My Deep, Dark Comic Book Secret

Admittedly, this is a weird thing for someone who blogs (and thinks and talks) about comic books as much as I do to admit.  Hell, it’s something weird for anyone who enjoys popular culture to admit.  But it’s the truth.  I was actually inspired by a recent post Nancy wrote at Graphic Novelty 2 as well as one by Emrys M. over at New to Comics to just come on out and say this.  So here we are.  I’m going to be honest.  The truth – my deep, dark, comic book secret – is about to be revealed.  Are you ready?  Okay…let’s go.

I don’t like Batman.  Really.  No matter how I try, I just don’t see the appeal.

Okay…hold on.  Hold on.  Wait!  Just…let’s just all calm down for a second.  Before any wood is gathered for a crucifixion let me elaborate.  It’s not that I hate the character.  I maintain that 2008’s The Dark Knight is one of the most artistic films (let alone comic book films) I’ve ever seen.  And, growing up as a child of the eighties and adolescent of the nineties, I had to (kind of) like Batman or I’d never get to go see any superhero movies on the big screen.  I watched (and enjoyed) the wild and wacky Adam West/Burt Ward series.  I also watched (without regularity) and (occasionally) enjoyed Batman: The Animated Series.  And I’ll admit that DC’s Detective Comics is one of my favorite titles in their new Rebirth line (although, admittedly it’s for the relationships and chemistry between all the characters that surround Batman…so technically I love it in spite of not because of Batman).  So I don’t hate the character by any stretch of the imagination.  I just don’t really like him.

Secret 2

Photo Credit – DC Comics

As a kid, Batman was always too dark for me.  Sure the comic and/or cartoon could be a bit scary at times but it wasn’t that facet that bothered me so much.  Rather it was the angry, brooding, somber feeling that always seemed to permeate the narratives.  Sure, I read “Knightfall,” “Knight Quest,” and “Knight’s End”…but I did it because I felt I had to as a “comic collector” NOT because I liked the stories or the characters.  And I never stayed with any of the Bat titles for long.

As an adult, the more I encounter or consider Batman, the less interested in him I am.  To me, Batman is just a developmentally stalled, obsessive, angry man.  He’s not psychologically healthy by any stretch of the imagination, even incorporating a comic book suspension of disbelief!  ONE MOMENT has defined literally EVERYTHING about his life.  He has no real relationships…it’s all detecting, hunting, and fighting to (in a gravelly voice) protect my city.  I also don’t really care for his reliance on fear as a mainstay weapon.  I prefer my heroes to be above that.  Perhaps most of all, Batman’s always felt like a one dimensional character to me.  I love much of his supporting cast!  I think he probably has perhaps the most fascinating rogue’s gallery of any superhero.  I also think those he works with are captivating in their own way too.  But I just find him to be a one trick pony.

Secret 3

“Hey, do you want to have a conversation??  Let’s talk about crime…or punching bad guys…or how my parents were murdered…or crime.  Also, note how dark and edgy I am!” / Cynicism Credit – Me, Photo Credit – DC Comics

While I’m alienating myself from the majority of comic book fans I might as well reiterate what I’ve written before – THERE’S NO WAY BATMAN COULD EVER BEAT SUPERMAN IN A FIGHT.  Period.  My suspension of disbelief is good…but it can’t accommodate that.  Yes, he’s “cool” but he couldn’t defeat Supes.  In my opinion, the video below is still the best and most accurate presentation I’ve ever seen of how a Superman/Batman team-up or fight would really play out :).

Comparatively, I’ve always loved Dick Grayson.  I couldn’t articulate why as a kid, nor did I give it much thought.  But Nightwing, to me, always seemed like a far cooler hero than Batman.  My favorite Batman comics where always the ones where Nightwing showed up or, in the wake of 1994’s Zero Hour event, when Dick assumed the mantle of Batman for a time.  As an adult, I think part of the draw has to do with the nature of Dick Grayson’s character.

Secret 4

Photo Credit – DC Comics

While Bruce Wayne’s always seemed like the archetypal static character to me, Dick has a far more dynamic nature.  He is a hero born of similar circumstances and training.  Like Bruce, he lost his parents.  He was taken in by Bruce and taught the skills of the Batman.  But from that point, he’s continued to grow…and I don’t think Batman has.  While Bruce seems developmentally stalled, Dick has evolved not just in the scope of his activities – growing from the original Robin to Nightwing to Batman to Agent 37 of Spyral to Nightwing reborn – but also in his emotional landscape.

In October of 1993, in Batman #500, Jean-Paul Valley had assumed the mantle of the Batman after Bruce’s battle with Bane in the “Knightfall” storyline left him physically and emotionally broken.  Jean-Paul’s approach to Batmanning was becoming increasingly violent and it had Robin (Tim Drake) worried.  Nightwing appears when Oracle tells him what’s happened to discuss Valley with Tim.

Secret 5

Photo Credit – DC Comics

Dick – “He asked someone to fill in for him.”

Tim – “Jean-Paul Valley – formerly known as Azrael.”

Dick – “And he didn’t ask me?”

Tim – “Would you have accepted?”

Dick – “If he needed me.”

Tim – “All right – but would you have wanted to accept?”

Dick – “No.”

Tim – “And he knew that, Nightwing.  He said you’ve become your own man – beyond his shadow.”

Dick Grayson has always been an honorable character, there to help Bruce when needed (stepping into the cape and cowl himself on more than one occasion).  But he is also always struggling to discover who he is now.  Whereas Bruce seems forever trapped in that moment when his parents were brutally murdered, Dick moves beyond the loss of his parents, beyond the role of kid sidekick, beyond the role of Batman’s protégé.  He is always seeking growth in his own life – balancing a deep attempt at self-awareness with living in the present moment.  This emotional and psychological quest is often illustrated physically/symbolically in his costumes and alter egos.  He’s Robin, Nightwing, Batman, Grayson: Agent 37, and so on.  In addition to the emotional growth and depth of the character, Dick Grayson is funny.  I like that!  Given my lifelong love of Spider-Man, it should come as no surprise that Batman’s dour gloom doesn’t do it for me.  But I LOVE Nightwing’s banter!  He’s so quippy!

Secret 7

Photo Credit – DC Comics

In the fall of 1995, Nightwing received his first solo four issue miniseries!  (Aaaahh!!!  I was SO excited!)  The series saw Dick wrestling with his identity as well.  First, he tries to put aside his vigilante life as Nightwing.  However, he learns his parents might not have been killed by Tony Zucco after all.  So Nightwing heads to a fictional Eastern European country looking for answers and ultimately reaffirms his decision to be a costumed hero.  In a moment of significant introspection and honesty he tells Batman, “What I’ve gotten is the realization that you did the best you could with what you had.  You weren’t a perfect father but that’s okay because probably nobody’s a perfect father.  No family’s perfect, either.  I was lucky,  I was privileged.  Not because of the big house and the money, but because you gave me a lot of yourself.  You taught me, you showed me, you encouraged me – you never lied to me and you never demanded that I be anything I’m not.  I didn’t imitate you because you insisted that I do so, but because I wanted to.  Of all the men I knew, you were the most worthy of imitation.  Then I blamed you for letting me be who I was.  Pretty dumb…you and Alfred gave me a home and you gave me what we don’t mention.  The L word.  You were the best family I could have had.  Thanks.”  A scene like this illustrates great personal growth and maturation in a character.

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Tim Drake – Red Robin, Jason Todd – Red Hood, Dick Grayson – Agent 37, and Damian Wayne – Robin / Photo Credit – DC Comics

His journey of discovery and reinvention doesn’t end there.  More contemporarily, Dick Grayson had arguably one of the most significant shakeups (at least in regard to his heroic identity) in the New 52 relaunch, faking his death (with the help of Bruce of course) and becoming an international spy working for Spyral.  And I would whole-heartedly agree with Andrew (and if you haven’t read his posts on this blog you should totally check out all their brilliant DC Rebirth goodness here and here) in saying that Nightwing is far and away one of the best Rebirth titles DC has going.

On the opening page of Nightwing Rebirth #1 Dick explains, “Nightwing.  Do you know where that name came from?  Most people think it’s a ‘Batman’ thing.  Y’know, former Robin emulating his former mentor because bats go out at night.  They’ve got wings.  It makes sense.  But actually, it came from Superman.  See, Big Blue told me about these legendary heroes from his home planet, Nightwing and FlamebirdThe Nightwing was ‘The great rebuilder.  The catalyst of change.  Eternally reborn to start anew.'”  That seems to be the driving point of the new series as well.  So far it’s seen Dick reclaiming his Nightwing identity and travelling internationally, working a deep cover operation to dismantle the criminal/terrorist organization known as the Parliament of Owls.  There’s also a budding romance with everyone’s favorite Batgirl, Barbara Gordon and a tension-filled relationship with his “new mentor” and partner Raptor.  Whereas Batman always feels stagnant to me, Nightwing’s stories routinely seem fresh and exciting.

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Nightwing – “It’s okay Batman.  Michael may not like you but you’re still pretty much the most popular/lucrative comic book character in the world.”  Batman – “Hrrm…sigh.” / Photo Credit – DC Comics

It’s not just Nightwing either.  He’s my favorite of the crew but as a kid I remember reading and really enjoying the Robin title staring Tim Drake too.  I also read a little Batgirl.  Presently, when I look at the three DC titles that have earned a place on my pull list two are Batman related – Detective Comics and Nightwing.  And the two that are closest to being adopted for permanent membership in my file are Batgirl and Red Hood and the Outlaws, two more Batman-adjacent titles.  I find the characters that fill the world of the Batman to be interesting, engaging, layered, and exciting…I just don’t think any of those adjectives apply to Batman himself.  At least they don’t for me.

I know…I know.  Yikes, right??  Judge if you will, but hey, I’m being honest.  However, in the interest of honesty, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge there is one IMPORTANT and OBVIOUS exception to my constant disinterest in the Batman and that is LEGO Batman!

Hahahaha, YES.  Is it too soon to say this will probably be THE GREATEST SUPERHERO MOVIE OF 2017?!?  Hmm…it probably is.  I’m most likely being prematurely congratulatory (although, if I were a betting man I’d say it will easily take Justice League to school).  But, premature or not, I don’t care.  I said it!  And I’ll stick to it.  Ah, I love me some LEGO Batman!

 

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28 thoughts on “My Deep, Dark Comic Book Secret

  1. Shame… Shame. No just kidding I had a hard time getting into Batman myself. But as an adult Ive read a tonne of his back catalogue, and some of the best books are Batman mysteries. Now majority of my collection is the Dark Knight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good sign…right? There may be hope for me yet :). Do you have any suggestions for TPBs I should check out? I’ve heard ‘The Black Mirror’ was an exceptionally good mystery story…

      Also, thank you for not shunning me and/or showering me with scorn!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Dark Victory or Long Halloween portray him best, theyre the sequels to the Batman book I reviewed a couple weeks ago. Hush is decent, and Broken City is a great book. It’s okay man, I think there has just been too many versions of Batman and his identity is kind of a mess, at least for our generation.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you! I will absolutely try these out. It’s not like I’m opposed to reading about Batman (obviously), I’ve just never connected to him as I say above. I’m going to give these trades a try…we’ll see if I can be saved :).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post- but don’t give in to the thought that you have to like Batman! I saw this Pete Holmes video before and thought it was perfect. PH also skewers the X-Men and some of the character’s powers in other skits. In fact, I now have an idea for a future post using his videos!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the solidarity Nancy! I’m open to reading (or the excuse to read) anything but, when the dust settles and I still think he’s an ornery old guy, I’m happy the hear that you’ll still have my back.

      Those X-Men videos ARE great. I am now super excited to see what sort of post you’re going to put together with them!!! I can’t wait!

      Like

    1. I appreciate the support of my counter-comic cultural opinion. The disguising who he is is an interesting point too. I remember reading an essay (maybe it was by Chuck Klosterman?) where the author explored – if Batman was to appear right now, in real life – how quickly the NSA, FBI, and Homeland Security would figure out who he is. It was both fascinating…and disturbing! Whenever I read a lot about government surveillance it gets unnerving :/.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats on working up the courage to reveal your secret. Also, I very much agree with you that Dick Grayson is the far superior character; ‘Grayson’ was one of my favourite recent series’.
    I’m hoping the great work Tom King did on that carries over to his run on Batman.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were part of the inspiration good sir! I appreciate knowing you’re another fan who prefers Dick Grayson too. I’ve only read parts of Tom King’s run with ‘Grayson’ but I’m looking at collecting all the trades. Given how much I enjoy Dick Grayson as a character (and the glowing reviews I keep hearing about it) I think the series need a home in my collection.

      Like

  4. I didn’t expect that to be your big DARK secret! Especially that he is my favorite. 😦
    Funny how Spider-Man is my 2nd favorite because the two are polar opposites. I love Batman and the Bat-Family and the Bat-Rogue’s Gallery and the Bat-Everything. I hated the LEGO Batman in the very good LEGO Movie, but the LEGO Batman Movie looks hilarious. Best superhero movie of 2017? You have a good bet, but mine is on Spider-Man: Homecoming.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love how your personality shines through here. I’m not the biggest fan of Batman especially because of his brooding and lack of relationships. I do, however, love me some Nightwing! I love reading his stories even though I just got back into reading DC comics. I’m enjoying what I’ve read so far

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! Yes, yes! Let’s do it! Great idea! I would love a Nightwing movie. I would like Zach Snyder and the guy behind the last two 00’s Batman films to stay as far away from it as they can. If they were to even sneeze on one of the grips or go near any sound equipment the project could easily go south.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I get it, you know. I love Batman but I can see why his forever dour demeanour and his absolute obsession with justice and crime could appear one dimensional.
    But don’t you think that this makes him more fascinating and in some way, gives him all sorts of dimensions?? Parents dying makes for a compelling origin story but that particular thing in Bruce, unique to him, that makes him take that pain and trauma and turn it into Batman. That thing is what makes me wonder more about him, and not just me.
    What do you think??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the overwhelming majority of the world (clearly) agrees with you :). But, for me, it still doesn’t grab me. To compare, look at Peter Parker. Uncle Ben dies as a result of his own negligence. Yes, Peter mourns but he still goes on to have a happy marriage, children (even if she doesn’t survive in the 616 timeline), normal friendships outside of crime fighters, a career as a photo journalist and – most recently – run his own company. We never really see Bruce do any of that in regard to business or relationships. Granted, I don’t read Batman often but I never remember Bruce ever doing Wayne Industries stuff. Heck, he’s rarely in the Manor. He’s always in the basement. So I can totally see where you’re coming from – and the majority of comic fandom gets it too! But I still just see what I see in regard to the Bat. And I own how weird that makes me :/.

      Like

      1. But that’s probably what makes Batman stand out to me. You make a good point about Peter Parker. Trauma and tragedy are a part of our heroes’ lives but they don’t have to let that get into the way of living their lives.
        But I’ve also seen people, in real life, holding grudges or being stuck in a place, emotionally, for abmormally long times. That’s why I like Batsy. He represents that facet of humanity which you usually find in super villains. And that’s the reason people love him.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Not a Batman fan either, not because of the premise (although a traumatised billionaire beating up poor people rather than seeking help is it’s own issue) but because in recent years, we’ve got the “because I’m Batman” thing, were he wins because Batman is cool. A lot of older Batman stories don’t have this need for the more omnipotent Batman we’ve been getting. I don’t like Batman, because he’s hard to relate to. The whole argument that he’s more realistic because he doesn’t have powers doesn’t make it any more relatable or less of a power fantasy. But you and I remain in the minority. Some of the best Batman stories I have read aren’t really about the Batman.

    Fantastic post by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And I completely agree with you; the best Batman stories I’ve read are the ones where he isn’t front and center. I think that’s why I’m intrigued by the current run of ‘Detective Comics.’ I also love how you phrased this issue – the “because I’m Batman/Batman omnipotence” story technique. I think you captured it perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

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