Why Batman is the Best Superhero Ever
Millions are impatiently waiting for “Dark Knight Rises.” But none more than me, a person obsessed with all things Batman ever since I was a small child. For me, he’ll always be the best superhero.
So I got to thinking; why have I been so fixated on this character my entire life?
Batman got me hooked on 2 fronts; comic books and television. As a kid I had a grandmother who worked at a book store, and would bring me free comics. I had endless titles to choose from and devoured it all. But Batman hit a primal nerve in me. Perhaps it was the TV show that gave him more weight. The Adam West camp comedy worked differently on kids than adults. We didn’t realize it was funny until we were old enough to get irony. For us it was just an awesome action show with a shrewd detective.
The comic books were diametrically opposed to the show (thankfully), dark and eerie thanks to writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams (that’s his Batman up top). There was a surreal dream like quality to their storylines/artwork that was riveting.
When my friend and I would play superheroes it was always Batman and Robin. But no one ever wanted to be Robin. It got so contentious that our Mother’s devised a Batman timer! Whenever the egg timer would go off we had to switch. It was the only solution.
So why did we gravitate to the Dark Knight and not other heroes? I think it’s because he feels attainable. That if you applied yourself physically and mentally and had enough cash you could be the vigilante of your dreams.
I loved Superman (read why I think the world still needs him) but he’s so omnipotent that he’s guaranteed to win, which is less fun to watch and read. But Batman could die if he doesn’t play his cards right. As much of a badass as he is, he’s still human.
Here’s some other key points to consider:
- His origin story:
Few superheroes have more disturbing origins than Batman. Superman’s home world was blown to atoms, but he was an infant, and spared the initial trauma. Bruce Wayne was a small child when he saw his parents murdered, with no defense mechanisms to cope with the tragedy. The randomness of the crime makes it even more unsettling. It’s what we cannot comprehend that troubles us the most.
There is something galvanizing about this though. If Batman can channel his grief and use it for good, then he’s no victim sitting on the sidelines. He’s proof you can process the most horrific events yet still keep walking. For a kid Batman is a neurological security blanket. No matter what tragedy befalls you, the only option is to struggle on.
- He’s got the best toys.
People have always been obsessed with gadgets, none more so than our current era of all things Apple. Batman has always been on the cutting edge of tech, which makes him eternally hip. Who wouldn’t want a Batmobile and an awesome cave to park it in? If I could afford it, I’d have a custom Batcave and drive the George Barris Batmobile.
All these gizmos show Batman’s intellectual side. He’s not just some muscle-bound meathead. He’s a genius, skilled at technology (in the comics he makes his own tech), and a detective mind on par with Sherlock Holmes. He’s the complete superhero package.
- He looks awesome:
What hero looks cooler than Batman? No one. While there have been several variations on his costume, he’s still pretty much as Bob Kane first imagined him in 1939. He’s a hero who looks like a villain, which makes him far more interesting than someone of the bright primary color variety. Batman used this image to strike fear in the hearts of criminals. Scary things are always cool to look at.
- He’s the 1% that gets the 99%
“Dark Knight Rises” may reference Occupy Wall Street and the vast discrepancy of the middle class and the wealthy. But no matter what angle the film supports (if any), Bruce Wayne is the epitome of altruism. His wealth is either channeled to his crime fighting crusade, or to the charitable Wayne Foundation. While Batman’s ass kicking antics may satisfy a right-wing reactionary need for revenge, in the end he uses his resources for the greater good, and helps the less fortunate.
- He won’t kill:
This concept has been with Batman so long, that many don’t know that the original Batman had a gun and executed criminals with extreme prejudice. But around the time the comics code made things less violent, Batman changed. This is unsatisfying at times, especially compared to violent characters like Wolverine and The Punisher. But this gives him a morality that’s interesting. He leaves it to the criminal justice system to make the final verdict. Killing someone doesn’t satisfy him. He’s not about blood lust. He just wants to spare a future Bruce Wayne the loss of his parents.
And let’s talk about his villains; The Joker is of course the best arch-enemy in history. The Joker is random, and impossible to predict in his method of mayhem. The 1989 “Batman” film made the Joker the murderer of Bruce’s parents, which was an idiotic and unnecessary plot twist. The Joker exists for the same reason Bruce’s parents died. Sometimes bad things just happen. The Joker is a school shooting walking on 2 feet. He is a constant reminder to Batman about why he became the Dark Knight in the first place.
- Batman will always be contemporary
Batman can be adapted into whatever era he’s needed. In the 40’s he was the thwarter of organized crime, he was goody two-shoes in the 50’s and 60’s, then he went more violent in the late 80’s era of increased violent crime (specifically in Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” and “Batman Year One” which were source material for Nolan’s films).
In the past decade he’s been a referendum on the war on terror, occasionally lapsing into Big Brother wiretap ideology , but with enough insight (or vanity) to know he’s the only one he can trust not to abuse its privileges. His diverse approach to social issues makes him in many ways apolitical.
Nolan’s films are the best cinematic portrayal of Batman that we’ve ever had. But he’ll long outlast them. As long as kids want to wear capes, and all of us want to see justice served while uncertainty clouds our lives, Batman provides order, a way to make sense out of chaos. Plus he looks cool while doing it. He’ll always be the best.
Is Batman your favorite superhero? If so, why? Or tell me what hero is your favorite below. I also have Amazon links to some cool Batstuff you might enjoy, including the animated ‘Dark Knight Returns‘ adaptation, which I recently reviewed.
(**Updated: Also, Check out my Dark Knight Rises review , where I also comment on the Colorado shooting tragedy.)
[amazon_image id=”1401233422″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman: Year One Deluxe (New Edition)[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”1563893428″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman: The Dark Knight Returns[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B008RV5K5E” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 [Blu-ray][/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”1401235379″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B001GMALGY” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Dark Knight/Batman Begins [Blu-ray][/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B001CTXUTQ” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman: The Complete Animated Series[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”1401216676″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman: The Killing Joke, Deluxe Edition[/amazon_image]