I’ve repeatedly written about Superman (see “Confessions Of A Comic Book Guy -- A Better World”), but I’m just as big a fan of Batman and it’s gratifying knowing I’m not the only one. One of the best-selling, most popular regularly published superhero comic books is Batman (see "Top 50 Comics - June 2021"). I'd go further still; I'd say when most people in the general population think about a superhero comic, they think Batman. So, it's kind of funny how his current comics are so strikingly different from the public's expectations of the character.
I have a little go-to saying that I like to pull out when I come across a moment or even a line from a comic that encapsulates a complex, popular character: “This is who they are, this what they do, this is what they're for.” Being one of the best-known figures on the planet, Batman is dead easy; he's this guy who fights crime, usually committed by over-the-top criminals, and uses an arsenal of super cool gadgets. That’s who he is, that’s what he does, and as for what he’s for; it’s to stop the tragedy that shaped him, the death of his parents, from ever happening to anyone else.
There’s the popular meme that has become DC canon that goes “Batman Always Wins," but you know, you really couldn’t tell it from the last two decades of his comics. While he occasionally fights so-called ‘street crime’, and of course, still has his regular rogue’s gallery, he’s concentrated on larger existential threats to Gotham City since the 90s. He now deals with threats he doesn’t prevent so much as clean up afterward; I present into evidence such ‘events’ as Contagion, Legacy, Cataclysm, No Man’s Land, Joker War, The City Of Owls, The War Of Jokes And Riddles, and City Of Bane,
Then, there’s the matter of the notion of Batman being, as writer Garth Ennis put it, “a billionaire aristocrat who beats up poor people, as well as the mentally ill”. And, while he’s not entirely right, I have to admit some of the optics of his crusade against crime leave something to be desired. It’s probably something DC should keep in mind since we’ll soon be getting a new Batman. Usually, storylines where a new person “takes up the mantle” of an existing hero are perfectly predictable, but as the initial success of Superman: Son of Kal-El has shown there’s an audience for a new hot take on an old hero.
Hopefully, after decades of punching down and placing people in asylums, this new Batman will dedicate himself to punching up at more white-collar criminals (big pharma pushing opioids anyone?) and take an interest in the un-housed mentally ill who are so often treated like criminals by the police. Considering he’s making plenty of money as it is for DC, I kind of doubt it, but a Batman fan can dream.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.