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Thursday, November 02, 2006

What would Batman do?



Odd to be back over here, especially when I have something like three posts sitting in the Drafts folder over on the other blog I'd like to finish. But they're harder work than the stuff I post here.

So I was thinking about CRASH the other day. Specifically, that scene where Ludacris and Larenz Tate carjack Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock.

Brendan Fraser's character did exactly the right thing. It's what we're all taught to do, when armed people try to rob us -- cooperate, get it over with, then call the cops. And it has nothing to do with how manly he is, or how good at hand to hand combat he may be. He could be Steve Austin, Kwai Chang Caine, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Peter Parker, or Steve Rogers -- doesn't matter. The presence of a non-combatant who is also being menaced at gunpoint dictates that a responsible adult respond exactly as Brendan Fraser depicted -- meekly. Cooperatively. Docilely. Keeping everybody alive and unhurt.

Because no matter how fast you are, how strong you are, how tough you are, how high a degree your black belt is -- when you're a merely mortal human being up against a loaded gun or two, and there's someone else besides you at risk -- you back off, and pick a better spot.

Again -- exactly the correct thing to do. No matter how humiliated one may feel during and afterward.

Then I got to thinking -- suppose instead of Fraser and Bullock in a movie, it's a comic book, and the people on the other end of the guns are Bruce Wayne and, say, Vicki Vale?

This shouldn't change the equation at all. Bruce should still do exactly what Brendan did in CRASH. Or, so it seems to me. He may be able to handle two hoods with hand guns no problem... but things can go wrong. Guns can go off. People -- in this case, Vicki -- could get killed. Bruce especially, more than nearly anyone else in the entire world, should know this.

Also, there's that whole secret identity thing. What's Vicki going to think, if Bruce puts these two gunmen down with a couple of quick Tae Kwan Do flourishes? She's going to think there's more to Gotham City's most worthless wealthy socialite than is readily apparent. And, you know, she's a reporter, so all in all, that ain't such a great idea for Bruce.

And yet, I imagine this, and then I imagine the uproar that would ensue throughout the fan community if such a scene ever actually appeared in any comic book, anywhere. Batman -- even in his civilian guise -- standing there and letting two punks get over on him? Oh no, fuck that.

(Let me take a moment here to specify: reverse the genders of the two people being mugged -- make it Selina Kyle, or Dinah Lance, or Buffy Summers -- out walking with a non-combatant -- or make it Bruce Wayne and he's out with a non-combatant male friend, assuming he has one -- and it's still the same. If you're alone and you want to do something stupid, that's your look out. If someone else is on the bullseye with you, discretion becomes the better part of valor. This has nothing to do with gender.)

I realize this is entirely hypothetical, so I'm not going to belabor this into the ground. Obviously, I could be entirely incorrect; perhaps such a scene could be presented in, say, next month's BATMAN and nobody would even think twice about it.

Still... I doubt it. My genuine expectation is that the genuine expectation of Batman's fans is -- Batman will never submit. Batman will fight, no matter what the odds. Batman doesn't bend over for anyone.

No matter who his actions may put at risk.

It seems to me that, if I'm correct -- and I know, that's a big if -- then essentially, what the fans want is a really stupid, completely out of control, utterly reckless, totally irresponsible Batman.

This is, apparently, (assuming, again, that my speculation on a mere hypothesis is even remotely accurate) the kind of hero we want nowadays.

Well, suddenly I have a much better understanding of how half the country votes for Bush...

ADDENDUM: I thought it would go without saying that, you know, if I'm wrong in my speculations as to how Bruce Wayne knuckling under to a hood with a gun would be received by his fans, then I'm wrong about everything proceeding from that speculation, too. I thought that was obvious. However, Marionette has been good enough to disabuse me of that presumption. So, let me say it -- if I'm wrong in my hypothesis, or my further speculations on that hypothesis, then, yes, I'm wrong about the kind of hero modern day America is looking for, and that probably has no bearing on why so many of my fellow citizens voted for that murderous asshole in the White House.

S'awright? S'awright!

9 Comments:

At 2:59 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps in the comics, but in the animated series, I seem to recall more than a couple of occassions where when such an instance (or similiar hostage situation) occurred Batman undid his utility belt and sucked it up. Oh, he didn't LIKE it, but he submitted.

 
At 4:36 AM , Blogger Marionette said...

So you are saying, as I understand it, that you believe (without any evidence) that a lot of people would hold a particular opinion about a certain hypothetical situation, and the country is going to the dogs because of this.

Have you encountered the term "straw man argument"?

Of course where it really falls down is when you cross the divide between reality and fiction. In reality you are correct; it would be foolish to resist.

But in Batman's world things work differently and it is possible for him to be so skilled that he knows he can disarm the attackers without causing harm to bystanders. That's one of the reasons it is fiction.

 
At 6:44 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

Anonymous,

Yeah. That's why I generally like the animated versions of various Modern Age characters more than I do the comic book versions. The animated version of Batman, specifically, is not the insane asskicking Chuck Norris with a mask Batman that we've had inflicted on us in comics since THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Or so it seems to me.

Marionette,

I know what a straw man argument is, and I was very aware I was basically simply setting forth a hypothetical situation and then speculating on it. Which is why I said exactly that, several times during the course of the essay. I'm sorry you can't be troubled to give a close reading to the stuff you feel obligated to then attempt to shoot down. But, I do appreciate the attention, anyway.

As to why the country is going to the dogs, well, that's for several reasons, one of which might well be, all the people out there who see something written by someone they are determined not to like, don't bother to read it completely, and then attack it blindly simply because it's written by someone they are determined not to like.

In addition, though, I do think it's because large segments of our co-culturists yearn for a return to good old fashioned American machismo again -- an era when America didn't submit, didn't roll over, didn't compromise, when we just did whatever the hell we wanted, secure in the notion that we were right no matter what, and ignored all the carpers and critics. This is an era that has never existed prior to Bush II taking the throne -- even a superpower has to compromise, and America has done it constantly, and it actually works out better for the world when national and international interests are willing to do this -- but there have been people bitching that America should just do whatever the hell it wants and stand up to its enemies and use its overwhelming military might for decades if not centuries now.

Those people have finally managed to get one of their own into the Oval Office, and, well, we see what's happened since.

I think my pointing this out is a decent and valid observation, albeit one that is, as you note, and as I thoroughly noted first, based on me speculatin' on a hypothesis.

As to comic book reality being different from actual reality, I agree with you, but be careful. The Modern Age has been all about breaking down those barriers and making the world we see inside the panel borders as much like The World Outside Our Windows as possible.

It's odd to me how Modern Age fans are always rabidly in favor of 'more realism' when it's something that makes their genitalia tingle, but how they suddenly back way off that demand for verisimilitude when an aspect of actuality they find personally offensive intrudes into their favorite comics.

Just as one random example I've been subjected to recently: Sexual assault on female characters is bad and degrading to those characters and all female comics fans, always, and we must never, never suffer it, especially when a male writer scripts it. But, powerful male characters we project all our own desires for infallibility into, behaving as if the world is one big movie set where nothing can possibly go wrong, and that recklessness having no negative consequences at all, is apparently fine. Because "in Batman's world things work differently and it is possible for him to be so skilled that he knows he can disarm the attackers without causing harm to bystanders. That's one of the reasons it is fiction."

I don't know. I liked the Silver Age, when 'suspension of disbelief' didn't mean "let's have Yellowjacket punch the Wasp out, let the fans vote on whether or not Robin should be tortured and killed by the Joker, let Dr. Light rape Sue Dibney and then get his brain fucked with by the JLA, and gee, it's about time we showed that even a hero can be brutally maimed, so we'll have that very same villain shoot Babs Gordon in the spine and permanently cripple her, making her the only hero in the history of comics upon whom the advanced alien technology and advanced sorcery available to her hero friends will not work".

But probably, that's just me.

Thanks for stopping by.

 
At 9:34 AM , Blogger Marionette said...

No, I've reread your article and I don't think I missed anything. And sorry, but you can't blame the state of the nation on me, I'm not American. And from my part of the planet it seems like America never stopped being the big bully in the world playground. Though I'd question whether they've been doing it for centuries. I'm not sure America had that much influence outside its own borders pre-1900.

And yes, I know a lot of comics like to put on a veneer of realism, but photorealistic art and gratuitous unpleasentness does not equal realism, particularly when you are talking about people in tights who shoot laser beams out of their eyes or turn green when they get annoyed. It's just a different type of fantasy and one I don't have a lot of interest in either.

I don't quite see how you equate my comments about Batman with rape in comics so I can't really respond. But I'm with you on the preference for the Silver Age.

 
At 10:01 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

Marionette,

I won't argue with you further about how close a reading you've given the entry. However, accusing me of doing something I freely admit to doing at least twice, maybe more, in the course of the article (because I was aware I was doing it) strikes me as poor rhetorical tactics. Having said that, I'll move on.

What Americans have, or haven't, done, for our entire imperialist running dog capitalist bourgeousie history, isn't really the subject of the essay. I think I'd just be reiterating stuff I've already said to go into that further. You seem to have little patience for my musings in that context, so there seems little point there.

As to comics being fantasy, I must confess, I don't know much about your opinions in general. If you're someone who has never complained about any aspect of any fictional construct on the grounds that it wasn't 'realistic', then, sure, you're being perfectly consistent in your comments here. However, my experience is, most heroic mythology fans complain endlessly about lack of realism when it suits them, and then they turn around and hide behind "well, this is fantasy" when presented with some 'realistic' story facet they personally find distasteful.

If that's not you, then disregard, and accept my apologies. But it's a rare, rare fan who hasn't applied this double standard at some point or another. Lord knows I do it all the time; I want a level of internal consistency that allows me to suspend my disbelief more readily, but I also want larger, better than life heroes who actually behave in a heroic fashion... while, you know, having normal, day to day quirks and mannerisms that allow me to identify with them more closely.

It's a tough application, and I suppose hard to blame comics writers for failing me on occasion.

Nonetheless, in this case, what I'm speculating on is, if it's smart, wise, and responsible for a real person to behave in a certain way in a certain situation, how is it different for someone like Bruce Wayne? I carefully selected him; unlike his fellow heroes, Bruce Wayne is pretty much Mr. Reality. He's a normal man, dealing with human physical limitations, driven by personal demons, who fights, for the most part, real world threats. Real world limitations should apply.

And, again, here I am, reiterating my basic points. Sorry. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree and move on.

 
At 1:10 PM , Blogger Timothy Liebe said...

Interesting post, Highlander - though I'm not sure WHERE some of your subsequent disagreements w/Marionette came from.... ::puzzled::

With great sorrow (b/c I GLADLY - and deservedly! - blame El Presidente Smirking Chimp for Everything That's Wrong With America Today), the desire for an effective hero who, no matter what the circumstances or who else might be endangered, Kicks Ass and Takes Names far predates The Great Divider. That character is at the core of pulp fiction, popular movies and comic books, all of which initially were, at least partially, the power fantasies of disenfranchised young men (and very occasionally women). To a bespectacled reedy Jewish-American boy who liked to doodle and got picked on a lot as a kid, the fantasy of being able to rip open his shirt to expose a massively-muscled (and suspiciously goyish ) body, whip off his unneeded glasses, kick massive amounts of sand in the bully's face for a change, then leap over a tall building and out of sight before anybody figured out he looked a LOT like the bespectacled reedy etc., etc. with his glasses off (and where'd that nerd go, anyway?) is a powerful, and perfectly understandable, one. Unfortunately, it's also an easily-manipulated one to a sociopolitical agenda - as Fascist leaders of the Thirties, and Republicans now, have repeatedly proven.(*)

I don't know if you've read Michael Chabon's THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY, but if you haven't I'd recommend it as he addresses the early days of superhero comics, and the mindsets of the people who created them, brilliantly. Don't let the Pulitzer Prize put you off - it's actually surprisingly entertaining! :D

As to which heroes fight first no matter the circumstances, and which "suck it up" and surrender rather than risking innocent lives being hurt, that depends more on the individual writer's PoV than the character overall. Even somebody like The Punisher, whose character is an armed vigilante out to eradicate crime totally, can either be written as an out-of-control lunatic who'd shoot a sometimes ally first and not bother asking questions (as he was in Bendis's DAREDEVIL run), or as somebody wise enough to know when to stike and when to sit back and let events unfold (as in Brubaker's DAREDEVIL).

Paranthetically, I just want to point out it's kind of unfair to equate Chuck Norris, of all people, with the "Kick First and Damn the Consquences!" type macho hero. He's the first one to urge people not to be a hero in those kind of circumstances - he's repeatedly said he himself, if surrounded by muggers, would just give them his money...if he didn't have any, he'd write 'em a check! ;)

Best,
Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce
- and co-writer of Marvel's upcoming White Tiger comic

---
(*) Yes, I equated Republicans with Fascists and insulted the current Republican President of the U.S. twice - and no, I will NOT apologize for it. Who do you think I am, anyway - John Kerry? >:)

 
At 1:43 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Interesting post, Highlander - though I'm not sure WHERE some of your subsequent disagreements w/Marionette came from.... ::puzzled::

It's possible I may have been unfair to Marionette, but on the other hand, I think she and I have mixed it up a little bit prior to this, on some of the other entries I've had that were linked to from When Fangirls Attack! If I'm wrong, well, I'm sorry. But that's the overlap you're perceiving but not understanding is coming from.

With great sorrow

Comes great responsibility?

(b/c I GLADLY - and deservedly! - blame El Presidente Smirking Chimp for Everything That's Wrong With America Today)

He doesn't have much to do with reality TV, and probably isn't responsible for DEADWOOD's cancellation.

the desire for an effective hero who, no matter what the circumstances or who else might be endangered, Kicks Ass and Takes Names far predates The Great Divider. That character is at the core of pulp fiction, popular movies and comic books, all of which initially were, at least partially, the power fantasies of disenfranchised young men (and very occasionally women).

I appreciate the enthusiastic approach towards spreading the good word on comics and heroic mythology. However, let me introduce myself in a little bit more detail. In addition to 'Highlander', I have also gone under the web pseuds 'Doc Nebula', 'A Brown Eyed Handsome Man', and 'John Jones, Manhunter from Marathon, IL'. I don't expect you'll ever have heard of me under any of these pseuds, but I'm letting you know of them so when I direct you to http://martianvision.blogspot.com, or angelfire.com/ny3/docnebula, and if in fact you actually go there, you'll realize all that stuff is authored by me, and will then realize that, yeah, I know very well the origin of the supehero as avatar of the frustrated geek's power fantasies.

Unfortunately, it's also an easily-manipulated one to a sociopolitical agenda - as Fascist leaders of the Thirties, and Republicans now, have repeatedly proven.(*)

Feeling frustrated and powerless is a common human emotion and one that has been easily exploited by demagogues throughout human history, yes.

I don't know if you've read Michael Chabon's THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY,

I have. I liked the early comics era stuff a lot. Didn't care for most of the rest of it.

As to which heroes fight first no matter the circumstances, and which "suck it up" and surrender rather than risking innocent lives being hurt, that depends more on the individual writer's PoV than the character overall. Even somebody like The Punisher, whose character is an armed vigilante out to eradicate crime totally, can either be written as an out-of-control lunatic who'd shoot a sometimes ally first and not bother asking questions (as he was in Bendis's DAREDEVIL run), or as somebody wise enough to know when to stike and when to sit back and let events unfold (as in Brubaker's DAREDEVIL).

I think we're speaking at cross purposes here. I admire your points, I just don't think they address the subject matter of my essay. I also really don't want to reiterate what I'm saying in the entry Yet Another Time, as I've already done it twice for Marionette (I think). And I've also admitted that I could be very wrong in my hypothesis. Maybe Bruce Wayne could back down to a couple of armed muggers and his fans wouldn't object at all. Maybe they don't want him to be this insane berserker ultimate alpha male who can never be dominated, not for just one minute. That's possible.

Again... I was speculating. I was writing about this little thing my brain did one day. I do that sometimes. In fact, I do it quite often, here on this blog.

Paranthetically, I just want to point out it's kind of unfair to equate Chuck Norris, of all people, with the "Kick First and Damn the Consquences!" type macho hero. He's the first one to urge people not to be a hero in those kind of circumstances - he's repeatedly said he himself, if surrounded by muggers, would just give them his money...if he didn't have any, he'd write 'em a check! ;)

Yeah, I was more referring to the mythological Chuck Norris of those hilarious Chuck Norris Facts you see out here on the 'net. But I grant you, that's not clear.


- and co-writer of Marvel's upcoming White Tiger comic

Congrats.


(*) Yes, I equated Republicans with Fascists and insulted the current Republican President of the U.S. twice - and no, I will NOT apologize for it. Who do you think I am, anyway - John Kerry? >:)

Well, I called him a murderous asshole, so, y'know, welcome to the blog. Check out my poli blog over at abehm.blogspot.com, too.

I admit, a WHITE TIGER written by John Kerry is something I'd certainly try...

 
At 10:54 PM , Blogger Timothy Liebe said...

Highlander - sorry, I didn't mean to lecture...and certainly not to people with more knowledge of the subject than I have! ::sheepish g::

(b/c I GLADLY - and deservedly! - blame El Presidente Smirking Chimp for Everything That's Wrong With America Today)

He doesn't have much to do with reality TV, and probably isn't responsible for DEADWOOD's cancellation.


Naw - but you can probably blame his father for reality TV...and his censorious FCC Chairman for DEADWOOD's cancellation! ;) Don't know if you could blame anyone connected w/him for STUDIO 60 FROM THE SUNSET STRIP being such a disappointment, though....

I don't know if you've read Michael Chabon's THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY,

I have. I liked the early comics era stuff a lot. Didn't care for most of the rest of it.


Liked the ending, even if the resolution was a bit idealized - especially given Hollywood in the Fifties was hardly a bastion of progressivism! San Francisco or Greenwich Village might've made more sense under the circumstances - but that's just me.

Yeah, I was more referring to the mythological Chuck Norris of those hilarious Chuck Norris Facts you see out here on the 'net. But I grant you, that's not clear.

Oh, my - I wonder if Norris even reads what those "facts" allege about him, and how far it strays from everything he talks about? :D

I admit, a WHITE TIGER written by John Kerry is something I'd certainly try...

Naahhhhh.... It'd be so convoluted, you wouldn't be able to make out the plot to save your life! Mind you, I voted for him anyway in '04, b/c "convoluted" is a lot better than "maliciously stupid"....

Best,
Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce - and co-author of Marvel's WHITE TIGER comic - out 11-15-06

 
At 8:50 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

Highlander - sorry, I didn't mean to lecture...and certainly not to people with more knowledge of the subject than I have! ::sheepish g::

No big. How you gonna know if I don't tell you? After all, you got a gig, I don't.

Naw - but you can probably blame his father for reality TV...and his censorious FCC Chairman for DEADWOOD's cancellation! ;) Don't know if you could blame anyone connected w/him for STUDIO 60 FROM THE SUNSET STRIP being such a disappointment, though....

It makes sense to me that DEADWOOD was cancelled due to very high overhead. Period pieces, especially those as meticulously authentic as DEADWOOD, are really really expensive. But it wouldn't surprise me if there was some conservative prurience in there, too.

As to STUDIO 60, if I'd been paying attention earlier and known it was Aaron Sorkin's new show, I might have checked it out from the start. If I had, I guess I'd have been badly disappointed; at least, that's what people are saying. I know wasting one of the Babe slots on a born again Christian character struggling with her beliefs would have pissed me off, just as it did when Sorkin made Emily Procter be a raving dittohead on WEST WING. But as it is, I've never seen more than the promos that come on during HEROES.

Liked the ending, even if the resolution was a bit idealized - especially given Hollywood in the Fifties was hardly a bastion of progressivism! San Francisco or Greenwich Village might've made more sense under the circumstances - but that's just me.

The ending was all right by me; that's what fantasy is for. The golem stuff seemed like a side issue. It was interesting for me, watching as the artist was transformed from a Jack Kirby stand in to Will Eisner later on in his career.

Other than the gratutious gay sex scenes, what bothered me the most was that as with many superhero studies, the writer had no real talent for creating viable superhero characters. I simply don't believe The Escapist would ever have become a seminal icon in the genre. A lot of similarly successful real characters have crappy names, but their crappy names are melodramatic and, well, zingy, in a way The Escapist simply isn't.

Oh, my - I wonder if Norris even reads what those "facts" allege about him, and how far it strays from everything he talks about? :D

He does... see my poli blog at abehm.blogspot.com.

Naahhhhh.... It'd be so convoluted, you wouldn't be able to make out the plot to save your life!

Convoluted doesn't bother me if the writer can handle his liquor. FROM HELL is one of my favorite comics of all time, and I'm enjoying 52 quite a lot. I grant you, though, many writers can't make convoluted work at all (see Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis -- nearly all those Brit Alan Moore wannabes, in fact, think they can do convoluted because Alan Moore pulls it off, but, well, they're as incapable of carrying Moore's water in that regard as they are in every other).

 

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