Batman Should Be Dark

March 9th, 2006 by | Tags: , , , , , ,

Batman should be dark.

“But David!” I hear you saying. “You hate dark, angsty Batman! He’s been horribly done in the past few years!”

This is true, but hear me out.

Batman should be dark. He should be dark and scary, not dark and stupid. Do you know what most people would do when they were accosted by a grown man in a batsuit, armored or not? They’d laugh nervously and look for the Candid Camera crew, or I guess Ashton Kutcher if you’re a youngster. Let’s keep it real. If three of your four bank-robbing buddies just suddenly drop down unconscious, you’re going to be understandably afraid. When you feel a hand drop down on the back of your neck, grab you, and put you through a wall, you’re going to be downright terrified.

This is Batman.

Batman Begins was a step in the right direction, but they lost it towards the end. Batman shouldn’t be a superhero. He should be a mythical figure. His legend should so overpower the truth that no one knows exactly what he is or what he’s capable of doing. He shouldn’t just use the cover of night to get the drop on his enemies. He should use the cover of night to get the drop on his enemies, scare them to the point that they can’t breathe, then leave them broken and bleeding on the sidewalk, half-insane with fear.

You see where I’m going with this. This is partially inspired by Frank Miller’s treatment of Batman in the first book of Dark Knight Strikes Again. Batman doesn’t actually appear for much of the first book, but his presence is definitely felt. I want to see this integrated into the mythos. If criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot, give them a reason to truly be scared. Going toe-to-toe with a recurring cast of super-villains won’t work. Batman needs to move in and out like a ninja. You want an example of a good Bats?

year100-15.jpg year100-16.jpg
year100-17.jpg year100-18.jpg year100-19.jpg

Those pages are from Paul Pope’s recently released Batman Year 100 #1. Batman as force of nature. People are dispatched quickly and he’s gone back into the darkness. Pages 18 to 19 are pretty much exactly how I see Batman. It’s similar to the scene in the dilapidated apartment building in Miller’s Year One. You catch sight of a blur out of the corner of your eye, what was that? Is that a human over there? and bam, you’re done. Down for the count and you don’t really have any idea what hit you.

Batman should be the guy who can reduce a room full of men to drooling, gibbering messes. Catching sight of only the bat-eyes in the dark (which should totally have a reflective surface that can slide down over the eye-holes for maximum fear-inducing) should make you drop your gun and give up before you’re crippled mentally and physically.

I think that “predator” would be a good word for him. You don’t know that it’s him stalking you, per se. You feel a tingle on the back of your neck. A flitter off to the side, a rustle of cloth behind you. Sounds that may or not be the footsteps from a heavy boot.

Batman should be that guy, that when the criminal turns around and starts firing into the darkness until he runs out of ammo, appears behind him, takes his gun from him with one hand and breaks his arm in three places in the same motion.

And he should enjoy it. It’s a dark job, and truly an impossible one, but I can’t see him being anything beyond obsessive. Batman isn’t crazy. He’s focused. He knows exactly what he’s doing and how he has to do it. He doesn’t do his night job to the detriment of his daily life. He still does the billionaire richboy shtick.

Some rich people like to dress up in leather and be spanked. Bruce Wayne likes to go out at night and scare criminals until they can do nothing but cry. Criminals should be afraid to act because of him. They don’t say his name, because if you say his name three times, he’ll appear behind you. He should be mythic. Epic.

It sounds sick, but I think that Bruce should enjoy being Batman. He’s honoring his parents memory by ensuring that what happens to them will not happen again. In fact, I see him sitting, chilling at his house, and laughing. He’d be happy. In fact, this rings extremely true:

Batman should be scary.

Things to think on: Batman Should Detect, Rather Than Beating People Up Until He Finds What’s What, Batman and Robin Should Not Hate Each Other, Batman Is Not Crazy, Batman Doesn’t Angst, and Batman Rocks Through the Ages: A Story of Metron Getting Bat-suckerpunched.

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4 comments to “Batman Should Be Dark”

  1. Which comic is that last scan from, with Batman and Catwoman?

  2. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Strikes Again.

  3. That’s probably why some of the best sequences in Batman stories are when we see things from the crook’s side. I think the reason it’s not seen more often is that it’s hard to write a shadowy, rarely in-frame stealth human wrecking machine as a protagonist. It kills a lot of suspense when the guy whose thoughts you’re reading/who’s perspective you’re seeing from is the one getting the drop on people.

    Not to say that it’s impossible, but some writers I think aren’t comfortable with shhifting the POV around for awesomenesses’ sake

  4. Batman Begins did the Dark Knight concept well during that scene at the docks, so I assume that is what you are referring to. It also worked well in that section of town with Arkham asylum when bedlam broke out, another example of him moving in and out of sight. Even though those moments are not the whole movie, it is infinitely better than Batman of the Adam West or George Clooney variety. Otherwise we would see psycho killer clowns shooting people with paintball guns filled with wacky acid as the main villains. Ugh.