Batman and Bruce: Superheroes and Identity
A New Batman
It has been recently announced that Bruce Wayne will no longer be Batman. Due to the long history of the comic book industry, using such tactics to boost sales, most would doubt the permanent nature of this change. Even so, many fans will no doubt be outraged by it. After all, only Bruce Wayne can truly be Batman. Isn’t that correct? Some may say so, but there are several ways to look at the importance of the alter ego in superhero comics. Readers often identify with both the superhero persona as well as the alter ego. Here we shall explore the significance of the secret identity in relation to the popularity of the Batman.
Truthfully, most readers know that such a change is a temporary one. Batman is Bruce Wayne. However, that does not necessarily mean others cannot take up the mantle for a time. Fans will observe them as temporary stand ins. Bruce will always be the true Caped Crusader. This is primarily related to the personal drive of Wayne to dawn the vigilante persona in the first place. It is his origin and human personality, as with many other heroes, creating a strong connection with the reader to keep them coming back for more each month. This is not to say that Bruce Wayne has not gone through alterations over the decades. Characters such as these must reinvent themselves to an extent. However, the core aspect of Bruce Wayne has remained relatively unchanged.
Origin and Motivation
Arguably, the most important aspect of Batman is his origin. At a very young age, Bruce Wayne witnessed the brutal murder of his parents in front of his very eyes. This had a profound effect on the boy. He would use his parent’s wealth and resources to train himself in virtually every way imaginable. Bruce would travel the world and hone his physical and mental prowess. He would then use his own fears and forge them into the symbol of the bat. This persona, The Batman, would be a way for Bruce to turn his own fears into a force for good. Not only would his use his wealth to improve Gotham legally; he would stomp out the criminal element through vigilante justice.
Another example of Bruce’s devotion to the cause is in his long journey of self-discovery. Thanks to the benefit of his wealth, Wayne was able to spend much of his youth traveling the globe. He trained in virtually every type of martial art and strengthened his body to physical perfection. Perhaps most importantly, he lived among the criminal element to learn their ways. He would discover the criminal mentality. This included not only what drove criminals but also what they feared. Wayne’s experience in the underworld improved his investigative abilities to become the World’s Greatest Detective.
A more metaphorical aspect of the origin of Batman is in the image of the bat itself. As a young boy, Bruce fell into an underground cave. There he suffered a major shock when he was attacked by a swarm of bats. This event would stick with him for years to come. After an unsuccessful attempt to stop crime once he returned to Gotham, Bruce realized that he could not be successful unless the criminal element truly feared him. As fate would have it, a bat would crash through the window near where his sat. This would inspire to turn his own fear into a strength. This personal experience is indicative of the significance of Bruce Wayne as the Batman. No other character has this as a motivating factor. This origin has been retold in such definitive works as Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.
The Importance of the Dual Identity
In his efforts to destroy the crime and corruption that had claimed the lives of his parents, Bruce would need two different strategies. Each is tied with the dual nature of his superhero lifestyle. As previously mentioned, the Batman persona is a vehicle to intimidate criminals through intimidation and fear. As with most dual identities, the superhero identity exists to protect those the hero is closest to. Over the years, Bruce would form relationships with many people. Most prominent among them would be his loyal butler Alfred. More importantly, Alfred serves as a father figure and moral compass for Bruce. Unlike the various Robins, Alfred is not directly involved with all the crime fighting aspects of Bruce’s life in most interpretations. It is safe to say that Bruce wishes to keep his surrogate father as safe as possible despite his drive to commit vigilante justice.
Bruce uses the Batman as a way to protect those closest to him. However, it also allows him to move more freely as the billionaire playboy. Not only can his billions be used to rebuild the city legally, it provides him with the resources and flexibility to fund his superhero lifestyle. As is often mentioned, Batman has no real superpowers. He functions based on willpower and funding. If his enemies continue to suspect that Bruce Wayne and Batman are separate, then they will less likely to attack Wayne when he is not donning the cape and cowl. After all, even Batman needs to rest and recuperate. The Bruce Wayne identity simply makes this all the more possible.
The duality of the man is also relevant in regards to Bruce Wayne’s image as a public figure. While his wealth allows his maneuverability within the streets of Gotham, he also pours massive amounts of funds into charities and the job market to improve the lives of the citizens. Examples of this were seen in the aftermath of Batman:Cataclysm, where Bruce must take a break from crime fighting and travel to Washington to plead for government help. Gotham has suffered a massive earthquake and Wayne knew that he could do more good without his guise in this situation. Episodes of Batman: The Animated Series often showed the Wayne foundation involved in medicine, technology and even criminal rehabilitation. This shows that there is more to this man than the grim image he often demonstrates. Bruce Wayne is still a man deeply rooted in protecting his city. He can even take a break from the near obsessive war on crime when the need arises. This is a powerful example of the strength of this particular dual identity.
Building a Family
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Bruce Wayne as the Batman is his relationships with others. Many superheroes boast families of a sort. Superman has Jimmy Olson and Lois Lane. Spider-man has Mary-Jane and Aunt May. However, few superheroes have as large and diverse group of people actively involved in their own personal mission. Some heroes have emotional support to a degree, but Batman seems to draw other like mined misfits into his clan. The most obvious are the various Robins. Each boy or girl adds something of a unique contrast to the Batman. Batman is dark and brooding while Robin is bright and colorful. Though this was due to early marketing to make Batman more approachable to children, each Robin allows the reader to observe a softer side to the Caped Crusader.
Bruce is often some so obsessed with his mission that he sees these young people as he did himself. He takes it upon himself to train them at an age when they are rather impressionable. Dick Grayson’s parents were murdered by criminals as well. Batman would essentially take the boy on as a son and mentor. However, when Robin was nearly killed by the villain Two-Face, Batman tried to push the relationship away. This show are very interesting internal conflict for the man. Batman is one of the most unshakable of comic book heroes in terms of his mission. One would think this would make his ability to form bonds with others even more difficult. Ironically, most members of the Bat Family remain truly loyal and devoted to him. This is due to the shear magnitude of his cause. He both inspires and intimidates.
Some readers simply assume that Batman is dark and brooding all the time. While it is true that the Batman identity has come close to consuming him, Bruce Wayne is still the core of the character’s creation. Bruce Wayne, a man who lost his family as a boy, is one would think would avoid emotional attachment. Still, with each of this wards he attempted to help strengthen others by empowering them with his knowledge and wealth. Some would be hurt, like Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon, but each of these losses would allow Bruce to show true grief and even doubt. This is something that may drive him more than his own personal loss all those years ago. Rather, to protect the ones he took upon his mission.
There is a counter argument that perhaps Batman has existed long enough that he can be seen as a symbol. In that case, anyone with the right resources could wear the mask. Recently, Dick Grayson took on the mantle of Dark Knight. Readers continued to read the series, albeit with very mixed reactions. If a character is going to take on the responsibility of such an iconic hero, it should be one the readers can accept. Grayson is probably one the better choices. He was Bruce’s sidekick and heir and came into his own as the hero Nightwing. Still, after a short time Bruce Wayne would return to take his place as Batman. Fans would rejoice. The simple truth of the matter is that Bruce Wayne and the Batman are truly linked. While all fans have a preference, both the secret identity and the superhero persona are needed to fuel the dynamic nature of such characters. While Batman may be seen as a symbol to some, it is the man behind the mask that motivates all the major actions of these adventures.
Batman is Bruce Wayne. At the very least, he is most popular and widely accepted version of the character. Batman has been around for over seventy five years. Most of the time, the primary version of this character is Bruce Wayne. Readers have grown to identify with him. They feel his pain and his struggle. Most importantly, they have a connection with this character. This could be attributed to the fact that Bruce Wayne has been Batman for so long and readers are not open to change. Other characters have taken on the Dark Knight persona. However, for many it is Bruce’s own personal drive and motivation to create the force for justice that made him so interesting in the first place. It could be said that the man’s own obsession has forced the Batman to become the primary identity. Few superheroes are as devoted to the cause. Some are bitten by radioactive spiders and driven by guilt. Others are born as mutants and choose to react to prejudice in a positive way. Bruce Wayne is a man. He is a man drive by will and resources to be the best that he can be. It is this drive and circumstance that make this superhero identity truly unique.
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