Thursday, June 27, 2013

5 Unpopular Opinions About Batman

Is there a
Well I guess it’s time to once again become a typical ranting internet nerd and complain about something everyone likes; it’s time for another edition of 5 Unpopular Opinions. Today we’re going to talk about a fictional character that everyone seems to consider the greatest superhero out there: Batman.

You might be saying “Wait a second Beta, don’t you love Batman? Didn’t you used to do those ‘Batman Versus’ posts?” Yeah I did and I do like Batman. But those Batman Versus posts were really me just joking about the ridiculousness of how god-like comic book fans sometime view the character. I will say that I actually do prefer Superman to Batman (Yes, I Fight Dragons, I still like Superman) but as I said a while ago in my Protector/Defender blog I appreciate them both equally. But there are a lot of things that bug me about the guy, and that people treat him like his shit doesn’t stink bugs me even more. Batman’s not a perfect character and there’s some issues with him.

He’s a good character, sure, but I’m going to call him on some things. Remember that these are just my opinions and yours may vary. There’s no right answer here and thus no reason to fight.

Nerdy ramblings after the jump.

#5: He’s No Saner Than His Villains
"He just keeps repeating that he's Batman and  mumbling about clowns"
Let’s take a close look at Batman for a second. This is a guy who witnessed the death of his parents at, what, eight years old? And what does he do? He swears to avenge them by fighting crime, which is not an unreasonable response by a traumatized child. But then he dedicate his life to doing just that sacrificing all semblance of a normal existence so he can dress like a giant bat and scare the shit out of people. Now you might say that’s not especially crazy since, after all, he helps people and protects Gotham City. Except that, you know, he probably would have been more effective (and legal) if he donated the billions of dollars he uses to afford the secret lairs, cars and gadgets to the police department and/or various programs designed to clean up the streets and educate and help inner city kids. Instead he has a pathological need to put on a costume and beat up one to five muggers at time, which I have to assume is actually less effective to de-crime the city in the long run. He does it because he suffers from crazy ass parental issues which, again, are understandable given his trauma. But it kind of feels like he’s still that eight year old boy since only a kid would choose to use their giant fortune to help the world in that rather unsophisticated way (punch punch, bad guys). If nothing else he has to suffer from some sort of personality disorder and probably should be medicated.

Not to mention he’s paranoid as shit and a control freak. He spends endless amount of time keeping track of everything and is convinced that even his allies may eventually turn on him (which they do sometimes, but usually after they found out he was spying on them).

Maybe the only reason we don’t call Batman on this as much as we should is because he’s written as being very effective. I suspect in real life if Bill Gates all of a sudden put on a rat costume and started patrolling the streets of Detroit we wouldn’t be calling him a hero so much as we’d be calling men in white to take him away.

#4 He’s a Terrible Parent
Aaaaand he got a new one by the end of the year
Perhaps this is because of the previous point but Bruce Wayne is a lousy dad. Of course he is; he’s a broken eight year old in a thirty year old’s body who has never been able to cope with his own lack of parents, so why would he be a good parental unit to his various adopted (or otherwise) kids? For one he’s a very cold guy and doesn’t really offer affection except once in every blue moon (and whenever he does it’s made into a huge deal because of how infrequently it happens). He has a tendency to be out of contact with them for months at a time, regardless if they are actually legal adults or not. He often tries to manipulate or test them and doesn’t seem to think anything wrong with it. Oh and HE ALLOWS HIS UNDERAGE KIDS TO FIGHT CRIME, SOME OF WHICH IS MADE UP OF MASS MURDERING PSYCHOPATHS!! Dude, you’d get in trouble for losing your kid at the mall; imagine what would happen if Social Services found out you had been secretly training them to fight drug dealers. Hell, this was a major plot point in Kick-Ass (and less positive in the comic version, as Big Daddy was bat-shit crazy). It’s almost like he’s raising child soldiers which makes him only a little less morally dubious than Professor X, who actually was raising child soldiers to fight in his private wars.

Teaches peaceful co-existence
Trains teenagers to fight terrorits

#3: He’s a Dick 
Blue Beetle: Something dire is happening. I need your help, Bruce, or else-
Batman: Get out of my cave before I shoot you in the face, Ted.

You know who Batman is consistently nice to? Commissioner Gordon, and that may only be because he likes to vanish into the night before the conversation gets a chance to turn ugly. Every else can apparently suck a dick because Bruce Wayne doesn’t give a f**k. In his own title he’s not super bad but any time Batman guest stars in anyone else’s comic or plays a role in a crossover he treats every single person he talks to like their somehow in the way. Lord help them if they ever come to Gotham because now they stepped into his territory. Even Superman, who is supposed to be his best friend, gets the business from Bruce all the time. Hell, he often treats former Robins Dick Grayson and Tim Drake with open contempt at times (what a bad dad). He is obsessed with being a step ahead of everyone, which is not exactly a bad thing considering the massively powerful forces calling themselves superheroes but if I had a secret file on all my friends detailing ways to put a stop to them in gruesome details or if I built a surveillance system to constantly watch them I’m 100% certain they’d beat the shit out of me if they ever found out…and I’d deserve it.

#2: Too Many Writers Love Him 
Batman boxing Superman, because some writers are confused
The problem with popular characters is that everyone wants to write them but things go bad when they love them a little more than is healthy. Have you ever noticed how Batman appears to be perfect at everything he does and somehow capable of defeating vastly superior forces? It’s because a hell of a lot of comic book writers have a boner for Bats and hate the idea of anyone or anything outdoing him. I think of JLA: Act of God, an "Elseworld" comic where every hero in the DC Universe lost their powers, as a pretty good example of this as it’s a story that is supposed to be about the Justice League losing their powers but is actually a story about how awesome Batman is. I like Batman, obviously, but some of these writers need to dial it back. Batman is often portrayed as being all knowing with a back-up plan for his back-up plan for his back-up plan but eventually he stops being a character and starts dipping into Mary Sue fanficiton territory. I don’t want to say he’s “overrated” but he can’t be as capable as some of these guys make him out to be and still be human.

Speaking of Batman not being all that…

1# He’s Not the World’s Smartest nor the Best Fighter 
Mr. Terrific, the world's 3rd smartest man and Batman, (apparently) the 1st
Hell, who am I kidding? Batman's also the 2nd. Because shut up
This is actually my biggest pet peeve about Batman and it’s directly related to the previous point; the idea that Batman is actually the smartest person in the world and/or the greatest martial artist in the world. This is more of an issue with fans than with creators, but man I've been a party to some realy intense arguments about this subject. And yeah, maybe this is just my own fan boy nitpicking but it’s something that comes up  way too often. For example for some reason second string (probably third string now) hero Mister Terrific is almost exclusively referred to by the oddly specific title “World’s Third Smartest Man” and I’ve seen articles written by journalist who are paid to write about comic books discuss that clearly #1 and #2 clearly must be Batman and Lex Luther (Lex has a legitimate claim, depending on the current continuity). Look, Batman is really, really intelligent but I’m not sure he could create pocket dimensions to build his bases in. There’s no shame in that either; he should leave the super science to the super scientist like The Atom. Still some writers and a lot of fans seem to be convinced that Batman is a genius of the highest level.

Far more common is the “Batman as the greatest fighter in the world” notion which always gets pulled out during nerd conversations. Again this goes back to the enamored fans and writers who are so obsessed with Batman that they overestimate his skills. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen Batman get this credit but as far as I can tell there are practically half a dozen DC characters who could make Batman their whipping boy. Richard Dragon, Lady Shiva and my favorite Bronze Tiger are usually considered the three best fighters in the world and Batman’s encounters with the latter two always portrays him as not really being in their league. Cassandra Cain, who ended her solo series by defeating Lady Shiva, had always been shown to be a superior martial artist (considering she, you know, was bred to be the world’s deadliest fighter). Hell, even Black Canary, who before the reboot had become so proficient in fighting that she was one of the few people alive who could go toe-to-toe with Lady Shiva, may have surpassed Batman in martial art skill. That one’s debatable, though it would have been an interesting fight.

Lady Shiva vs. Black Canary
Batman should think twice about challenging the winner
All I’m really saying here is that while you may want Batman to be the best at everything he is clearly not…and that’s a good thing. Do we really want a character that is unbelievable skilled in everything to the point that there’s no tension and it’s sure thing he’ll win. I like the idea that he sometimes has to fight villains who are smarter than him, I like that he has to fight people who outmatch him physically. And, despite that he may not best an extraordinary scientific genius or an Über level physical specimen he’s still the World’s Greatest Detective and the best at pointing clues together. Being second/third/fourth/fifth best in other categories still makes him the world’s most dangerous man when in conjunction with that fact.

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