1980s, analysis, arkham asylum, batman, batman begins, batman year one, bruce wayne, christian bale, comic, comics, complete works, critical analysis, DC comics, death, english, film studies, frank miller, gotham, media studies, origin story, re-envisioning, superheroes, the dark knight, the dark knight returns, the dark knight rises, theory, thoughts, update, year one
First off, let me apologize for the delay in getting this posted. After finishing “Batman: Year One,” I was so overwhelmed with its thematic depth that I really struggled in narrowing down a topic to write about. With that said, I hope you enjoy the following essay, and I will be posting another one later this week. If you have any specific area or topic, relating to “Batman: Year One” of course, that you would like to see written about please let me know. As always, I look forward to your comments and critiques.
Batman: No Longer the Hero
In “Batman Year One,” Frank Miller’s greatest accomplishment was removing Batman from his previous position of a hero, a being that is perfect and able to transcend societal and institutional constraints to fulfill his higher purpose, and instating him as a human, an imperfect person who does the best he can while operating within the limitations of society; although Batman possess extraordinary and valiant qualities, he is not without fault, nor is he free from the influence of his environment.
Although Batman is a crime fighter who saves innocent civilians and punishes criminals, his motivations are about as dark as they come. Although, when one places his motivations for vigilantism in the context of his traumatic personal history, they become much more reasonable and even relatable. Given the fact that Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents’ cold blooded murder at the age of six, it becomes understandable that his sole purpose for living is to exact revenge on the criminals of Gotham city; in fact, one can easily see how Bruce Wayne believes they are responsible for taking away everything he once had. Similarly, it becomes easy to understand the justification, and even necessity, of his violent tactics and methods, when one situates them within his environment. Gotham city is a cesspool of crime and violence, where the cops are hired killers, and the public officials serve the interests of the highest bidder. In this vile place, it is not only impractical to subdue criminals and turn them over to the police, but ineffective, since they will likely escape justice by bribing the police with their ill-gotten funds. In this position, Batman is left with no option but to violently combat the criminals who pollute Gotham city and threaten the safety of its law abiding citizens.
By conceptualizing Batman as a human and not as a hero, Frank Miller gives him the complex and multi-faceted characterization that he deserves. Batman is no longer the overly simplified symbol of unfaltering good that is easy to admire, yet nearly impossible to identify with; instead, he becomes a realistic and relatable example of the agency that an individual can possess, despite being constrained by the large and inescapable world in which he lives.