USER EDITORIAL: Finding The Real BATMAN

This is long, but I really hope it is read with open eyes and clear heads. It may quell some of the rage. It may even save Batman. I present to you a passionate defence of The Dark Knight by a lifelong Batfan

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By overlordfombax - 2/13/2012
I think we need to start over.

I'm a nice guy. I'm a well-educated guy. I'm a passionate, thoughtful, reasonable guy. At least, that's what I've been told all my life by most people, so that's what I believe. That’s all subjective. OBJECTIVELY, I know where I live, what I do, what’s happened to me, who I know, and endless other facts, including that I have been a Batman fan all my life. I’ve loved him since I first knew what a superhero was, and I’ve always regularly read the comics and have seen and loved every TV show and movie. Dark Knight isn’t by any means the ONLY Batmovie I love; it’s merely my favorite.

I just friggin’ love Batman, and I love the sheer number of ways he has been interpreted over the years. And even though I devour the main comic storyline, in many ways I appreciate new takes on the character even more. I’m not just talking about the Nolan films, mind you. I mean everything from Arkham: Serious House to Elseworlds to Beyond to Dark Knight Returns TO the Nolan films. So in no way should anyone be allowed to write me off as a "Nolanite," lest I write THEM off using a long series of violent vituperations.

The Internet, though, seems to exaggerate the bad qualities in everybody. Lately, there's been an influx of hatred and dismissal of opinions by comic book fans directed at Nolan, his movies, and the people who love them. According to many people I’ve met online recently, loving and defending Dark Knight makes me look like a pretentious, Nolanite “fag” who doesn't understand Batman.

Similarly, to us “Nolanites,” the angriest of haters look like closed-minded simpletons who can't stand up for what they believe in without falling back on hate. But not all of them. I believe that most people are better than that. So I'm going to try and reach out to you all here, treating you with respect, despite receiving very little respect when defending this movie on this site and many others. I will not insult anyone's intelligence or attempt to establish my personal truths as universal truths. Rather, I'm going to do the unthinkable and debate about Batman, on the Internet, like a reasonable adult.

So, looking at the comics and the Nolan films, we see two very different Batmen. In the comics, he is a man of peak human physicality and intelligence. He is the Most Dangerous Man Alive. He is the World’s Greatest Detective. His victory is in the preparation. He never gives in to temptation, he never gets beaten unless there’s a huge fuss made about it, and he never stops being the best example of a human being on the planet. His will is iron because he has made the darkness his ally. His world is stylized and largely fantastical, and his enemies range from straightforward mobsters and murderers to gargantuan mutants and demonic, death-defying terrorists. In short – AWESOME.

Meanwhile, in the Nolan films, Batman is an expert combatant, but one who can be worn down if he pushes himself too hard. He can be beaten mentally by criminals who he can’t possibly prepare for because he’s never met anything like them. His morals and skills develop and mature over time as he meets stronger foes, is forced to make impossible decisions, and learns more about what it means to be a hero.

And he does the unthinkable in Dark Knight – he loses. Not in protecting the soul of Gotham, but protecting his OWN soul. He’s forced to break his one rule to save an innocent child, and he descends into darkness. And yet, he endures. To a lot of you – TERRIBLE. Yet to me, and a massive group of “Nolanites” – STILL AWESOME. Why, you ask? (Not because people are stupid and haven’t read the comics. Patience. Bear with me for a moment.)

We must consider that Batman is a symbol. Finding someone in this country who hasn't heard of him is a damn near impossible task. There's no debate that he is a cultural icon, entertaining, inspiring, and just plain pervading the senses of every American since 1939. And the people who love him do so for all sorts of different reasons. Some have only seen the Burton films. Some Schumacher's. Some Nolan's. Some only comics. And of course, most know Batman through some complex combination of those stories.

But I must insist: The fact that these people like Batman is ultimately more important than which VERSION of Batman they like, because the fans ultimately keep Batman alive. Quite simply, if the majority of people in the world somehow lose interest in Batman, or forget about him, he "dies." His legend fades. And the truly passionate ones like us mourn.

And the simple fact is that the majority of people do not read comic books. It's depressing, because they're missing out, but it's true. And sometimes, to reach new audiences, you have to retell the story in a way that gets them interested. Not just to boost comic sales, but to just get the friggin' word out that the characters are culturally relevant.

I gotta say, there was a year or so of my life when I got bogged down with crazy stuff, and I wasn't really all that interested in Batman. I didn't read comics, I read newspapers and emails and bills and all sorts of "real" stuff. Batman was stuck on the page, and my life was for once more compelling and conflict-driven than his. And then, in 2008, I saw Dark Knight.

You could debate with me for hours about whether the movie is "comic-faithful" (and I’d insist that even the best COMICS aren’t comic-faithful) or whether it is OBJECTIVELY flawed (and I'd never stop until I proved you wrong), but nothing can change the fact that Dark Knight blew my MIND. I had simply never thought about Batman the way the story was told.

Begins was never one of my favorite movies; for me it's only in like the top 50, for numerous reasons. But Dark Knight spoke to me on countless levels. The 9-11 imagery, the psychological explorations, the pathos evident in the acting, the complexity of the plot and characters, the stark refusal to have a happy ending... every choice suddenly made Batman once again SERIOUS, IMMEDIATE, and RELEVANT - part of my life.

It's what made me get back into the comics for good. I bought up everything that I had only borrowed before. My thinking was this: "Nolan's films portray a Batman that exists in our world, or as close to our world as possible. He's portraying humans with the willpower to make themselves into heroes and villains, but who don’t have the willpower to stay that way forever. Everything is temporary and chaotic, just like in my life. Therefore, Batman’s story is just as human as mine." Nolan made me feel sympathy for a Batman that I didn't realize I had emotionally distanced myself from. Not just through the relative realism of the world, but through the humanity of the character.

You can praise the fantasy elements of Batman all you want, and I'll agree with you, but you can't deny the emotional impact the film has had on so many people. Not on many of you, and that's fine. Many of you apparently have a stronger sense of suspension of disbelief than I do. But that's the thing: the successes of Nolan's films prove that MOST people have a weaker sense of suspension disbelief than we comic book folk. They want movies to do the imagining for them so they can insert themselves into the story with ease. Most people, whether they know it or not, want a story they can easily make an emotional connection with.

And that manifests in lots of different ways, in lots of different people, at lots of different times in their lives. Sometimes we just want to be entertained, and it's enough of an emotional connection to feel that excitement, that high we get from laughing, from being scared, or from watching cool explosions. However, sometimes we want something deeper. Something that asks us what we're doing on this planet as human beings. And I KNOW that Dark Knight didn't effectively do that for a significant yet small group of others. The point is that it worked on that level for THOUSANDS. Thousands of people were interested in Batman in a way they'd never been before.

So these elements that many insist are central to the Batman character - fantasy, near-invincibility in terms of physical and mental strength, etc. - and these words they use to describe Nolan's films - boring, pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, over-dramatized - ultimately prove to be subjective, since MOST people simply either like this Batman better OR, like me, they think it's an interesting, worthwhile take on the character that deserves to be done since it's NEVER been done on such a large scale.

The comics do what the comics do. They tell a never-ending yet awesome story that pleases comic book fans. The movies, though they are THEMATICALLY faithful to the comics, are seeking to tell a brand new story, simply imagining what would happen if Batman were not in some impossible, amazing fantasy world, but in OURS. If he weren't some impossibly amazing man, but ONE OF US. And if that world is so much more interesting to most people than the comic book world... then maybe that says something about what Batman ought to stand for.

Now, I'm not saying the comics should change to be like Nolan's movies. That's insanity. I would hate that. I still love the comics, and the games, and the animated films, and everything good. But I think the message of Dark Knight is great as well - not perfect, but powerful, life-changing even. It was after watching Dark Knight that I decided on my personal motto: "What would Batman do?" NOT Dark Knight's Batman, mind you, because he's not the Batman I would imagine myself to be. He's an imagining of a bluntly imperfect HUMAN Batman. The Batman I want to be is the one from the comics. The perfect one. But the Batman I actually CAN be – the one that I AM, in a way - is Nolan’s.

I think that's what the haters really hate about these movies - this isn't a Batman they want to be. He makes mistakes that any human would make, but comic fans want him to be superhuman in terms of physicality and willpower. They want a Batman who never cracks, because they want to BE that Batman. And of course, so do I. But that's not what drew me to the character when I was little. I was drawn to the darkness in his soul. The emotional turmoil, the raging, unstoppable power he held within himself. The temptation to do wrong at every step of the way. Batman faces the darkness directly and dares it to change him.

Essentially, all Nolan does is explore what would happen if Batman was NOT superhuman in physicality and willpower, and if he was forced to make questionable decisions at a few pivotal points in his life. And I really do understand if that doesn't interest you. There was a time in my life when I would have hated it too. But the fact remains that most people love this movie BECAUSE of that element. Because it truly portrays Batman as the hero who constantly redefines what it means to be a hero. The hero who proves that there are no true heroes – only humans. The hero who is just like them.

We are ALL Dark Knights. There is no such thing as a true White Knight. If the Batman always, ALWAYS does the right thing... then he isn't Dark. He isn't human. He is a Superman. And Superman has to be the heroic opposite of Batman. The true Dark Knight at Batman’s core endures through the pain and the fear and the chaos and his own failings and ultimately… rises. He doesn’t retcon the past. The past changes him. He never stops fighting not only injustice, but the darkness in himself. Just like us. That may not be what some believe, but that's what the human race is interested in hearing about. That’s what people have realized they want Batman to be. And it doesn't matter if you've read the comics forever like we have or if you've somehow never heard of Batman - you can indeed discover who the "real," essential Batman is by watching these films.

I often hear people talk about how Batman creator Bob Kane was involved in the production of Burton’s films, and how he said this was the ONLY way to do a Batman movie. He believed that, without fantasy, Batman’s character is ruined. However, though it's great that he liked the Burton films and I'm glad his vision came to the silver screen, the character is ultimately out of his hands. Kane's dead. His legacy lives on through all of the comic-centric fans, but the basic human understanding of Batman lives in ALL the people who understand him. The ones who simply love the story of the victim who makes himself a hero. The ones who don't need to dig through decades of mythology before asking the question: "What would Batman do?"

And yes, I am saying that those haters understand Kane's Batman better than me. That doesn't make them better Batman fans than me, nor does it make them smarter or more honest people than me. It just makes them different. And difference is good. Difference is what keeps us interested in being alive.

But hating me and countless others for believing in something like this... that's just not cool. That's looking at the opinions of a massive group of people and judging them worthless because you dislike the subjective style and themes of the movie. And when we start to judge people and their opinions as worthless and stupid, we start to become something... inhuman. And something NOT much like what Batman asks us to be.

So before you post another comment dismissing my opinion, just ask yourself: "What would Batman do?"

Peace,
Overlord.
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PhetVanBurt0n - 2/11/2012, 10:09 PM
this was an AMAZING read. i wish more people would be as mature as you in here, but unfortunately there will always be dumbass/pointless comments that ruin great articles
JDUKE25 - 2/11/2012, 10:26 PM
All I have to say is.....well done.

Major Applause Pictures, Images and Photos
antonio - 2/11/2012, 11:09 PM
Wow...you really knocked out of the park here.
LP4 - 2/11/2012, 11:18 PM
This...was...BEAUTIFUL! And very true.

I never did like the term "nolanite"
antonio - 2/11/2012, 11:23 PM
Also, and I know you kind of brought this up in you article bout Batman losing, he has truly never won in Nolans world, Imo.

Begins:stopped Ra's Al Ghul, but lost The Narrows to Scarecrows fear gas. Dark Knight:stopped The Joker, but lost Rachel, Dent, and the trust of everyone in Gotham(besides Gordon).
overlordfombax - 2/11/2012, 11:41 PM
Glad to see people liking it. And I'm sure some will hate it. It's all welcome, as long as they read the whole thing... Thanks, guys : )

@antonio - exactly! And those losses are a result of a combination of his enemies' genius planning, fate, AND his own failings. Just like the failures in our lives are caused not only by fate and the actions of others, but our own actions as well.

That said, Batman does have the antidote to the gas, and he can mass-produce it to save lots of people in the Narrows.

Thanks again!
overlordfombax - 2/12/2012, 12:03 AM
Oh, and if anyone knows how to get this out to more people, I'd love to hear it. I'm brand new to this, so I don't know how to promote myself : D Thanks!
CapA - 2/12/2012, 1:43 AM
Nice effort, I still dislike the character and the goddamn prep time Bat-fans love so much...
MovieMaster - 2/12/2012, 4:16 AM
This was a fantastic read, bravo! An article needs 7 thumbs up to make main, and I gave it the last one it needed. Have fun :)
CraptainAmerica - 2/12/2012, 4:32 AM
Great read. A sensible, non insulting explanation. Great article
AC1 - 2/12/2012, 4:39 AM
Very, very well written article. And I pretty much agree entirely. I haven't read many Batman comics, but I've read enough to know who the character is. At his core, at the deepest part of his soul, I'd say that Nolan's Batman and the comic Batman are them same. But only at that deepest level. On top of that, the two versions of the character are built very differently. And as much as I have loved the Nolan Batman series (it's probably in my top 3 film series of all time), I for one am also looking forward to the eventual reboot, especially if they find a way to bring more of the fantastical elements into it. Because as you said, it'll just be another version of the story.

And I, along with probably 90% of Batman fans, would love it if the next movie version of Batman took at least some cues from the version seen in the Arkham games, which I think were tonally perfect.
MrReese - 2/12/2012, 6:48 AM
awesome read! & i agree with @antonio on the Batmans never won part.TDKR is gonna solidify him as a hero.
Hawksblueyes - 2/12/2012, 7:34 AM
Fantastic write up and very good points. However, most (I did say most) people who you would consider "Nolan" bashers are in actuality, not. People are not as stupid as Batman fans insist they are. We get it. We understood everything you so eloquently said long ago.

The hostility and argument comes in when others are so insistent that we look at Batman (more specifically Nolan's version of him) as the greatest thing since sliced bread. More often then not, the people your article is directed at, are actually fans of the film. The problem lies in the fact that the more you tell people that something should be their absolute favorite thing ever, when it's not, the more they will find your opinion not only bothersome but insulting.

All you have to do is acknowledge the fact that other people can possibly have something else at the head of the "favorite" list. Stop telling people they're wrong for not loving them as much as you do. You may discover the haters are not haters after all.




overlordfombax - 2/12/2012, 8:36 AM
@hawksblueeyes

Oh, I know. I guess this wasn't directed at you then. At no point did I say that people are wrong for not loving them as much as I do. That's fine. That's great, even. I don't want you guys to think more of IT, I just don't want you to think less of ME.

I'm sorry you found it insulting. It was never meant to be. I've only been on this site for a few days, and I guess I haven't really met anyone with that kind of reasonable opinion? I've just sorta been called an idiot over and over. And I got tired of that.

@ncreb I will write more, I think. As soon as I find something.
Hawksblueyes - 2/12/2012, 8:58 AM
overlordfombax: You mis understood me. I didn't find this insulting at all. As I said, it's a fantastic write up, one of the best I've seen on here in ages.

What I meant was; many of the haters on Bat's and Nolan's films are simply tired of having the opinion thrown at them (seemingly in every article and conversation, relevant to the issue or not) that nothing can compare to either one. Other than simply being untrue, it's quite an arrogant boast.

I'll ask you to do something for me and then write another editorial. Sit back for a while (on this site, even one day should suffice) and read users comments not as a Bat fan, but simply as a reader. Take note of how long it takes, in articles that have nothing at all to do with Batman or Nolan, for some comparison to either one to show up. There is no topic on this site that those two names can't over run in the matter of minutes.

Now, granted so called "Marvelites" can do the same but for the most part, they keep it article specific.
Hawksblueyes - 2/12/2012, 8:59 AM
And please, continue to write on any topic you choose. You have a gift for it.
overlordfombax - 2/12/2012, 10:16 AM
@hawks

Now that I can believe. And that's why I personally don't sit around throwing Batman into every article, even though I love the guy. I think you can tell from the article that I'm not really a guy who's into naming the "best" of anything. I just like discussing the things I like most with interesting people, whether or not they agree with me.

So yes, if people are going around trying to twist everything to be about Batman, that's pretty lame too. I'm just sorta reacting to this Morty guy, who recently wrote an article supposedly poking lots of holes in TDK. I systematically went through and disproved every point, then wrote an early draft of this, and he basically just called me an immature Nolanite and mocked me repeatedly.

And then you got all these people who say that Nolan isn't portraying the "Real" Batman from the comics, who often use the same tactics, calling me pretentious, dull, etc... That's who this article is for. It's exactly what it says it is - not an ATTACK against people who don't like the movie, but a DEFENSE. Not an effort to prove this is he best movie ever, but to just find the "real" Batman.

Thanks for your opinion. It's nice to meet you. I'll write something new soon.
antonio - 2/12/2012, 11:26 AM
@Overlord those are probably the "Batman fans" who haven't read the darker portrayals of Batman. I swear not too long ago(not on this site) on a forum, some guy's that have been Batman fans for 27+ years who were called immature Nolanites just becaused they called Burton's films "utter shit", thus they were called "non CB readers".

IMO, the term Nolanite means that Christopher Nolan is a God and his is the end-all-be-all director and that all his films are perfect. He is my main inspiration for directing films when I get older , but I don't he is a God, nor do I think his films are perfect....then again, no film is perfect.
Supes17 - 2/12/2012, 2:19 PM
PUT THIS SHIT ON MAIN
Supes17 - 2/12/2012, 2:19 PM
headlopper - 2/12/2012, 2:42 PM
You're a good man.

That's all I got to say.
overlordfombax - 2/12/2012, 2:51 PM
@antonio: exactly. I mean, Burton's movies are entertaining and stylistically interesting, but seriously... I much prefer an underpowered, morally tortured Batman to one who murders without remorse and whose archenemy is his parents' murderer.

IMO, "Nolanite" is a meaningless word. Hope you do make movies like that - we could use more of 'em.


@Supes: Thanks mate!
overlordfombax - 2/12/2012, 2:56 PM
@headlopper

You too. Nice ostrich.
LoudNoises - 2/12/2012, 3:00 PM
I loved this article! I always think in terms of defending rather than attacking someone's opinion who doesn't share my own. There has been a lot of hate circulating around this site for TDK, the closer we get to TDKR. Every article that has anything to do with Batman ignites a hate storm unlike anything I've ever seen whic in turn provokes the fans to step in and fight back. Being that I've only been a member for a for a few months, I have never understood where all this conflict was coming from because everyone I knew ouside of his site loved TDK. I do find that most people probably don't hate the movies as much as they hate the fans of the movies. This is probably why we have the term "Nolanites" in order to target a fanbase rather than target the movies. To a certain extent I see why many people get tired of hearing so much praise for one movie and one director while others get significantly less. I would just like to say that when I see a comic movie outside of Batman dig a little deeper and explore darker human struggles like TDK did, I will back that movie 110%. I'm not a kid anymore, and although I still enjoy your average comic book movie for simple entertainment value, I prefer a serious movie with serious human elements with action that makes sense in the story line. Good write up man. Keep it up!
overlordfombax - 2/12/2012, 3:13 PM
@LoudNoises: Thanks very much.

I'm open to any suggestions as to a next piece. Options so far include

1. Differences in themes observed in Scott Pilgrim comic vs. movie.

2. A definitive statement on the dog imagery in Dark Knight

3. Something about Buffy...

4. A possible defense of Raimi's Spiderman - could be significantly harder.

5. Something about Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics

6. Anything else!
LoudNoises - 2/12/2012, 4:02 PM
I would be interested in a serious write up on the x-men films, primarily Singers films because I think while they have some problems, they are the only ones worth discussing in detail. Where they went wrong, what they did right. I already have my personal thoughts on the matter but I like to read other people's take when they are written as well as yours.

I personally want to see a dark and gritty x-men film in the worst way! I want it done in the style of watchmen only less boring, lol. Like a cross between watchmen and terminator 2, lol. Sounds like an odd mash up, but in my head it makes sense.

Sorry to take this so far off topic, lol. Back to Batman!
Hawksblueyes - 2/12/2012, 4:04 PM
Nice to meet you too. Keep up the great work.
overlordfombax - 2/12/2012, 5:05 PM
@LoudNoises I've been meaning to rewatch the Singer movies, since it's been a long time since I've seen any of them. So it might be a while before I write that one, but I'll put it in the queue.

Interesting, why Watchmen style? That'd be a pretty stylized X-men movie.
antonio - 2/12/2012, 5:36 PM
I think a editorial on the dog imagery in Dark Knight would sorta be a good follow to this article.
LoudNoises - 2/12/2012, 7:26 PM
@overlordfombax

If watchmen accomplished anything it showed us that you can create a world where superheros can exsist in some ridiculous costumes and still allow for a serious darker tone. Watchmen and X-men also share political undertones. I feel like Watchmen drowned itself in a lot of the politics and back story tho. Even if it followed the graphic novel to the T, still just a little on the boring side. Nothing that captured my attention and held on to it story wise.

It seems like an X-men film could make use of some of Watchmen's successful elements, stylistically speaking I suppose. I throw in T2 purely for James Cameron style action with some practical stunts and thrilling sequences while not sacrificing the story much like Nolan with TDK. His movies also incorporate a great deal of digital effects which X-men would need, but I think his visuals tend to sell better than most because he doesn't abuse the digital process by relying to heavily on them.

Somewhere in there I think there's a great X-men film waiting to be made. Anyways, I didn't want to leave you hanging with a wild idea for a cross between some very different films, lol. Hope this helps to clarify.
overlordfombax - 2/12/2012, 7:43 PM
@antonio
I will give that one a try, then. But haters are gonna call me pretentious... sigh. It'll probably be more about the Joker and his humanity vs. dog-ness.

I might actually do one about Batman's alleged "murders" throughout the Nolan films. That might be worthwhile - debunk a few misconceptions, clear Batman's name.
antonio - 2/12/2012, 8:20 PM
@Overlord lookin forward to it. :)

"If Watchmen accomplished anything it showed us that you can create a world where superheroes can exists in some ridiculous costumes and still allow for a serious darker tone"-Loudnoises.

That statement perfectly sums up your post. You can still do a very dark and complex CBM with outlandish and colorful costumes.
LoudNoises - 2/12/2012, 8:39 PM
@antonio

I definitely think it can be done but doesn't always need to be done. X-men is definitely a movie worth giving it a shot.
JDUKE25 - 2/13/2012, 5:06 AM
Seriously.......why was this never put on main????? There's 19 f***in thumbs up for this article!!!!
CraptainAmerica - 2/13/2012, 5:25 AM
How is this not on main? MIB III toys are on main...
overlordfombax - 2/13/2012, 7:12 AM
Haha... yeah, I would like to know how to get it on main. I don't care too much, but it'd still be nice - I did spend a lot of time on it.

Is hawksblueyes an editor? Because he told me to write something else...

I'm just confused. I'm brand new here XD
LtAnarchy - 2/13/2012, 7:50 AM
@Overlord Great Article man I totally agree with you. TDK is a great film. I personally like Marvels movies a bit more because they are lighter. But none the less I still enjoy the Dark Knight. and have nothing bad to say about it at all. That doesnt make me a nolanite
fedup - 2/13/2012, 10:54 AM
Glad to see civility isn't totally dead on this site.
TurboAwesome - 2/13/2012, 10:57 AM
Well done, Brother! I completely agree with you, and thoroughly enjoyed your article.
Ryguy88 - 2/13/2012, 11:00 AM
Great write up! It's refreshing to see an opinion based article NOT written as if it were fact.
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