Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for hero

I always liked Batman better than Superman or Spiderman.

Not because I liked Michael Keaton better than Christopher Reeve, either.

Batman is real, in a way that Superman isn't. Superman has super strength (not to mention x-ray vision, as well as the ability to fly and emit laser/heat beams from his eyes), but Batman's just your ordinary average joe. He can bleed, he gets exhausted, he needs food and drink. Superman is indestructible and needs no one -- not even Lois Lane -- but Batman couldn't do without Alfred, at the very least. Oh, I know he would never admit to needing Alfred, but he does. He couldn't survive alone: when he's wounded, he needs someone to tend to him; when he's weary, he needs a safe place to rest; and when he's raging inside, he needs someone to be his voice of reason. Alfred provides all this, in his own poker-faced butlery way.

Even better, Batman is a tortured soul. He can't forget how his parents died at the hands of a mugger. He can't accept how helpless he was to help them. He's driven to fill some void in his soul by being this masked vigilante. Contrast that with Superman, who's all about "doing the right thing" and using his powers responsibly. What drives him? Nothing, just a strict moral code and an unshakeable belief in upholding justice for the sake of upholding justice. That's... noble, but boring! He ends up looking like a two-dimensional caricature next to Batman.

Even Spiderman is more interesting than Superman. Spidey is of course famous for the line, "With great power comes great responsibility", and is haunted by how his failure to stop a thief gave said thief the opportunity to later kill his Uncle Ben. But he, too, has superpowers. Batman has none.

So Batman is, for me, the embodiment of a normal guy who's just trying to do his best to survive. I don't mean survive like eke out a living, I mean survive as in push on from day to day, finding a reason to live. The main thing that keeps him going is the thought that he's avenging his parents, that by ridding Gotham City of criminals, he's preventing some other little boy from the same anguish that he has suffered; he's keeping people safe. It's not about doing right for the sake of doing right -- how many of us are that altruistic? It's about all the hurt he's buried inside.

At the heart of it, he reminds me of all of us. We're all walking wounded. It's part of life. In one way or another, we've been hurt, only in different areas and different intensities. These wounds are part of who we are. Even when they're healed, they've still paid a part in shaping who we are. We carry the scars with us, and every day, part of the reason we do the things we do, say the things we say, connect with the people we connect with -- many of these actions can be attributed to what we have experienced. Some of us are haunted by regret or driven by pain, anger, frustration. Almost all of us seek peace, love, acceptance. We do this in our own way. Batman does it his way, by fighting crime under the cover of darkness, his identity concealed under a mask. It helps to keep the pain at bay, to disassociate himself from that hurting eight-year-old boy, to protect his heart from being exposed, because he's just so vulnerable under all that machismo. Like all of us.
**Image credit: Pencils by Rags Morales, colours by Nei Ruffino. Via Abduzeedo


Anonymous said...

This is one of the best posts I have read since I joined WordPress in February. Your analysis of the two Superheroes is very informative and thought-provoking.

Followed up by your paragraph about how we are all walking wounded, and we are! You explaine us so well.

An excellent piece - worthy of being published in venues where many can appreciate what you've given us.

Harshini Naidu said...

I always liked the Batman better than any other super hero. He is like us, yeah true. I still crave for the Batman series. :)

Happy blogging :)

Stephanie Faris said...

Batman definitely does seem to embody the strong hero who comes in and saves the day. But real-life heroes are much better, I think!