What is the Draw of Batman?

Some of my earliest childhood memories include my brother and I playing Batman and Robin in our backyard tree house. We had just finished watching the Adam West Batman television show and now it was our turn to impersonate the caped crusaders. Batman has always had my attention. Whether it was wearing my Batman ball cap at 10, reading comic books and watching cartoons in Junior High, or becoming engrossed in Christopher Nolan’s brilliant film trilogy, I have always loved Batman. But out of all the superheroes, so to speak, why is it that Batman has had the most draw. What makes Batman such a compelling character?

If we’re being technical Batman isn’t really a superhero. He doesn’t possess supernatural powers. He can’t run super fast like the Flash, he doesn’t have super strength like Spiderman, he doesn’t even have regenerative healing like Wolverine. Batman is just a man with great intellect, skill, and financial resources. For some this is what makes Batman so compelling. There is something about him that seems almost possible. He’s not necessarily a complete fiction. You can’t get bit by a radioactive spider, but you could possible work really hard and become a Batman-type hero. I suppose that is a fascinating feature of the character, of course most of us know that we don’t have the discipline, wherewithal, or guts to actually do it, but it’s still fascinating. But for me that is not what makes this character so compelling.

What makes Batman a compelling character is that while we know he is clearly a good guy, there is a real human nature to him. Superman is boring. The boy scout, as he was often called in comics, always does the right thing, never has much inner turmoil. Frankly that’s just not relatable. I am not a boy scout. I’d like to think that I try to do the right thing, but I know it’s often contaminated with my own selfishness, frustration, and personal demons (so-to-speak). Batman is relatable. He is a good guy. He has one rule: he will not take a life. But he toes that line, he does the right thing but not always with the right motives. He is after all The Dark Knight, not the white knight. He is good, but he is human.

You see I relate to Batman because I am more like him than I am Superman or Spiderman or anyone else. Obviously I am not out all night saving my city from criminals, nor do I suppose to have the brilliant mind and detective skills of the fictional character. But I can become obsessed with good things to the point that they become unhealthy. I can become so focused on myself that I lose sight of those around me who love me and want what’s best for me. I can become so insistent on my own ability and personal accomplishments that I refuse to take help when it’s offered. I can do the right thing with the wrong motives, or I can do the wrong thing with the right motives. I am a mixed bag because, like the Batman character, I am human.

I loved reading his stories unfold, not just because they were more “realistic” than Green Lantern’s, but because Batman seemed more interesting as a person. The psychology behind the character, the philosophical ideas presented in his stories, the complexities of human nature ever-present in his character are the features of good storytelling. Relatability is a feature of that larger picture. Batman is compelling because, unlike so many super hero comic book characters, there seems to be a real story-telling going on in his books. Batman is the character of good literature, not just of good comics. And for those and countless other reasons, I am drawn to Batman.

What about you, what super heroes do you find yourself drawn to?

Trackbacks

  1. […] I love Batman.  I always have.  In this post, David Dunham writes about his own affection for the Caped Crusader. […]

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