Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Playing Favorites excerpts, pt 23

Every Tuesday I post excerpts from best selling at not selling super blog, Playing Favorites.

Now we return to Batman. I brought up Batman last out of the three because I think that he is more complicated than the other two. Whereas Superman and Spider-Man are very bright, positive characters (Superman is powered by friggin’ sunlight, for crying out loud), Batman dresses up like a figure of the night to strike fear into the hearts of criminals. (Note that when anyone bothers to bring it up, Batman only seems to have as much notoriety as Spider-Man. Also note that heroes themselves are in some level of awe of Batman, while Spider-Man’s friendly attitude and years experience make him a something more of a witty sidekick for his superhero team-ups.)

Proactivity? For the most part, Batman is no more proactive than many heroes. That said, he is always proactive. The watchword for modern Batman is ‘preparedness.’ When overused, it’s a tired cliché (“Trick Question: Batman always has kryptonite in his utility belt.”), but Batman actively anticipates problems and prepares for them. Which never goes wrong. (See OMAC. See “Tower of Babel.”) But when it does go right, it’s effective and it’s cool. Even when it goes wrong though, it isn’t a hit on Batman’s level of heroism. As one of the smartest, most dedicated crime fighters on Earth, Batman is in some way obliged to be proactive and to do more than throw a few batarangs at threats when they pop up. As genre-savvy as he is about not killing, he is equally un-savvy about operating on a larger scale. Superheroes will never be able to solve all of the world’s problems (see “Superman: Peace on Earth”). 

Like Sisyphus, they will try and they will fail time and time again. Unlike Sisyphus, they will continue trying of their own volition because to give up would be far worse. What’s more, for Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman, to give up is not in their nature. Okay, maybe for Spider-Man, but only because he has to fight for both halves of his life instead of getting to have both.

An aside for a moment about Spider-Man: Superman can change between many aspects of his life because of his super-speed and the fact that his job lets him take long stretches of time off of work. Batman…I don’t have to explain why being super-rich and anti-social makes your personal life super-easy. Web-slinging is awesome, and while he could get away with it, making a living taking pictures of himself paid the bills (which many, many disappointed users of social networking sites are now realizing is something that only happens in comics). However, petty social obligations, the need for regular paychecks, the oversaturation of the Spider-Man picture market, and less petty social obligations like marriage meant that Spider-Man has almost always had to work three jobs; something to pay the bills, being Spider-Man, and trying to be a normal person as Peter Parker. That he isn’t gifted with enough power to handle these things easily or little enough interest in connecting with his fellow human beings to simply ignore that aspect of himself, he rakes himself over the coals, not to be human or pay his bills, but to be a hero. Given the choice between giving up being a normal person and giving up being Spider-Man, he opted to give up neither one in a classic example of myopic morality.

Anyway, that determination of Batman to continue trying to improve the world (most recently in the form of Batman Inc.), despite past (catastrophic) failures, is proof that he is not only proactive, but that he is also has a kind of determination that makes it clear why he’s a top-tier hero.

Honesty? Hells no. Yeah, you can trust The Goddamn Batman, but trust is a long way from honesty. One of the appeals of Batman is that he will fight dirty; dirty includes deception and misdirection. Again, depending on what version you’re using, one of his primary weapons against the underworld is his status as an urban-legend. I’ve watched him and Superman “purge” Earth of kryptonite, even fighting new Aquaman in the process. In the end, Superman gives him one of the last pieces, “just in case.” Batman thanks him and otherwise indicates his appreciation for the act, then goes back to The Batcave and stores it in his safe full of fucking kryptonite. Granted, that was “Superman and Batman” and that series is universally terrible (okay, the art is good), but it’s not exactly out of character for him.

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