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Subj: Batman #680 - The mysteries solved?
Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 02:31:38 pm EDT (Viewed 2449 times)
Having read this issue, I have some mad speculations which I'll frame simply: in some sense, all the theories are right, and the only way Batman can win is to die. And I mean ALL the theories, the big ones about Batman and the theories about this particular storyline.
I'll start with some of the simpler stuff, and move up.
Batman Is Crazy
More accuratey, Batman is craziness. Steve Engelhart famously penned a cpation in the legendary "Laughing Fish" story: "Ever since Joe Chill stpped out of the dark to gun my parents down, my world goes crazy sometimes." Batman isn't just the resaponse to the craziness, he is the craziness.
Little Bruce Wayne became a symbol, a symbol he believed in so much that he turned his life into the maintenance of that symbol. He made his entire existence a prolongation of that crazy, horrifying moment when he watched his parents die in front of him. This is part of why Simon Hurt has been able to tear him down over the years.
How did Batman choose to deal with the Joker? As the Joker himself puts it, he gave hismelf a "cheap nervous breakdown" as if he could simply become the Joker, be that crazy, and achieve what Le Bossu calls "a product of random circumstance" by planning the whole thing out in advance. Being the Joker, to Batman, was just a matter of willingly plunging into one more bit of craziness, and now he's paying the price.
Thomas Wayne Is the Black Glove
Or rather, what Thomas Wayne has become in order for Batman to work has made him the ultimate antagonist. As long as Bruce has that "First Batman" costume in the cave, as long as he's got the portrait over the fireplace and drops roses every year at Crime Alley, he's going to be Batman and not Bruce Wayne.
The ideal of Thomas Wayne's life, the ideal of his memory as the perfect father and the archetypal innocent victim of crime that Batman's always trying to rescue too late has become part of what destroys Bruce Wayne. Thomas Wayne is an unanswerable ghost, an image or a phantom demanding soemthing Bruce Wayne can never do: save me, avenge me, or, worse, become me. Batman is a symbol of all of that; but no one can do all of that. Thomas Wayne died int hat alley. Bruce Wayne sacrificed being Bruce Wayne, but also the life Thomas Wayne led.
Thomas Wayne didn't wear a costume to fight crime, he wore it as a fun game at a party once upon a time. He was a doctor, a socialite, a high-functioning part of the normal, sane world Batman treats as the game of dual identities. He didn't use Wyne Mnaor as a secret base with a hidden crime lab and trophy gallery, he used it as a home in which he lived a married life and raised a son. Joe Chill didn't kill that, not all by himself. Bruce Wayne killed that in becoming Batman. He took a home and turned it into a military base,a secret headquarters, the biggest and bestest fort ever.
Batman is something Thomas Wayne would never have wanted for Bruce, and would never have imagined. "Imagination is the fifth dimension;" it's not normal reality. It's bigger, wilder, madder, but ultimately no place a human being can live.
Simon Hurt Isn't Thomas Wayne; He's Just the Black Glove, Just Simon Hurt
It's all in the name, really: Simon Hurt is pure hurt, the pain that made the Batman. Even if there's some real guy under the old Thomas-Batman costume, everything Hurt has done is simply to magnify the terrifying consequences of a decision Bruce Wayne made once upon a time. What Hurt has done is take the "fractured psyche" that split Batman off from Bruce Wayne and buried little Bruce, and keep the fragmentation going.
Batman wants to be more than a mortal? Fine, he can pare everything that's left of the sham of Bruce Wayne's adulthood away and become the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh, the superman with no trace of the man, running at a pace even Batman (as Bat-Mite/Might) knows is unsustainable by a real human being anda real human body, barking madly into a broken radio and calling it an alien geegaw.
Batman wants to live in a superpowered world of mad costumes and high goofy adventure? Fine. Talk to a floating little imp -- never mind the creepy-crawly on its shoulders, the hidden symbol of the pain ad seriousness supposedly lost behind the wacky 1950s fun -- and flashback to impossible adventures on alien planets whenever you like. Fight wackos like the Joker and the campy "Club of Villains," more people playing along witht he childish fantasy of being Batman, cheerful crimefighter and thwarter of ludicrous theme villains. Forget, for the sake of fun, that "Batman is cool! Batman wears black!" and put on brright grey tights, use a glowing red telephone to call your buddy Jim Gordon, and run downtown in day-glo blue and a modded-out supercar to stop Egghead from stealing all the chickens in Gotham City.
Whatever you do, don't live your life, don't find love, don't grow up. Play, play, play!
Simon Hurt Is Thomas Wayne
He's wearing that first Batman costume, he's inhabiting Wayne Manor, he's playing a lethal game with lives with other bored rich folks. He knows Bruce better than Bruce knows himself. And he' a doctor, albeit a creepy doctor who uses his skills to harm people, not to save them.
In short, he's the dark thing that Thomas Wayne can be if Thomas Wayne is the hurt that made the Batman. If Bruce is crazy, living in a symbol, and the symbol is lifted off his father's ghost and made into a shrine in the Batcave -- the glass case with "The First Batman" costume in it -- then Thomas Wayne, the impossible ghost, is a dark spirit indeed. If he's Batman's father as much as Bruce's, then yes, he is the source of all that pain and all that craziness.
Thomas Wayne, the ghost in Bruce's head, was the first oen to put on the black gloves of the Batman. His existence, for Bruce, is a pattern of black and red, jet-hued leather or Crime Alley asphalt showing spots of blood from a gunshot wound or from one of those devastating Batman punches. You can't take the red without the black, the black without the red. If Bat-Mite nd his dimension are real, might not Lovecraftian monsters from beyond space and time be hitching a ride on the little imp's shoulders? If Zurr-En-Arrh is real, might not the impossible alien world where Batman's adventuring gets Robin killed be real?
If holding onto Thomas Wayne is what created the schsim that the Black Glove is exploiting, then yes, Thomas Wayne, the image, at least, is the Black Glove. He made it all possible. A rich man consorting with superheroes and villain,s dressing up in a Halloween costume to inflict pain on his enemies, pretending to be beyond the bounds of normal morality and working as a master manipulator of merely normal people and superpeople alike? That's what Batman does, too, and what Batman makes Thomas Wayne into as a reason and an indelible image, a haunt at Wayne Manor who can't be simply exorcised.
And yes, he turned Martha into an addict, ruined her, destroyed her family. Bruce IS her family. But Bruce doesn't model himself on her, after all; he wears a costume he saw his father wearing once, he fantasizes about tha other reality in which Thomas Wayne KOed Joe Chill, and he takes up the business Thomas Wayne ran. Martha's just part of the madness, part of the addiction to symbols that makes Batman dress up as Batman. Bruce's Thomas Wayne killed Martha after all, stringing her out like that ruined pearl necklace Bruce sees in his nightmares.
Batman Is the Black Glove
He wears one, after all, and nothing the Black Glove has done would work without Bruce Wayne's having committed a kind of psychic suicide and becoming the inverted emblem of the hurt that Simon Hurt has turned against him.
Bruce started the split that Hurt has busted wide open. Bruce's little experiment to "become" the Joker in mind has had far-reaching consequences, and it's what put him in Hurt's gloved hand to start with.
And it gets worse: where did the Man-Bat serum come from? Kirk Langstrom's efforts to imitate Batman, that's where. Whence Damien? Why, from Batman's adventuring and getting captured by Ra's Al Ghul, a man who sought him out because h was Batman, because his pain and drive might be turned into a motive for a proper heir to the empire. And would Talia have met Batman and fallen for him if Bruce Wayne hadn't believed a little too much in his symbols, in his terrifying, saving alter ego? Probably not.
The three ghosts of the Batman are moreso consequences of being Batman, and very obvious ones. The Club of Heroes and the Club of Villains exist because people across the world followed Bruce in buying in to the wacky, scary, crazy costume games, and tried to form their own fantasy league version of Bruce's personal fantasy life.
Every single tool the Black Glove has used against Batman has been a tool Batman invented, promulgated, and practically gave the Black Glove.
Alfred Is the Black Glove
What sort of guardian allows his charge to spend decades clinging to madness as a way out of pain, a pain that eventually comes back, that never stops coming back, until it consumes that young man entirely? Alfred's enabling Bruce's Batman career -- snotty asides and gentle chiding with no real force put aside as ineffectual, unserious, mere rationalization and "I told you so" where intervention and guidance were necessary -- has made Batman a victim of the Black Glove in its own way. And by helping Bruce do what he's done to Thomas and Martha, Alfred may as well be a part of that, too.
Batman Is Hyperrational, Not Irrational Like His Villains
No matter who or what the flesh-and-blood Simon Hurt turns out to be, he's goign to be an irrational villain. What rational reason coudl there be for playing games of chance with human life, or devoting years upon years of tangled schemes to driving someone mad and then having garishly-clad maniacs beat him to a bloody pulp? Hurt isn't rational, because pain and hurt aren't rational and don't provoke rational responses.
But this is how and why Batman is insane after all: because his response to hurt and pain is to become hyperrational, to develop endlessly rational and well-constructed, practical tools to avoid the original hurt and to fight the new ones or the new symbols that stand in for that primal grief in Crime Alley.
Batman is nothing if not methodical. He can split up his own personality into clearly-defined, rationally configured fragments: his training and ability (Zurr-En-Arrh), his imagination (Bat-Mite), the face, to steal from T.S. Eliot, that he prepares to meet the faces that he meets socially (Bruce Wayne, lazy playboy), and so forth. As breaks go, it's a very functional, very calculated one. Zurr-En-Arrh is a psychotic delusion that Bruce Wayne has turned into an impossibly efficient, impossibly tough version of the rationally precise Batman persona he's used as a tool in less strained circumstances.
He has his voice of reason and imagination, the flicker of the healthy child that was Bruce Wayne. Bat-Mite is nothing if not the wonderful and wise imaginary friend children use to try their own emotions and intellect out on, that is, a safe way of trying out wisdom and being oneself without the risks of, say, devoting one's life to a costumed identity and risking one's life every night.
But hyperrationality has a price, and the price is that it is insane, and that it impedes being a fully-developed adult human being. Human beings are a bit irrational, and their fears, fantasies, and emotions are not things they use to function int heir daily life by buying into them totally. Imagining you're Batman in a boring class or after you read about a mugging in the paper is a healthy way of fantasizing through little traumas and trials. Actually becoming Batman is not.
But this is also why Batman has to be hyperrational, to the point that even his breakdowns are too functional and pragmatic to really let him become the Joker or to lose himself completely in Zurr-En-Arrh or the Fifth Dimension. If your world goes crazy sometimes (all the time, really), the way you survive the madhouse you're in is to be almost purely rational, ultimately pragmatic, remarkably efficient at planning and executing plans, all in the pursuit of a lunatic goal in a lunatic world organized by that goal.
What is Batman's ultimate goal? Is it to answer to a dead father he imagines impelling him to impossible feats? Is it to eliminate crime, something no one can really do? Is it to make sure no innocent ever suffers again, another impossible task? Whatever he wants, he wants something irrational. He's survived so long despite that because he pursues that mad desire in ways shorn of madness and left entirely to method.
On eof the more disturbing implications in this storyline is that even Batman's sidekicks and surrogate family, like Robin, Alfred, and Nightwing, are simply practical tools he's used to keep his impossible drives seeming feasible and keeping Batman functional. The old bit is to to say that Robin humanizes Batman and keeps him sane. Here, we see how true that is -- the Zurr-En-Arrh costume becomes proof of Bruce's confidence, because Robin proved you could fight and survive in bright "shoot me" colors by exerting confidence and skill.
And when Batman really loses touch, one of two things always happens: he imagines his surrogate family perishing ('Robin Dies At Dawn" when Bruce's brain takes complete leave of reality) or the real people around him pull him back within the limits of Batman's functionality, if not anything like healthy normal existence. They keep him from falling over the edge entirely, and let him be hyperrational by haviong emotions, disputing his pure reason by bringing up the irrational goals it aims to reason towards, and by making him care about someone in some semblance of normal friendship or family life. They're tools and defense mechanisms he's built himself, just like the hallucinatory Bat-Mite and alien Batman have turned out to be reason's tools in the service of madness (be it Batman's madness or the madness of Batman incarnated in Simon Hurt, who helped "create" these further splits).
Batman is hyperrational because he'd be dead or utterly lost to his underlying madness if he weren't. His world goes crazy sometimes, and he keeps it going by offloading the "crazy" things, even the ones that give normal people normal personalities.
Batman Will Die At the End of "Batman R.I.P."
This doesn't have to mean that Bruce Wayne dies in the flesh, or even that he no longer wears the costume and fights the fight. It means that Batman as a persona, as the 'real" person where Bruce et al. are merely masks and tools, has to die.
The Black Glove has won by exploiting the split that let Batman take on all the unreason and hurt of Bruce Wayne, child victim of crime and traumatized orphan, making the split expand and multiply. So how does Batman win? By fixing the split, by unifying the personality again, the whole personality. By letting Bruce Wayne live, and hurt, and be a little irrational when it's human to be so, and ultimately, by killing the need for Batman.
Batman will die; Bruce Wayne will live. Bruce Wayne will no longer be "a daytimne mask for the Batman," but rather "Batman" will either cease to be or will become simply a mask Bruce Wayne finds useful in extreme circumstances.
Let's face it, you don't have to wear the symbol of your father-as-heroic-ideal and your childhood fears wrapped up into one Bat-emblem to fight crime, help crime victims, answer to and avenge your parents' memory. In fact, what Batman has done is to mix the impossibly perfect memory of Thomas Wayne with the impossibly infinite well of fear and suffering of that scary cave of bats and that terrible night in Crime Alley, tp the point that the heroic ideal Thomas Wayne can also be the murderous psychopath Simon Hurt. Thinking in absolutes about regular people gives you God and the Devil all in one. (The devil who is future-Damien's father and who tormented the Three Ghosts of Batman isn't Ra's Al Ghul or even Simon Hurt, whoever he is. It's the devil-bat Bruce Wayne kept going all those years. Damien doesn't want to be Bruce's son, he wants to be Batman's. Tim and Dick seem a lot saner by comparison for wanting Bruce as a father.)
What if Bruce Wayne puts himself back together to the point that he doesn't need Batman anymore? Would that be the death of Batman?
- Omar Karindu
"For your information, I don't have an ego. My Facebook photo is a landscape."
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