Why Batman Is One Of The Most Successful Superheroes

June 28, 2012 12:00 pm

Batman is without a doubt one of the most famous super-heroes of all time. His position in pop-culture strengthens year by year, in spite of the fact the character was created more than seventy years ago. The questions is: how did such a creature become admired by so many?

Bruce Wayne is Batman’s secret identity. Bruce is a millionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and industrialist residing in fictional American Gotham City (which in the real world would be, without a doubt, New York City). His parents were Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha. While he was a child, Wayne witnessed his parents murdered by minor criminal Joe Chill. After his parents’ death, Bruce was raised by a butler named Alfred Pennyworth. They lived at Wayne Manor. Wayne takes an oath to fight crime at any cost, motivated primarily by revenge. Unlike most super-heroes he does not act in the name of goodness or justice. His war on crime is personal, and has nothing to do with protecting helpless people from evil. In that respect, Batman is an even more ambiguous character. He shares some similar characteristics with his villains. For example, his archenemy, the Joker, is a psychopath who escaped from the infamous mental hospital called Arkham Asylum. Batman is entirely the same in that respect, but he is driven by his obsession of fighting crimes. Another super villain called The Riddler is obsessed with inventing puzzles, riddles and word games. Similarly, Batman was created to be a detective mastermind. Another enemy,  Bane, shares Batman’s fixation on enormous strength. Scarecrow is a psychologist who wants to impose different phobias and fears by using specially prepared drugs. In turn, Batman intends to impose fear on his enemies. Unlike Scarecrow, Batman does not use drugs, but his image.

He has one of the features of the central tragic figure of tragedy: he is neither entirely good nor entirely evil. He does not pretend to be “pure” and “good” like other super-heroes. He crosses the line and often breaks the law to accomplish his goals. In spite of his misdeeds, police commissioner Jim Gordon trusts him, and calls when Gotham is in serious trouble. Batman doesn’t really fight crime, but rather his villains (whose characters are as complex as Batman). Batman is usually alone, and this lonely rider motif was explored by Hollywood in westerns that were in a way a heritage of 1930s Batman imagery.

He is also different from other superheroes. Unlike Superman or X-Men, he is mortal. Additionally, he doesn’t have superpowers. He has some equipment (for example Bat-mobile  utility belt or Bat-plane , but his most powerful weapons are physical strength and, most importantly, his attitude and will. He is tough, obsessed with fighting crime, and usually successful when battling the enemy. That is another reason why people identify with him. Despite his dark nature, Batman is one of the most likeable heroes.

He exists thanks to people such as Bob Kane, Bill Finger and many other artists, writers, editors, publishers, directors, actors and people of culture. But the other side of the coin are readers and all the fans of The Dark Knight that keep the story alive. I wonder if Kane had been alive, what would he have said about The Dark Knight and its success around the world? In July 2012, another Batman film is to be released. The Dark Knight Rises will have to challenge the success of its predecessor and retell a well-known story in such a unique way that it attracts audiences’ attention once again. Times are changing and visual and digital media are taking over. Yet, one has to bear in mind that without Batman comic books from the thirties, there would be no successful movies now.

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  • Joe

    Interesting article – I think the answer is definitely yes, certainly on the back of the recent trilogy!

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