(Intelli-Gaming: Article) Of all the superheroes, Batman is my favourite. I have some material about Batman that I want to share and as such I wanted to devote an article to the myth, the legend. Invented in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the superhero has only his training, his wealth, his wits but nothing to fear about Kryptonite!
(Above: Scene Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (1996))
I will not cover everything in this article, of course. There is too much to cover. However, what you will find here will be the examination of the character and the training, some of the technology and some enemies of Batman. The Batcave deserves an article of its own. As well as Alfred, of course. Recently I presented Alfred Hitchcock Presents but the Alfred behind Batman, Mr. Pennyworth is another interesting character to look at.
First, as I often like to do, I will give the Pros and Cons for the character overall:
Bat - Pros
- No unnatural abilities (just training and wealth)
- Self-taught and self-made man
- Hero's journey is portrayed in Batman's troubled past
- Part detective, part vigilante
- Both pragmatism and aesthetics are used
- Lives normally in society as Bruce Wayne, which brings more interactions and intrigue, relationships
- Technology is key
- Overcoming your fears is a central theme
Bat - Cons
- Dark character (Dark Knight) - Wants to be feared
- Vengeance is often associated with the character
- Bats are not typically desired (the opposite of Catwoman)
Bruce Wayne - The real hero
It makes no doubt that the troubled past of Batman and the premature death of his parents is central to the story surrounding Batman. As many heroes have done in countless tales in the past, he must vanquish the obstacles that rise before him as he seeks to find a meaning to his existence.
For Bruce Wayne, enacting justice in Gotham as Batman is what he chose to do with his wealth, as a form of dividend paid back to society. As such, he uses the inner sorrow he has and the desire for vengeance that is present in him to punish the outlaws.
Unlike many other heroes, including Spiderman, Batman does not have any superpower. He simply trains to be strong and uses technology to gain the upper hand of situations.
Similarly to many others, he inhabits society as the billionaire Bruce Wayne and his interactions with various individuals make the stories more interesting than pure combat or special effects with new powers.
Note that the character has also often been depicted as a Playboy philanthropist and/or as a greedy industrialist. The views differ depending on the adaptations. Some paint batman as very dark, never laughing and cruel towards his enemies. But those are not the most frequent interpretations.
Interestingly, to me at least, it is this minimalism of the character that I like so much. He doesn't have many stated political opinions and Gotham is a fictitious city which is always presented in isolation.
The suspension of disbelief is minimal and Bruce Wayne's personal views are often expressed by Alfred or in a reserved manner, typical of the rich business owner that he is.
(Above: Batman concept in armour with a blue lit background)
Since Bruce does not have much personality, and since he wears a suit that look very credible for our real world, and since he is rich, he presents the perfect fulcrum for people to inhabit the character.
It is thus easy to embark on the journey as Batman since the audience shares his motivations and investigations. Thus we can easily imagine having his bat equipment and his strength. Those are attainable goals in real life.
One very interesting aspect of the character also is that he has faced his fears, internalised and rationalised them and now incorporated that fear into a weapon for justice that he transforms into.
Here is what I mean, in different words: Facing your fears is a good habit in life. It makes you stronger. Batman shows this to us. His fear of bats and his experience with them when he was young are events that he feared.
Instead of shying away from bats for the rest of his life, he instead took the bat, the animal, its representation and consumed it - not literally but figuratively. He became that fear so that he could use it against his foes. And it takes courage to face your fears. And that courage is in each one of us. Batman did it and his example helps us to overcome obstacles we face.
(Above: Batman drawn with pencil and ink, visible with machines in the background)
"There's nothing more traumatic than having your parents murdered before your eyes" -- Bob Kane and Bill Finger, on providing motivation for Batman
Man as a Bat
You can probably tell by my article that Batman is my favourite superhero. I wanted to be Batman as a kid.
I got to be Batman one night for Halloween but the cape was awful. It was probably in nylon or cotton and in my mind, Batman's cape had to be made of thick leather... or some other synthetic material that could add weight to the cape! My imagination was already vivid with aircraft cables tied to my heels and to the edge of the cape so that it could act as a parachute.
That's how I was thinking as a kid; How could the cape provide a parachute? It needed to be black and non-reflective. Ideally, the cape should also stop bullets and blades. That's what Batman teaches you: Overcome your obstacles with what you have. His brain, his good friend Alfred, his wealth, his time are all things that each one of us can realistically seek to have if we put efforts on those goals.
I appreciate the character because, as I mentioned above, he is minimalist enough to slip into the character and also because nothing is incredible about him. Well, overall, he is an incredible man, but this a perfect example where the sum of all parts is greater than each individual contribution.
What makes Batman is not just the animal. It is not just Alfred. But both are essential to Batman. And so is Bruce Wayne. And so is the bat suit, the car, the cave, the weapons, the chemistry, the information he has, the contacts in the police, the batsign, the tools he has built, his wealth... My point is that all of those elements come together to define the character.
How many times could Batman have blown up the enemies with a grenade or just showed up with a machine gun to mow them down? But we do not see Batman behaving like this because it would feel too much like a sucker punch. He may use such tactics sometimes but most of the time, he seeks to bring his opponents to justice.
Batman has some honour and chivalry. When we see Batman in his initial encounter with The Joker, at Axis Chemicals, in the 1991 film adaptation, Batman tries to save Jack Napier from death. As such, Batman is not just an efficient and pragmatic and ruthless killer. He is a Justiciar or Paladin first and foremost and sometimes is also depicted as an incarnation of vengeance or as a night masked vigilante who proffers his own kind of justice onto the criminals.
(Above: The Batwing in front of the Moon - Like the Batsign from Batman)
The Sign of the Bat
Part of Batman is also the detective. It only occurred to me after many years that Batman was really doing a lot of criminal investigative work. His cooperation with the police forces of Gotham is illustrated in the batsign. This giant projector, used by the police, projects a light pattern reminiscent of a Bat in the clouds. It is a Bat Signal that Batman is needed.
The batsign, of course, symbolises hope. It is a call for help. Hope for the police to get some help in a difficult case or help in terms of superiority. If something dangerous is about to happen in Gotham - as it often does - then having Batman to show up is a relief.
The batsign symbolises to criminals in Gotham that the "Winged Beast" is roaming the city.
It also acts as a honey pot since evil doers know they can call Batman by using his sign. Such events are depicted sometimes in the comic books and film adaptations. But most often, those uses of the batsign lead to crucial conversations between Batman and the police commissioner, James Gordon.
(Above: The Batmobile)
The Batmobile is a feature that is not seen often in comic books. Some heroes have their specific vehicles, such as The Punisher and his chopper but for Batman, who is a technology and engineering hero, the batmobile is his vehicle of choice.
Once again going back to chivalry, the batmobile serves as a horse for batman, improving his speed and also offering some protection as well as some attack power by itself.
When we see Batman calling his car from a distance, it is like a knight calling his horse. The parallels with Night Rider and his car is striking. But here, it is also implied that the batmobile is not alive and only executes programming directed by an AI to move around. So again, we see how technology has overcome the challenges faced by Batman.
Another vehicle that is typical and representative of the character is the Batcycle: Batman's motorcycle.
Notice that in both cases, we get an disproportionately strong engine (a turbo-reactor for the batmobile!) on wheels.
Back to the batmobile, the vast array of capabilities that have been attributed to that car over the years is amazing. From spinal-mounted machine guns to caltrops, scythes that extend from the wheels, an armadillo mode, a self destruction mode, rockets, etc. The list goes on regarding all of what it could do. The film adaptations by Tim Burton show many of those with great artistic expression, once again putting together the aesthetics of the bat with the pragmatism of the hunter.
More about Batman's relationship with Technology below, in Bat Aerospace & Engineering.
(Above: Batman in armour while fighting Super in Batman vs. Superman)
Bat Aerospace & Engineering Inc.
The Batwing is not seen as often as the batmobile is. Obviously, being a fighter jet, the batwing is even more impressive than the batmobile. But the batwing is not the same as the Batplane nor is the Batjet the same vehicle. Each is specific to its particular use and Batman is a master of having tools for a specific purpose.
His vehicles also use AIs to pilot themselves, much as modern military drones. Those various aerial vehicles represent the flying form of the bat and as such, they provide Batman with great speed, manoeuvrability and attack capabilities.
Boats have been featured in various Batman series. The name does not sound good however: The Batboat. The combination of a letter "t" with a letter "b" is difficult to pronounce. The Baboat would have sounded better but it doesn't work because it sounds a bit like the word Baby. So the creators stuck with the Batboat.
This last vehicle has been portrayed as a Batskiboat, as a Batsub and as Bat Hydrofoil over the years. In addition to the original speed boat design made for the 1966 film adaptation.
In fact, naming schemes are relatively simple when it comes to Batman. I am sure that readers will intuitively understand what type of vehicle the Batcopter looks like.
On top of that, Batman uses a variety of technological gadgets to accomplish his goals. Those include grappling hooks, shurikens in the form of a bat, self-guided devices, drones, explosives, gases, underwater respirators, air filters and so on.
(Above: Batman's Grappling Hook (1989 version))
Batman is just on another technological level when compared to the bad guys or even the police. Where the police force has 150 men that can't destroy the enemy robot, Batman will show up and use an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) to disable the robot and save everyone.
Being a master of technology, Batman makes use of electronic warfare and encryption to communicate with his vehicles or with his HQ, the batcave and most of all, with Alfred. More on this character down below.
In Gotham, the authors keep the police relatively harmless so that Batman can outshine them.
I found it interesting to observe that Iron Man needs technology to survive. Batman does not. Iron Man does not hide his identity, but Batman does. Iron Man is also a wealthy man and also uses his human wits and engineering skills to improve himself. But again, Iron Man cannot survive without his reactor core. He is part cyborg. Almost like Darth Vader...
Superman does not use technology or gadgets, of any kind. He IS the technology. Without having put the efforts, without having figured out all the problems and trial and errors that both Batman and Iron Man have had to face.
As such, Superman is thrust into this bellicose world as the strongest weapon the world has ever seen. There is no choice for Superman. He knows his power and his only choice is how he will use it.
As for James Bond, he also is a form of superhero. Similarly to Batman, he uses spying techniques, he investigates and he uses his physical and mental training to accomplish his mission.
But James Bond has a disinterested approach to technological gadgets. They are just that for him, gadgets, utterly disposable because he has experience. And experience shows you that plans are often obsolete at the start of the battle. As such, it fits the character to not worry too much about such mundane objects when he is confident and powerful as he is. James Bond is the hero, the gadgets just save his life.
(Above: Val Kilmer as Batman in the film: Batman Forever (1995))
Back to Batman, we can see how his technology is quite different. He does not take a disinterested view of those. Instead, quite to the contrary, he is deeply involved in the creation and refining of those pieces of equipment. In that regard, he reminds also of Ironman, but in a much more credible fashion.
Batman also has experience, like James Bond, but Batman always conspires. This is not pejorative. Conspiring against evil doers and criminal masterminds is the job of heroes. But notice how Batman is always planning ahead, from his computer, with maps, and tracking devices, and chemistry analysis and suspects...
Batman's conspiracies lead him to develop tools for each job. This is such a big appeal of the character because this inspired me, in my real life, to build things and improve them and to align the aesthetics to the practical.
Batman is both a nerd and an athlete. He is not a genius nor the strongest but just like a bat, it is the combination of both which make him a deadly opponent. By designing his own weapons and tools and by training himself to use them, Bruce Wayne extends his natural physical capabilities to spread justice around him.
As a martial arts fighter, Batman is interesting. Many superheroes have weapons, such as Thor and his hammer, Mjolnir. Batman has weapons, most of which are of a sneaky nature, such as shurikens, throwing knives and the Batarang (a Boomerang in the shape of a bat).
But one key aspect of his fighting techniques is that he is good at dodging blows. In some sense, Batman is a fantastic defensive fighter, with armour, reinforced fists, integrated weapons all the while staying agile, quick and manoeuvrable.
As was brilliantly illustrated in a more modern film adaptation Batman Begins (2005), by Christopher Nolan, Batman is the modern day techno-ninja.
Tons of toys have been produced over the years and the imagination behind the design of those toys is telling: Nearly every instance of Batman toys are specific technological facets of the same character:
- Night Shield
- Thunder Whip
- Tec Shield
And that is enough said about technology! There is more to be said on that subject and I have only covered a small part but more is to come in the Bat Cave where Batman has his headquarters.
(Above: Robert Pattinson as Batman, depicted with the rare warm colour)
"the confirmation of the Batman's identity lies with the young audience ...he doesn't have to be Bruce Wayne; he just needs the suit and gadgets, the abilities, and most importantly the morality, the humanity. There's just a sense about him: 'they trust him ...and they're never wrong." --Will Brooker, (2001), Batman Unmasked
Underground Cavern systems and Bat lairs
Those will be the topic of their own article in the future. There is much to share about the natural habitats and lairs of bats. There is even more to be discussed about the unique habitat of the Man Bat.
In future articles, I will share some of my drawings of Batcave concepts. Spoiler alert, I am not Batman and I don't pretend to be. But I have dreamed of having such a cool technological laboratory multiple times.
And since I also appreciate interior design and building architecture, those interests cross-pollinated in my mind's eye when it came to imagining concepts for the Batcave. I will share more later.
Natural predators of the Bat-Man
The Man Bat faces unique enemies which each have their own problems. Often, the adversaries of Batman that are truly worth the fight, are complex individuals with whom Batman engages in dialogue.
Any regular "Goon" which gets in the way of Batman is usually dispatched quickly without any need for communication. The comic books of old and some of the older series represented the action vividly with mentions of words such as: "BAM", "BOUM", etc.
Also, Batman is rarely depicted as cruel and as such, most of his enemies can surrender and be led to justice.
The desire that Batman has to Never kill another human comes from his personal tragedy and he does not want to become a murderer himself.
But the real enemies facing Batman are the masterminds behind those goons.
(The Joker - Illustration of Jack Nicholson in his 1989 role)
One such enemy is The Joker! Notice the dual opposition of characters where Joker is always laughing and making jokes, dressed as a clown, while Batman is always serious, dressed in black, like a criminal.
A very interesting part of the Joker, of course, is that he has no power at all, just by himself. Instead, he gets his power by manipulating others and with his uncanny luck. More modern takes on the character have always shown the emotional scaring suffered by this character. Unfortunately, the Joker illustrates what Bruce Wayne could have become had he given in to his fears.
The Catwoman is also an interesting choice of character to complement Batman. By doing her own kind of vigilante, sexy, sleek and all dressed in latex or vinyl, she represents temptation.
(Above: Selena Kyle as the Catwoman in the 1990 role in Batman Returns)
And there is danger to be found by giving in to temptation but of course, nothing is all black and white and often Catwoman will genuinely help Batman to do good instead of evil.
Selena Kyle by her full name, Catwoman did as Batman did: She integrated an animal in her own psyche to use it against her enemies. The inspiration from Panther style Kung Fu is also visible.
But Selena Kyle did this out of pure revenge and hatred. She was broken emotionally while in a weakened state of mind. She is a dark opposite to Batman who does not work with the police but instead towards her own ends. And she has many. As many as nine some say!
The Riddler, or Mr. E. Nigma, is just that! An Enigma to be solved, a Riddle to get rid of the Bat!
The Penguin was abandoned as a child due to his deformity. The emotional scar is here again present and once again, as opposed to Batman, this character has misplaced morality when acting as the Penguin.
Double-face once again reinforces the concept of falsified personalities and double characters. The Dark Knight and the millionaire Bruce Wayne. Selena Kyle and the illusive Catwoman. An enigma that no one can solve and a double-faced, dual identity man, broken from the inside. A man with a Dark Laughter because nothing is funny about him.
To my knowledge, all characters in Batman have emotional scars. And not only that, but those emotional scars are the main driver of their actions in Gotham. When you reflect on it, that notion is pretty universal - in real life as well as in Gotham.
(Above: Micheal Keaton in his role as Batman (1989) by Tim Burton - Notice the leathery quality of his armour.)
For Batman, there is a hotline, accessible 24/7 called "Alfred Pennyworth". Always available, ready and with words of wisdom, the character of Alfred is the ideal sidekick for Batman.
Obviously, the article would not be complete without saying a word about Robin, since he is the real sidekick, but that is all I have to say: a word! I do not give a lot of importance to Robin and I think many fans of Batman share my views. I do not dislike the character but I never found much interest in Robin. I never portrayed myself as Robin. Always as Batman.
The important character is Batman himself and for a dark shadowy knight acting out of revenge or using stealth as an advantage, him acting alone fits quite well with his character.
As such, Alfred provides the background tapestry which fill in the blanks. Alfred is there to remind Mr.Wayne of a special appointment he might have or to tell him that the new retro-thrusters are ready.
Alfred is the anchor Batman needs and often provides clues that help Batman, much like Watson in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and also quite like MI6 in Ian Flemming's James Bond.
These higher level intelligence, while supervising things at a higher level than Batman, are still extremely dependant on the practical field work executed by Batman. It is the symbiotic nature of those relationships that make them all endure and that makes them interesting.
(Above: Multiple Incarnations of Alfred over the years - Batman's Alfred (DC Comics))
I have not delved deep in the character of Alfred for the purpose of this article but I just wanted to share my views on this important character without whom Batman would not be integral. That's what I meant by symbiotic nature: The mutual dependency.
He acts as the old Master, the old Sage, the provider of advice and wisdom who has a detached view of events and a strong attachment to the world outside of the Batcave. He is both an anchor, a mentor and a friend to Batman.
He is different from a father however. The thing is that Bruce Wayne officially has Alfred on a payroll. As such, Alfred is the employee and it is expected that Bruce Wayne will not be the one looking after his employee. With a father, Bruce would always be conflicted with Alfred. With a Master, the knowledge of Alfred would leave people curious, wanting to go upstream to the great grand father to find the original master.
But since they have a special "business" relationship, it works quite well. We also don't feel bad at all for Alfred because he seems to enjoy the luxuries of Wayne manor as much as he pleases. We also imagine that Alfred gets a good paycheck given the fortune of Bruce but it doesn't seem to matter. An old friend that benefits from your company tends to stay.
Keep in mind that when you are alone, if some accident happens to you, it can be very difficult to get help. The presence of a friend can drastically improve your capacity to get help. How many times have we seen Alfred save the day by being there, ready in action, just when Batman desperately needs him?
A friend can save your life when you can't do it alone. Luckily Alfred is a fictional character since that allows him to provide Bat Support 24/7 and that means a constant "get out of jail card" for Batman.
What's not available 24/7 is Alfred Hitchcock. And he had no interest in saving your lives. Watch more about him in Presenting Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Coming Up Next
Stay tuned! Coming up next in the same Bat Blog, on this Bat Channel, same Bat time is a look at my first 50 articles milestone. I want to highlight some of them and it will be good to take a look back.