The Batman and Superman blame game, Pt. 1Posted: 03/08/2015 Filed under: Characters, DC 3 Comments
Everything you’re going to see today and tomorrow leads to a single conversation between Superman and Batman – all 40-ish pictures involving explosions and OMACs and betrayal and spying and mind control and missiles and everything else. We’ll weave five separate stories together in a coherent knot that eventually ends up on the complicated idea of personal responsibility. I know that’s not as exciting as missiles, but it’ll be more satisfying. Probably. Most likely. Let’s start with a scene from Superman #217, written by Mark Verheiden and drawn by Ed Benes. Superman and Lois are currently hanging out in Peru, helping people and reporting news and whatever else. Terrorists, already once foiled by Superman, threaten to blow up the local village’s dam. I want to proclaim that this looks like a job for you-know-who, but I cringe every time I start to write that.
It’s an OMAC! Shortened for Omni Mind And Community, they’re crazy powerful robots/cyborgs. We like to think of a superhero’s job as beating up supervillains, but a more accurate description would be saving people from supervillains. The bad guys only exist as obstacles to prevent a superhero from accomplishing his chosen bloody career path. So think of OMAC as the jammed printer that’s preventing Superman from submitting his report on time. And then think of that printer being kicked repeatedly.
I know we don’t like mopey Superman. Batman doesn’t cry or be emotionally vulnerable like the Man of Steel. But, because Superman’s perfect, he must be as sensitive as he is masculine. A real man wouldn’t be ashamed to shed tears or sit in the dark sadly when he fails since a real man has no need to impress anyone. Hence for all of Superman’s embarrassing weeping, of course he cries. It’s just one more thing he’s better at than we are.
I’m upset too. We’re moving on to a scene from The OMAC Project #2, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Jesus Saiz. Don’t worry, Batman doesn’t fail in this scene as that would be too difficult to believe. To understand the importance of what’s upcoming, we must jump back to the greatly hated DC event Identity Crisis. If I can be honest, while really dark, Identity Crisis wasn’t that bad. When Batman stumbled upon Zatanna and other members of the Justice League mindwiping the supervillain Dr. Light (to erase his knowledge of the superheroes’ secret identities), Zatanna had no choice but to mindwipe Batman as well. The Dark Knight only deals in black and white, y’know because he refuses to operate in that logical gray area of morality. In response to his friends’ betrayal, and in a move that’s a huge gray area, Batman builds a giant satellite that can spy on everything and everyone in the world, basically wiping out privacy.
Max Lord, psychic supervillain, stole the satellite. He also killed the Blue Beetle, hence why Booster Gold’s a bit upset. Note that before Blue Beetle died, he went to Batman with this information and Batman brushed him off, thus forcing Blue Beetle to confront Max Lord by himself. And Max Lord shot him, something he wouldn’t have been able to do if any of the Justice Leaguers had accompanied Blue Beetle. It’s complicated. But most importantly, Booster Gold makes a poignant observation:
It’s a strange double-edged sword. Since we as readers get a full view of Batman’s life that the other superheroes don’t, we know that of course Batman takes blame for his mistakes. He takes all the blame to the point where it’s unhealthy (ex. Jason Todd’s death). But Batman also doesn’t have the emotional capability to show vulnerability. Or show emotion or have normal human feelings or trust others. Even Superman – arguably Batman’s best friend – doesn’t get the heart-on-the-sleeve Bruce Wayne. But also, of course Batman doesn’t take blame with the others around. He doesn’t have superpowers. He’s a normal dude hanging out with gods. So the first time he admits his mistakes, he acknowledges that his contributions to the Justice League (almost entirely his detective skills and information network) might not be perfect. And then Batman’s just a normal dude in a Bat costume and certainly not the perfection incarnates (Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter) or powerful meta-humans (Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman) that he has to always competing with.
But today’s connected by a single thread: OMACs. Brother Eye (Batman’s hijacked satellite) creates OMACs, and Max Lord controls Brother Eye, both of which are the pillars of despair that will define Friday’s article. It’ll make sense, I’m pretty sure.
To be continued indeed! My convoluted conclusion next time!
Considering that the JLA still voted to let Batman stay in the group after Ra’s Al Ghul used Bruce’s secret files to nearly kill them, you’d think that when the whole mind wiping thing came to light that Batman should have said, “OK, I guess now we’re even” instead of going all Super-NSA on everyone.
I’m old. It’s sad but true, and it means I have seen a lot of comics in my time. Now, I like modern tales, and laugh at the past (c’mon, the silver and golden ages are asking for it) but there is one thing about older comics that I miss:
I miss Batman being human.
He was the best human there could be. Faster, smarter, better trained, if not the strongest then easily the most determined and adaptable. He was a detective, he solved mysteries and out witted his opponents. He was who we could be if we worked at it, tried our absolute best, and never gave up. That was Batman to me. From the old stories of my younger years, even up to Grant Morrison’s run on JLA, he was simply incredible. Every one loved Batman and could look up to him.
I don’t know who we have wearing the bat ears and cape these days, but he is not Batman.
Batman was brilliant, but not a scientist/mad genius who built doomsday space stations and super hero killing robots. He was a fantastic athlete, but had his limits when confronting super human enemies. The Batman of today is just a bid dark “Mary Sue”, imbued with the incredible super power of never being able to lose by the simple dint that he simply IS. We have all heard the jokes, repeated them, and laughed when How It Should Have Ended redoes it, but Bruce Wayne has gone from an incredible role model to a punchline: “I’m Batman!” is all there really is to him these days.
I followed the character through the end days of the pre52 universe, lamenting how dark and twisted he’d become with each new arc. New52 was a cause for excitement, because as risky as it was, there was a chance that the damage that a lot of characters had received at writers hands would be undone. Not so with Batman. No more was the “the world’s greatest detective”. He never seemed to solve anything, just show up after the bad guy and punch harder. He never out witted his enemies, rather they would spring their traps and then he would survive, winning the day by simply punching faces. His colorful and imaginative rogues were diminished too. Gone were the clever and instantly recognizable crew, and in their place were a lot of rehash characters who would have been right at home at image in the 90s. Death of the Family read like a horror comic. The funny, twisted, and brilliant Joker was gone, and in his place some corpse obsessed, torture craving monstrosity that would have been at home in the pages of Spawn. The Court of Owls was a joke. They were introduced as this great, ominous threat… then when they could have just killed Batman and been done with it, starved and drugged him for days on end then let him get into an Iron Man suit and “spoil their plans”. I could go on and on about what a poor job DC has done with their most popular character, but there is no point. I will just say that my disappointment made me give up on the character, and whenever I look to see if things have gotten better, they haven’t.
Not all the Bats are a lost cause. I didn’t think I would, but I loved Batgirl. A Barbara Gordon freshly returned to the hero game was a real treat. She used her head, she used her skills, she had personal issues and overcame them. Reading Batgirl was the highlight of the DC new52. Her book is in new hands now, and I can’t say I care for it, but it was a hell of a ride while it lasted.
Batman is one of the four greatest and most important and recognizable characters of all time. It’s impossible not to see the effects the character has had on the genre. We will all love him and be inspired by him. For me, I think he deserves better than what he has had for the last decade or so, and I can’t wait for this unbeatable, unrelenting, uncaring bat demon to be done away with, and a real Batman to once more cast his shadow over the darkness of the world, so that people like us may again see the light.
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