There are quite literally thousands of fictional superheroes and villains in existence. Marvel has a known roster of 7000 alone, and DC more than 10,000. With this many, how is it that some heroes and villains rise to popularity and some sink into obscurity? There are many characters we could speak of, but the most fascinating character to rise to popularity has to be #Batman, a.k.a. Bruce Wayne.
What makes this character so popular? He was first created in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Since then, Batman has gone on to be one of the most popular superheroes in history. Having had multiple live-action and animated TV shows, and being in eight theater-released films, Batman has grossed over $4.4 billion in worldwide movie earnings. In addition to films, Batman also earns over $500 million a year in global retail sales. It’s very obvious that the idea and figure of the Batman has tapped into something that people globally believe in, and like, as a whole.
So the question remains: Why is Batman so popular? What is it that has made him so loved? I believe there are a few answers to this question. Let’s look first what Batman embodies: fear.
Fear is something that everyone on Earth has felt at one point or another. Fear is a powerful emotion that can grab hold of and disable the most basic functions of the human body and mind. Individuals spend their whole lives running from fear and seeking to overcome it. Batman is just the opposite — he embraces his fear and then turns that fear on those he seeks to bring to justice.
There is something very appealing about the idea of taking paralyzing fear and turning it into a strength. In this way, Batman transcends borders and race. All humans have fear and all humans wish to turn that fear around — using it to become stronger.
Batman can also be identified by the archetypal feeling that permeates the lower-level consciousness of each human being. The famed psychologist Carl Jung spoke of archetypes and the collective unconscious. This was how he described the fact that people all over the world have similar fears and intuitive reactions. For example, fear of outsiders or the dark. This is a collective fear that exists all over the world. It is a fear of the boogieman — a character or creature that lives in the dark and lives to do harm to those in the light.
As children, we’ve all had fear of a creature that lived in the closet or under the bed; something that would come out after the lights had gone out. Batman is a reverse boogieman who lives in that fear-infested world, yet he fights against mankind’s fears. Most of mankind has outgrown the classic boogieman, but those fears still live on — a feeling of unease in dark parking garages, or an odd noise in the darkness outside.
Batman is a force that directly combats those archetypal fears. He is an archetype of fear — a creature who stalks the darkness — but one who innocent people need not fear. In fact, he will protect them. This quality turns him into a reverse boogieman.
The last point I would like to discuss is that of the primal natures that humans carry within. This is referred to as “The Shadow” by Carl Jung. It is described as being the sum of all human weakness, anger and other animal instincts.
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of “The Shadow” without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
Everyone knows they have a “shadow,” yet in society we are taught from a young age to suppress these urges — to not steal from others. We don’t fight at the drop of a hat or exhibit other bestial urges. This “shadow” scares most people. They seek to hide and or bury these urges (as they should), but Batman is more than most characters. He is a man who lives with a constant shadow. He is a celebrated billionaire, and under this public image, he has a raging monster he keeps hidden. Jung said of this “shadow”:
We carry our past with us, to wit, the primitive and inferior man with his desires and emotions, and it is only with an enormous effort that we can detach ourselves from this burden. If it comes to a neurosis, we invariably have to deal with a considerably intensified shadow. And if such a person wants to be cured it is necessary to find a way in which his conscious personality and his shadow can live together.
Batman has learned to live with his “shadow.” He is no longer scared of it. He uses his shadow to don the cowl of Batman and to keep those he loves safe from harm. This gives many people hope that they too can give up fear of their own “shadow” and learn to live with it.
All in all, these are simply a few reasons why Batman is such a popular superhero. I know there are dozens more. I have little doubt that Batman will continue to be a superhero everyone rallies around, and will most likely only continue to become more popular.
Do you agree? Do you think this is why Batman is such a cultural force? Let us know int he comment section below