Happy Batman Day! I didn’t even know Batman Day was a thing until last year, when it had already passed (but I wrote up a long post about Batman after the fact and promised I’d try to keeping having something timely about the Caped Crusader going forward.)
Straight up, I thought Batman Day was going to happen later this month, so I was surprised when I visited my favorite comic shop this week and discovered that Batman Day, like Batman does, had snuck up on me. But I’d made a promise to write about Batman, so here it is.
This post might seem a bit random and rambly, but so do the ones I plan out months in advance, to be honest.
There is a lot of new Batman potential content to explore, specifically in the cinematic realm. 2016 featured the Darknight Detective in two live action movies. (And in animation, but I didn’t see The Killing Joke.)
Ben Affleck’s Batman, heavily inspired by Frank Miller’s transformative* Dark Knight graphic novels, made his debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, as well as appearing in Deadshot’s and Harley Quinn’s backstories in the Suicide Squad.
Straight up, neither were great movies.
I haven’t written yet about my dissatisfaction with Batman v Superman, but my complaints largely have to do with Superman rather than Batman, and today is not really the time. (When is Superman Day?)
I didn’t dislike Suicide Squad as much as BvS, largely because I think the stakes were lower for the DC cinematic universe if Suicide Squad flopped, and it didn’t really matter even if it was wildly successful, since so much seemed to be riding on Batman v Superman for setting the stage for the upcoming Justice League movie.
It did feature problematic Batman events.
I know there were criticisms about the scene where Batman captured Harley Quinn underwater by punching her in the face. I think they boiled down largely to these two points:
- Don’t we have enough violence against women?
- Batman punching a lady? That’s so out of character!
I’m sympathetic to the first statement, which I think is a valid point for discussion. Women are often the targets of violence in the comics, often because of their association with the male protagonists. That might be a symptom of storytelling in general in the crime genre, so I don’t necessarily consider Batman in Suicide Squad to be an egregious example.
In Batman’s defense, it seemed like his options were to knock out the knife-wielding criminally-insane woman, or let her drown. The choice Batman made doesn’t seem surprising.
I’ve heard a variant on the complaint, that is less critical of the scene than how it was reacted to by audiences. One of the podcasters I listen to was dismayed that the audience she was watching the movie with laughed when Batman punches Harley.
I don’t remember if I laughed, but there was certainly a slapstick-like essence to the scene, with the playing-possum Harley suddenly lurching at Batman with a knife while trapped in a sinking car, eyes filled with joyful madness and a suicidal grim. Batman immediately punches her and her face goes slack. It’s kind of funny. Maybe in an uncomfortable way, but maybe I’m just laying that on in hindsight.
I asked my teenage daughter (who thought Suicide Squad was a great movie because she doesn’t know any better) about the scene where Batman knocks out Harley Quinn.
Me: Hey, remember in Suicide Squad when Batman and Harley Quinn were underwater and Batman knocks her out?
Her: (smiling) That was funny.
I asked her if she could tell me what she thought made it a funny moment (I can’t remember my exact wording, but I swear I was trying to present it as neutrally as possible. She couldn’t really explain, she mostly pantomimed Harley’s crazy face, made a twitchy punch, and then the Harley slackface. Maybe I should have video’d her.)
Anyway, I don’t think I need to dwell too much on this, since I don’t really have that much insight into if laughing at that moment in Suicide Squad automatically makes you a misogynist. (Although I can imagine Men’s Rights Activists loving that scene.)
I have more contrary opinion on the second complaint, about Batman punching Quinn being a bad characterization of Batman.
The Batman I know would totally punch a woman. (For the record, I don’t really know Batman. You understand I’m talking figuratively.)
Crimefighting in the comics is serious business. In general, Batman might be less concerned with pulling his punches on dudes, but he won’t take off the table reasonable force against female opponents.
Although to be fair, people with this complaint might be overly attached to the Adam West 60s version of Batman.
For me, the more serious problem with Batman’s portrayal in Suicide Squad did not happen during the Harley Quinn backstory, but during the Deadshot backstory.
Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot (played by Will Smith), after scoring a major amount of money for killing a police informant, is enjoying some quality time with his daughter. He and his little girl stroll through an alleyway, you know, one of those things that you do in a crime-ridden city at night.
Batman has recieved a tip from Amanda Waller about Deadshot, and decides to take that moment to arrest Lawton. The movie implies that Deadshot might have killed Batman had Lawton’s little girl not intervened. I’ll ignore that ridiculous amount of fiction, since there’s a much bigger problem.
Batman, whose parents were famously killed in front of him in an alleyway at night, decides to choose to arrest an extremely dangerous gun-centric villain in an alleyway. At night. In front of the criminal’s daughter.
I can only imagine that Batman was REALLY BUSY that night, was swinging overhead and saw Floyd Lawton. Then got a text from Amanda Waller saying “Floyd Lawton’s in town. If you don’t arrest him in 5 minutes, I’m telling everyone your secret identity.” And he just acted without thinking. You know, like Batman does. (He doesn’t. Ever.)
I have a lot of potential bat-topics that I could explore, but I think I can stop now in this post instead of going on and on. Maybe I’ll post stuff later this week, since DC Comics is now saying that Batman Day is lasting a week. Time is weird. And hard for some people, I guess.
Because I’m crabby, I will say that I’m giving some stink-eye in regards to the released shots of Batman’s tactical bat-suit from next year’s Justice League movie. Anyone that knows me knows I’m not a fan of a heavily-armored Batman.
I mean, if one is going to design a Batman costume with obvious lenses over his eyes, one might as well make the lenses white, so there can be a thematic comic book aspect of Batman’s cowl.
Like there always should be.
Not being able to see Batman’s eyes was the best part of the armored batsuit in Batman v Superman.
Okay, enough of this before I start in on Batman v Superman. I’ll save that for a future post. And probably more Batman stuff. I mean, I really should talk about:
- The Joker
- Batman through the eyes of my millennial niece
- Bat-knives? What’s up with that? RIP Batarangs
- Why Batman needs a Robin if they want him to be the World’s Greatest Detective
- More thoughts on the television series GOTHAM
At some point, I’ll expand on those.
In the meantime, feel free to talk to me about Batman, especially if I’ve gotten things wrong. (I can’t possibly be wrong all the time, but I can certainly be wrong some of the time.)
Happy Batman Day! (Not that Batman will be happy today. Or any day.)
* When I say Miller’s Dark Knight books are transformative, I don’t necessarily mean in a good way. But it had a major influence on the character of Batman from then on.
Images are from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, both properties of Warner Brothers. Images of Batman (in two different incarnations) fighting Jakita Wagner of Planetary are from the Planetary crossover with DC comics, featuring Batman. Obviously.
Collage of Batman cowls are from various covers of Batman comics, again all property of DC.
That fantastic image of the Bat-Minion was from a promotional postcard I picked up in 2015 from the Wizard World Comic-Con in Philadelphia. The artwork is from Chris Flick of www.capesnbabes.com – you should check out his work.
I make no claims on any of the images, but some claims on the text here. So there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2016 Some Rights Reserved