Recently, I had an annoying interaction online with someone who opined that Ben Affleck’s Batman was the perfect Batman because he was kind of a dick, and that helped with getting across the idea that Batman just cannot be a nice person.  The implication, of course, is that Batman has always been the single-minded engine of vengeance that recent years have shown us, which is unequivocally not true.  Then again, it has been the primary permutation since 1987 or so, with other versions of the character being short-lived, non-canonical or reviled.  Still, the example of Dedrich Bader’s deadpan not-so-Dark Knight from ‘Batman: The Brave & The Bold’ shows that even a modern Batman can not be big ol’ jerk all the time, leading to today’s Caped Query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is seriously tired of the vacillation back and forth on the part of DC creative, asking: In your estimation, can Batman be a “nice person?”

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

4 Comments

  1. I’ll respond to a quibble with a further quibble. I think Batman can be *kind*, because he’s working for “the greater good,” but because his primary method of communication with his clients consists of BIFFs, BAMs, and occasional THWAPs, I wouldn’t call him “nice.” Additionally, “niceness” connotes a passive, limp-wristed live-and-let-live carriage in one’s quest for brotherly love, and whether he’s swinging over sharks with his chums or hacking all the cell phones in Gotham, I wouldn’t generally describe Batman as passive.

  2. Any character can change, depending what kind of story writer needs to tell. Many people seem to think Batman has to be bitter, and mentally unstable (thanks Miller) and think its “realistic”. That’s a very narrow minded view of humanity: Actually, in real life, every single day, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people suffer far worse hardships than Bruce Wayne and yet remain as a positive, kind and great person. How is this impossible for a comic book character?

  3. I’m an archetypalist and believe there are ideal versions of characters and concepts. So, yes, the character CAN be a nice person in some interpretations, but that isn’t necessarily the best version. I think Batman can be a (and MUST be) a GOOD person, but there can be a world of difference between goodness and niceness. Also, I think that such characters should evolve over time. It makes sense that Batman would struggle with emotional availability and would, in general, have a few issues (though the modern complete jerk, selfish, villainous version of the character takes this way too far). Yet, years of working with partners and forging friendships with folks like Clark can and should change him. The Timmverse shows (other than Beyond) got this reasonably well, as they did with most things.

  4. It’s a hared question to answer. I don’t know if he can be a nice guy, but they can avoid him just being a dick all the time. Especially to his teammates. It seems they catch the worst of it (how many times are we going to have to see Nightwing or Batgirl or Red Hood go off on him). I really felt like the Batman from the beginning of the New 52 was going in that direction. That was never more apparent than in the Justice League relaunch. And even now in Justice League of America he’s not a bad guy at all to his teammates. I get that he has to be cruel to his enemies, but I think it’s time to move past what has become a typical Batman stereotype.

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