There was an awesome tweet on Twitter this week: Always be yourself! Unless you can be Batman. Then be Batman! Hells yeah!! The Batman is the superhero all other superheroes are measured against. Sorry Stan Lee and Marvel Comics, but as long as DC Comics have Batman you will always be second best I’m afraid. Nice try with Spiderman, his spidey senses, and some really pretty cool nemeses (nemesees? Nemeseseses?), o hell, villains, you know, Bad guys! Wolverine is not too bad either but I think Marvel tried to copy Batman by creating Daredevil and he is probably the closest hero to DC’s Dark Knight that Marvel has. But even he has to have a superpower to match the Bat! What makes all the difference is the fact is The Batman is just a man, just a very human Bruce Wayne. Of all the superheroes he is the one we can most relate to, the one we find the most credible.



















There are very few superheroes whose origins are more traumatic or disturbing as The Batman’s. Granted Superman’s home planet was destroyed and his family along with it, but as he was a baby when this took place he was spared the trauma that was Batman’s. Bruce Wayne was a young boy when he witnessed his parents murdered before him. The randomness of the crime is unsettling because it is so real to us and so contemporary. Its violence is incomprehensible and reflects our modern day society. A family night out ends in horror when, after the cinema, they accidentally end up in a bad area of Gotham City. The wealthy Wayne’s are mugged by an assailant whose identity is never known, who to our knowledge is never made to pay for his heinous crime. Not content with terrorizing and robbing the family, the mugger brutally shoots Bruce’s parents before his eyes. Kneeling before their bleeding bodies the young boy swears vengeance. His blood oath is no idle vow and with single-minded focus he forges himself into a living weapon to wage war on crime and injustice: he studies criminology, forensics, and criminal psychology, and masters every fighting style as well as gymnastics.




An encounter with bats inspires him to become more than just a man, to become a symbol, a cautionary tale to strike fear into the hearts of the criminals of Gotham City, an urban legend who provides hope and justice for the innocent. And he looks so cool doing it. While there have been a few variations on his costume, he still pretty much looks like Bob Kane first imagined him in 1939. In a time when the good guys wore white The Batman chose to cloak himself in midnight, no bright primary colours that most heroes wear for him. He is a hero who looks like a villain, which makes him far more interesting than the hero of the bright primary colour variety. Batman used this image to strike fear in the hearts of criminals. Dreadful, scary things are always cool to look at; we are almost hypnotized by them, compelled like a mouse before a snake. The young Bruce Wayne channelling his grief, anger and outrage and using it for good is inspirational. He is proof that the most horrific of events can be overcome, that no matter what misfortune or tragedy befalls you, you can struggle on and keep going. As a child Batman was my neurological and emotional blanket. Allow me to explain why, dear reader. I learned to read reading comics, and was able to read by the age of 5, before I started formal education. There are very few things that I can remember about my father but one of them is walking with him to the nearby Caltex Garage (petrol station) on Sundays. He would purchase the Sunday paper and get me a comic book, and while he read his paper with his morning coffee I would sit alongside him and read my comic. The Batman was my favourite. I was barely six when my father was taken from my family and I in a horrific accident. Incomprehensible…




















As I tried to deal with this loss, identifying with Bruce Wayne, the child, was a source of comfort for me, a haven and an escape, a source of hope. Bruce Wayne is the epitome of altruism and sacrifice. His wealth is either channelled into his war on crime and his fight to protect the helpless, or into the charitable Wayne Foundation. He uses his resources for the greater good, and helps the less fortunate. Bruce Wayne is a man driven, haunted by that childhood trauma, it is what fuels him and keeps him going. When he is beaten and weary, jaded, without hope, the thought that the killer of his parents is still out there brings him out into the city night after night. But despite this burning, consuming anger, he retains a morality that is admirable. The Batman does not kill. Oh, he breaks bones and maims and lets blood but he will not kill. He allows Gotham’s criminal justice system to play its part.

There is a real depth to Bob Kane’s creation that you will struggle to find in any other comic book hero, add to this the fact that he seems to absorb and encapsulate the era he finds himself in, the most notable example is the latest cinematic Batman-saga, The Dark Knight Rises! He reflects our contemporary angst and frustration, our wish for something better, but although he retains this contemporariness there remains about him this dark moodiness of the 1930s horror movies. Visually he reminds us of the drawings of the old masters; Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Durer. Add to this the crime noir of his detecting skills, reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, and you have an exceptionally detailed, complex and compelling character.





What completes The Batman though are his equally as detailed and complex arch-enemies, The Joker, being the best and worst by far. Heath Ledger’s depiction of him is already legendary! The Joker is Batman’s foil, the other side of the coin. They exist because of each other, they complete each other! The Joker is the Big Bad made real, he is a walking razor, a school shooting, a bomb on a bus, a plane into a building, he is a bad thing happening. His random violence and chaos is something that our society is not equipped to deal with and never will be, and is why we wish we had something like The Batman to protect us, to avenge us, to punish for us…