Editorial: …But I’m Still Not A Fan
Feb 9, 2012 by     11 Comments    Posted In: Editorial

Sad BatmanIn my last StashMyComics.com article, I wrote about how the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game made me care about the Batman universe when nothing else really could. I’d read a few TPBs, watched all the movies, even picked up the first few issues of Detective Comics‘ New 52 relaunch. Still, Batman just never clicked for me.

In the time since I played that game and wrote that article, I’ve given Batman another go. I read Hush and Arkham Asylum. I even picked up Detective Comics again. As a matter of fact, I’m reading Miller’s Dark Knight Returns right now. But, lo and behold, I feel like I’m back at square one of just not feeling the love for this caped crusader.

Well, that’s only technically true. I’ve come to this conclusion, one that doesn’t seem to be as uncommon as I would have thought: I really like the Batman universe but don’t really care for the Batman character.

James Gordon? Big, big fan. Azrael? I’m collecting his first series now. Two-Face? Great villain. Bane? Yessss. Batman? Meh.

So much in the Batman universe is appealing. The gritty, crime-ridden world hits home and appeals to my detective-noir loving sensibilities. The villains are so often delightfully twisted while still having some odd air of reason to them that often sends me into philosophical pondering. The supporting cast is often strong; I’ve even developed a fondness for each of the Robins lately, and words do not express my fondness for Gordon.

Batman badasseryBut then I turn to B-Man himself, and I suddenly stop caring. Is it because I can’t relate to him? Perhaps. Let’s face it, not many of us are billionaire playboys able to go fight crime in our free time. Is it because most of the Batman works I’ve read seem to go on and on with the dark knight’s internal monologue? That probably doesn’t help matters for me. Or is it because the character himself just isn’t all that engaging?

I honestly think that each of these factors plays a part in why I’m not really a fan of Bats, but I think that it’s that last part that seals the deal. So often, Batman comes off as un-engaging in his single-mindedness. Oh, I get that it’s part of his character, but his “fighting crime as a vendetta for the murder of his parents” design just doesn’t do it for me.  I’m fairly confident that Bruce Wayne needs Batman more than Gotham does.

Sure, it’s an interesting point of discussion, but it doesn’t lend itself to personally meaningful contemplation like so many of his villains do. It doesn’t lend itself to having a multi-faceted and relatable character, either. It just creates a man with a mission. Not that there’s anything wrong with the man with a mission type of character–it makes for great action thrillers–and I would be just fine with Batman action thrillers.

But that’s not how most of the Batman I’ve read plays out. Instead, I get this feeling that something deep is supposed to be happening, that Batman is this conflicted, tortured character who deserves my sympathy for his woes and praise for his triumphs. Yet I feel nothing for Batman. He’s a rich man in a mask who beats up people (but never kills them!) when he’s not busy getting beat to a pulp himself. Even when I consider my friend’s arguing that Batman is a modern Dionysus (an idea that he says comes from Frank Miller), it may make the character more interesting to talk about, but I still don’t find him compelling or engaging.

Perhaps it’s my lack of experience with the character that leads me to feel this way. I’m quite open to changing my mind on the matter; in fact, I’d rather join the masses in Batman appreciation. But, for the time being, I guess I’ll just have to accept that I don’t find Batman compelling despite the fact that I find Nolan’s movies and what I’ve read of Miller’s works fairly riveting. C’est la vie, I suppose.


11 Comments Add Comment

  • Jason February 9, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I love this article! I feel much the same way.

  • Steven Sparks February 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    HIs villians rock, I mention that once or twice in the podcast. Great article. Your next article should be on “Why does Batman always have a child sidekick?” Inside Michael Jackson closet case? lol.

  • kennyyeager February 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I’ll leave that one to you, Steve. haha

    Glad you enjoyed the article, Jason!

  • chipreece February 11, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Finally had a chance to sit down and read this! AWESOME article Kenny. Seriously great perspective. I think the draw for me of any Bat book has been the villians. I totally feel where you’re coming from!

  • Justin Robb February 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I liked the article, but didn’t quite understand/agree with his point of view. Kenny said that Bruce needs Batman more then Gothem does, well I find that fasinating! This makes him flawed, human, by-polar and somewhat schizophrenic. I think what makes batman interesting is that his introverted, depressive personality coupled with his own code of justice (vigilantism) leave him dangerously tetering on a knife edge and at any time he could turn to the dark side of his id and leave the superego behind. What compels someone to walk that tight rope is even more interesting to me, then someone like the Joker, who has been similarly traumatised and givin himself over to the id’s disturbing chaos, but still a very fasinating character.

  • Jason February 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Good points justin. However, if Batman’s possible slip into the moral dark side is what is interesting, we all know that won’t happen. This is a major franchise character. He will not suddenly become a villain. For my money, Punisher is a better Batman in the sense that he kind of has unapologetically given in to the dark side. Batman’s constant need for personal moral self-justification is annoying at best. In a way Batman’s insistence on a “no klling” code is a flimsy moral crutch to prop up his insecurities. I prefer characters who decidedly know who they or at least are able to discover their identity without constantly having to remind themselves (and others) that they are doing the right thing.

    Also if we are being honest, Batman is pretty much the worse team player ever. Inflexible, paranoid, intolerant, arrogant, self-righteous etc. It makes for god team dunamics in a story but he is far from an endearing character.

    For me, I consider Batman necessary to have in the DCU but I am happy toet others enjoy him while I hang out with characters I can identify with and root for.

  • Tim Morse February 12, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Great article Kenny! Very well written and put together. Always a pleasure to read!

  • Kenny Yeager February 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Justin! I get your points. They’re a lot like the points my good friend uses to try and convince me of how great Batman is. I get and appreciate those points very much. My problem with Batman isn’t that he’s a cookie cutter character; not at all! Like I said, he can be interesting to think and talk about. My problem is that, on a comic-by-comic basis, he’s neither engaging nor compelling for me. For what it’s worth, my good friend doesn’t understand how I can feel this way, either. haha

    Overall, I’m totally in agreement with Jason in his criticisms here.

  • Rob Hidalgo February 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Yeager- you should really read Batman: Gotham Noir if your are as much as a Gordon fan as you say you are. I found it to have that dark/gritty feeling every batman fan loves, with a huge increase in detective work. Just my two cents though.

  • Kenny Yeager February 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Hey, Rob, thanks for the heads up! I’ll definitely check that out!

  • Jason Newcomb February 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I think Gotham Central is one for your list as well Kenny. It’s a story about the Gotham cops.