I haven’t done a character analysis in a while, so I thought it’s about time I did a character analysis for our favourite guy in black, Batman. When it comes to an analysis of Batman, the discussion often revolves around his psychology, and to put it simply, if he’s insane or not. Long story short, no I don’t think Batman is crazy, but there’s a lot more to it, so let’s get into this Batman character analysis!
So you know him, and may or may not love him, he’s Batman! He witnesses the murder of his parents and ever since then has been on a mission for justice…blah blah blah, you know how the story goes. But Batman is one of the most interesting superheroes out there. He’s also one of the most popular. With many, many iterations of the character, any character analysis of Batman is purely an interpretation of the character, obviously. So you can agree or disagree with my analysis, and that’s perfectly fine. Because overall Batman is represented very differently according to the writer, you have psycho-Batman, Bat-God, humanised Batman etc.
Lets start this Batman character analysis with the questions that is often asked of Batman, is Batman crazy? Is Batman insane? Is he a psycho? First of all, as most of you know, insanity is a legal term. And in legal terms, insanity is a term given to individuals who basically cannot determine the difference between right and wrong. Yes technically Batman is an illegal vigilante, who goes around terrorising people, but Batman is more than capable of discerning the difference between what is right and wrong, and therefore it is silly to label Batman as crazy.
Psychopaths on the other hand, know the difference between right and wrong, and choose to take part in wrongful acts anyways. And sometimes when Frank Miller gets his hands on Batman, he comes off as kind of psycho, but overall, Batman is not a psychopath either. He doesn’t just go around punching people for fun.
A simple technique Batman uses to keep his sanity, is through the use of strong moral codes and rules. Batman will not kill. As Nietzche once said, “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee”. Batman spends his day surrounded by monsters who abuse, torture and kill. In order to separate himself from those he hunts, he creates a line, that line being not killing, as a psychological reminder that he is not one of the monsters he hunts for. Unlike most of his enemies, Batman is cerebral and logical, and uses logic and reason to hunt monsters. And through this logic he is able to retain his sense of sanity.
His sanity is further proven through his relations with authority. Batman is often a character associated with obsession, and is often labelled a ‘control freak’. Yes Batman can become obsessive and often controlling over what needs to be done and how it needs to be done, but Batman knows the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong, and understands that his mission is one that should not be a personal vendetta, but rather a means to attain justice and order for all.
Batman knows the justice system in Gotham is messed up. His parents were victims to that. The disorder of the Gotham police and further justice system, resulted in the random killing of his parents, where often the killer is never brought to justice (depending on the story you’re reading). But Batman didn’t become Batman to replace the justice system, rather he became Batman to assist the justice system, to help create order in Gotham. He understands that he cannot be a one-man justice system, that he needs to work with authority in order to bring…order. Which is something that is emphasised with his relationship with Jim Gordon.
Now I know we just touched on part of Batman’s motivations, and before we get deeper into that, lets discuss the identity of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Most people would say that answer to the identity question is obvious, Batman is the real identity, and Bruce Wayne is the mask. And I have to disagree with that statement. If you’re a reader of the New 52 Batman, written by the wonderful Scott Snyder, then you may be able to see where I’m coming from.
Our personal identity is a collection of the personas we create. We have a certain persona when with our family, than when we are with our boss (unless you’re super tight with your boss). Batman and Bruce Wayne are both personas, that together create the whole identity. Scott Snyder’s Batman, often aims to humanise Batman a lot more than other writers’ interpretations. Batman’s internal monologue often refers to himself as Bruce, and he continually needs to reassure himself of his actions, question his actions, and whether he is capable or not. From this you get a portrait of a man, the complete identity that is Bruce Wayne and Batman. He isn’t just this machine who knows what to do and how to do it all the time, just “because he’s Batman”, he’s a real person with real struggles.
Stick with me here: it is our experiences and choices that often shape our identity. For Bruce, it took him years of self-discovery from finding the symbol of the Bat, to training and travelling to find his sense of identity. By creating the persona of Batman, Bruce is able to complete his sense of identity by, as said perfectly in ‘Batman and Philosophy’, “instilling in him a new sense of authentic conscience, one that is not clouded by revenge, burdened by the expectations of others, or anchored in any single all-embracing moral vision, but rather speaks to the actualization of freedom and human potential.”
“You play the hand you’re dealt. What I am, I am of my own choice. I don’t know if I’m happy, but I’m content.”–Legends of the Dark Knight #23
Okay so now lets really get into the motivations of the Dark Knight. What started out as a mission for vengeance, Batman is now a crusader for justice. The question often arises, why would a guy risk it all, to dress up as a bat, and fight bad guys? Personal tragedy is the obvious answer. Bruce went through something terrible, and decided to become Batman. But that answer is far too simple. Many people go through intense personal tragedy, and don’t become well…Batman. And sure it’s easier for him to become Batman because he has access to resources through his billion dollar fortune, however even that isn’t motivation enough for any normal person to become Batman.
Bruce is a man of intense will and self-discipline. This sense of will and self-discipline is a trait that strengthened over the years. However what in particular motivated Bruce to become Batman? Well really there isn’t a definite answer to that, and that is what makes the character so interesting. Batman is such a complex character, with numerous and even questionable motives. Bruce, like most other people, doesn’t completely understand himself either, so how are we supposed to ever determine why Bruce out of all people decided to become Batman? A combination of personal traits and personal experiences created Batman.
In The Long Halloween, Bruce recalls his motivation as “a promise to my parents that I would rid the city of the evil that took their lives”. However, as I mentioned earlier, Batman’s crusade is no longer a personal vendetta. That promise is merely to give Bruce a sense of purpose, and to help create a sense of unity for his broken life. He has grown a lot since that promise he once made when he was younger.
Another attribute often associated with Batman, is that he is a loner. Batman has no friends, because he don’t need them, because he’s the goddamn Batman! Right? Well not really. As Epicurus mentions as the secret to happiness, everyone needs friendship “Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship”. Now Batman may not be the happiest person on Earth, but I don’t consider him to be depressed or a total loner either, everybody yearns for a little bit of friendship in their lives, as does Batman.
Bruce does often shut people out of his life. He isn’t the best when it comes to romantic relationships, and finds it difficult to keep anyone close to him. His excuses often come down to the fact that what he does is dangerous, and keeping people close to him is bad for them. Ehh. I think it more comes down to the fact that Bruce had people close to him, his parents, and they were ripped from him. And that caused him so much pain and grief that he can’t bear to have it happen to him again. Bruce doesn’t hate people or relationships or friendships, he loves it. That love is clear from the immense pain he felt from his parents’ death. It’s just easier for him to keep people out of his life, out of fear of losing people close to him again.
But as much as he tries to keep people out of his life, there are a few that manage to occasionally crack a smile from the master of brooding. Selina Kyle is one of those people. But when it comes to romance, Bruce isn’t the best, so that relationship spends more time going downhill than up. Then you have people like Alfred and Jim Gordon. Although they are close to Bruce, I wouldn’t necessarily call them his friends. Alfred and Bruce have a major power imbalance in their relationship, as Alfred is still Bruce’s butler, and although Bruce has sometimes found a father figure in Alfred, he still views him as somebody that works for him.
Then you have Jim Gordon. In a sense they are friends, but at the same time, Jim Gordon only knows Batman, he doesn’t know the man behind the mask. There’s only so far that friendship can go, whilst Bruce keeps half of his identity secret from Gordon. Then you have somebody like Dick Grayson. Dick and Bruce are quite close as well. Dick is one of the few people Bruce really trusts. But again I wouldn’t necessarily call the two of them friends. Bruce and Dick have more of a father/son relationship, than a true friendship.
So no Bruce isn’t a loner, as he has many people in his ‘Bat-Family’, and in my eyes the only one true friend Bruce has, is the other half of the World’s Finest, Superman. Clark and Bruce may seem like their on the opposite sides of the spectrum, but Clark is the only person who I could actually say is Bruce’s true friend. It’s pretty clear that the pair don’t often always understand each other, but that doesn’t stand in the way of their friendship. Clark may not always understand Bruce’s methods and motivations, and Bruce may not always understand Clark’s optimism, but Bruce and Clark together create a balance, that creates a strong friendship. Clark needs Bruce to be his logic, and reality check at times. And Bruce needs Clark to be his light and sense of positivity at times. There is a great level of respect between the pair, and a sense of strong loyalty, that they don’t often share with other people, especially in Bruce’s case. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I suggest reading the current arc of the New 52 (Superman’s Joker arc) Batman/Superman, which really highlights the nature of their friendship.
But now lets talk about the other people in Batman’s life: his enemies. When looking at Batman’s villain, you can see that they are often reflections of certain parts of his personality, and often represent the extremities of those certain aspects of his personality. Here a few:
- Two-Face: this one is obvious, Two-Face is a reflection of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s duality, and his constant identity struggle. As I said his identity is a combination with Batman, and he is often struggling to find the balance with his humanity and the darkness he fights.
- Mr. Freeze: it’s not random that Mr. Freeze is associated with everything cold, as he has a cold personality, devoid of emotion, after the death of his wife. Emotions are something that Bruce also struggles to show, and if he does completely shut off his friends and the people close to him, he could end up as devoid as Freeze.
- Penguin: Penguin is quite the aristocrat, as wealth and status are the most important things in his life. Bruce, being a billionaire and all, could easily become just as obsessed with his wealth and status in society.
- Catwoman: she’s all about the excitement and the adrenaline of the heist, and the outlaw life. Batman is often written as finding pleasure in living in a place outside the law, where he is able to put on a costume, and do basically what ever he wants, however taking that excitement too far can lead him to the darker path of Catwoman,
- Ra’s Al Ghul: Ra’s is what you get when you take the ideal of order and justice too far. Ra’s idea of order and justice often involves the mass death of humanity to start anew. Batman’s obsession with order could lead him down a similar path if he gives up on truly helping people.
- Scarecrow: Scarecrow utilises fear to defeat his enemies, as does Batman. However Scarecrow takes it many steps too far by creating mush of the minds of his enemies with his fear toxin
Overall as I said earlier, Batman is represented very differently according to the writer, however personally, this is how I view the character. Batman is an incredibly complex character that can’t just be written off as an utilitarianist, or deontologist, or a consequentialist. Batman is a character of great intelligence who assesses each individual situation and acts accordingly. Therefore occasionally his ethics and morality can come into question, however you can’t disagree that he is a man of logic. His relationships are complicated as are his motivations, which is why we love him so much.
But what are your views on Batman? Disagree with this Batman character analysis? Think there’s a lot more to the character? Let me know!
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Categories: comic book characters