Batman is the crown jewel of DC Comics. The Dark Knight has not only dominated the comic book sales charts for decades, he’s starred in a veritable cornucopia of media adaptations. From TV series like Batman: The Animated Series and The Brave and the Bold, to video games like the Arkham series and Injustice, it feels like Batman is always with us. He’s starred in over a dozen feature films, the most recent of which, Justice League, sees Ben Affleck assemble DC’s storied superteam to take on Apokolips lieutenant Steppenwolf in the wake of Superman’s death at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
While Batman is unquestionably DC’s most well-known hero, there are still some fundamental things people get wrong about the Caped Crusader. Some of these things are easy enough mistakes to make; Batman has appeared in thousands of comics over his 78 year existence – chances are you haven’t read them all. And even his more high profile media appearances have often been contradictory, showcasing wildly different versions of Gotham’s favorite son. We’re tackling some of the most often mentioned misconceptions about Bruce Wayne and his world.
These are the 15 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Batman.
15. He’s a loner
When most people think of Batman, they think of him peering at Gotham City from a rainy rooftop, taking on a gaggle of mob goons who have no chance, or attempting to crack some mystery the Joker has left for him to unlock. These mental pictures likely all feature Batman alone as he carries out his dark mission of justice, save from the occasional word of wisdom or meal delivery from Alfred.
But that’s really not how Batman generally operates. He certainly has some solitary tendencies, but he’s a founding member of the Justice League, as well as the principal founder of the Outsiders. He’s also assembled an array of sidekicks and partners, from Commissioner Gordon to Batgirl to a veritable flock of Robins. Batman probably has the most extensive network of allies of any superhero.
14. He’s always dark and brooding
Batman has fostered a reputation as the grumpiest of superheroes. That’s hardly without cause; the Caped Crusader’s most iconic iterations have mostly showcased a tortured, deeply broken man, driven to the darker corners obsession by the childhood trauma he’ll never truly get over.
But he’s not always so brooding. Classic Batman comic writers like Dennis O’Neil and Grant Morrison made a point to portray Batman as more of a classic adventure hero; a well-intentioned thrill seeker who wasn’t above having the occasional bit of fun or acknowledging the absurdity of his life.
The Batman featured in The Brave and the Bold cartoon was a fairly lighthearted iteration as well, but the king of non-dark Batman adaptations is, of course, the 1966 TV series starring the late, great Adam West, who once asked one of the most important questions in pop culture history: “Why doesn’t Batman dance anymore?”
13. He never kills
Batman’s “no kill policy” is so ingrained through cultural osmosis, it’s likely one of the few things even the most casual of superhero fans would know. If Batman went around killing people, he’d not only be betraying the spirit of the vow he made to his murdered parents, but it would be quite a bit more difficult to justify the Gotham police tacitly endorsing his crusade.
And yet the earliest iterations of Batman had no real problem with killing criminals, and the film adaptations are riddled with instances of Batman murdering people. Michael Keaton’s Batman killed several of the Joker’s goons – and arguably the Joker himself – and in Batman Returns, he infamously took some borderline sadistic glee in blowing up one of the Penguin’s henchmen. Ben Affleck’s Batman has been no stranger to killing either, sending more than a few of Lex Luthor’s goons to meet their maker in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
12. He never uses guns
This one seems like another no-brainer. Batman exists because his parents were murdered right in front of him with a gun. Joe Chill’s smoking revolver is part of Batman’s iconography; the visual representation of the chaos at the center of Gotham’s heart that he fights against. Guns should be horrific to him on a visceral level.
But in his earliest days, Batman actually carried a handgun, and used it without hesitation. He’s also shown no such aversion to more sci-fi inspired guns and blasters, and in Final Crisis he saved all of existence by shooting the evil god Darkseid with a bullet that would slowly kill him. Batman’s first weapon of choice is never going to be a gun, but if he needs to use one for the greater gun, he’ll generally get over his aversion to them.
11. He hates Superman
The “Batman and Superman don’t get along” narrative has been building for quite a while, largely thanks to the classic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns – which features the most well-known battle between the two heroes – attaining a level of mainstream recognition that only Watchmen can equal among casual readers. Batman v Superman was the dark apotheosis of that particular trend.
Yet for the vast majority of the almost 80 year history of DC’s marquee characters, Batman and Superman have been fast friends. The pair routinely teamed up in the Golden Age pages of World’s Finest, were co-founders of the Justice League in the Silver Age, and have generally been portrayed as very different, but very good friends in the Modern Age. They may have different methods of enacting justice, but at the end of the day Batman and Superman share a deep respect for each other.
10. He’s the smartest DC hero
Batman is a genius. He’s a renaissance man; there’s essentially nothing he’s not good at. He’s an expert fighter, with all the physical skill and knowledge of a fully trained ninja. He’s a mathematical and scientific scholar. His skills of deduction would rival Sherlock Holmes. If he wasn’t attempting to clean up the streets of Gotham, he could be an all-star quarterback, a tenured professor, and just about anything in between.
And yet there are a few characters, like Mr. Terrific and the Atom, who are just as intelligent, and have managed not to descend into the depths of obsession and paranoia that afflict Batman. Also, for all his skill and drive, Batman tends to make his mission too personal – preferring to beat criminals to a pulp rather than make a concerted effort to change the systemic issues of corruption and wealth inequality that have lead to Gotham going to rot.
9. Batman is the real guy, Bruce Wayne is the mask
It’s an easy mistake to make. The notion that Bruce Wayne is a mask that Batman shows to the rest of the world has become such an ironic witticism that it even made its way into Batman Begins, when childhood friend Rachel Dawes tells adult Bruce Wayne the man she loved doesn’t exist anymore, having been replaced by Batman’s wrath. That is both weirdly judgmental – Batman has been consumed by vengeance since he was 8 years old, so what version of Bruce she loved is a little hazy – and just plain wrong.
The real man is not the demon dressed in black, barking at criminals as he dangles them off rooftops, any more than the real man is the drunken, oblivious playboy who buys hotels to impress dinner guests. If there is such a thing as “the real” Bruce Wayne, it’s the version of him sitting in the Batcave, tuning up the Batmobile as he nurses some broken ribs and wonders how much longer he can do this – which is maybe the most heartbreaking truth of all.
8. He has no sense of humor
If Batman has a perceived personality flaw, it’s probably that he’s a humorless mope. He’s often portrayed sidestepping Robin’s wisecracks, becoming exasperated by any jokes from his Justice League comrades, and just generally being a ranking officer of the No Fun Police. The Joker might give up crime and start working at Hot Topic if Batman would give him as much as a chuckle.
But even the stuffiest iterations of Batman generally have a dark sense of humor, or can at least acknowledge the absurdity of a grown man who dresses up like a bat to beat up bank robbers. Ben Affleck’s Batman has more than a few zingers in Justice League, and the 1966 Batman TV show can credibly be perceived as a comedic send up of the genre. He’s never going to be Deadpool, but Batman can usually take a joke.
7. He’s a vigilante
There’s a decent chance a lot of people first heard the word “vigilante” when it was used to describe Batman. It’s usually thrown around by some pompous new district attorney or gruff police detective, who’s usually revealed to be a corrupt doofus Batman has to take down, because irony does not use a light touch in Gotham City.
But by the word’s very definition, Batman can’t really be a vigilante. In the vast majority of Batman stories, he’s either tacitly or explicitly endorsed by the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the city, Commissioner Gordon. He’s more like a very eccentric contractor; an unusual arm of the law who uses unusual methods to aid in law enforcement efforts. Think of those criminals dangling from light posts as very aggressive citizen’s arrests.
6. There’d be no Batman if his parents weren’t killed
There’s often the suggestion that if it weren’t for the up-close, visceral trauma of seeing his parents gunned down in front of him, there’s no chance Bruce Wayne would have grown up to don the cape and cowl and start pummeling criminals. He would have grown up another clueless one percenter, enjoying the decadence of his billionaire lifestyle while ignoring the plight of Gotham’s decaying underclass.
This theory sells everyone in the Wayne family incredibly short. Thomas and Martha Wayne were principled people, attempting to help Gotham in well-intentioned but ultimately shortsighted ways. And the notion that Bruce Wayne would be some vapid country club jerk flies in the face of both the idealism of his parents and everything we know about Bruce himself.
5. He has no real interest in Wayne Enterprises
The Christopher Nolan films famously showcased a Batman who was, at best, ambivalent about the day-to-day operations of Wayne Enterprises. Indeed, in those films, Bruce’s only real active interest is in making sure Lucius Fox is in charge so he can use the company’s Applied Sciences department as his own Batcave toy store. In The Dark Knight Rises, he’s so oblivious about the company in his self-imposed exile that he doesn’t realize most of his fortune has evaporated.
While there’s basically no iteration of the character who is a hands-on, fully engaged owner, Bruce almost always strives to make sure his company stays away from the sort of ventures he finds distasteful, like weapons manufacturing, and he keeps an eye on his corporate officers to make sure they’re not perpetrating the sort of corruption he attempts to stamp out as Batman.
4. Alfred is his most trusted ally
Look, Alfred is one of Batman’s most trusted allies; there is absolutely no arguing that. No one has known him longer, no one has helped him more in his mission, and no one has been a more consistent companion. We could make a strong argument that while Alfred is incredibly important to Batman, it’s really Bruce Wayne would cease to function without him around.
But Batman’s most trusted ally is Dick Grayson. The first Robin, Dick would grow up to be a hero in his own right, Nightwing. Dick has also taken on the mantle of Batman on more than one occasion, when Bruce was either incapacitated or temporarily dead. Alfred might be Bruce’s surrogate father, but Dick is Bruce’s actual son; he initially took him on as his ward, but in a symbolic gesture, he officially adopted Dick later in life.
3. He has no time for romance
Bruce Wayne has long been Gotham’s most eligible bachelor. The public thinks that’s down to his well-publicized womanizing, though that’s largely a cover for how he actually spends his nights – jumping off rooftops in black tights. It’s become something of an agreed upon fact that personal happiness is something Batman will never really pursue, because he’s too consumed by his mission to allow himself to have a genuine romantic partner.
This line of thinking flies in the face of the fact that Batman has pretty regularly had serious girlfriends. Michael Keaton’s version of the Caped Crusader had a serious relationship with Vicki Vale – though it happened mostly between movies, admittedly. The comics version has been no stranger to love either – Batman is currently engaged to Catwoman, his longstanding on again/off again romantic interest.
2. He’s the world’s greatest detective
There are a lot of honorifics that get thrown Batman’s way. Considering he’s arguably the most popular superhero of all time, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. One of the most oft repeated compliments granted him is that he’s the world’s greatest detective, that his wits are just as honed as his body.
It’s undeniable that Batman is a very good detective, but the “greatest in the world” claim seems overblown. For one thing, there are other superheroes who are, at the very least, his equals as detectives, like Elongated Man and Detective Chimp. And really, how good of a detective do you have to be to solve The Riddler’s high school-level brain teasers or figure out who’s behind all the exploding penguins at the ice rink? This isn’t rocket science, Batman.
1. He was created by Bob Kane
Unquestionably the most heinous, ill-intentioned misconception about Batman has to do with his creator. Since his earliest appearances, Batman has been credited as the sole creation of artist Bob Kane. That, however, is a legally sanctioned lie. Virtually everyone involved in Batman’s earliest days – including Kane himself late in life – has acknowledged that the overwhelming majority of Batman’s creation came from the mind of writer Bill Finger. Kane had the idea of a superhero who dressed like a bat; Finger came up with Batman’s look, his origin, Bruce Wayne, Robin, Gotham City… you get the idea.
A much savvier businessman, Kane struck a deal with DC early on where he’d be the solely credited creator. Kane enjoyed a life of wealth and celebrity; Finger died penniless and unacknowledged. While that’s a wrong that can never be made right, DC has recently started crediting Finger as Batman’s co-creator, a modicum of justice that Batman himself would be proud of.
Do you want to clear up any misconceptions about Batman? Do it in the comments!
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