Batman is the most complex character in comic book history, and that is why he is objectively the best character in comic book history. Over 75 years worth of stories agree with me. That complexity could take years to fully explore. I intend to join the countless legion of fans who have taken up that noble cause with a new column. Why We Need Batman.
Have you ever wondered why Batman is even in the Justice League? Is it because he wants to save the world? The universe? The multiverse? Or maybe just Gotham City, which is part of all three of those larger-than-life conceptual land and space and time masses? Seriously, though. Why is he there? Does he even like them? It doesn’t really seem like it very often. But sometimes, just sometimes, he says something that walks the line and crosses right over into damn right poignancy. And reminds us all that he is in fact human.
Take Superman, for example. Written expertly by Jeph Loeb (one of very few writers who can multitask so well and own characterization of such polar opposites that we can almost live with his over ten-year absence from DC Comics), he once said this when pushed on the subject of Clark Kent, his most powerful teammate:
But he’s also had some choice words directed at Superman. Frank Miller once infamously penned these lines from Bruce to Clark: “You sold us out, Clark. You gave them the power that should have been ours. Just like your parents taught you. My parents taught me a different lesson… lying on this street… shaking in deep shock… dying for no reason at all. They showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to.” Harsh? Yes. But are they words any less true? An ongoing theme in the alliance between Batman and Superman is that Superman sees Batman as a friend and Batman sees Superman as a threat. But those are some pretty intense words for someone who only serves the purpose of “needing to be watched,” aren’t they? Take, for example, when Geoff Johns had Batman at odds with Superman during the seemingly “infinite” Crisis:
To be fair, friends fight. And in superhero comics, friends literally fight. A lot. So it can’t be completely dropped right then and there. Batman doesn’t always trust Superman, or so he says. Fine. Superman doesn’t always do right by Batman, in his mind, or so we are led to believe if we are not ourselves aliens with pretty much every super power in the universe available to us. Fine. But if he’s that big of a threat, why doesn’t Batman just kill him? Or, since he’s so not into the whole murder thing, why doesn’t he try and stop him? Like, for real. He’s got Kryptonite. He can team up with all sorts of shady individuals who want to take him out. But he doesn’t. Ever. And why is that? Greg Pak offered up some insight, albeit from Clark’s perspective:
But that’s not the real reason. I say they’re friends. But that friendship has been through a lot, as you would expect. For the sake of not over-analyzing or continuing to beat a dead horse, which neither hero would approve of doing, I think this was covered best by Catwoman, of all people. I’ll just leave this as my final thought on why the world needs Batman. Without him, Superman wouldn’t be grounded enough. He wouldn’t have any doubt. He would just be easily taken advantage of, turned into a weapon, and then we’d really be screwed.
You go, Selina! Gotta love a woman who not only isn’t afraid to call out Superman of all people, but is willing to do it for the sake of something as simple as love, a feeling that will be explored in due time. But that’s enough for now. Convinced yet? Do you think the world needs Batman?