Wait, Do I… Like Batman?

I do not, generally speaking, think of myself as a “Batman guy.” When it comes to superhero comics–and especially DC comics–a lot of people are either Superman Fans or Batman Fans. I’m a Superman Fan. I love Big Blue because he’s an aspirational character: he’s good. Always. That gives me so much joy and so much hope.

There are people who would argue that that’s “unrealistic,” and… yes? That’s point. Superman isn’t a real person; he’s an ideal to strive towards. At the same time, the story of Superman–that of a god-like being who has chosen a simple, human, and moral life in the guise of Clark Kent–is a beautiful affirmation that our average, non-superhero lives matter and can make a difference.

Batman Fans tend to value different things in their storytelling. There’s more cynicism, for one thing, and a lot more ambiguity. I find a lot of people making the argument that Bruce Wayne is more inspiring because he’s a normal guy with no superpowers, which is… pretty silly, in my opinion. It ranks up there with people claiming that Superman’s invulnerability makes him boring. It’s comic books, people! Everyone is functionally invulnerable until the story calls for them not to be.

Anyway. Is the Superman/Batman thing a silly dichotomy with little nuance? Yes, but overall I think it’s a useful distinction.

As I said, I’m a Superman Fan, and I haven’t read a lot of Batman stuff until fairly recently (there are a few exceptions–I loved every issue of James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics run, for instance). Lately, though, I’ve been reading Tim Drake’s Robin, and it’s made me realize something: while I don’t like Batman, the character, I like Batman stories quite a bit.

The dude has built up a pretty astounding supporting cast, and it’s fascinating to see how different characters bounce off the Bat. Every new Robin, Batgirl, and so on has a different response to Bruce; a different read on what Batman is right or wrong about.

Take, for instance, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake. They’re both Robins, but when Bruce is framed for murder, Dick is adamant–immediately–that Bruce could not possibly be guilty because Batman does not kill, ever. Tim, however, refuses to rule Bruce out until there’s evidence that he didn’t do it. It’s cool to see these two characters, who ostensibly have a pretty similar relationship to Batman, discuss two wildly different interpretations of his behavior.

To use another Tim example, Tim is the first Robin to have a family outside of Bruce Wayne, and that gives him a very different angle into Batman’s tactics. One thing that they argue about sometimes is that Tim hates lying to his family about being Robin; he angrily points out more than once that Bruce never had to lie to his parents about being Batman, so he can’t relate to Tim’s issues.

Then you’ve got Stephanie Brown, Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain, Duke Thomas… there are lots of characters around Batman who serve as a lens into the character. Often, I find that a lot more interesting than the character himself.

Am I more likely to pick up a Batman book now than I was a month ago? Probably not. But I’m a lot more likely to pick up something starring Nightwing, Robin, or Batgirl.

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