Batman is one of the most iconic characters ever created. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't know who he is. Much like #Superman and #SpiderMan, Batman has transcended his comic books and films to become a piece of history. Unlike Supes and Spidey, Batman has one thing that seems to be increasing exponentially: a rabid, borderline hostile fan-base.
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You might be thinking, "Other characters have intense fans", and you would be correct. But Batman fans seem to have a different mindset. Most fans support their favorite characters in many different ways; they care about this character, and they will defend this character to a point. Batman fans, on the other hand, boast of his supremacy above all else.
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Any nerd worth their salt have seen posts online pitting hero vs. hero, and we all know the outcome of this post: #BatmanWins. The comment section explodes and someone will say that Batman can defeat any hero without question. They then continue to defend this point until everyone gives up due to exhaustion or dies of old age. So, when did Batman become the be-all and end-all of superheroes? We are going to take a look at Batman, and try to pin-point what make's him so special in the eyes of his fans.
Evolution of the Bat
To better understand the obsession with Batman, we are going to reach back into the past and see just how long the character has been inspiring people around the world. Batman was created by Bob Kane and made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. He made the jump onto the small screen on the classic '66 Batman TV show, starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
The campy TV show introduced Batman to a larger audience. To the dismay of fans, the show had an adverse effect on the perception of the character, leaving most people thinking that this campy Batman was an accurate representation of the character. This perception would be altered with the release of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns in 1986. This property also brought credibility to the medium, that before was seen to be just for children.
Batman would take his new bad-ass persona and amp it up even more in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke in 1988. This darker Batman would catch on, leading straight into Tim Burton's Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). Following these two smash hits, a new generation of Batman fans would grow up with Batman the Animated Series. This series would carry on the reputation of a darker and more serious Batman.
Joel Schumacher put a dagger in the hopes of many fans with his back to back films, Batman Forever (1995) and Batman and Robin (1997). These films were poorly made and hearkened back to the 1966 series with the silliness dialed up to 11, essentially killing the cinematic franchise until years later.
Batman would not stay down for too long, returning to the big screen in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy. These films ushered in a new day for Batman and changed public perception, showing the world that Batman is a dark and gritty character. This brings us to present day, where Batman is being played by Ben Affleck in the #DCEU, which marked his debut in Batman v Superman.
With 75 years of history and mass exposure to the public, Batman has ironically grown to be exactly what he is in the comics: a symbol. This symbol has effected many people and has been a source of inspiration for many. Let's take a look at why Batman resonates with fans, and why people are so attached to the character.
For The Love Of Batman
Superheroes have been a part of our society for over 75 years. They have become a sort of American mythology, much like the Greeks and Romans had centuries ago. They give us hope and teach us lessons much like great literature does. Batman has for some reason, become the superhero, even though he is not super by any means.
Batman is just a highly trained martial artist who happens to be a billionaire. When you ask someone why they love Batman, the fact that he has no super powers makes him much more intriguing in their eyes. He uses his wits and master tactical skills to exploit his enemies weaknesses. This doesn't explain why people love him so much, because Batman is not unique when it comes to not having powers. Green Arrow, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Iron Man are all powerless but do not have nearly as many die-hard fans.
A Batman For Every Generation
His fandom actually stems from the long history we just went over in the section above. Batman's real appeal is his nostalgia, that he has accrued over his 75 years in the public spotlight. When you look at the releases of Batman movies and television shows, it becomes clear that each generation has grown up with their version of Batman. Baby Boomers to Millennials have grown up with the character. Each generation has had a different version as the character evolved to become the Batman we all know today.
Batman's gallery of rouges is considered to be the best among all the other heroes. This also seems to be due to the exposure of the villains, whom we've been acquainted with since the Adam West's '66 Batman series. The argument can be made that the Batman/Joker dynamic is the best hero/villain relationship in comics. The both represent the polar opposite of the chaotic spectrum; Batman being chaotic good and Joker being chaotic evil. This fact makes them far more interesting than the normal good versus bad archetype, since they take unpredictable measures to combat each other.
The Batman Stands For Hope
The nostalgia does not explain why Batman appears to be unbeatable in the eyes of fans. This seems to be more a case of fans projecting their own personal feelings on to the character. The idea that anyone could be Batman makes him appeal to a wide range of people, but it also makes people feel the need to defend him. Psychologically speaking, Batman embodies the idea that human ingenuity can conquer all. Surely, if Batman can defeat Superman, then everyday problems don't seem like such a big deal.
When you add the psychological and nostalgia factors, you end up with a character that is not only loved, but also cherished. This theory explains a lot in terms of both the obsessive nature of the fans, and the notion that he can beat any obstacle no matter how obscene. In the end Batman represents not just one individual, but the idea that man can conquer anything, and that hope is priceless.
This hope leads people to want to protect it at all cost. Much like political beliefs, fans who defend Batman have a strong emotional tie to him. In a sense they are not defending the character at all, they are defending their sense of morality and beliefs. Unlike an idea, beliefs are things that have caused more conflict in this world than anything else. In summation, it could be a great deal of reasons why Batman fans behave the way they do, however it's easy to conclude that people see themselves in the character, thus they feel like he is a part of them. On the other hand, some people just like to argue for arguments sake!
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