The Problem with Batman

25 Oct

Batman is one of my all time favorite superheroes.  I grew up in the eighties and watched Adam West and Burt Ward beat the daylights out of the Joker, Riddler, and Catwoman every day.  I loved the first Batman movie, starring Michael Keaton.  Over the years, I have enjoyed Paul Dini’s series and every once in a while, I have enjoyed the occasional Bat comics.  And this year, I got Batman: Arkham Asylum and just bought Batman: Arkham City. And yet, for some reason, I have never been able to regularly buy the Bat titles and was disgusted to see that Batman’s family received 11 titles in the DCnU’s 52 books.  So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s difficult to pinpoint. My favorite bat stories of all time are the recent Nolan films.  For the first time in my thirty years, I feel someone finally “gets” the Batman I have always understood.  Batman is methodical.  Alfred is his major source of emotional and mental support.  The Bat villians should be twisted and dark.  And although Batman should be fighting a losing battle, he should be the one man holding back the darkness of Gotham. 

Similarly, my favorite Bat books are books highly regarded as his inspiration.  Long Halloween and Dark Vengence brought Two-Face to life in the perfect way.  The loss of Dent truly affected Batman and Gordon in the books.  And though I haven’t read Hush in a while, it was my favorite regular run in the Batman titles ever.  The Killing Joke was one of the inspirations of Dark Knight’s Joker and although I hated the loss of Batgirl, Alan Moore’s book was brilliant.  His Joker was truly evil and Jim Gordon overcame the emotional torture Joker brought. 

Meanwhile later, Hush was brought back and changed.  Jason Todd was brought back as…..something.  At points, he may be a hero and at other points he is definitely a villian.  Todd could have been an interesting addition to the bat mythos, but instead appears to be little more than a device to serve little more than the current writer’s whims.  The Robin program has become, quite literally, little more than a year’s study into sidekicking. 

And that brings me to the Bat-Son.  Years ago, Batman and Talia had a relationship and a child.  Ok.  Nothing lost there.  Then, suddenly, the Bat child pops up as a teenager (?) ninja-assassin who took the role of Robin.  But let’s look at the timeline.  Before the new DCU, Batman had been around, I guess for about thirteen years, before little Bat Boy showed up.  So if during his first year, he had the child, I guess he would be a twelve year old when he became Robin.  That could possibly make sense but I don’t assume it was meant to be in his first year.  But to make it worse, the new DCU has the heroic age lasting five years.  Now, yes, they have claimed Batman operated in secret for several years before but how many years?  When exactly did Batman meet Talia and have Bat Jr?  It doesn’t exactly make sense. 

A bigger problem comes from Grant Morrison’s “Batman can beat anything that moves” concept.  I understand a lot of people like it.  I understand other authors also had similar ideas, but Grant took it to a new level.  Batman is great, but he has limits.  Those limits help define Batman.  The best JLA stories feature Batman solving the mysteries of how to stop global or galactic stories and then the “super” heroes defeating the threats.  In some of my favorite Batman and Superman team-ups, the duo fought Darkseid.  In one particular story, Batman went rounds with Darkseid but was definitely losing.  In another, Superman was controlled by Darkseid, hit Batman once, and almost killed him.  Batman can’t “beat” these characters, but he can outsmart them. 

In his regular books, the authors rarely get what makes the villains tick.  The best Ra’s ah Ghul story I ever saw was in the JLA by Mark Waid.  The best Joker stories were in movies.  The Riddler?  All the way back to Adam West’s day.  The villians are classics, but apparently just a little difficult for most to get. 

So why am I writing this?  Well, I am very frustrated.  In seeing the new 52, I hear several authors are screwing things up.  I see the main Bat title getting rave reviews and I want to try it.  But then I see the same concept for Batman 1 appeared in another one of the books.  I know Grant Morrison is hiding in the background guiding things.  And if you like Grant’s Batman, I guess that is a good thing, but I just don’t get it.  I want my Batman to be “grounded.” I don’t see that from the drunken and high Scotsman.  So for now, I continue rereading Jeph’s stuff.

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