Batman Is Bruce Wayne, Many Troubles In Your Brain

November 23rd, 2007 by | Tags: ,

Like you’re probably well aware, acclaimed comics scribe Grant Morrison has been writing the ongoing Batman comic since late 2006 (aside from a fill-in arc by Ostrander and Mandrake after issue 658). It’s been a pretty polarizing run, with some (like me) enjoying the hell out of it, while others are annoyed by the inclusion of Batman’s son Damian and some of the more classical elements reintroduced to the universe. In any case, it’s still a Grant Morrison comic, and that generally means there’s more going on underneath the surface. The run has largely been using other characters to explore Batman himself: Damian, the Three Ghosts of Batman, Joker and arguably Ra’s Al Ghul (who has always been something of an anti-Batman). One of the most obvious examples of this is the recent Club of Heroes story arc in issues 667-669 (with art by the amazing J.H. Williams III). Since Morrison’s run is far from over it’s hard to analyze it in its entirity yet, but this story arc is (or at least appears to be) standalone enough to be worth a closer look. Plus it was just a lot of fun! The following article will contain spoilers for the arc, so read at your own heed, but there’s probably no reason to read the article if you haven’t finished the story in the first place anyway.

The Club of Heroes is comprised of crimefighters from all around the world, all inspired by Batman in some way. Each member of the Club represents a different aspect of the character; the reason why he is the best among them and the one they all look up to is because he’s the sum of their parts. They embody the traits the character has displayed throughout the years, traits that although they vary in prominence depending on the writer and era are an integral part of what makes Batman such an enduring character. It’s also interesting to note how Batman (and by extent Morrison) treats these characters with varying degrees of admiration, although he respects them all.

Legionary: Batman the Love God
“I used to ride a motorcycle dressed like
Roman centurion, eh? What a machine!
I could fight crime and pick up girls.”

Remember when Batman had women falling for him left and right? Vicki Vale, Selina Kyle, Silver St. Cloud, Talia Al Ghul, Sasha Bordeaux. Batman the hairy-chested Love God. That’s Legionary. Or rather, that’s who Legionary used to be, since at the time of the story arc he’s become something of a self-loathing slob (“Okay, I’m a pig”). It’s a reflection of how the aspect of Batman as someone who engages in (reasonably) healthy relationships has fallen by the wayside and made way for his more deranged personality traits. The fact that Legionary is the first one to die could signify Morrison doing away with Batman’s unhealthy love life; He’s already talked about bringing back the Neal Adams’ style “hairy-chested love-god” version of the character, and his current fling with Jezebel Jet is a definite step in this direction. Batman himself doesn’t oppose: “Even the Legionary was great once.”

Knight: Batman the Mental Case
“He’s told you all about me, then? The
‘Batman and Robin of England’ and
all that, God help us.
Dad’s idea.”

Knight is not entirely right in the head. After his father (the original Knight) was killed by one of their enemies, he went kind of crazy and ended up in the gutter addicted to drugs. It was only thanks to Beryl (the new Squire) and her mother that he managed to pull himself back onto his feet, though he still suffers from the occassional breakdown. In this way, Knight represents the part of Batman that isn’t entirely right of mind. Not just the part that compels him to dress up like a bat to fight crime; It’s also the part that’s yearning to rebuild the family he’s lost, a family that keeps him stable and prevents him from going off the deep end. In this way, Squire is essentially a more maternal Robin, and he needs her just as much as she needs him.

Gaucho: Batman the Hero
“Anyway, what’s so funny? You’ve never
been mind-controlled by a

The Gaucho from Argentine is the most straightforwardly heroic member of the Club, and interestingly, the one Batman himself seems to respect the most. He’s the macho vigilante with a colorful rogues gallery, at least one of which follows a very oldschool line of villainy (El Sombrero, who builds classical death traps as an artform). He even saves Batman’s life at one point, cementing his status as a genuine do-gooder. It’s probably no coincidence, then, that he has more than a passing resemblance to Zorro, Bruce Wayne’s own childhood hero.

Musketeer: Batman the Showman
“My book made me rich overnight, and now
my agent has sold the
movie rights for God
knows how many millions of dollars.”

The French Musketeer is easily the most flamboyant, happy-go-lucky person in the Club. While most of the group varies from serious to down-right grim or is otherwise not entirely happy with themselves, Musketeer is the one who seems to genuinely enjoy doing what he does. He’s the part of Batman that still knows how to have fun, and he’s not afraid to show it. Oddly, despite Morrison’s attempts to make Batman more of a fun guy, Musketeer doesn’t really come across well in the storyline. He’s a bit of a sellout, claiming that now that he’s rich he never has to fight crime again, and doesn’t really do anything of note in the arc. Of course, being fun and having fun are not exactly the same thing, and Morrison’s Batman has been shown to have a rather morbid sense of humor. He still feels like a bit of an incongruity.

Man-of-Bats: Batman the Father
“…but ‘heroes’? Only a little kid would
ever think we were heroes.”

One of the more obvious ones, since Man-of-Bats is the only person in the Club with a son. Although Batman needs a family to remain stable, he also acts as a father figure to his sidekicks, all of whom have or had lost their parental figures in some way. And then there’s Damian, Batman’s natural son, coming to haunt him from out of nowhere. Batman is, of course, not a very good father, which is reflected in Man-of-Bats; although he still obviously cares for his son, he doesn’t manage to express this properly. The result is that his son rebels against him in a deliberate (simplified) parallel to Nightwing, by wishing to be acknowledged as the identity he chose himself (Raven Red) rather than the sidekick one assigned to him (Little Raven). Possibly of note is that Man-0f-Bats is an accomplished surgeon, just like Thomas Wayne.

Dark Ranger: Batman the Dark Knight
“The bad blokes get tougher and meaner every time
they see a new
gangster movie. You’re almost obliged
to go the bad ass route these days, mate.”

Morrison has an obvious disdain for grim and gritty anti-hero types, and he expresses this sentiment in a lot of his comics. This time, he does it with Dark Ranger. Though Batman has never been a lighthearted character outside of the massively campy Dick Sprang years, a lot of writers, especially in recent years, tend to go overboard with the character’s “Dark Knight” element and forget that Batman is still, at its core, a ludicrous idea. Strangely Dark Ranger is not entirely unsympathetic, and genuinely seems to have taken the “dark” route out of necessity rather than the idea that it would be cool (which in itself is commentary on the “darkification” of superhero comic books). Still, he’s one of the members of the Club that doesn’t survive the story arc, possibly signifying that Morrison is doing away with some of the unrelenting darkness in the Batman universe.

Wingman: Batman the Jerk
“I actually came up with the Wingman crimefighting
concept about a year
before Batman. A whole year.
Possibly more. We worked together once, that’s all.”

When you come right down to it, Wingman is just an asshole. While Dark Ranger merely represents a general tone, Wingman is all the nasty parts of Batman’s personality isolated and exaggerated to almost caricaturist proportions. He’s paranoid, selfish and egotistical. He’s the Batman that keeps contingency plans to defeat his friends, “just in case”, the Batman that builds satellites in top secret so he can spy on people and the Batman that alienates his own surrogate family with his attitude. He’s easily the most unpleasant person in the Club, cemented by the fact that he was the only accomplice in the killings on the island. He’s also the last member of the Club to die, and the part of Batman’s personality Morrison is most eager to get rid of.

Lastly, John Mayhew, the one who organized the Club in the first place, is also worth a look. He doesn’t really represent an established part of Batman’s character; rather, he’s what Bruce Wayne could have become if he hadn’t decided to become Batman (“What do eccentric men who have everything do when they get bored?“). Mayhew is Bruce Wayne without a purpose in life. In many ways, becoming Batman was the best (and definitely the biggest) decision Bruce has made in his life. Be thankful for Batman.

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9 comments to “Batman Is Bruce Wayne, Many Troubles In Your Brain”

  1. Hmmm…interesting look. I didn’t make the connection for the Musketeer and Gaucho, but must admit that the Wingman and Dark Ranger parallels were pretty much there.

    When you highlight each of their screenshots like that, it also highlights Jimenez’s amazing art mimicry that mirrors those different eras of Batman.

  2. Morrison’s run needs more Bat-mite. You know its true. Deep in your secret heart. MORE BAT-MITE!

  3. MarkPoa: Williams, not Jimenez. But yeah, he’s great.

    Lurker: Issue 672!

  4. Oops. My mistake.

  5. Dark Ranger-Mite!

  6. About halfway through Batman Forever, my friend’s big sister leaned over to my sister and whispered, “Is Bruce Wayne Batman?”

  7. An interview by Morrison stated that he would be leaving all the dramatic Detective stuff to Detective Comics and just have Bats as a Superhero…which is probably why El Gaucho is so strong a character. I also notice how one of the most messed-up ones – the Knight – looks just like Prometheus, Morrison’s other ‘Anti-Batman’ Character, and Wingman is just like Owlman, who is also a massive jerk.

    Also, thankyou for selling me on this Arc. I’m picking up the TPB.

  8. really good analysis, I found it from a link on wikipedia. Good stuff, thanks.

  9. Aguante el GAUCHO!