see trouble in the teeth of his smile. I followed him. I wanted to see what he was capable of.

We sat down in the lounge area of the club, and he just started talking. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, so I had no way of replying. I don’t think I needed to. I was entranced by his smile. The smile of a predator. A wild dog gaining on his prey. I guess he caught me staring at his mouth, because he stopped talking and looked at me quizzically. I just said to him, “How about we go back to my place?” This brought back the smile, and we left together.

We got back to my apartment and started making out. His hands groped my body and I tried to ignore how incompetently he did so. All of a sudden he stopped. “What is that?” I looked over to see the orange, penetrated with every single knife I owned.

Funny, I didn’t remember doing that.

He asked me again, “What the hell is that??” His smile was gone, and suddenly I felt cold.

“Smile,” I said.



“What is wrong with you?? Are you crazy or something!?”

He seemed angry, but not the fun kind of angry. I kicked him hard in between his legs, and screamed at him as he collapsed onto the ground. “I SAID FUCKING *SMILE*!” He groaned, as tears started welling up in the corner of his eyes.

I lightly jumped over his writhing body, and took the paring knife out of the orange pulp. This was detail work, not requiring any heavy lifting. It would do just nicely.

I sat down on his chest and gently tried to calm him down. His eyes were wide and frantic, staring at the knife I had in my hand. I looked at it, then back at him, and told him not to worry. I would fix everything and make it all better.

I gingerly placed the blade inside his mouth, and slit both of his cheeks wide open.

“There, see? All better! Look at those pearly whites!!”

He screamed and screamed as crimson rivers of his blood flowed freely down his face. The noise was agony. I couldn’t stand it. The pounding in my head was like the pacing drum of a war ship. I grabbed a chair from next to the table, and smashed it on the ground. With one of the splintered legs, I bashed the boy’s head into the white floor tiles. The red was a nice addition to the drab apartment.

I called the police, and told them to come take me home. I hoped they arrived first, before he did.

I hummed a tune to myself, and started painting the walls: a nice scenic landscape, with a house, some flowers, and a smiling sun. Too bad I only had the one colour.

The familiar sounds of nearing sirens let me know that it was almost time. I would be back in the asylum, but I would be out of this grey, lifeless world. I choose my own reality, and I choose the one with colour.

The door crashes in, and armed police officers roughly tackle me to the ground. I don’t put up a struggle. Comments are made to the “horror” I have inflicted, and one officer refers to me as a “monster.” I don’t mind. They content themselves with their fake, meaningless existences, and I content myself with my vibrant and luminescent one. They brusquely force me into the cruiser outside. It wasn’t awful, this brief foray into sanity, but I wouldn’t miss it. It’s time to return home.

I wonder if my Puddin’ is waiting for me.