In 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.
But 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.