The function of a hero is inspiration which encourages people to be better and work harder. As described by Abrams, since the beginning of storytelling tales of gods and heroes described mankind’s desires, fears and ideas of an ideal future. Every culture has a different symbol and representation that tries to construct the perfect specimen of human power. In America this desire is described in comic books, the construction of Batman is a prime example.
Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman Year One and Batman: Court of the Owl by Scott Snyder discuss the altering battles faced by Batman and illustrate an almost flawless transition of how the characters progress throughout the years. The evolution of modern vigilantism from when comics were first introduced during the Great Depression to current times define their ability to adapt to the ever changing periods faced by society that allows for superheroes to remain relevant. The rise of modern superheroes was when America was facing the threat of a war in Europe and dealing with corruption within its own communities.
The heroes depicted in comics allowed for people to escape reality during the Great Depression, states Hyde. It gave a sense of false perception to readers that allowed them to hope and ignited a desire to form a superhero as a reaction to the economical hardships as well as domestic crimes. Commissioner James Gordon plays an important role in Batman: Year One, an old version in the Batman series, because he is suspicious of Batman’s vigilante tactics but realizes that he is necessary and a strong ally in order to serve justice.
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Gordon is first introduced as Police Lieutenant James Gordon who begins working for the Gotham City Police Department after being transferred from Chicago under Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb and Detective Arnold John Flass. Upon arrival Gordon struggles to deal with corrupt officers, who beat up whomever they please. Feeling Gordon’s hesitancy and unease, Flass and several other officers decide to give him a beating. Gordon confronts Flass and gives him a baseball bat to defend himself then begins to pummel him as revenge.
This describes the deviant behaviors of authoritative figures that choose to abuse their powers, leading the population to believe that the police force isn’t reliable. Thus proving the assumption that superheroes, Batman in this case, were made to understand the chaos people face in reality of modern day times. The physiological mindset of both heroes and villains takes a more realistic turn that separates itself from mythological and fairytale references. Modern comic book superheroes tend to follow the same general pattern in which the hero is estranged or secluded from society.
Batman, for example, is a damaged character who witnesses his parents being gunned down which results in him swearing that he would rid Gotham City of evil. Although mythology provides an example of a true hero their villains change over time. Myths no longer deal with legends from the bible about the devil or beast and serpents described by the Greeks, the new complexity of the villains is by far more intriguing. Abrams explains how Americans have become fascinated with gangsters and the criminal cultural that surrounds their nature, representing realistic and current dangers of this new era.
In Batman: Court of the Owl, which is a new version in the Batman series, the villain is William Cobb who is a Talon, meaning a skilled assassin for the Court of Owls. He boasts having killed several members of the Wayne family. He later attacks his great-grandson, Dick Grayson, because he feels betrayed by him choosing to become a vigilante instead of a Talon like himself. These serial killer tendencies and disgust expressed towards his own blood describe the unstable mental state of murderers throughout time.
The creation of a hero without power or superhuman characteristics like Batman made him more relatable during a time period in which the crime rate was high. The popularity of Batman is attributed to people wanting a hero that represents their incapability or lack of being able to confront a problem in society. Batman: Year One establishes the legend of Batman, it is the origin story of a hero and how he learns to strike fear into the hearts of villains. When Batman manages to remove Loeb from office his mission in that comic is complete.
The ending shows Gordon standing on a rooftop next to a bat signal waiting for him because of a new threat calling himself the “Joker. ” This means that he has gathered the trust of the people of Gotham, namely Gordon who plays an important role as Commissioner. Batman: Court of the Owls is a continuation of Batman’s legacy but because it is a new version, Synder made it more appealing by adding another urban legend amongst several surrounding Gotham City. The Court of the Owls is a secret organization with tremendous power embarked in the history of Gotham City.
The myth that surrounds their existence is described in a chilling nursery rhyme: “Beware the Court of Owls that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed, speak not a whispered word of them, or they’ll send the talon for your head (Synder, pg 36)! ” By combining an old urban legend with a more sophisticated version of Batman, the writers tie together the past and the present deeming it more appropriate for this century.
The relevance of people’s beliefs in the impossible actions of heroes is due it the recognition and understanding of needing to escape from reality during a time of crisis. Batman is placed in several locations which seem almost impossible for him to escape from but at the last second he manages to reach safety. Batman: Year One shows one incident in which Batman is trapped in an abandoned building and Loeb orders bombs, SWAT teams and the Gotham City Police Department to attack. However Batman manages to avoid destruction and fools the police by directing a swarm of bats to head in the opposite direction he was going.
Modern comic books have dramatic scenes as well but make sense in the fictional world. In Batman: Court of the Owls Bruce Wayne is attacked by the Talon during a meeting with Lincoln March, a politician with hopes of becoming mayor. They fall out of a window at the old Wayne Tower and Bruce survives by landing on a guardian that was installed by his great-grandfather. Even though it is unlikely for Bruce to survive a fall out of a window, the existence of guardians makes it seem possible. The chances of him living after being having bombs thrown and blasted near him repeatedly are slim to none.
These drastic events allow people to continue to have faith in the indestructibility of a superhero. The role of women has progressed in comic books expressing the evolution of how the public regards them over time. Superheroes functionality is bound in imaginary lines that represent the way of dealing with the practicality of how life is perceived during the time period it was written in, such as gender roles and sexuality promiscuity. In Batman: Year One readers are presented with a female named Selina Kyle who is a young prostitute, taking her chances on the streets amongst the poor district of East End in Gotham City.
Ottermann states how during 1980’s, when this comic was published, was a time when prostitution was considered part of the norm in most poverty-stricken regions. Inspired by the Caped Crisader himself Selina forms her own costume and becomes Catwoman, but her clothes do not classify as being strong or a leader like Batman’s. Her exterior exudes erotic and sexual appeal as well as her persona by not only describing her as a prostitute but also indicating how her role as a vixen in disguise leads her into choosing the demoralized path of robbery instead of being a heroin.
This suggests that female superheroes were practically nonexistent and wouldn’t be able to take on the role or performance level of a male because of their gender inferiority at that age. Batman: Court of the Owls was written in 2011 and women of this generation would be insulted and rally against such publication of oppression. Therefore Synder didn’t mention a female character having no morals because then the appeal and interest of the comic would not apply to females. There was a decline in comic book readers because of what was being published was considered irrelevant by people during this age.
The comic book sales dropped increasingly, “… [as] the market was glutted with titles based solely on the war effort; these titles no longer had an audience and eventually faded away into obscurity (Kelley, pg 11). ” The general population wanted to move on from the constant reminders of the struggles faced by Americans. They wanted to look forward to a better and stronger future. This lead to the difference in demand from when comic books were first introduced and the few comics that did remain popular were highly competitive. While the approval of comic books was decreasing another problem was brewing in the pop culture society.
Publishers, writers and artists received a public denouncement, claiming that comic books were ruining children’s minds regarding their values, morals and education. Dr. Fredric Wertham released a book called Seduction of the Innocent in 1954 which analyzed the deeper meaning behind some of the most popular superheroes. Wertham argued that the details and underlying messages found in the comics encouraged the use of narcotics, gang violence and characterized women as shameless and lewd. As a result, publishers formed the Comics Code in order to prevent further embarrassment and persecution from the government.
The comic book industry suffered a major loss of readers and thus began their gradual climb to regain their popularity. The target audience was older than the previous generations and more educated. Younger writers and artists began publishing comic books that expressed current concerns and social restraints instead of focusing solely on the past war effort. Eventually after “… decades in America’s cultural gutter, comic books had finally emerged as a respectable and fantastically profitable entertainment industry worthy of a listing on the New York Stock Exchange (Wright pg 280). After revamping the comic book corporation, the business began focusing on producing films based on superheroes in order to make sure that they remained important in American culture. There are no new stories or characters, comic books are not different from any other type of media, they are repetitive. The superhero films retell the same stories with slight modifications and minor differences in art. The first popular Batman movie was made in 1989 and directed by Tim Burton. A few years later in 2005, director Christopher Nolan took a shot at rebooting the characters and placed new ideas with his Batman Begins.
Both of the films focused on a particular emotion faced by Batman that was barely addressed in the comics, romance. The portrayal of love in Burton’s film revolved around the relationship of Bruce and Vicki Vale who was in the process of investigating rumors of a figure dressed as a bat fighting crime. After attending a benefit at Wayne Manor, Vicki is charmed into Bruce’s bed and remained with him after learning his second role as Batman. Nolan took on a different approach to the intimacy surrounding Bruce and his childhood best friend Rachel Dawes, who is an assistant district attorney.
After revealing his true identity to her, Rachel realizes she cannot love someone who is both Bruce and Batman. The evident loss of this relationship in Nolan’s film is a direct form of connection with the audience members that states that even superheroes sometimes don’t get the girl. The shared heartbreak of Bruce and the moviegoers demonstrate why Batman has thrived and remains appreciated because of his ability to bond with the public. Although many details and fine points have been tweaked in the comic books and films, Batman’s still a billionaire vigilante out to rid evil in Gotham City.
He fights desperately to defend those who are in danger or are in need of assistance and it is the code that stops him from crossing over the line and into the dark side. Batman’s constant struggle to remain in control of his mentality shows how relatable he is, reminding everyone that he is just in fact a human. The comics describe and play his morality throughout. Batman’s one rule is that he is not to kill anyone by his hands, by not stooping to a villain’s level separates him from them.
Batman Begins shows a scene in which Bruce is training with the League of Shadows and Henri Ducard says, “Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share,” to which Bruce replies “That's why it's so important. It separates us from them. ” This type of ethics and philosophy has been inbreeded in the Batman series for decades. Publications have stayed true to this principle of righteousness no matter what age, and therefore remaining valid to the most essential law that defines Batman as a crime fighting vigilante.
The comic book industry has matured into an American form of art that discusses the implications of morality, self expression and ideals. Superheroes are symbolic and remain popular no matter the time period in which they are reintroduced, not because of their powers but of their representation of something greater. The ability of the Batman series to express the apprehension and tension faced by society shows an understanding and flares a beacon of hope that not all humanity is lost. As times have changed and civilization has advanced, superheroes have changed with the growing demands of the population.
Sharp explains how comic books have continued to revitalize the one significant detail that allows the Batman series to prevail, the different forms of the Caped Crusader. ‘"Batman is flexible enough to do what different people of different generations want of him (Sharp, pg 2). "’ Batman’s fundamental beliefs in comic books continue to remain the same even as the world changes. However in the movies, directors take the liberty of altering his rigid judgment in order to appeal to a broader audience. Either way, these changes do not affect the overall respect and approval given by Americans towards these figures of everlasting hope.
Work Cited: •Abrams, Joshua, "Vigilante Patriotism: An Exploration of the Modern American Comic Book" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. Paper 10. Web. . •Batman. Dir. Tim Burton. By Prince. Perf. Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Billy Dee Williams, and Jack Palance. Warner Bros. , 1989. DVD. •Batman Begins. Dir. Christopher Nolan. By Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. Prod. Larry J. Franco. Perf. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, and Katie Holmes. Warner Bros. , 2005. DVD. •Hyde, Douglas. Superheroes rise in tough tiems.
CNN Entertainment. 2009 March 20. Web. . •Kelley, Mark. The Golden Age of Comic Books: Representations of American Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War. E-Publications. 2009 April 4. Web. •Miller, Frank, and Mazzucchelli, David. Batman: Year One. New York: DC Comics, 1987. Print. •Ottermann, Ralf. Review Essay: Qualitative Research on Prostitution in the Early '80s' Red-light Districts of Vienna. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung. Vol 6. 2005 Nov 2. Web. < http://www. qualitative-research. net/index. php/fqs/article/view/488>. Sharp, Tyler. Batman redefined: Comics expert says success of Dark Knight trilogy tied to character examinations, loyalty to storyline. News and Editorial Services. Kansa State University. 2012 July 16. Web. . •Snyder, Scott, Capullo, Greg and Glapion, Jonathan. Batman Volume I: The Court of Owls (The New 52). DC Comics, 2011. Print. •Wertham, Fredric. Seduction of the Innocent. New York: Rinehart, 1954. Print. •Wright, Bradford. Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 2001. Print.
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