In honor of the 75th Anniversary and upcoming Batman Day, and for the Moviepilot Giveaway, I decided to evaluate my feelings on the characters in Batman.
After careful analysis of the numerous characters including sidekicks, partners and villains, I settled on the five characters that are truly in my opinion the most engaging and interesting characters of the Batman franchise. For my knowledge I am using various Batman media including the comics (both pre and post New 52), the most recent movie trilogy, and the various animated series including Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Young Justice, etc. This article will also be littered with picture links and YouTube videos links. BEWARE OF SPOILERS and without further ado:
5) Alfred Pennyworth
Alfred comes in fifth because I often overlook him while the other four naturally jump to mind when thinking of Batman. However, despite this, Alfred is still one the greatest characters for the sheer amount of lunacy he has suffer and yet his loyalty to Batman remains unshaken, plus he’s kept his sanity. This man has suffered kidnappings, physical torture and even mental torture of the Joker variety all for being Bruce Wayne’s butler, or Batman’s if the villain has discovered his secret identity (which honestly happens way too much). This is not inclusive of number of combined assaults upon both Wayne Manor and the Bat Cave, which not only endangers Alfred but he must also assist in the repair of the Bat Cave. Imagine being stabbed and knocking over a vase, but you survive and now you’re responsible for cleaning both the knife and vase, definitely not a job perk.
Additionally, Alfred’s sagely advice is not the only skill he contributes to the Dark Knight but as well as his hand-to-hand and extensive medical combat training. Alfred repeatedly patches up Batman and the Robins from life-threatening injuries, sometimes while mobile in a Bat Vehicle after retrieving them from the field. He has even filled in for Bruce as the Batman and gone up against a couple thugs. Not bad for a guy who has to be pushing 50+ years old. Even when Alfred’s evil, he pulls amazing feats, able to orchestrate the transport of the Crime Syndicate to an alternate reality by manipulating three different Justice Leagues. No matter which incarnation you want to examine, from Michael Caine to the retired MI-6 agent from Beware the Batman, Alfred is bad-ass butler.
4) The Robins (The Male Ones)
Now I know what you’re thinking “You sexist!”, “That’s cheating”, “You can’t include all the Robins”, “Just pick one”, or probably all that in one sentence. Remember I said I’m analyzing from multiple sources thus my observations will become a culmination to the idea of the character. Each Robin is a legacy of part of the Batman, none of them actually represent him in his entirety which is the reason why they all move on in one way or another. However, the character of Robin, no matter which version, is a formidable hero. The shared trait between the Robins that make the Robin just so damn cool is his ability to also take down other adolescent meta-humans despite not having powers, just like the Bat. Robin’s adoption of the Bat’s mentality “knowledge over super powers” but without the over the top brooding just make him relatable to readers and viewers, and to be honest it’s impossible to not be impressed that a teen that can take on a shape shifter, a cyborg, a powerful alien, and the daughter of a demonic warlord, twice.
The other aspect of the Robins that I am a fan of is after they leave the service of Bruce, who they become after, and which trait they take with them. It’s a good way to show how the characters aren’t entirely like Bruce and can develop while he is forever Batman. Nightwing takes a less gritty approach to the crime solving, thinking Batman’s style is too rough, but still models himself after Batman refusing to kill. On the opposite end, there’s the Red Hood who thinks Batman’s unwillingness to kill makes his approach too soft and that’s what landed Hood in his situation, making him the side of Batman willing to get his hands dirty. Red Robin takes an entirely different approach and models the leader traits of Batman, forming the Teen Titans like a Junior Justice League. Lastly is Damian Wayne whose leave of service is far more tragic because as Batman’s actual son he signifies, or rather his death signifies, the fact that there is no future or family or happiness in the future for Batman. As it is also the second time a Robin has died it shows Batman is doomed to keep repeating this until he himself dies. This is why I love the Robins, they bring new aspects to the Batman.
Bane is one of my three strong love-hate characters to which I decided to grant a grudging respect. To me, Bane represents the physical battle of Batman. The reminder to Bruce that he is human, not a Meta, an amazon or an alien. Where my hate comes is not even directly towards Bane but more so when his confrontations with Batman are solved by Batman outwitting him. Batman outwits all of his villains but Bane is the one that I feel should be beaten through combat. To me the true point of Bane is to show Batman’s need to improve himself through training and reiterate the fact his powers don’t come from the sun or a power ring.
I am also a fan of the primal nature of Bane, which goes with his testing of Batman’s physical limits, in the fact that his encounters with the Dark Knight are not so much Batman interrupting him in a robbery or such but rather Bane directly challenging the Bat. In several incarnations, Bane challenges Batman by encroaching on Gotham (Batman’s “territory”) and attempting to assert his dominance. Lastly, Bane’s breaking of the Batman is the most iconic reality check in Batman. The demonstration that Bruce is not immortal and, despite how he seems to travel through shadows and performs impossible feats, he is still just a man.
Obviously Batman had to make the list but the reason he is not number 1, aside from the fact that it would be cliché, is that my issues with Batman outweigh my issues with the character for number 1. Batman too often creates his own villains which makes me both hate and love that idea. I love it because it means the villains are not random and are connected to Batman in some way but I hate that these villains could have been avoided and that essentially Batman is his own worse nightmare. Now one of these examples also brings up my other gripe with Batman, which is his paranoia. In the Infinite Crisis comics, we see Batman created the Brother Eye device to spy on all meta-humans and heroes of the world but he lost control of the system and it turned against all of them. I feel as if this is too over the top and makes fun of Batman’s status as a human, that he has to be untrusting of every superpowered individual. That fact that he has a contingency plan for the initial members of the Justice League makes sense because they are the most powerful and dangerous but then painting him as so paranoid that he has to build a satellite to spy on all the others is just damaging to his character.
However, all that being said, there’s a reason Batman is still one of top three favorite heroes of all time. The very nature of his publications are engaging because of his detective nature. They are not, “How will he overpower this bad guy?” or “How will he run fast enough to defeat this foe?” but “How will Batman outsmart this villain?” Batman’s media covers him figuring out the plot with the reader or viewer and not just watching him pummel his way through the story. Additionally, because he is human, Batman has to invent his way to victory and it’s never dissatisfying to see the gadgets he comes up with. All that being said, my absolute favorite fact about Batman is that he is the most feared hero and that he is still the most dangerous hero because he can take down the others without powers. He knows how they work and what makes them tick, and whether it is a million dollar meteorite or 50 cent lighter, he has the tools to take down any hero that goes rogue.
If you saw this coming, sorry for being unoriginal in this department, but Joker truly is the greatest character from the Batman universe and my absolute favorite. No matter how many nightmares you have from his crimes, Joker never ceases to impress and just shock your core beliefs and make you question reality. The best thing is that the only thing you can know for sure about the Joker is that he wants to torture Batman, after that he is unpredictable in his methods.
That fact is actually what keeps Joker from ever being cliché and thus the perfect villain. Most villains of Batman’s have a goal of money or power or killing the Batman and thus they will obviously be stopped or only partially succeed. However, like Heath Ledger’s portrayal said, the Joker doesn’t want to kill Batman. He is so psychotic and broken from reality that this is all just a game between him and the Dark Knight. Which is why it is okay when the Batman beats the Joker and the Joker keeps coming back because, whereas Bane broke the Bat physically, the Joker’s goal is to break Batman mentally and yet the Batman’s mind is his superpower (well, “superpower”). Thus their battle will continue on forever, because no matter what he does, the Joker will never break the Bat’s mind. And yet, every encounter with him is terrifying and exhilarating for viewers and readers because he will up the stakes, from paralyzing Batgirl, to creating Two-Face, to killing a Robin, or even turning a Robin into a Joker Jr. The Joker is the perfect villain and truly the greatest, and downright most frightening, character of Batman.
A couple of my links did not work in the Bane and Batman sections, so here are some fun images and videos, comment below with opinions and arguments: