Reading comics is one of my favorite past-times. My brother used to work at a comic shop so as a kid, I was exposed to all sorts of amazing stories of super humans facing super problems. But underneath the Kapows! and super villains (which are a wonderful topic to explore as well) are some really interesting human stories and sometimes tragic themes explored by the writers. When you look at superhero origin stories, almost all of the heroes are outcasts, have suffered a horrific event or tragedy, death, mutilation, and/or abandonment by family. Superheroes have to be driven, almost pathologically, to make the sacrifices needed to fight the bad guys, so such drive can only be born from an intense trauma.
One of my favorite superheroes is Batman. His story is pretty well known after multiple re-tellings in movies, cartoons, tv shows, and of course comics. His father was a wealthy philanthropist in Gotham. After leaving a show with his parents, a mugger accosts them and shoots his mother and father in front of him. A new tv show called Gotham is set to air that takes place before Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, when he’s still a young kid. The show includes a young Bruce Wayne, Commissioner Gordon, and some of Batman’s most famous foes before they became criminals.
Batman is truly a hero, but one who struggles as much with the darkness inside him as he does with the good side. I loved the line from the Chris Nolan directed, Batman Begins, when Arthur asks Bruce Wayne why he choose the name Batman. Wayne replied with: “Bats frighten me. It’s time my enemies shared my dread.”
Batman fights crime and pursues justice, but a part of him gets off on scaring the crap out of people and raining his own brand of hellfire down on the bad guys. That’s why the Joker is one of his greatest foes. They mirror each other. “You’re just a freak. Like me!” the Joker says in the Dark Knight.
What else makes Batman the perfect tortured hero?
His tragic past as explained previously.
Even though he fights for a just society, he is at odds with society. The police sometimes see him as more of a menace than a hero, and as Bruce Wayne, he often challenges the board of directors of his company and refuses to act like the good, malleable rich boy.
Darker heroes are obsessed with self-sacrifice to an almost pathological degree. Batman is pathological and obsessed. Probably too much, which is partly what makes him so interesting.
And of course, he’s irresistible to women. Women are drawn to tortured heroes like Batman. They want to be the one to touch the lost and emotionally fragile side of such a man, believing they will be the ones to heal him. Batman has had many romantic entanglements with femme fatales. I find his relationship with Catwoman particularly fascinating. While they often find themselves on opposite sides of the law, they more often than not find themselves on the same side in the bedroom J He’s also gotten together with Talia al Ghul, the daughter of his enemy, Ra’s al Ghul, and even had a son with her in one Batman incarnation.