by Jeremy DeFatta
Happy new book day, everyone! Today’s Batman post was inspired by a recent Twitter conversation with fellow contributor Will Hohmeister following the first of my Joker posts. It will delve a bit into Batman’s psyche and examine one of his backup personalities, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.
The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh has a strange publication history, perhaps befitting how odd the concept truly is. Originally appearing in 1958 near the beginning of the Silver Age of Comics, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was an alien scientist named Tlano who came from the planet (you guessed it) Zur-En-Arrh. He approaches Bruce Wayne, who he has been watching across vast interstellar distances for some time, to effectively team up with him on his homeworld in order to defeat some great enemy that is too much for him alone.
While on Zur-En-Arrh, Bruce discovers that humans develop superhuman abilities there comparable to those of Kryptonians under a yellow star. Needless to say, Silver Age Batman stories were pretty trippy and often drifted toward pulp sci-fi. However, it is worth keeping the connection between great strength and Zur-En-Arrh in mind as we move along.
The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was not seen again until 2008’s Batman R.I.P. storyline, when Grant Morrison re-imagined the concept as a self-programmed backup personality Bruce Wayne created in case his mind ever broke under stress or psychological attack. Referred to in the story as “Batman without Bruce Wayne,” the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh (clad in a piece-meal multicolored costume) is merciless and even appears to be faster and stronger without having Bruce Wayne as an ethical backseat driver.
Batman severely injures and possibly even kills assailants while in this state. All of this confirms the disconnect between Bruce Wayne and Batman that writers had been working into the character(s) for decades, as well as the idea that, deep down, Batman is just as crazy as the costumed criminals he battles against that gained a lot of traction during the 1980s.
In a curious nod back to the Silver Age, Morrison also included a hallucination of (the arguably ridiculous character) Bat-Mite for Batman while in the Zur-En-Arrh state. In the story, he is referred to simply as Might and (appropriately) acts as Batman’s conscience and a voice of restraint, which is likely the only thing that kept him from a murder spree.
Batman’s entry into the Zur-En-Arrh state is one of the most fascinating portions of a storyline meant to focus on the apparent death of Bruce Wayne following a series of attacks and betrayals. After Batman’s sudden and unexpected death, a large void is left in Gotham’s defenses. Who is the logical choice to rise up and fill that hole? That, dear readers, is what I shall address next week.
My comic picks for this week:
Earth 2 #22
Aquaman and the Others #1
Moon Knight #2
Pretty Deadly #5
Let me know your thoughts on this week’s post or Batman in general in the comments below. Specifically, what are your thoughts on Batman’s psychology? Don’t forget to support your local comic shops. Tweet me @quaintjeremy.
image via Wikipedia