Batman Is Kind of Strange as a Concept
Warning: This Diatribe Fails To Reach a Satisfying Conclusion
Have you ever really sat down and thought about Batman? I had a surplus of spare time on my hands recently, so I went back and played through Batman: Arkham City. When it originally came out, people consistently told me it was good, but I never got around to playing it because I just never cared about superhero comics or any other type of “cape media”.
It’s a middling game - lot’s of time wasting minigames (which was the style at the time) - but I’m not here to elaborate on the game much further, just use it as a tool to examine how weird Batman is as a character.
As a disclaimer, I’m not a comic book guy, and I refuse to become one. The only Batman I really know is the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight era, which Arkham City feels like it’s definitely in the same category of - I haven’t watched any DC Movies or shows since 2010, and I understand the character is simply whatever the current writer using him wants him to be, but I feel these thoughts about the character consistently apply across any rendition. Either way, I await your letters.
Since this is the most Cracked.com article I will ever write, I’ve decided to organize my thoughts into a numbered list.
Number One: Batman’s Gotta Work Through Some Stuff
Batman’s gotta be in his forties. His parents died over 30 years ago. It’s a terrible tragedy, I get it - but at a certain point you’ve got to move on.
Secondarily to that, the number of times I’ve seen his parent’s death as his primary motivation taking precedence over his more recent comrades deaths/debilitating injuries (Robin, Batgirl - List is in the dozens) is so strange. It comes across as so callous to the people he works with.
This is my weakest complaint by far because it’s so easily defused by saying “Yeah, dummy, his inability to get over his parents death is what makes him Batman”, but I fundamentally disagree. We’ve rewritten Batman probably hundreds of times at this point - the only reason this keeps coming up as a character trait is because it’s so easy to do it again.
But I really don’t feel like elaborating on how weird the western comic book market is, so let’s move onto what you really came here for - more weird nitpicks about Batman.
Number Two: Justice Is Not Beating up the Mentally Ill and Desperate
There’s multiple moments in Arkham City where you hear goons talk about how last time they saw the Batman, he broke their ribs, legs, etc. and knocked out fistfuls of teeth, and how this time, they really hope they don’t come across him again.
You know who gets the shit beat out of them for committing crime and then goes back to committing crime? People with no employment opportunities. Nobody chooses to work for an emotionally unstable super-criminal who’ll ice them at the slightest change in the wind - they live that life because there are no other options.
If Batman spent half the money he spent on the Batcave on reinvigorating Gotham City’s economy, half the rogues gallery he frequently crosses would simply never have the opportunity to exist.
That’s not even talking about the members of the rogues gallery who are just genuinely mentally ill. I’m not going to throw the DSM-5 at a bunch of Batman characters, but I am going to say that Two Face very clearly needs help. Harley Quinn too. Stop punching them in the face, Batman - that won’t ever cure BPD!
Which brings me to my next point:
Number Three: We Should Really Stop Sending People to Arkham Asylum
The biggest problem with Gotham City is there are no consequences for misconduct among elected political figures. I’ve never lived anywhere with an astronomically high corruption rate, but I can say very confidently that if it came out that the director of a publicly funded mental health institution was applying electro-shock therapy by whimsy to anyone who crossed the institutions threshold because he thought he was controlled by the ghost of the original owner of the building, I would not elect that man as mayor.
There are journalists in Gotham City, right? How’s about an Audit committee? How has nobody looked at what’s going on with Arkham Asylum and shut that place down? If Batman’s the world’s greatest detective, how has he not looked into the institution where he regularly drops people off for “treatment”?
Oh, right - it’s because…
Number Four: Batman is a Terrible Detective
Man, Batman writers love to throw around “World’s Greatest Detective” a lot. I have never seen the character do any actual detecting. I’m sorry, but scanning in a crime scene into the bat computer is not detective work, that’s just crime scene documentation - which is a valid career, don’t get me wrong - but Batman has never used evidence to jump to a conclusion in his life.
As an example, in Arkham City, Batman goes on a lengthy chase around Gotham trying to cure himself of the macguffin disease, only to find out that Ra’s al Ghul is living underneath the headquarters of the prison warden. Doesn’t that sound a little suspicious? Not to the world’s greatest detective, who goes on his merry way until the end of the game, where he’s shocked that Ra’s al Ghul has been running the prison all along! What a twist!
Okay - I hear you complaining, that’s only one example, so here’s another one:
How come the Batman struggles with every puzzle the Riddler throws at him when none of them are actually hard? Yeah, I said it. The Riddler ain’t all that. He’s a one trick pony, and that pony blows Batman’s mind every time.
The reality is that Batman is not a detective, he’s a brute that physically assaults his way through any mystery that Luke Triton could solve in a single afternoon. He doesn’t even succeed at larping as a detective.
What’s his motivation for doing all this again? His parents being murdered, well, I’ve got news for you:
Number Five: Batman Has Killed Far More People Then He’s Saved
In Arkham City alone, Batman has been directly responsible for the deaths of well over 500 people. Yes, I’m directly blaming all of the games events on his own inaction. He had over twelve hours to prevent Hugo Strange from murdering half the prison population in under 10 minutes - That’s what he came to the prison to originally do! He just forgot while he went on a macguffin chase.
There are smarter people then me who have done media analysis on the “No Killing” rule Batman follows, so I’m not going to dive too deeply into the history of it, but from just the surface level - come on.
Arkham City is the perfect plot to trolley-problem out. Tell me, would you kill the oldest assassin in the world with a body count in the thousands, or, would you not kill him, and let his machinations kill 500 people instead?
But lets move away from the grand plots of villains and just talk about Batman’s direct actions. The Penguin may not be dead, but the multiple concussions Batman has given him will not help with his aggression the next time he goes on a crime spree.
Sure - he’s never intentionally killed anybody. He has left unconscious goons on the sidewalk in the middle of a snow storm - dozens of times. I’m sorry, but nobody is going to survive that.
I’ve heard people say that comic book characters are the modern version of stock characters from classic plays and epics, like - say, Beowulf. And I’d agree, in that Beowulf is also a dumb idiot book for man children just like comic books are.
Only mostly kidding.
I’ve failed to convey this above, I feel, but I think it’s strange the character of Batman has the longevity he’s had over the decades without him not really evolving much. These flaws in the Batman stories that have been told over an over, will continue to appear again, and it’s because people have an appetite for this character and the kinds of stories he tells.
And I just really don’t get that, that’s all.