Batman’s Gospel

Batman is something of a weirdo legacy character these days, a fanfiction accumulation, an acretion of discarded shapes layered around a core, more dead cells of previous incarnations than anything of his own current incarnation. He is a comics history stool.

What I think is telling is how close and how easily we come to violating the gospels of these characters, gospels that are themselves very young. Specifically, it’s a point of comic book nerd lore that Batman does not use guns. This is of course nonsense: Batman has used guns plenty of times in the past before this idea was established, and since, and Batman’s use of other forms of weaponry that are gun-like is plenty common and Batman deals in a universe where there are numerous threats that could not give a thundering toss about a strong acrobat without a gun, and it’s not like guns are in the universe he’s dealing with hard to come by or ineffectual. Or even, against some of the things he faces, particularly threatening or lethal. Batman’s aversion to guns is fairly non-diegetic, something that the authors imposed because of the values of our own world and don’t really follow through on in their own spaces either. It’s not even a value universally accepted either. Batman is now riding around in a tank with a fucking rocket launcher on the top in the middle of cities, you can’t tell me that’s ‘no guns.’ Guns would make sense in his universe, and he’s an American. Hell, he doesn’t care about property rights or privacy rights, but guns? Nah, no guns. These days, Batman is okay with torture, and rocket launchers, but not guns.

Similarly, Batman is rich – he owns Wayne enterprises and pretty much always has. Thing is, once upon a time, Batman’s net worth was that of a 1950s business owner and his gear, the array of toys he had were all improbable things that didn’t really work. So we priced them in the same way you’d price boxing gloves on sticks, they just kinda were. You could probably imagine them as being expensive things but they weren’t the same kind of expensive things. The Batmobile is probably the biggest piece of weirdo hardware and then it was usually a very stylised sports vehicle. It wasn’t like now – when Batman is literally piloting a tank in the information age. These days, where conspicuous consumption is even more common, when brands make a point of what they’re worth and what they do, we’re practically expected to work out what it would cost for Batman to have any individual thing. The patina of realism, the gritty sense of reality to the character make the discussion of the value of his toys into itself, a marketable piece of information. Some schmuck at Buzzfeed is going to earn a few dollars making an article tallying that shit up like a glorified copy of Quicken. We don’t get to pretend about the amounts of money Batman is blowing, and so we talk about wealthy billionaires whose response to homeless crisis is to punch the underprivileged in his knickers, and get a good laugh, but that feels like it’s a failure of the writers handling him.

In essence, Batman is a character who needs and deserves to have either camp or noir handled around him. You have to be thorough with Batman, and part of that thoroughness is recognising his greater context, what his existence implies and what he can do within it.

One day I’ll find those Frank Miller sketches and talk about a time I think they almost got it weirdly right.

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