Google+

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

6 Reasons Batman Rules

nananananananana BATMAN
Batman is more popular than ever. The new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, is set to open soon and shatter box office records. He has two hit video games under his belt, and his comic book has been going strong after over 70 years.

What makes Batman so great? Why is he still so popular after all these years? Why is it that Batman is so much more popular nowadays than Superman, a superhero that's supposed to be more popular?

1) He's vulnerable.

If you shoot Batman in the face, he'll die. If you shoot Superman in the face, he'll look at you funny, then punch you.

This matters. It heightens the stakes. We know that Batman won't get killed during his adventures, but he may not walk away unscathed. By contrast, you'll notice that the most famous Superman arc of recent years was the one where he died, where he was actually vulnerable.

2) Unpredictability.

There's an inevitability in Superman stories. You know he'll somehow lose his powers or fight someone who's his equal, then he'll find a way to get his powers back or neutralize his enemy's power. Then he'll win.

In Batman stories, you're not quite sure what will happen. Sure, Batman will win most of the time. You don't know what will happen in the interim, or what the consequences of the victory will be. Speaking of which...

3) The untouchable characters are generally kept out of danger.

It goes like this: In every superhero saga, there are a few characters that are untouchable, that won't die no matter how bad things get. With Superman, those characters are Lois Lane, Perry White and Jimmy Olson. In Spider-Man's world, they're Aunt May and Mary Jane. (Villains are always untouchable, because they have to come back in another issue.)

The problem is that in those comics, those are the characters that usually end up in danger, being threatened by the villains somehow. That's boring. If Lois Lane is kidnapped, big deal? She'll be fine. If Mary Jane is threatened, who cares? No one is killing Aunt May.

In Batman's mythology, there are two untouchable characters: Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. Alfred stays out of the action. Gordon doesn't get kidnapped that often, but when he does (like in The Killing Joke) he's not threatened personally.

This is important. Since the people who are in harm's way can actually get killed, that raises the stakes. Heck, the second Robin even got killed by the Joker.

4) Ambiguity.

Superman will always do the right thing. He upholds truth, justice, and the American way, after all. He's never going to snap and beat someone half to death. He's never going to contemplate killing Lex Luthor. He's not that kind of character.

Batman is. He's considered just stone-cold dropping the Joker. He's beaten people pretty bad. He refuses to kill, but he's not above snapping some arms to get the information he needs.

5) Better villains.

Who is Lex Luthor? Depending on when you picked up Superman comics, he's either a mad scientist who leaves robots around to fight Superman, a billionaire who becomes president, or a business owner who's trying to rule the world. There's no solid definition of him, and the only two identifying traits of Luthor are "bald" and "evil."

The Joker is easily Batman's most iconic villain. He's a ruthless psychopath who loves to terrorize the city of Gotham, murders indiscriminately, and serves as the chaotic counterpoint to Batman's order.

Go down the line on Batman's villains, and they all have very sharply drawn characterizations. Two-Face? Ex-district attorney who's mind has fractured. The Riddler? A man who thinks he's the smartest man alive and wants to show that specifically to Batman. Mr. Freeze? A man who lost his wife to illness, wants to bring her back and will stop at nothing to do so.

While there are a few other villains in the comics world that are on par with some of Batman's villains, like Magneto, Batman has a far deeper stable to choose from, and all of them have rich histories and meaning.

6) He's relevant.

Superman raises lots of important questions but never answers them. Superman is a godlike figure who can hear everything and do almost anything. Yet, he sticks to Metropolis in general, protecting Lois Lane. What kind of god would do that to humanity? Bryan Singer hamfistedly tried to discuss it in Superman Returns, but had neither the willingness or the skill to do so. It's an issue that's never really talked about because it would distract from the whiz-bang golly-gee Superman spectacle.

This world doesn't want that. It wants someone who has to make hard decisions and do what he thinks is right even though sometimes he's wrong and just hope for the best.

Batman is hunted and disliked. He's Gotham's protector, but only because no one else has stood up to do it. When he's not needed, he'll stand aside, but for the time being he'll just keep on fighting what he can.

_________

There are other comic book heroes that are important and interesting, but very few that can hold a candle to Batman. All of these traits combine to make a hero that is interesting, tense, and intelligent.

So yeah, I have my tickets ready for The Dark Knight Rises. I'm sure you do too.