This is what makes Batman an advertisement for abusive policing
August 27, 2020 4:56 AM   Subscribe

One of the big problems with "dark and gritty" Batman movies is that the people writing them can't craft a mystery that's so complex only Batman can solve it, so Batman's "superpower" ends up being "the ability to violate people's Constitutional rights." #defundbatman
posted by Brandon Blatcher (130 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would watch the hell out of the proposed movie in the thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:56 AM on August 27 [32 favorites]


It seemed like Dark Knight at least tried to go the “Batman has gadgets” route, but then all the gadgets were good for was massive violations of all sorts of privacy and rights violations. Damn.

I would love to see/read this Batman, too.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:22 AM on August 27 [17 favorites]


It's funny that with everything that's going wrong in the world, no one ever considered the role of Batman in national affairs. I think we're really on to something here
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:23 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Oooh, I would watch both the Batman movie and the Superman movie he proposed in another thread.
posted by Harald74 at 5:26 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Anyone have a link to his proposed Superman movie thread?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:08 AM on August 27


Batman as Batman is pretty much the least interesting thing about Gotham City, and the politics of a hereditary billionaire who believes punching the escaped patients of the local mental institution is an act of justice are aging badly and fast. I fully support this proposed revision of canon.
posted by mhoye at 6:09 AM on August 27 [29 favorites]


Anyone have a link to his proposed Superman movie thread?

https://twitter.com/StorySlug/status/1272895755922087938
posted by penduluum at 6:15 AM on August 27 [18 favorites]


I hope Batman keeps getting grittier until he kills me in real life. What a show that would be!

Batman is like all superheroes in that he's popular because he's a comforting simplistic fantasy "solution" to complex problems.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:19 AM on August 27 [23 favorites]


Honestly, though, this is the rotten heart of most super hero stories, both print and film. At the end of the day, it's about violence as the only legitimate means of resolving a conflict.

As a kid (in the 60s), my favorite version of Batman was the one in Detective, not the mainline Batman comics. The stories in Detective were, however marginally, more about solving crimes. Batman was depicted as actually thinking some things through, on occasion.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:26 AM on August 27 [18 favorites]


The Card Cheat: " Batman is like all superheroes in that he's popular because he's a comforting simplistic fantasy "solution" to complex problems."

Thorzdad: "this is the rotten heart of most super hero stories, both print and film. At the end of the day, it's about violence as the only legitimate means of resolving a conflict. "

Maybe try actually reading comics?
posted by signal at 6:29 AM on August 27 [28 favorites]


As someone in the Twitter thread points out, Kelly has just recreated Batman: Year One, published in 1987, basically the last thing that Frank Miller wrote that was pretty good.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:31 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


Indeed the problem is that there have been legitimate examinations of a gritty Batman, vigilantism and vengeance, then the likes of Nolan and Snyder fail to take any of the really obvious subtext and we end up with debates over Batman's kill count in a movie and so far zero representation in film of the World's Greatest Detective.
posted by opsin at 6:34 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


This tweet out of the thread feels like “Person of Interest” but with a Batman in it.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 6:34 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Yeah, got to agree with signal on characterising comics as simplistic, comforting violence. Might have been right in the Golden Age, but that's about 70 years ago.

Doesn't stop Batman being a (to quote) "rich white guy who decides to beat up the poor and the mentally ill" a lot of the time, but things beyond that are explored in many Batman stories and the wider genre.
posted by MattWPBS at 6:37 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


The problem with superhero types "fighting crime" is that it's inevitably them beating up street criminals and leaving the root causes of crime totally unaddressed.

"Fighting crime" is something they toss into a story sometimes to give the demigod something down to earth to do in between fighting off supper villains and existential threats to reality. But it's always been a really awful and bad take on super powers.

One of the few times I've ever seen anyone trying to really fight crime was the anti-hero Foolkiller as he decended (further) into madness. He killed a wealthy businessman who was the ultimate head of a drug syndicate. But even that didn't actually try to deal with the root cause of drug abuse, the political system they produced the war on drugs, or anything beyond the simplistic idea of drug kingpin is bad.

AND that came after dozens of murders of petty street criminals because he saw that as fighting crime.

I'm with the person on Twitter. Fighting crime has always been a lousy thing for supers, at least as it has been traditionally formulated. Let them fight the real evils or don't bother with them.
posted by sotonohito at 6:37 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Maybe try actually reading comics?

All of these facile takes on Batman you see lately are premised on having no knowledge of how the character has actually been portrayed in the comics, which have been looking at these various issues for decades already. They’re all about the most recent movie versions.
posted by star gentle uterus at 6:42 AM on August 27 [12 favorites]


I wrote a stupid essay about this about 3 years ago in reaction to the Nolan films, which I acknowledge as generally well made but tonally abhorrent for the same reasons mentioned in the tweets.

The main problem is that Batman is a fantasy solution to fantasy problems, and he works best as a character in a fantasy setting. The closer he gets to real life, the more he looks like a complete ahole at best and criminally insane at worst.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:44 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


A podcast I was listening to lately, wish I could remember which one, had an interesting conversation about Batman, and how he could probably do a lot more good in his Bruce Wayne role by investing his fortune into improving his community and providing social support. I suppose "Bruce Wayne forms non-profits, lobbies to improve Gotham City's mental health resources, and builds community centers" would be a boring comic though.

I think they were talking about movie Batman though. I don't read comics - it would be great if some comic readers here could tell us more about how the comics are exploring these issues.

Batman's "superpower" ends up being "the ability to violate people's Constitutional rights."

I really love TV procedurals, especially of the eccentric genius works with police to solve crimes variety, but for the pas few years I'm struggling with how they're basically all stories about how extralegal methods really get the job done when the police can't.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 6:57 AM on August 27 [24 favorites]


I'd add to that and say, Batman's superpower is "the ability to violate people's Constitutional rights" ... and never be wrong. The attraction is, I believe, the illusion of somebody who doesn't need rules because they already know who deserves punishment etc. etc...

To me, the most important corollary of this is much clearer (and much more insidious) in Dirty Harry-type "He Was A Rogue Cop" movies: Dammit, everything would be fine if they'd only let us do our jobs! Of course, the reason there need to be rules, and the reason people's rights need to be asserted and protected, is that Batman doesn't exist, and Dirty Harry, or rather everybody like him, is a shitbag who deeply misunderstands what their job is.

It's the same thing with the death penalty... there might be a reasonable argument to be had, if we accept the premise that we don't make mistakes in its application. As it is, we simply shouldn't be trusted with it.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 6:59 AM on August 27 [17 favorites]


To clarify, my snark about 'maybe read a comic' wasn't about reading recent comics, or even from the last few decades. It was about reading, for example, Superman in June 1938's Action Comics #1.
posted by signal at 7:01 AM on August 27 [12 favorites]


I think they were talking about movie Batman though. I don't read comics - it would be great if some comic readers here could tell us more about how the comics are exploring these issues.

The comics have frequently nodded to Bruce's work with the Wayne Foundation, which funds precisely the kind of socially-useful projects you mention. I can't offhand think of a comics arc where that work's been central to the story, though.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:04 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


supper villains

Grandma's pot pie was cooling on the counter, but disappeared while she was in the pantry getting a jar of home-canned pickles. Meanwhile, in nearby Chopham City, restaurant tycoon Max Chewther is raging over a negative review of his new restaurant in the local paper. Who can stop Chewther's campaign for restaurant dominance with his overpriced yet bland food? Who can find Grandma's pot pie thief and return her pie in time for family dinner? Only Supper Man!
posted by eviemath at 7:34 AM on August 27 [39 favorites]


"Superheros" make no sense at all without Super Villains. And there just are not any super vilians that are punchable.

Injustice isn't punchable. Out of whack drug laws are not punchable. Poverty is not punchable.

Even the hidden in the background corporate crime lord isn't punchable. Like a certain current head of state, he did nothing wrong, told no one to do anything ever, personal assets are clean clean clean.

Now Thanos, he was punchable, and look what happened...
posted by sammyo at 7:36 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


"maybe read a comic"

I read comics, I love comics. Sure there is a lot of interesting and fun stuff out there. But from what I've seen, the majority of work remains: costumed heroes/adventurers, often with powers, scrapping with other powerful entities.

As to the darkness and grittiness of Nolan's Batman, it begins and ends with Hathaway's latexed butt riding the Bat Cycle or whatever that ridiculous thing is called. It's all a big wank, quite frankly. But I would pay to see Willem Dafoe portray the Joker.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:40 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


erg, meant "few villains are punchable". most of the bad guys are victims of poverty or mental health, punching is not a solution.

Oh wait one other exception, nazis are definitely punchable!
posted by sammyo at 7:41 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


It is an interesting take on Batman though I'd argue not far enough.

I think the the character should be taken in a slightly different direction if we are talking about making him a superhero that resonates with the NOW. I'm strictly speaking about the character as he is depicted in media other than the comic, the popular representation of the character outside of currently published comics.

As a vigilante he's untouchable more or less, right? But in his everyday persona, a WASP billionaire, he is essentially untouchable (at least in the real world that would be the case), so why not focus on that aspect and not just as a nod to the Wayne Foundation in between punching people. Sure he can fund alternatives to policing but why not make him a media mogul - a left leaning JJ Jameson or a crusading city council member, a policy wonk who works in the mayor's office, or even the mayor that fights police corruption and institutional racism, or the head of an organisation that mobilises protests? Sure make Joe Chill a cop or even the commissioner but make the Joker a white supremacist street drug manufacturer looking to start a race war. Have the Penguin be a slumlord or a corrupt water department head where the whole adventure is Batman trying to get lead free water for a neighbourhood in Gotham. Riddler could be a corrupt music producer exploiting his black performers. Catwoman a TERF who legislates against Transpeople. Poison Ivy an aggressive developer who wants to redevelop poor neighbourhoods. Imagine a movie where he's a wealthy social worker fighting for the rights of a client to get food stamps or an apartment free of pests. I think his real powers should be persuasion, determination, optimism and of course money and time. A hero who wins over nominally "bad" people and makes actual change to his city is more of what we need then a vigilante in a suit punching people which, in my mind, doesn't make him all that different then the alt-right assholes, boogaloos, fascists and wannabe "hero with a gun" types.

I do like his Superman take though. I had my own take from a while back.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:41 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Batman is a rich, charming and handsome Bernie Goetz.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:41 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Commissioner Gourdon tries his best, but he just can't get his pumpkin pie crusts to be light and flaky, and his fried chicken is just heavy and oily. Meanwhile, some joker is organizing a food fight to disrupt the eating contest that is the highlight of the annual town fair. Never fear, though, fine citizens, for Batter Man (the secret identity of a local celebrity chef) will save the day!
posted by eviemath at 7:42 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


Maybe try actually reading comics?

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition Comics Code Authority!
posted by fairmettle at 7:43 AM on August 27 [8 favorites]


(As a rich celebrity chef, see, one would never expect Batter Man to get involved in fried food or homemade pumpkin pies at the local fair, even though his business empire is technically also food related.)
posted by eviemath at 7:44 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


For a lot of us, we don’t read Batman comics. Never going to.

For a lot of us the movies are the Batman canon, because most of us are never going to open up 4 different batman series and read multiple timelines to get a “wholistic” Batman perspective. Or even a single Batman comic.

It’s not important to us to fully understand the history and iterations of Batman. We’re here for a movie on its own terms. And we are the vast majority of the movie-going public.

So yeah; to us Batman is just a demifascist apologia for personal violence masquerading as “justice”.

I mean, Seal Team 6 found Osama bin Laden in Abottobad, Pakistan. The notion that they can’t find the Batcave just outside a major metropolitan American city is just laughable.

Honestly, the fact that Gordon lets a masked vigilante just walk into a crime scene, to me, has too many resonances of Adam West and Burt Ward pulling up to Gotham City Hall and going to talk to the Mayor and the Chief, of the red “Batphone” that rings in Wayne Manor, but which the Phone Company can’t trace.

I admit, I was hyped up when I first saw the trailer. But the more I sit with it, the more I realize HBO’s Watchmen made me sympathize with the FBI cape-catcher, sick and tierd of millionaires running around in masks punching muggers.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:47 AM on August 27 [25 favorites]


As it happens, I'm listening to NPR about Centurion Ministries.

Are there any superheroes who specialize in exonerating the wrongfully convicted? Could there be a comic where the superheros and villians are part of the justice system?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 7:49 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


My favorite superheroes are Ryan North writing Squirrel Girl and Kate Leth writing Hellcat- both willing and able to fight but much more interested in finding win-win scenarios and converting antagonists into allies
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:03 AM on August 27 [20 favorites]


too many resonances of Adam West and Burt Ward pulling up to Gotham City Hall and going to talk to the Mayor and the Chief

In the Adam West tv show, Batman is a deputy.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:06 AM on August 27 [11 favorites]


The violence is one of the things that really has bothered me, especially with some of the latest superhero movies. In Zack Snyder's Batman vs. Superman, in literally the first scene where we see the Caped Crusader he brands a man. Now, permanently mutilating someone is usually a way to underscore that someone is really bad, but in this movie Batman was still framed as a big hero.

It was the same with Inglourious Basterds, where the titular heroes commit war crimes and mutilate people, while the musical cues tell us that we are supposed to cheer for that. And even if it's Tarantino being subversive, I still reject it.

At least with Watchmen the Constitutional violations are a nod to what happens when a police department is run by a closet racist.

Can we agree that branding people, beating them up, and cutting symbols into their faces is not something to cheer? Because we are in times where people are going to take this stuff literally, based on the number of people hospitalized for drinking bleach. The 17 year old who just killed two people in Wisconsin is likely another good example.
posted by Alison at 8:08 AM on August 27 [22 favorites]


I loved the story in the twitter thread, and when I got to this...

And each volunteer wears a bat pin on their chest.

I started bawling.

I think that stories that help us envision a better world are essential right now.
posted by medusa at 8:10 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Mrs. nushustu recently said "getting 'saved' by Batman is like when the Columbine shooters shoot the person on your left, pass over you, and shoot the person on your right. You shouldn't feel like you were saved, you should feel like a psychopath decided not to kill you."
posted by nushustu at 8:32 AM on August 27 [12 favorites]


"This tweet out of the thread feels like “Person of Interest” but with a Batman in it."

A group of folks I know who are fans of the show call it Hobo Batman.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:34 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


I may be mistaken here, given the Spanish Inquisitorial nature of some comics fans, but Batman is not a superhero. He is a man without any super powers. His only powers are wealth and intelligence. Given the turn that the Batman epic seems to be taking, couldn’t it be viewed as a critique of wealth, and the power it exerts on society? And intelligence? There appear to be lots of intelligent and wealthy people who don’t seem to use their intelligence except in furthering their wealth. At other people’s expense. And lives. Just drop the term “hero”.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:48 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Batman is about being bad to try and do good, but Superman is about how having all the power in the world doesn't make being good any easier or less complicated.

Superman is the hero we need.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:54 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


The idea that there's something in the canon which can answer an IRL contradiction is very Comics.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:56 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


See you tomorrow, saguaro: I really love TV procedurals, especially of the eccentric genius works with police to solve crimes variety, but for the pas few years I'm struggling with how they're basically all stories about how extralegal methods really get the job done when the police can't.

The only semi-current counter-example I can think of is Psych, where the main character pretends to be psychic, because he has been trained by his detective father to see clues that others miss. But instead of joining the police, he's a kind of kooky consultant. Vaguely like Monk, which is also not super-current.

But police procedurals are dealing with the existing police-centric view of crime, finding whodunit, and not discussing the root of criminal activities in society. And by focusing on criminal activities as the weekly plot, we're set in that police-eye-level view of the world, that Crime Is Everywhere, instead of recognizing the fact that violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century (Pew Research, 2019). Combine that with the intrinsically broken way that real crimes are covered in the news (previously) and political rhetoric, it's no wonder that violent crime still ranks high in public concerns going into the 2020 U.S. election (Pew Research, Aug. 13, 2020).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:00 AM on August 27 [11 favorites]


Batman #423 was my first ever comic book.

I had seen the Adam West show and movie, but that issue really solidified my conception of Batman.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:01 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Extreme wealth à la Wayne or Luthor or Musk is absolutely a super power. And he was simply born with it, so he’s no different from Superman or Harry Potter in that regard.
posted by rodlymight at 9:07 AM on August 27 [11 favorites]


The difference between Batman and Rorshach is wealth. Alan Moore certainly saw that clearly enough.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:09 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


The only semi-current counter-example I can think of is Psych, where the main character pretends to be psychic, because he has been trained by his detective father to see clues that others miss.

I almost mentioned Psych in my comment, but I was trying to type while drinking coffee and balancing three chihuahaus on my lap, so I was not terrible loquacious. I was going to mention that even gentle, sweet procedurals like Psych depend on the protagonist using extralegal means to solve crimes. Sean and Gus don't use violence but they do trespass and get access to information the police can't through means.

I also said above "I don't read comics" which is true now but I did read a ton in the 80s and early 90s. Mostly the black-and-white indies (which were all informed by DC and Marvel comics) but also early Batman, Dark Knight, Watchmen, etc. I dunno, Batman was never my guy. I guess Superman wasn't either. I was more of an Elfquest and Love and Rockets girl.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 9:14 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


The serial nature of superhero comics makes it hard for them to address systemic change. Batman can't ever "solve" the root causes of crime - there wouldn't be anything for him to do next issue. Reed Richards is a super genius, but he can never solve world hunger or make free electricity. There will be stories about how the hubris in attempting these global fixes goes awry, but superhero comics are about conflict, and utopianism is seen with suspicion.

When comics do address what could happen, it ends up being about how the end result of Batman making Gotham safe = fascist techno-state, not how Bruce Wayne cleaned up Gotham after he dumped all his money into housing, UBI, and safe injection sites.

That and I don't trust 95% of comics writers to even be able to address such big issues. One person taking a stab at it is Jonathan Hickman, whose X-Men run right now is about them using their powers to create a utopian mutant state, and even that has a sinister edge to it.
posted by thecjm at 9:15 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by three separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime, the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders, and the goddamn Batman.
posted by thelonius at 9:17 AM on August 27 [16 favorites]


Batman vs Cops. Script in production.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:18 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


If there's any overarching, universal lesson to be learned from superhero stories, it's that no person can be trusted with more power than any other person has.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:18 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


There's something really odd about left-leaning folks arguing that Batman, who is the intellectual property of a multinational conglomerate holding company, should be rehabilitated to be some kind of leftist hero. Maybe we just need new characters and stories instead of trying to help megacorps sell merchandise? DC Comics is a subsidiary of DC Entertainment which is a subsidiary of Warner Bros which is a subsidiary of AT&T, etc etc.
posted by oulipian at 9:23 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


I like to tell people Fight Club is about how Batman is a fascist. I learn a lot about them very quickly from their responses.

It’s possibly the best Batman movie and also the clearest about why the “you can’t kill an idea” guy is maybe not the hero.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:25 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


If there's any overarching, universal lesson to be learned from superhero stories, it's that no person can be trusted with more power than any other person has.

Or maybe that heroism is the enemy of glorified violence, and we need to learn to recognize the difference between justice and revenge.
posted by mhoye at 9:26 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Reed Richards is a super genius, but he can never solve world hunger or make free electricity.
[...]
That and I don't trust 95% of comics writers to even be able to address such big issues.


Reed made an offhand comment in an FF issue back sometime in the late 90s-early 00s (I can't remember) that a lot of his wealth came from companies paying him to not release various labor-saving devices he had invented so they could continue to release their inferior products. That was the way that the writer at the time explained why Reed hadn't dramatically improved the world he lived in. When I read that I wasn't clear if I was supposed to be horrified by Reed or the writer.
posted by haileris23 at 9:33 AM on August 27 [10 favorites]


As far as criminal defense lawyers go, the only one I can think of is Jennifer Walters, She-Hulk. And she doesn't use her powers for that nor specialise in exoneration of the wrongfully convicted.
posted by sotonohito at 9:43 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


> Batman vs Cops. Script in production.

Art definitely has a role to play in questioning authority, subverting norms, etc. Unfortunately, Batman is an intellectual property at this point. Consider it the Disneyfication effect, regardless of which mega-corp actually owns the property in question. If I was more into comics, I could probably share all sorts of indie ventures that were using their art to explore something akin to what you're referencing. Perhaps in 10-30 years the most popular of those will have been bought up and integrated into the mainstream.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 9:44 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


The other great Wondermark Batman strip: Note from Batman says you're the perp, you're the perp.

Good thread.

You always need a breakdown in policing in some way for superpowered heroes to be plausible. Right now, though, the plausibility of fixing the police without a superhero is faint.
posted by mark k at 10:06 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I am waiting for the complex take on Everett True, violent maniac and righter of wrongs.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:17 AM on August 27 [9 favorites]


There's something really odd about left-leaning folks arguing that Batman, who is the intellectual property of a multinational conglomerate holding company, should be rehabilitated to be some kind of leftist hero. Maybe we just need new characters and stories instead of trying to help megacorps sell merchandise?

Not odd at all. This sort of discussion is criticism--how the character is framed, what the current writers miss about society, ways in which both fictional Batman and real police are coming up short. And it's a way of communicating these things with folks who aren't necessarily left leaning but understand Batman and enjoy talking about him.

Something that won't happen the same way with a newly invented character (which, if it became popular, would inevitably help megacorps sell merchandise anyway.)
posted by mark k at 10:23 AM on August 27 [6 favorites]


This is insightful – I don't know how it is in other countries, but here in Brazil a stock police response to criticism of their violence is "Well, next time you're mugged, why don't you call Batman"
posted by Tom-B at 10:41 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


thecjm: " One person taking a stab at it is Jonathan Hickman, whose X-Men run right now is about them using their powers to create a utopian mutant state, and even that has a sinister edge to it."

Not just an edge, but also a Sinister Quiet Council member.

I'd also like to point out that the 101 level of most of the comments here would be offensive to those of us actually invested in the topic if we where discussing say, gender, race or disability, but since it's "just comics", I guess I'll take a step back.

I would like to repeat: Read a comic. Any comic. Maybe even read somebody writing about comics.
posted by signal at 11:03 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Reed Richards is a super genius, but he can never solve world hunger or make free electricity.

I think this is best addressed with the meme panel where Spiderman is talking to some scientist that turned himself into a pterodactyl.

"You can rewrite DNA on the fly, and you're using it to turn people into dinosaurs? But with tech like that, you could cure cancer!"

"But I don't want to cure cancer. I want to turn people into dinosaurs!"
posted by charred husk at 11:46 AM on August 27 [13 favorites]


obligatory vlogbros on the topic:

John Green: I Kind of Hate Batman

Counter-response from Hank Green: I Kinda AM Batman

Bonus: Songified Version: We Are All Bat People

man 2014 feels so long ago
posted by lazaruslong at 11:52 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I think this is best addressed with the meme panel where Spiderman is talking to some scientist that turned himself into a pterodactyl.

Sauron, ftr.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:57 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


An interestingly dark Batman project would be one focussed on the weirdness of Batman. Power-mad cops and serial killers don't dress in animal costumes. Batman is not OK.

He brings his children to gunfights. Nobody does that. What's motivating this? It's obviously, straightforwardly morally wrong, but he's not going to stop. Does he think of himself as a child, frozen forever in Crime Alley?

Batman's villains are strange, sad monsters because they are reflections of Batman, a strange, sad monster.

Gordon and the Justice League work with him. Why? Not just because he's useful. They love him, and they see that he can't stop. How often has the Flash thrown an arm around him and said "buddy, you don't have to do this."

Batman is not an idea to emulate. Grant Morrison's Batman makes this explicit: Batman's goal in life is to create a world where no one would become Batman. His deeply unhealthy obsession with helping and protecting would be interesting to see onscreen.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:00 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I'd also like to point out that the 101 level of most of the comments here would be offensive to those of us actually invested in the topic if we where discussing say, gender, race or disability, but since it's "just comics", I guess I'll take a step back.

Huh? I don't think anyone was ever discriminated against because they were born with comics-colored skin...
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:32 PM on August 27 [25 favorites]


The Batman in the movies is more akin to the Punisher in comics, perhaps with fewer dead bodies — almost a distinction without difference, in that the violence is the underlying spiritual fantasy.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:34 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


(Specifically, violence as spiritually cleansing, a romantic ideal which is a notable part of classical Fascist ideology.)
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:40 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


There's something really odd about left-leaning folks arguing that Batman, who is the intellectual property of a multinational conglomerate holding company, should be rehabilitated to be some kind of leftist hero. Maybe we just need new characters and stories instead of trying to help megacorps sell merchandise? DC Comics is a subsidiary of DC Entertainment which is a subsidiary of Warner Bros which is a subsidiary of AT&T, etc etc.

I think it is understandable for people to discuss how iconic media properties, which play a big role in shaping how people think about the world, can be made less fascist even if it isn't yet possible to break up the conglomerates who profit off said fascist propaganda.
posted by Ouverture at 12:53 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


One of the things I've liked about Umbrella Academy is how Diego essentially thinks he's Batman, especially in Season One, where he keeps showing up at crime scenes and touching shit and the actual cops tell him repeatedly that he can't do that, it's no longer usable evidence if he does that, and if he doesn't stop he's going to do time. It's a much more realistic depiction of what would happen if someone tried acting like Batman, and unlike Bruce Wayne, Diego actually has a superpower.

For comics that deal with the actual evils out there, there was a stretch on The Authority where they decide to go after mega-wealthy oil tycoons because they could. It was a nice twist, and while I'm not sure if I'm ever going to feel comfortable reading Warren Ellis' comics again now that I know he's a creep, I did like his deconstructions of superhero tropes because he'd get into these kinds of questions. I also often like comics that go for really ridiculous stuff, like the Fantastic Four fighting Galactus, who is literally there to eat the Earth, various times when the X-Men fight aliens, that kind of thing.

Batman... as much as Batman was one of the first comic characters I loved, he's basically a rich guy who beats up people with severe mental illness in the name of fighting crime, and the real horror of the story is arguably the lack of decent care at Arkham Asylum. Like, it's interesting to me that no one can figure out where the Joker came from or who he was before, there are things to be said about Batman being the gothiest goth who ever gothed and his biggest enemy being a clown who wants to make him laugh, but the issue is that Arkham apparently can't figure out how to treat the Joker so he can at least not be a danger to other people.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:59 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


"A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round."
posted by mhoye at 1:12 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


I don't know if we'll ever have a superhero film that doesn't end with punching. It's part of the genre. IRL Batman is not the one solving Gotham's problem, it's the Wayne Foundation and the political will to fund social programs.
posted by axiom at 1:27 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


The Batman in the comics has grown to be slightly more complicated in its treatment of violence, and who administers it, particularly in issues published in the mid-1980s and early 90s. Multi-issue arcs give time and narrative space to explore consequences. Entropy is a thing: characters cannot turn the clock back on decisions and mistakes made.

Film cannot allow that, so much. A movie ticket is paying rent for sitting a couple hours in a movie theatre, and then they want you out to get the next batch of people in. That requires prioritizing spectacle and simple storylines. Resolution is quick. The fantasy of film allows actors to reset the clock and recover from an otherwise life-changing conflict within seconds — if they even suffer injury, at all.

(As an interesting side derail, one could perhaps look at Christopher Nolan's larger body of work beyond Batman, as an examination of time used to minimize, undo, or redirect force and its downstream effects — from Memento to Tenet, probably.)

Multi-episode cable TV series like Watchmen might suggest possibilities in the treatment and consequences of violence by authorities (masked or not), though the demonstration of physical force is still glorified as the best solution to resolve conflict. The option of pacifism is presented, for instance, and is quite literally dissolved in front of the viewer, which clarifies the position of the writing team and the parent production company.

Human beings are impressionable and what media we consume helps us explore our morality and guide our behaviors. It doesn't hurt to examine all of that and adjust our diet, accordingly. It doesn't hurt either, to revisit canon (as the linked Twitter feed does) and see what important differences might result from applying slight changes to the characters and storyline. Revisiting and changing the past is actually something that comic books excel at, compared with other forms of storytelling — why not take advantage of that?

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:29 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I'd also like to point out that the 101 level of most of the comments here would be offensive

I have shelves and shelves of the things, I don't find the discussion offensive. There is certainly not an equity issue at play as there are on issues of race and gender.

The way the characters function in our IRL society cannot be contradicted by the text of any particular work of fiction.

Kind of like how people don't have to immerse themselves in football stats to critique the treatment of Colin Kaepernick.
posted by StarkRoads at 1:30 PM on August 27 [15 favorites]


since it's "just comics", I guess I'll take a step back
Or, since the conversation clearly is at a 101 level, engage with the audience at that level instead of repeating that they haven't read enough to be allowed an opinion?
posted by haileris23 at 1:33 PM on August 27 [14 favorites]



I have shelves and shelves of the things, I don't find the discussion offensive.



Me either. I don't own too many Batman comics, but the ones I do own aren't that different from the movies. Yes comics have long social arcs, but they tend towards a static version of reality much like sitcoms or soap operas.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:37 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


When I was reading the comics regularly, I was always intrigued by Leslie Thompkins in terms of fighting crime as opposed to fighting criminals. Although reading later continuity on her page reminds me of the problem with keeping a story going for literally decades with the same characters.

Also for anyone complaining about lack of engagement with the original comics, wouldn't this version represent a massive step up for the movie versions (especially since all the movie versions are more riffs on the comic characters than adaptations anyway, and the movie version feeds in to the comic book version, so it might as well do it in less of a 90s grimdark way)?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:41 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


What I don't get is how the discussion up to now has split between either Batman in the films vs Batman in the comics, as if those are the only two forms where most people encounter the character. Yes, there was a brief mention of the 60s TV series, but there's no talk of the cartoons which I think are also relevant and important for a few reasons: 1) They're mass broadcasted media 2) They're mostly aimed at kids 3) They're usually a running series, so audiences are exposed to this version of Batman longer.

At least for me, the animated version of Batman (specifically the DCAU version that appeared in various shows from 1992 to 2006) played a way bigger impact in how I saw the Batman character vs. any of the films or comics.
posted by FJT at 1:41 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


The way you make Superman interesting is by giving him a problem that's *difficult,* and to do that you have to give him something *complicated.*
Like standing up for the plight of the worker.


Yes! Kelly makes this point about both Batman and Superman that when movies reduce everything to a fistfight they lose what makes them heroes. I've complained for years about how Batman is supposed to be the World's Greatest Detective, yet we never see this in the films. I liked the Nolan films but yeah they progressively got away from the detective part. Same with the big blue boyscout, though he's kind of always had that problem. I love Kelly's proposed story. DC should be paying him.

Also obligatory link to the best musical variation on the batman debate.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:50 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


don't know if we'll ever have a superhero film that doesn't end with punching.

There is punching before that, but one or another of the spiderman movies ends when spiderman offers a cogent argument to Alfred Molina, who agrees and dies saving the day from whatever he'd done. It feels very Bethesda-SPEECH-100.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:56 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


At least for me, the animated version of Batman (specifically the DCAU version that appeared in various shows from 1992 to 2006) played a way bigger impact in how I saw the Batman character vs. any of the films or comics.

I haven't seen the DCAU shows. How would you describe their version of Batman and how it differs from the movie and comics ones?
posted by Paul Slade at 1:57 PM on August 27


Batman is just an extremely wealthy Furry.
That's a valid take too. There are many angles, because there are many Batmans. Batmen. Men-of-Bats.

I've read and seen a lot of Batmanáge, but not ALL of it. So maybe someone can help me out. There's a storyline I'm not sure I've seen.
Is there one where 'the real villain is Gotham itself'?
Because it got in my head long ago that there's something very wrong with Gotham. Not in a New Yorker's 'yes it's filthy and overpriced, but I wouldn't live anywhere else' kind of way.
I mean in a Lovecraftian, Sunnydale was built on a Hellmouth, gee maybe we shouldn't have burned all those witches in the 1500s, now this place is cursed, kind of way.

Like sure he deals with Riddler and punches muggers in his spare time. But why not solve the mystery of why Gotham is the only place in North America where the sun sets at 6pm in the middle of June, and even the city librarian is a criminal megalomaniac? (I feel like maybe they did some of this with early Kate Kane Batwoman? That one of her Big Bads was Gotham's history of Serious Occult Shit?)

But yeah, go ahead and do a Humanitarian Batman, and Activist Bruce Wayne. Got no problem with reading that story. But it would miss something that all these takes of 'why doesn't he just do the rational thing' miss.
Batman/Bruce Wayne is INSANE. Not a well man.

His supervillain roster isn't made of 'dark reflections of the heroic Batman'; they're just OTHER people with delusions of grandeur and obsessive compulsions towards violence and instilling fear in those they feel have wronged them.
A calm, compassionate, centered, well-adjusted version of the character can be done; but it would be one of those alternate universes, like where Superman's baby rocket lands in a wheat field, not in Kansas, but in Stalinist Ukraine. "He fights for Truth! Justice! and the International Expansion of the Warsaw Pact!"

You can do Tankie Superman. Or Food Not Batarangs Batman. Everybody gets to do a 'but what if...' version. Just don't go claiming that your favorite -or any- iteration is the One True Version, because there isn't one. That's not how it works.
posted by bartleby at 2:02 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


Speaking of cartoon Batmans (Bats man?)... I have to plug my current favorite Batman, from Batman: Brave and the Bold. He only deals with supercrime, uses lots of gadgets, and has friends who can counterpoint his stodginess and obsession with Justice.

Serious Batman has lost its luster for me after decades of comics-reading. These days I'd usually rather spend my suspension of disbelief on where he gets those wonderful toys then on why he has to dress up as a bat to beat up muggers.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 2:10 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


For those who take the perspective that solving problems via punching isn't an integral part of the superhero genre: would you classify Princess Mononoke as a superhero movie? Do you think that it is commonly/generally classified as a superhero movie? For both, why or why not?
posted by eviemath at 2:28 PM on August 27


I need this guy doing comics. Both his proposed Batman and Superman runs sound amazing.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:56 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen the DCAU shows. How would you describe their version of Batman and how it differs from the movie and comics ones?

I consider Timmverse/DCAU to be the definitive treatment.

'1990 - Tiny Toon Adventures'
'1992 - Batman: The Animated Series'
'1996 - Superman: The Animated Series'
'1997 - The New Batman Adventures'
'1997 - The New Superman Adventures'
'1999 - Batman Beyond'
'2001 - Justice League'
'2003 - Teen Titans'
'2005 - Krypto the Superdog'
'2008 - Batman The Brave and the Bold'
posted by mikelieman at 2:58 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Also recommended is the take on Batman from the Justice League Action shorts. (for kids, but there are some really deep references for old fans)
That treatment takes the grimdark and turns it into 'aw, he's always so grumpy; it's adorable'.
posted by bartleby at 3:05 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


the red “Batphone” that rings in Wayne Manor, but which the Phone Company can’t trace.

In fairness, the show addressed this. In one episode someone tries tracing the line, but Adam West had a gizmo that he invented (because of course he did) that detects line tracing and switches the trace to another random phone line.

I'd argue that Adam West is the only Batman who's actually doing things responsibly. He goes to a ridiculous amount of effort to support progressive social programs, including non-punitive rehabilitation, and he makes a point of respecting the rights of the criminals he's hunting. And it's been stated that he has the official permission of the Gotham police department, so he's not a total vigilante.
posted by unreason at 3:11 PM on August 27 [11 favorites]


I really like these takes. I think all superhero stories are about two basic, elemental questions: "what does a person do with power?" and "how does trauma shape a person?" The CGI slugfest spectacles draw a crowd, absolutely, but I think those two questions are why superhero stories endure, and why people are so attached to particular characters. When a story doesn't feel right, somehow, I would point to the writer's approach to answering those questions: inconsistently, abhorrently, carelessly, etc.
posted by Emily's Fist at 3:16 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


A calm, compassionate, centered, well-adjusted version of the character can be done; but it would be one of those alternate universes, like where Superman's baby rocket lands in a wheat field, not in Kansas, but in Stalinist Ukraine. "He fights for Truth! Justice! and the International Expansion of the Warsaw Pact!"

You can do Tankie Superman.


Superman: Red Son, where he lands 12 hours later in Ukraine, is well worth reading.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:32 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I'd argue that Adam West is the only Batman who's actually doing things responsibly.

Well, yeah. He had a bat-phalanx of bat-network bat-censors making sure things ran bat-acceptably.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:41 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Seconding Superman: Red Son, and also All Star Superman, where both stories lean heavily into Superman not just having all of these superpowers, but also being incredibly intelligent. Going past the near perfect moment of Superman stopping to talk a young person down from a ledge, there's a scene where, with Luthor having managed to get all of Superman's powers, Superman essentially waits him out, knowing that at some point, Luthor will begin to notice the world the way Superman does, and see the connections between all living things the way Superman's vision allows him to. He knows he can't physically defeat Luthor, but he also knows he won't have to, and he "wins" the battle through his intelligence. He's not a battering ram, and he is only written as such by people who can't see the possibilities inherent in someone so all powerful choosing to live with the constraints of a society and a world that he adopted, simply because he loves it so much.

There's better Superman out there.

As far as Batman, the first comic line I really read was Lonely Place of Dying, where Tim Drake becomes the new Robin. The story is centered around Batman slowly coming apart after the death of Jason Todd, becoming sloppy, resorting to violence instead of detective work. Alfred admonishes him for coming home needing stitches every night, in a way that's very near to the Nolan movies, but with a key difference: the Nolan movies never showed Batman the detective. In those films, Batman is always and only a brute force, constantly in need of medical care. In LPoD, everyone around Batman sees him falling apart, sees him relying on force instead of skill, and no one knows how to help him. The resolution of the story is essentially Batman coming to understand that he's a better Batman when he uses his mind, not his fists, and when he accepts the help, love, and support of those around him.

There's better Batman than what we get on film.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:18 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


The Lego Batman Movie (2017) ?
posted by ovvl at 5:08 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Everyone keeps saying that Batman isn't a detective in the Nolan films, but one of the most (not in a good way) standout bits in the second film is when he cuts a brick with bullet holes out of a wall and does woowoo science to get a fingerprint off of a spent bullet to track down who shot the bullet. It's the most absurd thing I've ever seen, but I took it to mean that he was such a good detective he was off the charts. He could basically defy physics, that's how hard Batman detects.
posted by nushustu at 5:51 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Lego Batman is the best movie Batman. Seriously.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:54 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


The resolution of the story is essentially Batman coming to understand that he's a better Batman when he uses his mind, not his fists, and when he accepts the help, love, and support of those around him.
Ghidorah

Grant Morrison, the author of All-Star Superman, did an amazing Batman run around 10 years ago, the thesis of which is that Batman was never alone and always needed and wanted the support of those he loves and who love him.

He also wrote an excellent book called Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human that's part autobiography and part his philosophy on comics, where he agrees with some of the comments above that comics are ultimately fantasies and should stay that way, and that attempts at realism are misguided at best, harmful at worst:
Adults...struggle desperately with fiction, demanding constantly that it conform to the rules of everyday life. Adults foolishly demand to know how Superman can possibly fly, or how Batman can possibly run a multibillion-dollar business empire during the day and fight crime at night, when the answer is obvious even to the smallest child: because it's not real.
and
Kids understand that real crabs don't sing like the ones in The Little Mermaid. But you give an adult fiction, and the adult starts asking really fucking dumb questions like "How does superman fly? How do those eyebeams work? Who pumps the Batmobile's tires?" It's a fucking made-up story, you idiot! Nobody pumps the tires!*
*...though this actually has been answered in several ways in Batman comics...
posted by star gentle uterus at 6:16 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


In the wise words of Reginald D. Hunter:

Fuck Batman.
posted by CheapB at 6:24 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Maybe I'm just being an old, but I don't remember superhero comics as ever being intended to be taken seriously. I remember them being written for children, with a black and white morality that can never work in the real world to match.

To my way of thinking, it is entirely expected that fantasy would not match reality, that the simplistic good vs. evil narrative falls apart when examined from an adult perspective, and that "fighting" crime makes no sense in the real world. The entire conceit relies on the ability to magically know who the good guys and bad guys are and that there really are good guys and bad guys rather than just a bunch of people muddling through the messy nature of real life.

Q is what happens when adults get it in their head that the world works like a comic book.
posted by wierdo at 7:58 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


Lego Batman is the best movie Batman. Seriously.

I am in the Mask of the Phantasm camp myself.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:21 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


You and Mr. (H) Willems.
Patrick explains Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (and why it's great).
posted by bartleby at 8:41 PM on August 27


"I’m the guy who can do the things that Batman can’t. Become someone that Batman won’t. Am I the man Bruce wanted me to become? Not even close. But someday soon he’ll realise….I’m exactly who he needs.”

Resurrection And Redemption: The Story Of Jason Todd.
posted by clavdivs at 8:49 PM on August 27


Unfortunately, there is lots of punching in Italian Spiderman.
posted by valkane at 9:02 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I mean in a Lovecraftian, Sunnydale was built on a Hellmouth, gee maybe we shouldn't have burned all those witches in the 1500s, now this place is cursed, kind of way.

This might float your boat.
posted by vrakatar at 11:19 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


There's better Superman out there.

One of the many things I loved about All Star Superman was the way Morrison chose to have him save the day.

Superman explains that the universe works on superstring theory ("We're all just vibrations really"), then sets the damage to those vibrations right by calculating and singing the one perfect note needed to "retune" existence back into a stable form. He sings the universe back into harmony - and if that's not the opposite of punching things to fix them, I don't know what is.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:50 AM on August 28 [6 favorites]


Another great thing about All Star Superman: it presents his origin in the most perfect, compact way possible. Just four images, eight perfect words, and we're done. No movie about Superman should ever have to cover his origin again, but if they do, that should be enough.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:45 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


The problem with superhero types "fighting crime" is that it's inevitably them beating up street criminals and leaving the root causes of crime totally unaddressed.

Injustice isn't punchable. Out of whack drug laws are not punchable. Poverty is not punchable.


Signal already made this point by linking to the very first Superman story in Action Comics, but let me elaborate a bit:

In Action Comics #1, Superman
-Breaks into the governor's mansion to get him to stop the execution of an innocent man
-Rescues a victim of domestic abuse
-Wrecks the car of a guy who got violent with Lois because she wouldn't dance with him
-Thwarts a lobbyist trying to bribe a senator to drag the USA into a war.

Action Comics #2 features Superman kidnapping an arms merchant and carrying him to the front to see battle first hand. It ends with Superman grabbing the two opposing generals and telling them they have to settle the war with a one-to-one fight. They generals decide they have no actual quarrel after all and declare peace.

In Action Comics #3, Superman investigates a mine where conditions are unsafe for the workers. He tricks the owner of the mine and his rich party guests into taking their party down into the mine, causes the entrance to collapse, and only digs them out after the owner breaks down in repentance when he finds all the emergency equipment to be useless.

So from the very beginning, superhero stories, the first stories Superman's creators wrote about him, were about much more than beating up street criminals and punching supervillains. They were fantasies about using superpowers to improve unsafe working conditions, protect women from abuse, stop wars, end corruption, prevent unjust executions.
posted by straight at 2:32 AM on August 28 [19 favorites]


Grant Morrison (him again) seemed set to revive this social crusader aspect of Superman in the early issues of his 2011 Action Comics run, but dropped the idea for a much more science-fiction approach. That's a pity, because it looked quite promising for a while.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:31 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


It's great that Superman and Batman have done those good things in some comics. But the fact remains that the popular perceptions of the characters (right or wrong) are so shitty. Sort of like how progressive Christians can make all sorts of arguments that Jesus never hates on gays, is BFFs with sex workers, etc., but that doesn't change how awful most Christians are about that stuff.

You can blame the movies, or you can just blame how conventional wisdom works (as in the argument that Captain Kirk is not the dumb-jock lothario most people think of him as). Personally, I feel like superhero narratives (even the complex ones incorporating moral ambiguity) are too far outside my own life to resonate well. The fantasy and science fiction that works for me foregrounds the little people, not the Gandalfs and Jedis. Spiderman sometimes does a half-decent job of this, but it's only interesting until he gets the hang of things. Maybe I just have a low tolerance for the smashy-smashy. I liked Squirrel Girl.
posted by rikschell at 5:33 AM on August 28 [5 favorites]




Growing up my favorite Batman adaptation was always Batman Beyond. I haven't seen how well it holds up today, but man, it was a lot of fun when I was younger. Right now though I've loved the JL8 comic when it updates, it's been a great approach so far to the mythos.
posted by Carillon at 12:02 PM on August 28


Wow, vrakatar, The Doom That Came to Gotham is great. Thanks for the tip.
posted by Cpt. The Mango at 1:29 PM on August 28


he cuts a brick with bullet holes out of a wall and does woowoo science to get a fingerprint off of a spent bullet to track down who shot the bullet. It's the most absurd thing I've ever seen

So absurd. He even has like a specially built automated gun & brick targeting system that shoots the different bullets at bricks so he can see the dispersal pattern of the shrapnel inside. Like, how many other uses does that machine have? Did he re-purpose something else for it, or just decided "Well, I'll probably have to do this a lot, so might as well invest in a gun-brick machine to save time." It's like the hi-tech version of the Anti-Bear Trap spray and other goofy gadgets that Adam West had that were all perfectly suited for exactly one thing, which just happened to be whatever problem he was facing right then.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:56 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


Cla$$War was a pretty decent little 6-issue series about some govt. sponsored superheroes realizing that they were just propping up imperialism and deciding to fight back.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:58 PM on August 28


So I took some time out after reading this thread to read Batman: White Knight and it's something. I was surprised at quite how literally it took #defundbatman. Might be appreciated be some on this thread (particularly the inter-Quinn conflict).
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 5:52 PM on August 28


Superman has only one author (that I know of) that has written on the best use of Supermana powers. Zach Weinersmith.
posted by fragmede at 6:19 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Lego Batman is the best movie Batman. Seriously.

I am in the Mask of the Phantasm camp myself.


I’m on Team Return Of The Joker, but I think we can agree that all the animated Batman movies are better than any of the live action portrayals.
posted by mhoye at 6:39 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


It's great that Superman and Batman have done those good things in some comics. But the fact remains that the popular perceptions of the characters (right or wrong) are so shitty. Sort of like how progressive Christians can make all sorts of arguments that Jesus never hates on gays, is BFFs with sex workers, etc., but that doesn't change how awful most Christians are about that stuff.

Oh sure. I wasn't trying to say that "ACTUALLY superheroes are progressive as this handful of stories demonstrates..." but rather to go along with the writer of the twitter thread and say that it's definitely possible to write more progressive superhero stories because the very first Superman stories were a lot more progressive.

You frequently see people say "Superman is boring. He's too powerful." Those are comfortable people fantasizing about watching an exciting sporting event, evenly-matched boxers fighting for their entertainment. Superman was invented by persecuted poor people fantasizing about liberation and justice.
posted by straight at 9:54 PM on August 28 [5 favorites]


I've loved the JL8 comic when it updates, it's been a great approach so far to the mythos.

I'd never seen JL8 before, but having spent the past few hours reading all 269 episodes I can confirm it's great. Charming and delightful are the two words that spring to mind.
posted by Paul Slade at 5:09 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


SMBC has a similar (though shorter) read on Batman.
posted by rikschell at 7:25 AM on August 29


How about this:

Batman is a time-travelling anthropomorphic octopus who got merged with a Neanderthal in some sort of Star Trek style transport accident. He battles a litany of steam punk Kaiju hell-bent on destroying the moon with the power of anxiety.

The “Batman” name is just a coincidence arising from the translation of his octopus name into the language of the Neanderthal.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:04 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


The “Batman” name is just a coincidence arising from the translation of his octopus name into the language of the Neanderthal

Kinda like the Kryptonian family crest on Superman's chest just happens to resemble our letter S, then?
posted by Paul Slade at 3:31 PM on August 29


Seems unremarkable when cultures having unrelated symbols that resemble an S has happened dozens of times on our planet alone. I'd bet there's more than one Earth language that has a completely unrelated word that sounds like "Batman" too.
posted by straight at 5:22 PM on August 29


From Condé Nast Traveler:
In Turkey and Persia, a batman is an ancient unit of measure—in fact, the word is still defined in plenty of English dictionaries not as “a caped crusader with a cool utility belt” but “a Turkish unit equal to 16.96 pounds.”
posted by Lexica at 5:33 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


But police procedurals are dealing with the existing police-centric view of crime, finding whodunit, and not discussing the root of criminal activities in society. And by focusing on criminal activities as the weekly plot, we're set in that police-eye-level view of the world, that Crime Is Everywhere, instead of recognizing the fact that violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century (Pew Research, 2019). Combine that with the intrinsically broken way that real crimes are covered in the news (previously) and political rhetoric, it's no wonder that violent crime still ranks high in public concerns going into the 2020 U.S. election (Pew Research, Aug. 13, 2020).

I'd say they are more based on a police-centric mythologoy of crime. If they were really police-centric they would spend a lot more time on the police's focus on extrorting protection payments from the general public, running overtime-pension padding scams, and failing to to succeed at preventing, detecting and catching criminals about 95% of the time. Their primary enemies would be organized people rather than actual criminals.
posted by srboisvert at 4:29 AM on August 30 [2 favorites]


Lego Batman is the best movie Batman. Seriously.

I am in the Mask of the Phantasm camp myself.

I’m on Team Return Of The Joker, but I think we can agree that all the animated Batman movies are better than any of the live action portrayals.


They are all good to great; I just wish Batman and Batgirl hadn't had their night together. That was unnecessary.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:52 AM on August 31


The only Batman narrative that has a kind of internal consistency, that actually makes sense to *me*, and presents Batman as an actually good human, is if you dump pretty much every Batman movie (except the Tim Burton ones).

Pretending it's a realistic world in which a billionaire who spends millions on toys, in order to go around beating up criminals? That just doesn't make sense or have any depth.


The narratives that make more sense, and are vaaaguely touched upon by the Tim Burton movies, by Grant Morrison's 'Batman: Arkham Asylum' and every story that has suggested that the Bat isn't just a symbol, but some weird spirit demon that Batman has connected to somehow, are more premised on the idea that:

This is a magical universe.

And that there's something wrong with Gotham. The city.
Something terribly, supernaturally wrong.
That it's not a coincidence that there are all these weird, costumed supervillains keep 'manifesting', and that they aren't normal criminals, they is something deeply, utterly over the top and deranged about them.
Perhaps something about Gotham is a nexus, a portal, a location that induces a semi-spirit-possession in a few of its inhabitants. And the things that such people, who have been so possessed do, are not things that make sense to ordinary humans.
They are out of the capability of normal humans.
And their crimes are not born out of the ordinary pressures of poverty, and racism, but something else.
And therefore, these are things that the police and social workers have next to no ability to deal with, because they are not ordinary criminals and they are not ordinary crimes, and they are things that traumatise an entire city.

The Batman is one of these victims, those posessed. There's something full of vengeance which has connected to him. He's different in that he *is* unusually strong willed, unusually compassionate, and unusually intelligent. He's from a family that's been part of the city for generations, so he won't abandon his city, but also, he probably can't. He's semi-posessed by the spirit of the bat, but subsumes it's hunting instinct within his own moral code.
He hunts the other spirit-afflicted who have turned to crime, who we think of as the strangely colourful and over the top, super-villains of Gotham.
He's only dealing with 'ordinary' crime, in the context that he's constantly patrolling, in order to sniff out the un-ordinary crimes, and semi-posessed criminals, hidden within the ordinary. And, understanding that a certain amount of the 'ordinary' crime is due to the fallout of trauma within the city, the unusual number of deaths, the poisonings, the maimings etc.
It's not just The Joker.
There's the Scarecrow, who regularly poisons huge numbers of people with drugs that induce their worst fears. There's Harvey Dent. There's the characters who aren't even that concerned with humans, like Poison Ivy, but still with the poisoning (it's a theme, yeah?).

In universe, there's no other city that's as weird as Gotham.

*That* actually provides a justification for a Batman who yes, is working for the city through the Wayne foundation. And the Wayne foundation plays the background for regular characters in the comics. The free medical clinics that Dr Leslie Thompkins works in, the soup kitchens. Because the idea is that you can't have the level of chaos in Gotham without it being even *worse*...
But that framing means that Batman actually would have a niche, in which he is needed, because he's doing what others can't, unless you actually get someone who can put a magical lid on whatever keeps bubbling up from under Gotham.




There's interesting stories that happen within the comics. Not to mention, that whole pre-Katrina storyline from 1999, where Gotham suffered an earthquake, and the US government officially evacuated and abandoned the city.
There was a *lot* of criticism at the time, that that storyline was unrealistic, that a city of people wouldn't be abandoned without adequate response after a national emergency, and that the rebuilding wouldn't be neglected.
Seemed a bit less unrealistic later?
And also relevant, that the most useful thing Batman could do, was put his Bruce suit on, and go lobby at the Whitehouse.
Because THAT was the most effective thing to do with that level of disaster, while his odd family (and Batman has the largest family of characters of any 'loner') tried to protect people from becoming victims in the disaster zone.
posted by Elysum at 9:22 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


There's also the occasional suggestion in comics that more desperately poor people live in/move to Gotham, because there's a support structure of soup kitchens, medical care, and training programs through the Wayne foundation that other American cities don't have.

Gotham sort of deals with problems that other cities don't.
posted by Elysum at 9:28 PM on August 31


The Cataclysm/No Man's Land storyline when viewed against Katrina, or even what's happening along the coast of Louisiana now after the most recent hurricane seem downright normal, down to the profiteering on reconstruction (that Batman/Bruce Wayne managed to head off, doing one of the better "by the way, Bruce Wayne is also extremely skilled at business" sort of things).
posted by Ghidorah at 9:52 PM on August 31


As a kid (in the 60s), my favorite version of Batman was the one in Detective, not the mainline Batman comics. The stories in Detective were, however marginally, more about solving crimes. Batman was depicted as actually thinking some things through, on occasion.

"The World's Greatest Detective!", not cage-match bonebreaker.
posted by Chitownfats at 2:46 AM on September 1


All of the big crossovers of the later 90s can be seen as having relevance today.

Contagion and Legacy focus on an outbreak of a virus in Gotham and its reappearance.

Cataclysm is about the earthquake and the immediate aftermath.

No Man's Land sees Gotham turned into NY from Escape from New York.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:17 AM on September 1


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