Warning: Minor SPOILERS for Titans Episode 1
If Zack Snyder's version of Batman was too violent for many fans, then strap in for Titans - because its Robin is WAY more violent, brutal, and bloodthirsty than Ben Affleck's caped crusader. Now that Titans has been shown to select audiences at New York Comic Con, a new bar has been set for DC violence.
The criticism was widely circulated when Batman v Superman hit theaters to brutal reviews, and fans and critics zeroed in on Batman's embrace of violence - even fatalities - as a fundamental betrayal of the character. Batman, they claimed, is famous for his no-kill policy. And no argument could ever make a killer Batman tolerable, much less accepted. Even with every modern superhero murdering bad guys, the line was drawn at Batman. So how will Titans viewers respond to the new Dick Grayson?
Because not only does the TV show's Robin accept violence and casualties... he crosses the line into outright torturing the criminals he faces to show them the cost of breaking the law.
DCEU Batman is Brutal, But So is His World
It's hard to describe the ways in which Ben Affleck's Batman crossed a line in fans' minds from vigilante to vulgar insult, since Batman having grown too violent is the point of his story in BvS. But in the interest of keeping focus on how the audience views and critiques violent heroes, we'll say only this: the issue for many critics of Ben Affleck's Batman may be less that he is uniquely evil or violent in his specific character, and more that the world he inhabits was too dark, too grim, too harsh all around. As some outspoken critics have argued, it wasn't Ben Affleck or his character that deserves blame, but Zack Snyder's overall vision of a DC Universe, from top to bottom.
By comparison, Batman's acceptance of harm, injury, and possibly death seem like symptoms, not the attack itself. The DCEU under Snyder is a world where Superman's first foe promised to murder every human on Earth, and meant it. Where Bruce Wayne saw heroes fall, saw Joker murder his adopted son, and thousands die in the background of Superman's first battle. Compared to Superman's decision to kill, Batman's decision to break bones, deliver concussions, and even knock a grenade out of a gunman's hand - all in pursuit of saving innocent lives - seems understandable, at the very least.
Ben Affleck's Batman lives or lived in a world of dark forces, dark acts, and dark people... and he grew darker to terrorize it from even darker shadows. Now his sidekick Robin has arrived to answer the question: was it an intolerable, incomprehensible use of violence that turned DC fans against the DCEU's Batman, or the wave of anti-Snyder sentiment that Titans won't have to contend with?
Robin is More Violent, and It Isn't Close
At some point, distinguishing between these two approaches to brutal superheroes may seem like splitting hairs - or splitting an eyeball with a thrown "Robin" insignia, which Dick uses to open his first fight. Is getting punched out better than having the slide of a handgun jammed directly through the meat of your throat? Is hurling a henchman through the air and into other criminals better than grabbing the knife-wielding hand of an attacker, and slamming it home into their friend, instead? Is burning an abuser of young girls with a heated iron to gather information any better than grinding an enemy's face on a brick wall, or through broken glass... because it hurts them?
We don't know if it's 'better,' but it is absolutely more violent, more lethal, and all around more ignorant of any value of life when it comes to criminals. Even if DC claims Robin is being violent, but not deadly, it's still the same debate as seen with Batman v Superman, but with Ben Affleck's version able to claim he didn't kill unless forced to, Robin may have trouble claiming slices and stabs to the throat and torso were more harmless than they look.
As we said before, it isn't the facts that we're curious to see weighed, measured, and received by fans and critics. It's the depiction of violence itself, and whether Robin's embrace of pain and excessive, bloody force will be as offensive, or overlooked, since... well, he's only Robin. It's Batman who must live by a higher standard.
Titans debuts on October 12th, exclusively on DC Universe.