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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Op-Ed Article: Discussion on Bruce Wayne's Batman Funding Reveal

The news of Bruce Wayne revealing to the world that he is funding Batman has sparked a lot of fan debate on the net. I decided to have a conversation with LoG Contributor Brian Heaton on this topic, since he and I are on opposite sides of the fence. 

Be heard!  Feel free to send in your comments and thoughts to @ (take out the spaces). 

BH: One of the things that set Batman apart for me was the fact that no one (aside from the select few) knew who he was. With his identity revealed (not quite sure here if Wayne is just saying he funded Batman, or he IS Batman, but either way, you'd have to be an idiot not to figure it out, given Bruce's size, as a person), the mystery is gone. Batman is no longer this intimidating, unknown thing. He's a man, with a big house, friends (Dick, Tim, etc.) that people can potentially figure out identities, etc., and he's just out there as a personal target now. This totally changes things. 

MM: This is exactly what I think is a great change. It turns out that apparently he is only saying he is funding the Batman, but I agree its ridiculous that no one figures it out. Although, one of our Facebook fans duly noted that this is the same universe where Clark Kent can throw on a pair of glasses and no one notices he's Superman. Right. Meanwhile he's the most muscular nerd I've ever seen. 

Bruce is well-built, but so vapid that many won't think he would dare risk the danger Batman faces himself. His funding of Batman can almost be seen as another absurd playboy rich boy move, where he is so entitled that he's getting involved in funding vigilantism, which the public is divided on in the first place. But honestly, this is the first time I've went to the comic shop to buy a book in a over a year. DC Comics NEEDS to do something to liven things up. The “death” of Bruce Wayne bit was pathetic. This is at least interesting to read again. After more than 70 years of his identity being a secret, I think we can go outside a box for awhile. 

BH: While the fan on Facebook has a point, you agree with me that its ridiculous that no one figures it out. Batman is supposed to be somewhat believable. Isn't that what draws a lot of folks to the character? DC needing to shake things up is something I agree with. But not by essentially outing Bruce Wayne as Batman. It's not believable that Bruce Wayne ISN'T Batman, after he says he's funding Batman. It makes absolutely no sense. It's like DC doesn't understand its own character. 

MM: I think quite the opposite is true, actually. I think DC is FINALLY getting the clue that they need to truly shake things up. Not some stupid “Dick takes over the mantle”  gimmick. I mean this is a game-changer. This re-shapes EVERY story from now on. Think about that for a moment. A whole new direction with all new possibilities. I mean, we all know they're going to ret-con this out with some sort of crisis in a few years anyway, so just enjoy the ride. 

BH: How is Dick taking over the mantle a gimmick? You talk about game changers, but I'd argue that Dick taking up the mantle does that. Dick is not Bruce. You can bring Bruce back in retirement, and have Dick continue to be Batman. Younger, different, and a compelling tale, because now he has to deal with Damian as Robin (Bruce's son), and then the specter of Bruce's legend as Batman and living up to that. It's ripe with potential and new directions. I agree a big change was needed, but I thought they nailed it with the successor to Bruce being Dick. It just made sense.  

MM: Lets face it, Bruce has always had reservations about Dick being his successor. Isn’t Bruce the most qualified to decide that? He must have had his reasons. When it comes down to it, Batman IS a symbol, but ultimately he is Bruce. No one is cut from the same cloth as him. No one measures up and there is only one true Batman. His identity being secret was fun, but in the end it is more fun to me as a fan to see something new happen in his see it shaken up. He couldn’t hide it forever and what like 300 people know anyway? C’mon. It's not the most closely guarded secret in the world, by far. 

BH: Second, now there are multiple Batmen? Global scale? Last I checked, Batman wasn't Superman. The guy (for the most part) was indigenous to Gotham City. Now we're going to have a Batman patrol where we roll out the Bat Army to take out bad guys across the globe? Hello? 

MM: Again, I think a Bat-Army is really in line with what they elude to in “The Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel. I like that. I like the change and I'm ready for something new. DC has been thoroughly boring me with their typical story arcs. After “Hush,” things just got stale

BH: But this has nothing to do with “The Dark Knight Returns.” That's a separate stand-alone story. I am also ready for something new, and liked the fact that Dick took over the mantle and Damian (who I think is a ridiculous character, but whatever, he's here) stepped in as Robin. If you are going to bring Bruce back in the fold, then have him retire as Batman, but serve as a consultant to Dick. It makes sense, and also allows some freedom to write Batman in a new way, since Dick is a different man (and I have to admit, the tension between Damian and Dick is cool). 

Note: I am more of a graphic novel guy, so I am not yet up to Bruce being back. Whatever is the latest Batman graphic novel/TPB released, is what I am up to. 

MM: Sure, “The Dark Knight Returns”  is basically an 'Elseworlds' tale, but its a damn good one and I think most fans, at least subconsciously, consider it to be fairly canon. Damian is absurd. Dick is fine as Batman and yeah its a fanboy dream come true. It happened, now it needs to GO! It can't stay that way, we all ultimately want Bruce in the cowl, so whats the point of all this foreplay?  

BH: First you say that Dick is a gimmick as Batman, now you say Dick is fine as Batman. Which one is it, my man? You can't straddle the fence like that! Ha ha! Agreed that Damian is absurd, but he does liven up the dynamic. As I mentioned above, having Dick be Batman, with Bruce's son as Robin, and Bruce back in the picture in retirement, makes for one hell of a backdrop for an engaging story. Why does all of that have to “GO?”
Frankly, at some point, Bruce Wayne is going to get old. Instead of eventually blowing it up with some ret-con you mentioned above, why not let this play out? I think every Bat-fan on the planet probably figures that at some point, Dick would take over for Bruce. That time is now. Embrace it and move forward with the freedom to change up Batman a bit now that another man is under the cowl. I just don't see the logic in bringing Bruce back to say he's “funding” a Bat Army. 

MM: When I say that Dick is “fine” as Batman I mean that it was all well and good for a minute. I didn’t like it, I don’t like it, but I know a lot of fans always wanted it. Maybe Bruce is tired of hiding. Like you said, he IS getting old. The older he gets the less he’ll want to mess around with that Wayne alter-ego. It’s a lot of effort when he could be spending his time on better pursuits. 


BH: Third, if Superman and other superheros exist in the DC Comics universe, then why is a network of multiple Batmen even necessary? It just devalues Batman's identity. "Hey, everyone who wants to train like me can become a Bat Agent!" This isn't the Armed Forces. Batman is supposed to be a localized vigilante. Sure, the occasional jump to another area or country for a story arc is fine, but now to have an army of Bat Agents scouring the globe to fight crime? It's pathetic!

MM: But isn't that the beauty of Batman as a character, that he IS a normal man? You don't have to be an alien or have super powers, you just have to give a damn. I think that is the root of the character.

BH: That IS the root of the character. But that's not the point I made. Batman loses his identity when various countries are now going to have their own “Bat Men.” It devalues the mystique of the character. It's silly.  

MM: Not true. I don't feel that it will devalue the character in the slightest. None of the Punisher decoys or Supermen ever devalued the original. There is one Batman and in the end only one Batman will stand out as clearly the top. Azrael was a great Batman. He was different, but would any of us erase that part of the history? I sure wouldn't. I LOVED Az-Bats. Hell, if they could have co-existed, it would've been kinda awesome.  

BH: Not sure I agree with you in regard to Azrael. He is a cool character, for sure. But it is totally the wrong vibe for Batman. But I think you partially make my point. If you feel Azrael made a great Batman, and took the character in another direction, why couldn't Dick do that, in the scenario I painted above? It's a natural progression for Bruce.  

MM: Well, for one if I like Azrael, why in the world would that make you think I like Dick as Batman? And sure, Dick can be one of many Batmen...but he shouldn’t be BatMAN. Bruce is the only one that should ever hold that title. You can have AZ-Bats, Man of Bats, Senor BatFace…whatever. Have an army based on the original...but there is one true Batman. His reputation depends on there being ONE man in the cowl. No one thought that cyborg thing was the real Superman...he was inspired by him. It never devalued the original. Like they say, there is no substitute for the original. 

Matt MacNabb is the owner / editor of Legions of Gotham and a lifelong Batman fan/collector.

Brian Heaton is a regular contributor to Legions of Gotham. When not opining on Batman-related news at LoG, he works as a music journalist and communications professional in Northern California. His work covering the world of hard rock/heavy metal music can be found at The Breakdown Room –