Over the last 30 years Batman has stopped being Batman.
How did he stop being Batman? Over the last 30 years comic book writers, editors, artists and fans haven’t applied any objectivity to their craft when the approached or wrote stories for the character. So instead of the character being his own person with his own life, and his own “voice” he’s become a cipher for whatever writers and artists want him to be.
Back in the 1970s when Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams were hired to redefine Batman after the Campy Dick Sprang era and the 1966 Television series, there was a serious effort made to bring Batman back to his roots in the Batman comics. And during that time Batman was presented a balanced person with room in his life as Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman. During this time Bruce Wayne was considered just as important to a Batman comic as The Dark Knight. And Bruce had time to do things like enjoy his own life. He was driven to fight for justice and protect Gotham City, but he also had time to have a little fun too.
And yes, even Batman cracked a smile or laughed from time to time.
During the O’Neill/Adams Era up until about Knightfall writers understood that Batman was called the Dark Knight. And that there was a place for chivalry, honor and a code of conduct in Batman comics. These were the values that Thomas Wayne instilled in his son and what was core to Who Batman was as a hero.
And those core values that Thomas Wayne instilled in his son was the line between Batman and his rogues. Batman knew where the line between driven and obsession was and stayed right behind it.
Unfortunately over the last 30 years the line between Batman and his rogues has blurred. And the reason why it’s blurred is because many Batman writers and Batman fans have become just as obsessed as Batman’s rogues. We have a lot of Dark in the pages of Batman comics and Batman media. But none of the chivalry and honor of the Knights of medieval lore who were one of his inspirations.
And thanks to their obsession we don’t see any balance or objectivity to Batman, his rogues or Gotham City. For them everything is about Batman, not Bruce Wayne, or his life. In their eyes Batman is the real person and Bruce Wayne is the façade. If Bruce Wayne needs to be Batman all the time that’s when Bruce has crossed the line between driven and obsessed.
I remember a Superman animated episode where Clark said if he were Superman all the time it’d make him go crazy. I’d like to think the same would happen to Bruce. Every human being needs downtime away from the job, even Bruce Wayne.
And sadly he can’t have that because these days Batman isn’t his own character. He’s a cipher for whatever fantasies writers have for him. A Gary Stu who knows any and everything, he’s capable of using Green Lantern Rings, understanding Apokoliptan, Kryptonian and Thanagarian tech and is capable of taking on or cosmic level villains like Darkseid all by himself.
Seriously who needs the Justice League anymore when Batman can do everything? And who needs the Justice League When Batman has designed an armor capable of beating his friends?
The way I see it there really needs to be balance brought back to the Batman character. Yes, he cares about Gotham City. Yes, he seeks out justice for those who can’t get it in the dark and the shadows. But there needs to be room for the chivalry, and honor that establishes Batman’s code of conduct. That’s what makes Bruce a Hero, and that’s something that’s been sorely missing from Bat books over the last 30 years.
And it needs to be established that Bruce isn’t perfect. He isn’t always right. And it’s Okay if he needs to ask for help. Batman may be one of the world’s greatest detectives, but he shouldn’t be on the level of Mr. Terrific, the world’s third smartest man, Pieter Cross, one of the world’s foremost experts in medicine or capable of understanding alien tech from Krypton, Thanagar, Atlantis, or New Genesis. What makes the other characters in the DC Universe special if Batman knows just as much as they do?
A writer needs to work towards drawing the line in the sand that separates Bruce’s character from his bad guys. And they need to work towards establishing limits for Batman’s abilities in team settings. The other characters in the DC Universe need an opportunity to show what makes them special when they stand at Batman’s side on a team like the Justice League or in a major earth shattering event.
Moreover, a writer needs to re-establish Bruce as a character in the Bat-Books. As I see it, it’s Bruce who controls Batman, not Batman controlling Bruce. Batman is Bruce’s creation and he needs to be shown being in charge of things. Bruce decides when Batman goes into action, not Batman.
And Bruce decides when it’s time for downtime. While Batman took an oath to protect Gotham, he understands he needs to have a balanced life in order to do his job at Wayne Enterprises and patrolling Gotham City effectively. There has to be more to his life than putting on a Batsuit and sitting in the Batcave. As I always saw it Being Batman was only something he did for a couple of hours a couple of nights a week from about 11PM -3 or 4AM regularly when it warranted or when there was a Justice League mission he needed to be on.
But because many comic fans and comic writers don’t understand balance in life they think he’s Batman all the time. And because they don’t understand balance we have Gotham patrolled by about eight or nine people yet the streets are less safer than they were in the 70s when Batman & Robin patrolled Gotham with the occasional assist from Batgril. I find it crazy that Batman who now has a literal army of crimefighters working with him in Gotham including Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Huntress, Spoiler, Azrael, Batwoman, Batwing, Red Hood Red Robin and Catwoman but he has a harder time fighting crime today than he did when it was just him, Robin and Batgirl in the 1970s. With all those people working with him along with Jim Gordon and the Gotham P.D. Gotham should be the safest city in the DC Universe.
That clearly shows how me how out of balance Batman’s world has become. And why it’s so important to bring Balance Back to Batman’s world. Yes, Batman’s world is filled with criminals with psychotic obsessions. But Batman himself is a balanced and sane individual who cares enough about people to go out of his way to protect them from the same types of criminals who murdered his parents. And while he’s driven to fight for justice, he knows where the line is and his limits. Yes, he’s dressed like a Bat when he fights crime. But he’s still a man. I’d like to see Batman go back to being a character with his own personality and his own voice and tell his own stories, not be a cipher for the fantasies of comic fans who want to live vicariously through his cowl.
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