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Musings on Batman and the origin of costumes crime fighters - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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November 5th, 2011

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02:34 am - Musings on Batman and the origin of costumes crime fighters
Most of the new DC comics are terrible, and many are deeply offensive (it's like they distilled down Frank Miller's misogyny, and applied it to almost all of their new comics). However, I quite like Grant Morrison's Action Comics, with Superman as the people's hero, and Animal Man is a surprisingly excellent supernatural comic that reminds me a bit of Alan Moore's 1980s run of Swamp Thing, which is a very good thing indeed. I've also been reading Batwing, which is essentially a story of a cop in the Democratic Republic of Congo (one of the most corrupt and violent places on the planet) who Bruce Wayne and his Batman Incorporated team helps to become a local version of Batman. The comic is more interesting than good (although it’s not terrible), but I find it very interesting. After reading the last issue, I was struck by how much more sense costumed crime-fighting vigilantes make in a violent and seriously screwed up nation like that than in the US or any other developed nation.

That got me thinking about Batman's origins. While Superman is the first modern comic and is clearly the model for various other high powered alien, space based, or ultra-tech using superheroes who deal with strange space monsters, alien invasions, science experiments gone wrong, mad scientists and other pulp-derived threats, Batman was created in 1939, and is just as clearly the model for costumed crime-fighters who battle human criminals. 1939 was only a few years after the end of Prohibition, and of a national murder rate that was as bad as the mid to late 1980s murder US rate, and far higher than the murder rate before or since.

The late 1930s was also an era where police corruption was on average considerably worse than today, and when forensics and national law enforcement was sufficiently primitive that it was far easier for someone to get away with crimes or to simply move to a different city and start committing more crimes. In short, it was an era far more in need of vigilante crime fighters than the current era of decline crime rates, street cameras, and advanced forensics. I realized that in many ways the whole idea of costumed vigilante crime-fighters is a relic of a previous era that has become a sufficiently embedded in superhero comics that it continues to be used, even when it really makes very little sense and has always struck me as somewhat bizarre. I'm now convinced that this is because the idea comes from a previous and significantly different time.

In any case, I'd love to see a vision of superheroes and more generally of comics about people with superpowers that completely eliminates the idea of supers going around and beating up muggers, car thieves, and people running illegal gambling casinos.
Current Mood: geekygeeky

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2011 10:41 am (UTC)
Some time ago, I decided that super-heroes are part cop and part firefighter. Superman is around 50/50, Batman around 80/20, and I really can't think of any super-heroes who are primarily "firefighter". Should I somehow get in front of a receptive comic book editor, I've got a pitch that'd remedy that.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2011 01:00 pm (UTC)
I'd say that elemental heroes -- like Captain Atom, Firestorm, or even Aquaman, are mostly firefighter. Adventurer heroes like the Fantastic Four, too.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
In addition to the Fantastic Four, The Authority were also mostly firefighters, as was Vertigo Swamp Thing (the new Swamp Thing is merely dreadful).

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