by Jeremy DeFatta
Happy new book day, everyone! Today, I want to examine (in general) Batman’s character development over the years. This will at once be generalized but multi-layered, and is inspired by a comment I’ve seen making the rounds of the hundreds of self-certified comics news outlets around the internet: that Batman is more like a Marvel character, and is effectively trapped in the DC universe.
That said, we need to define what differentiates a Marvel character from a DC character and how Batman might be more like one than the other.
Traditionally, Marvel characters are seen as more realistic and relatable on a human level; they are not the perfect, archetypal god-figures of the Golden Age of DC Comics. They have imperfections and doubts; they make mistakes. Some might argue that whenever a DC character demonstrates an insecurity or fails at something, the writers are effectively emulating Marvel. I’m not so sure this is the case.
Further, DC characters seem too perfect and hokey for some readers. Such fans might cite that Superman is too much of a Boy Scout, for example.
There’s always an edge, some worn-in grime, attached to Marvel characters, whereas DC characters always seem a little too clean and wholesome. Marvel’s characters, it can be argued, often go through more hardship in their development, rendering crime fighters that are not naïve when it comes to the realization that they may have to take lives in order to safeguard the public good.
So, where does Batman fit into all of this?
To say that either of the big two comics companies has a monopoly on any form of characterization is problematic, and possibly outright foolish. Where some fans might look at Wolverine cutting an opponent’s hands off as edgy and cool in a recent Marvel story, others may be compelled to bring up that Batman, in his original appearances in Detective Comics in the late 30s and early 40s, carried a gun and would often throw criminals off of rooftops.
Holding onto the idea of character development, though, this seems to imply that Batman has undergone more and better growth than his fellow DC characters. This is certainly true if Batman is the only character at DC you regularly follow or have any interest in reading.
I’ll be the first to admit I am a huge Batman fan, but I recognize that he isn’t the be-all, end-all of DC. And for those fans who might argue that Marvel is better at putting together morally complex, sympathetic villains (Dr. Doom and Magneto are awesome, after all), I challenge them to read Sinestro, Lex Luthor, or even the Joker (and many, many others) in greater depth.
In short, this has been a bit of a rant about the topic I started out with. I’d like to challenge fans to not fall into the natural sense of discrimination that fanboy tendencies sometimes lead to—be open-minded and willing to try out new things. Be willing to accept that the things you do not personally enjoy still have value. I recognize competing fandoms, but they need not divide us. We’re all nerds here, and we should be proud of it.
My comics picks for this week:
Guardians of the Galaxy #13
Uncanny Avengers #18.1
Forever Evil #7
Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3
Let me know your thoughts on this matter below, and don’t forget to support your local comic shops! As always, tweet me @quaintjeremy.