Batman overcomes his venom addictionPosted: 09/22/2014 Filed under: Characters, DC 4 Comments
The “no powers” description of Batman constantly comes back to bite him in the butt. The greatest mind in DC comics can only be so effective when fighting overpowered monstrosities. Batarangs’ll just bounce off Doomsday or Darksied. Of course, his normality (or close enough) is part of why we love him so much, but it hinders superheroics when the Batcomputer and a mind built for sudoku aren’t enough to take down some of the heavier threats. To fully appreciate why Batman decides to get “juiced,” we have to understand the motivation behind such an act: guilt. It’s always guilt with Batman. Let’s take a look at some scenes from Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Trevor Von Eden & Russell Braun.
You can probably predict where the next three pages go. Human athleticism has a limit, even after a decade of punching giant crocodile men and clay creatures. You know the main difference between Batman and Superman? Besides all the obvious stuff? When Superman arrives on the scene, the citizens of Metropolis relax almost immediately, because Superman’s amazing powers and morality let us know that everything’s going to be alright. The wicked will be punished and the innocents will all be saved. But not so with Batman. The people of Gotham City have all pretty much realized by now that Batman’s just one of them in a fancy costume. While he saves the day, his success isn’t guaranteed.
Do you get why someone like Batman would turn to the power-enhancement that venom provides? For comparison, I’ll provide two pages, one where he’s normal and the other with venom flowing freely through his veins. Because while the drug alters his personality into the steroid-bound maniacal jerk that we know all too well from various professional wrestling characters, we can’t deny venom’s effectiveness.
See the difference? I looked it up and the world record for the overhead press is somewhere in the 450-ish pound range. Batman took that world record down by a good two to three hundred pounds. The Dark Knight officially has superpowers. Which he immediately regrets. The drug’s addictive quality leaves him at the mercy of his dealer who’s a terrible, manipulative person. And when the bad guys start to withhold the supply so Batman has to accomplish their awful missions in order to get more venom (like kill Commissioner Gordon), Bruce Wayne figures he has no choice — it’s time to beat the addiction. And trust me, you saw the last article where Azrael almost certainly pooped his pants from venom withdrawal. It’s going to suck.
The montage of Alfred checking in on Batman beating the addiction is mixed with the arc’s villains going about their plans as well, so if you see tropical island scenes, it’s character development/plot advancement for the sleazy venom dealer and corrupt military commander.
I want you to brace yourself for Batman’s cave beard. It’s enormous for just a month of no shaving, but maybe Batman had a hair-growing superpower all along? More importantly, this story from 1990 parked a few years (finishing in KnightsEnd) where after sixty years of Batman always being prepared, Batman always winning, Batman always figuring out the secret weakness, etc. — we needed to be reminded of Batman’s major limitations. As in the whole nothing superhuman guiding each punch or aiding each throw. Brilliant mind, normal human strength. Bane proved that to Batman beautifully. But for now, it’s time to punish a venom dealer and his military partner.
Of course, Bruce could have saved the girl and avoided his fantastic ‘roid adventure if he just yelled out for Superman to help. Even if Clark was unavailable, he could have telepathically called out for Martian Manhunter. For someone who’s supposed to be so smart, he does a lot of dumb shit sometimes.
I believe that “Venom” was partially inspired with writer Denny O’Neil’s own struggles with alcoholism several years previously. It is a good, albeit extremely dark, story.
I agree, it is much more interesting to see Batman hit a metaphorical wall and have to actively work to overcome his limitations than to see him depicted as the hyper-competent master strategist with a dozen contingency plans. The whole appeal of Batman is that he IS a non-powered human. Every single ability & skill he possesses he gained through hard work, study and determination, and he could (theoretically) exist in real life. To have him then presented as some sort of chessmaster takes away from that, because it removes a great deal of his human fallibility.
Anyway, I got my copy of the “Venom” trade paperback autographed by Denny O’Neil when I met him at a convention a few months ago. That’s how much I like this story.
I re-read this story recently. It’s still good in my view, the only down point being that it perpetuates the myth that steroids make you aggressive or crazy, which is a complete load of garbage. It guess Denny can get away with it though, seeing as it’s the fictional “venom” drug, and not real world steroids, which actually help a lot of sick people with various diseases, of course there are people who abuse them too.
I hated this story.
Batman has issues, lots of them, but after all his years as a crime fighter and his constant war on drugs, and countless fights with roided out thugs and goons, you would think he would be smarter than to start using drugs.
You would think he would know about the effects, the hormonal imbalance and mood swings that use of steroid use can bring about, possible male mammary growth and so on… Guy is supposed to be a genius. Anyone can look up the effects, from multiple sources, it’s not like they are some kind of secret.
No, this story was weak, and other than helping establish Bane later, was nothing but filler.