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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Babbling about Batman

I have to say, I pretty much agree with this post by Diamondrock. It IS really hard to believe that having criminals suddenly believe Batman's dead would cause everything to go to hell, if we look at the fact that he'd been gone for an entire year relatively recently in comic book time.

Granted, I rather subscribe to the point of view that I think Dark Knight represented very well: that rather than acting as a deterrent, Batman's fear-based tactics caused the criminals to become more extreme as a response. So that probably effects how I see the entire deal.

In a weird sort of way, I've never really liked the idea of Batman as a legacy hero anyway. Batman Beyond was fantastic, don't get me wrong, but I thought it was fairly significant that the series functioned basically by completely transforming the role entirely. Terry's Batman was fun and interesting, but he wasn't a terrifying shadow-dwelling creature of the night. He wasn't a man nearly mad with grief dressed up in a bat costume in order to fight fear with fear.

I thought Nightwing's whole Prodigal storyline was (or at least should have been) the perfect vehicle to separate him from the would-be-successor role. If you measure a sidekick's maturity and level of adulthood by when he assumes the role of his mentor, than Dick had reached that point. And then he gave it back. And it wasn't a regression at all, it was Dick Grayson returning to the role that Dick Grayson was meant to be. The Batman role was a digression, not an end-goal.

Tim Drake's probably the best character temperamentally and intellect-wise to become a Bruce-style Batman, but honestly, the whole Titans of Tomorrow storyline was probably fairly accurate in terms of determining what would happen if Tim actually did become Batman. Tim's a very nice, well meaning boy, but he lacks... something in his moral compass. He's too tolerant of shades of gray.

Bruce keeps together as Batman by having a very black and white moral code. It's not always very fair (especially to poor Cassandra Cain) but it's what keeps him from crossing the line. Dick is generally more accepting of the foibles of others, but keeps the same strict moral code for himself. Tim... Well, for all of my issues with Devin Grayson's run on Nightwing, the one thing that I was always intrigued by was the role Blockbuster's death played in his downward spiral. The fact that he'd let Tarantula drop him was a big and devastating event that shook his perception of himself and his morality.

This intrigued me because in one of the very FIRST stories where Tim Drake became Robin, he ended up facing King Snake, with Shiva at his side. And the story's climax involved Shiva dangling King Snake over the edge of the building about to let him drop. And Tim, knowing full well what she would do, walked away.

Granted King Snake came back, but Tim didn't KNOW that was going to happen. And that wasn't some new writer's way to rewrite the character as an EXTREME or dark character. That was in one of the first stories! (It's compiled in the Robin: A Hero Reborn TPB, if you're curious.) His track record since then hasn't been extremely stellar either.

Like Bruce, Tim's brilliant, determined, calculating, and willing to take extreme measures to make things safe, but without Bruce's equally extreme moral code, I don't think he'd be able to take the role without it swallowing him whole.

I do think though, that if Tim were to go dark, he would be a much MUCH awesomer prodigal Robin than Jason Todd could ever be.

Thinking about it, I actually think Barbara would be the only character that I could actually imagine taking over Bruce's role, having both the intellect and ability to carry on his work and the morality and strong sense of self to keep from being swallowed up by it. But then, I'd really hate to see her limit herself like that.

But yeah, ultimately, I really don't think that Batman works as a legacy role. The sane and smart thing for the Batclan to do if they believe Bruce is dead would be to retire his cowl, and continue to protect Gotham in their own ways, since no matter who ends up with the role, they're going to end up miserable.

But then, if they were sane, they probably wouldn't be Batclan. :-P


  • At January 07, 2009 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think you're right, these characters are all worthy heirs to Batman, but they're not Batman, and trying to fit into that suit wouldn't work for any of them in the long term.

    I think the interesting "point of divergence" for Barbara from the Bat-family is that she doesn't have the same absolute attitude against killing (in self-defense) that Bruce and Dick have. Even in her Batgirl days, she was somewhat separate from the Batcave crew, never "recruited" by Bruch. And she's a cop's daughter. She'd never be an "'90s-STYLE XTREEEM VIOLENZ!!1!11" character, but in extreme circumstances, she'd make some decisions Bruce never would.

  • At January 07, 2009 10:57 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    It seems that you almost need all of them in order to make up One Batman...which is rather awesome for Bruce, if you think about it. And I'm not a huge Bat-fan.

    But yes, I do think that Tim has the potential to be scary as heck. Perhaps the whole point of the battle for the cowl is to prove that NO one is capable of actually taking over for Bruce on a permanent basis.

  • At January 07, 2009 7:24 PM, Blogger Your Obedient Serpent said…

    In a weird sort of way, I've never really liked the idea of Batman as a legacy hero anyway. Batman Beyond was fantastic, don't get me wrong, but I thought it was fairly significant that the series functioned basically by completely transforming the role entirely.

    Speaking as someone who's my got some affection for the legacy hero concept, I should point out that almost all of the successful legacy heroes did just that. "Legacy" is a lot more than just sticking a new guy in the same old suit and the same old gimmicks. By and large, that just doesn't work -- witness the innumerable half-assed attempts at passing on the mantle of Dr. Fate.

    Sure, we've had a bunch of different Green Lanterns, but that's a special case: the "complete transformation" of the role between Alan and Hal made "Green Lantern" a title rather than a persona. The Flash has managed it by maintaining a strong sense of legacy even from Barry's first appearance, and by emphasizing the differences in personality between the different Flashes.

    Al Pratt to Ray Palmer? another complete overhaul. And, sure, I loved Ryan Choi when Gail Simone was writing him, but the real heir to that mantle is Albert Rothstein, over in JSA.

    (And on that note... if you'd told me in 1984 that, in 25 years, the only active hero from the debut of Infinity, Inc. would be "Nuklon", I'd have accused you of dabbling in recreational pharmaceuticals.)

  • At January 08, 2009 2:08 PM, Blogger Duskdog said…

    I like the idea of legacy heroes in general, but the one thing I dislike about them is the inherent idea that, by taking over the mentor's mantle, the new character is somehow becoming something more -- which implies that they were lacking something as heroes in their previous identity.

    It's not true of every legacy hero, of course. Wally becoming the Flash was expected and very natural (it would be silly to remain Kid Flash into your 30's, after all). And I like the way the Flash legacy has always been handled. The Blue Beetles have always been handled very well, too, probably because none of them were "sidekicks" to start with, and fell into the roles sort of by accident, with different power sets (or lack thereof) and both Ted and Jaime try hard to honor the legacy of their predecessor without becoming clones of them. And I love the way that the multiple Arrows and Green Lanterns can all exist at the same time in a family fashion. (Which, ironically, is what the Batclan has always done up until now, even though the only "shared" role has been the Robin role.)

    Dick has already stepped away and forged his own heroic identity. As you've pointed out, becoming Batman feels like a step back for him, not a step forward. Even Jason, to an extent, has his own identity and really ought to be spending his time cementing that rather than trying to become someone else. Tim becoming Batman feels a little more natural because he's still a teen and still a sidekick, and the natural way to step up is to take the mentor's role, but I think he could honor both Batman and most importantly himself better by forging his own identity the way that Dick has. And Barbara. Either take the role of Robin itself from "teen sidekick" to "adult superhero in his own right", or become something else entirely.

    On a related note, I never understood why anyone would want to be a Batgirl, Batwoman, Batboy, etc. anyway. No matter how awesome the guy you're linking yourself to is, you're automatically setting yourself up in a role that implies that you're lesser than and/or subservient to the big guy/gal.


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