David Mazzucchelli On Batman

Finally read Miller & Mazzucchelli’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE. I was familiar with the beats, thanks to the animated version, but obviously the book is the best way to discover this story. I was surprised to find a black & white comic strip featuring homages to old Batman comics along with Mazzucchelli’s analysis of Batman. Really enjoyed his recounting of Frank Miller’s perspective on what drives Bruce Wayne.

Despite historical precedent, I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of vengeance as a heroic ideal. Wouldn’t a “hero” embody more than that. Here’s what Frank told Amazing Heroes in 1986: “He’s clearly a man with a mission, but it’s not one of vengeance. Bruce is not after personal revenge…He’s much bigger than that; he’s much more noble than that. He wants the world to be a better place, where a young Bruce Wayne would not be a victim…in a way, he’s out to make himself unnecessary. Batman is a hero who wishes he didn’t have to exist.”

Mazzucchelli also dismantles one of the most popular jabs critics make.

In 1954, Dr. Frederic Wertham saw in Batman and Robin’s relationship a coded metaphor for homosexuality. First, let’s remember that superhero comics were invented for children — boys, really. Wertham made the fundamental mistake of examining these comics with an adult sensibility — and without humor.

Here’s how I see it: when Bruce Wayne was a kid, his pampered, idyllic life was shattered to pieces. Since then, he’s been trying to put it back together. It makes perfect sense that his best friend would be twelve years old, because Batman is still a little boy stuck in a man’s body. If there’s a “no girls allowed” sign on the Batcave/clubhouse, it’s because girls are icky.

That’s why Catwoman is dangerous — she represents a maturity the boys aren’t ready for. Superheroes live best in their own world — a preadolescent world.

Obviously, I’m biased, but this is why I’m drawn to Batman. I think he’s (by far) the deepest well from a narrative and analytical standpoint. I honestly don’t believe any of the other superheroes (especially DC) either stand up to this level of scrunity or consistently prove such fertile ground for theorizing.