vigilantes getting away with murder


Scott Snyder’s New52 version of Batman has been selling like hotcakes, so I realize it’s a fruitless venture to ask for a change.  Yet I feel like a key facet to what makes Batman the great, iconic character that he is has been allowed to drift too far to the wayside. 

Here I’m referring to his compassion… his unwavering desire to help people and unwillingness to give up hope in the goodness of others (even his villainous adversaries).

I’m a psychotherapist and insomuch it can be easy to view matters  through the lens of my work.  With this caveat in mind, I see Batman as being something of a psychotherapist in his own right.  Most of his foes suffer from substantial mental illnesses and though Batman has fought them vigorously, he’s also remained sympathetic toward them and committed to doing what he can for them and maintaining the hope that they might be reformed. 

Harvey Dent/Two-Face has done terrible, terrible things, yet Batman refuses to give up on him; he never lets go of the hope that Dent can be treated, possibly cured of his psychosis.  The same is true for the majority of Batman’s recurring foes… Harley, Man-Bat, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, Clayface, even The Joker.  The Joker has killed more people than smallpox, yet Batman remains stalwart in his convictions and always returns the Joker to the sanitarium… hoping against all odds that this monster can be disabused of his madness.

This compassionate version of Batman was perhaps most evident in the terrific Dini/Timm animated series.  There were so many instances where Batman showed mercy and compassion; it was clear that his dedication was to all the citizens of Gotham, even those maniacs who comprised his gallery of rogues. 

And it is this version of Batman that I feel is especially needed during the terrible climate pervading the United States and abroad.  A climate where our police officers are murdering innocent people with impunity; where would-be vigilantes hide behind bogus ‘stand-your-ground’ laws to get away with murder; where a reckless foreign policy is leading to countless innocent deaths via drone strikes.   With all this madness all about us, who is really going to want to reads about a white, male, one-percenter going about ruthlessly beating on down and out villains? 

Batman is at his best when his characterization reflects the times in which the books are published.  Justice isn’t about might-makes-right.  It’s about equality and compassion.  And DC Comics would be wise to steer Batman back toward this more compassionate path before he ends up a type of figurehead for authoritarianism corrupted by its own power…