Is Batman Batty?
wisdom literature Superman
"I'm not sure why people idolize him. Instantly to me I just see a rich billionaire go down and become a sick man who dresses up in a bat costume and goes out to beat up other sick men. It's overly dark and dramatized as if you're supposed to take him seriously, but he doesn't actually come across as a hero so much as a man with an obsession."
It's a popular movie, and it's success speaks for itself. On the internet the Dark Knight is considered by most to the the greatest of superheroes, the cornerstone of superhero cinema that all superhero films since have tried and failed to emulate. In "A Muted Superman" Tilius drove this point home with clear meaning: "And of course [Man of Steel] is going to be like Batman - basically every comic book movie outside of the Avengers [sic] wants to be like Nolan's Batman. That's not really a bad thing, but at the same time it's often blatantly clear to be their intention." Batman is at the center of the popular culture universe, and his fans take him very seriously. Had this been an online conversation, the rational thing would be to try to help him see the light and emphasize with the views of the fans, to adopt the mentality necessary for enjoying the film because it would make him open-minded and appreciative of the views of the majority.
I did the smart thing and agreed with him.
He preferred the Adam West version because it was easier to like Batman when he was played for camp. Just because something is campy doesn't mean that it can't be taken seriously, as the original Star Trek shows so well by still persisting as one of the greatest, most iconic, and mot beloved television shows of all time. The elephant in the room of Bruce Wayne's mental stability is avoided and Batman remains just a character (Character in this case meaning the same thing as in the context "He's quite the character."). The more realistic the character becomes, the more the truth behind him is analyzed, the more there's a reason to be concerned for how close society comes to wishing to be like someone who in reality would be a poor example of citizenship.
Now personally, I thought that the grim and realistic version of the story was good, although not necessarily for the main character. His main redeeming quality was that the concept designs, and aesthetics were cool, but otherwise the redeeming features of the series were the villains and secondary characters. It was good that Bruce ultimately retired from the cape because in all honesty I wanted to see him move on. His health, to me, was unquestionable. It was poor. I never idolized the character. He's cool for action, but he is hardly a shining example of manliness.
My hero is Superman. He's not as flawed, but sometimes flaws can drag a character down to the point of making them unlikable. In Batman's case, his defining traits are things that should actually make him an antihero. He's dark and brooding, dedicated toward good citizenship and the preservation of life but also black in his sense of taking justice into his own hands. His flaws aren't addressed and corrected, but rather embraced.
Superman's flaws are acknowledged. I haven't always felt this way, but I grew to love him as a character. He genuinely is heroic and a true, positive example of what heroism should be in a world where heroes and antiheroes are often confused with each other. He works for truth and justice, but he never took it into his own hands. In Superman II he expressed that he was just trying to be a good citizen, and given his powers his obligations as a good citizen were merely higher. He never broke any laws. He never even wore a mask. In fact, he rarely ever lied, and his disguise as Clark Kent was very fair and misleading without being outright deceptive. In other words, with his power he could be considered guilty for many of the crimes about in the world by means of negligence. Truly, he stands for truth, justice, and the American way.
In spite of how simple the character may seem, it's a quality are necessary for symbols. It's often a challenge to write about the character as the themes he explores aren't necessarily physical conflicts. Sometimes this is mistaken for poor quality. Wrack'n'Ruin stated a year ago in the "Writing Advice" topic that "He works best when constrasted [sic] with a better character, like Batman, to portray their growth, not his own. You can only do so much with the Man Of Steel."
While it is true that only so much can be done with the Man of Steel, I see things the other way around. Batman is similarly a static character stuck in his ways, and I think that the characters both work well when set to contrast each other. Including them in the same story does them both well, not just Batman. From my perspective as a Superman fan, it often seems that Batman exists to contrast Superman and portray Superman's growth, or to challenge the Man of Steel's worldviews so as to further validate them. Superman, after all, came first, and Batman was invented later for a new direction.
Ultimately, Batman is a sideshow for the real thing. He's a strong character who is written in such a way that he's a textbook example of why active characters resonate more with readers than passive characters. For being a unique person and the foundation of the restless vigilante archetype he's got all the attention that he deserves, but he's not the face that heroism needs.