NOTE: This is essentially an expansion on my thoughts written here on a previous Batman Day.
Welcome to Batman Day! Where DC Entertainment arbitrarily chooses another day in this year to shill out more merch from their sacred coERRRR I mean where the publisher, creators, retailers and fans get to celebrate all things Batman with celebrations, sales and whatnot. And why wouldn’t you? Batman’s comic line seems to be the only one at DC majorily well-made and handled (once again, praise the Khal of Khals Mark Doyle). Sure, there are some issues to be rectified, but all in all, it’s a relatively good time to be a Bat fan.
So I figured this would be the time to talk about my favorite moment in the mythos that specifically deals with Batman. Out of all the comics, the movies, the cartoons, the video games and more, this is the moment I think of when I think “Batman”. And it’s not a fight. It’s not a quip. It’s not Bruce figuring something out. It’s not some iconic moment from “Year One” or “The Long Halloween” or that other book that really hated women whose title we won’t mention.
This clip is from an episode of the hit animated series Justice League Unlimited called “Epilogue” (co-written by Bruce Timm and the late Dwayne McDuffie), which served as the conclusion to another hit series Batman Beyond. Now, one could make the argument that having the epilogue to one show in another is a bit annoying, but that’s an argument for another day and not why we are here.
In this episode, a child with reality warping abilities named Ace is dying. It is estimated by Amanda Waller (and I mean Amanda “The Wall” Waller, as opposed to the one running around the New 52) that the backlash of her death could cause chaos and damage for miles unless the little girl is taken out. Of course, Batman, the man whose life was destroyed as a child, won’t do it. Instead, he sits down next to Ace and keeps her company in her last remaining moments.
There is this school of thought in regards to Batman. That he should be the angry loner all the time. That all his allies are nothing but distractions and he should forever be this brooding vigilante that doesn’t need anyone. Essentially, they want him to be as cold and brutal as the Punisher but without the killing. While everyone is entitled to their opinion and interpretation of a character that has had such a long and varied history, I have to respectfully disagree with that.
Something that is absolutely keen to Batman, for me, is his empathy. His ability not only to see the motivations of criminals but to see the flaws and strengths in the people he wants to protect. Some get so lost up in the “hows” Batman fights and forget about the “why”. Bruce Wayne is a human being. A mere mortal man who went through a tragedy he never wants to see repeated for anyone ever again. Futile? Definitely, but he perseveres. But it is always important to remember why he does so and that clip encompass that so much to me. Because it’s like Waller says in “Epilogue”, there is no one that loves his fellow man more than Bruce Wayne.
It is why I consider the Bat Family not only incredibly important but it’s also why I get ornery whenever they are mistreated or underutilized by DC. Sure, they’re some of my favorite characters in DC (and Jason, I guess), but it is important for Bruce to have this system, this family of people that he helped build. Going back to that interpretation of Batman “the loner”, he was never alone! Go all the way back to Detective Comics #27, Commissioner James Gordon, one of his most fervent allies, debuted there as well. And it wasn’t long before we had Alfred Pennyworth and Robin and it just built and built to the most latest allies like the Row siblings and Duke Thomas.
Now, don’t mistake my rejection of the ultra gritty Batman as a celebration of the Silver Age, Adam West, Brave and the Bold “Good work, Chum” Batman. I have the same criticism of that interpretation but in the opposite way. Batman needs to be empathetic, that is important, but going too far into that campy direction (yes, I am aware a man dressed as a bat is campy in and of itself). The best Batman stories to me are the ones that manage to find that proper balance.
But at the end, whether it is the grim and gritty vigilante, the campy crusader or something in between, we can all agree on something: Batman’s pretty damn good.