I Want To Be Batman
by James L. Carey
Batman is and always will be superior to all other superheros, in my mind, because he created himself. He wasn’t given a power ring, he wasn’t victim to some radiation experiment gone awry, he had no alien birthright or a unique set of mutated DNA. He was a child of tragedy who became an adolescent of intention and finally a man of purpose.
That’s also one of the secrets of comicbook success that’s often overlooked. The great heros, the ones that pull us in deep and become something akin to American folklore, they’re the ones we see from sandbox to spandex. We instantly conceive that we are being told an epic story and shown a parallel glimpse of our own lives in the what if sense; what we might do in the same circumstances.
The characters that aren’t introduced to us until the day the reactor melts down, the serum injected or the ancient relic found, are characters of consequence, not purpose. They do because they can, not because of any decision they made on a conscious level. The heroes of this strata that carry over into any level of notable popularity (as much as comicbook characters can be said to be popular outside of the realm of multi-million dollar movie deals) are those in which we can see the inner conflicts and external pressures that we can relate to. And yeah, we need the goofballs, the jokesters and the lame-powered wannabes to lighten the mood once in a while. It’s nice to have something sweet to cleanse the palate with every now and again.
We love Spider-man, for example, because he’s a screw up, he screwed up bad, he still does and we see ourselves reflected in him. He can’t figure out girls for the life of him, but if one fell off a roof, he’s your man. But, Peter Parker…..Peter Parker is a putz. He’s an awkward, forever teenager; he doesn’t have an ounce of the sense of comedic timing that apparently gets switched on the second the mask is over his head and if nothing else, he’s a constant gloomly-gus, but not in that intriguing, brooding way that the Dark Knight does it, in a sad, lone girl sitting at the prom kind of way. Is there any time that Spider-man is just Peter and he isn’t droning on about not being Spider-man anymore because he messes up all the time and just giving up the whole show?
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good Spider-man story, always will, but it will always be about the man, not the mission…so to speak and those are the comics that you can pick up in five years and not feel like you’ve missed anything.
I’m going to tell you a secret about Batman, but you have to promise to keep it to yourself, do you promise?
The reason Batman has a gadget or gizmo, a tactic or a plan for everything is because how he knocked out Solomon Grundy isn’t the point of the story, the point of the story was that he decided a long time ago that he would put himself on a path and nothing is going to stop him from doing it. Nothing. Not even if all the odds were against him and he was hanging upside down over a vat of acid with four seconds left before the rope was sliced by the motions of a razor-sharp question mark-shaped pendulum.
That type of self-determination and power of purpose is something that we feel is important and special and that’s why we’ll keep coming back and see how he does it tomorrow. That’s why Batman will always be the greatest hero and the rest are just a pack of fly-by-night (so-to-speak) amateurs playing with daddy’s car when they should be home studying.
Maybe then they would last for more than a couple of movies without disappearing from the American lexicon faster than a speeding bullet.
This post was originally going to be a bunch of links to places to get martial arts training or where to buy batarangs, but I think I like this better.
© 2010 James L. Carey