Episode 40: Batman is done

This is the version I just submitted for editing. I gotta admit not my best but considering the circumstances it’s still pretty good. Enjoy.

To Preserve and Destroy Innocence:

Exploring Aspects of Paternity in Batman

         I was born again with him

         and I started becoming silent

         as I stopped being my center

         to become the orbit of my waking son.

(“Paternity” by Hugo Ríos[1])

Abstract:

The following is an analysis of the importance of paternity within the identities of major characters in the Batman DC Universe series. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939, the Caped Crusader is well known for being orphaned as a young boy and selecting other children as his protégés to stop crime in Gotham City. Close readings of key comic books storylines as well interpretations in other media are used to analyze how Batman serves as a parental figure and how his parents continue to influence his identity. Analytic paradigms focus on masculine identity and patriarchal roles though examples of important female characters, like Martha Wayne and Batgirl are also included.

Introduction:

A lovely couple and their young son are walking away from a movie theater after an evening of entertainment. The moment of familial bliss quickly turns to tragedy as a mugger confronts them and that poor boy is now orphaned. In an instant, innocence is destroyed and a burning desire for vengeance will never die out. Readers will recognize this scene as the iconic origin story for Bruce Wayne and his transformation into Batman. Different interpretations of this moment have been made in comics, cartoons, and films throughout the years with minor variations but the tragic result is always the same. Be it through the stoic reflection of “I haven’t been a kid since I was eight years old.”[2] and the memetic catch phrase of “My Parents are dead!”[3], it is clear that Batman’s identity is defined by the sudden loss of his parents.

The chain of influence that parents imbue on their children is one of the more universal aspects of our human nature. Whether it be positive or negative, it shapes identity and in turn how one takes on the role of a paternal/maternal figure in the future. Everyone, ranging from the mild mannered to the heroic, both in real life and works of fiction has this relationship as a cornerstone to their identity. And yet, one continues changing and evolving through time so it is important to take into consideration how these different attitudes play out across the years. What follows is a close reading of many major story arcs in different media explaining how Batman and other major characters deal with their feeling toward their parents and the anxieties that come with becoming one, figuratively and literally.

From Origin until Crisis.

Most comic book readers of DC are quick to make the distinction between any of the events that happened in any continuity as pre or post “crisis”. This distinction refers to the massive crossover limited series, “Crisis on Infinite Earths”[4] that served to simplify the complexities of the multiverse (multiple continuities and alternate realities surrounding different characters) and change the origin stories of most characters. Most contemporary versions of characters are based on their post crisis models. Still, it would be irresponsible to sweep almost  fifty years of comic books under the rug so here are some important pre crisis things to keep into consideration.

Batman first appeared in Detective Comics issue #26 in 1939. By 1940, the character of Robin was introduced with a similar tragic past to that of the Caped Crusader. Richard “Dick” Grayson of The Flying Graysons circus performers saw both of his parents fall to their deaths after mobster Tony Falcone sabotaged their performance. Because of their profession and Dick’s age (him being portrayed in most versions as a teenager) the demise of his parents is not as dramatic as that of Bruce Wayne’s but the desire for justice is still there. Bruce would bring Dick into his home as his ward (he was technically never adopted) and trained him enough so that they could put Falcone behind bars. The training and adventures of Batman and Robin would continue for years (even though neither of them aged during that time) as the Dynamic Duo would solve countless mysteries together.

The relationships between both of these characters bring to mind a father-son relationship but their interactions suggest otherwise. The way Batman would explain his deductive reasoning or the constant training paints the picture of a teacher-student relationship or one that resembles a Rousseauian[5] style master with his apprentice. Had there not been such a distinctive age gap between them, many readers would consider them masked version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The uneasiness in defining their relationship leads to different readings of the characters, especially Frederic Wertham’s claims that  “Only someone ignorant of the fundamentals of psychiatry and of the psychopathology of sex can fail to realize a subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism which pervades the adventures of the mature ‘Batman’ and his young friendRobin” (189-190)[6]. The incredibly campy live action movie serials and television program of the 1960s continued the portrayals of a pedagogical rather than paternal Batman.

Perhaps the most fatherly figure throughout the decades for both Bruce and Dick is that of their butler, Alfred Pennyworth. He is one the most dependable characters in the series and is always there to provide words of advice, a helping hand, and even a shoulder to cry on. What makes it interesting is that Alfred is in charge of the majority of the domestic responsibilities around Wayne Manor, thus raising the question as to whether he in fact provides more of a maternal role for the Dynamic Duo, rather than a paternal one.

Frank Miller’s Interpretation

Batman had many interpretations throughout the years in various comic books.      Still, the pervading image of the Caped Crusader was very light hearted thanks in large part to the television program starring Adam West[7]. The Batman movie[8] and its infamous “shark repellent” scene further cemented the perception that the Dark Knight did not exactly strike fear into the hearts of his enemies beyond this campy continuity. Frank Miller would step up to recreate Batman as an entity of darkness and vengeance because as he said an interview, “It was really up to the people of my generation to give Batman his balls back.”[9] Miller’s work deals with the future of Batman as an aging hero who comes out of retirement to stop a resurgence of crime by his old rogues gallery and Mutants. Miller’s miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns[10] showed that Bruce Wayne was willing to kill and to do whatever it takes to preserve society.  The only people he could trust beyond a few other retired heroes were Alfred and Commissioner Gordon, both of whom served as father figures to him. In addition,  Batman brings in a new female Robin, Carrie Kelley, to train and ultimately serve as a paternal role model alongside a reformed gang that calls itself “the Sons of the Batman.”

Here we see that the isolation of a retired Bruce Wayne as a hero can only be countered by his parental figures (Alfred and Gordon) and that his responsibilities as a father to a new Robin and his “sons” allow him and to an extent Gotham City to survive even when hope is lost.

After the events of “Crisis”, DC asked Frank Miller to once again work his magic and to give a new origin to the Dark Knight for its main continuity. The result was Batman: Year One[11], which deals with Bruce Wayne ‘s first attempts at being the Caped Crusader, as well as shining a light on how James Gordon deals with corruption in the Gotham PD. Issues of paternity appear early and frequently throughout the title. As Gordon is transferred into Gotham, we see him worried over his wife Barbara that will soon join him in the city and he hopes to himself that “The tests. I pray they’re negative” (6). From here on out the stress of soon being father are constantly in the back of his mind and other characters are quick to mention it as well. We see Gordon call his child James, hoping that he will have a boy. Immediately afterwards we witness him being beaten by masked fellow police officers as a warning to stay in line, “they remind me that I’ve got a pregnant wife” (9). In this moment we see that Gordon’s identity as a father gives him hope towards the future but it also becomes an extension of his responsibilities that limit his freedoms. The imagery of fatherhood is also a constant throughout the text as we see him drinking from his “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug and a very noticeable pregnant wife. The restrictions of being a father become apparent as his relationship with another officer, Sergeant Sarah Essen, develops into an affair and his unwillingness to leave his wife as Sarah wonders, “I just want to know – – if you wife weren’t pregnant, would you… I’m sorry. Wasn’t Fair. Damn it, Jim.” (74, author’s emphasis). This point is further emphasized when a gangster known as the Roman sets a trap for him where they would take his wife and son hostage. He instructs his nephew Johnny that, “Once a man becomes a father he is never truly free.” (88).

The story of James Gordon runs parallel to that of Bruce Wayne and his own development into Batman. There is only one page of the moment when his parents are murdered but aspects of parenthood still appear in the rest of the comic. Perhaps the most poignant is the moment when an injured and disheartened Bruce Wayne returns to his home after an unsuccessful exploration of Gotham’s most crime ridden regions. As he lays bleeding out in a chair looking at a bust of his father, he calls out to him. The inner monologue that begins with “Father… I’m afraid I may have to die tonight” (20) is a powerful scene that summarizes Bruce’s realization that he as a person has failed to provide justice to the meaningless world that took his parents. It is in this moment, with his father in mind that a bat crashes through the window, giving him the will to live on and the inspiration to transform into something more. What is interesting about this iconic moment is that his mother, Martha Wayne only appears in the images of the flashback but is never called out throughout the text. In a traditional masculine perspective, maternal love is often considered to be unquestioning and always present, as opposed to the paternal affection that somehow needs to be earned.

Here we see a modern version of the patriarchal judgment, wherein a king or lord has a son or subject come and explain his actions to prove their worth. Bruce Wayne cannot determine the value of his actions beyond a point of failure and lays the decision of whether or not he should continue living at the feet of his patriarch. The fact Thomas Wayne is dead is irrelevant, he is still considered by Bruce to be the lord of Wayne Manor and only he can pass down patriarchal judgment even as his son is at death’s door. It is not until the very literal bat comes crashing through the window and sits upon the bust of the Wayne patriarch that the power structure can shift from one of paternal dependence to one of self-sufficiency. While the deaths of his parents continue to haunt Bruce Wayne, it is through Batman that this paternal influence no longer overpowers him. The shift in power by placing the figure of the bat above that of his own father allows for the patriarchal structure to be subverted allowing him to become the Dark Knight even if he has no lord and master.

The Robins

Many consider Batman to be one of the greatest superheroes in the DC Universe but he rarely works alone. Alfred and Commissioner Gordon, alongside crossovers with many other heroes, are there to provide help and advice but he is only one half of the Dynamic Duo. I discussed the case of Dick Grayson, the first Robin, a little earlier but I think that this facet needs to be further expanded upon. Batman takes a fatherly role to each of his sidekicks and yet the question of whether or not he is a good father to them or should he even try needs to be asked. Many critics are quick to chastise  Batman for taking in young orphans and putting them in harm’s way rather than do the right thing and let Social Services handle these cases. While it is debatable whether Bruce Wayne would be a good parent, it is clear that his crime fighting alter ego should be someone you do not want near your kids. Some versions of Batman have him being incredibly over protective of his sidekicks even as they are always in dangerous situations. Other versions, like the one done by Twitter persona “The Batman” (@God_Damn_Batman), take a humorous approach to an overly abusive Dark Knight that goes through several Robins a week. The more iconic versions of Batman show a struggle as to whether he does more harm than good to the young boys he trains. Does his quest for giving justice to an orphaned youngster help them cope with the grief or is he living vicariously through them in the search for his own sense of closure?

Batman is perhaps the most serious superhero in all of the DC Universe. If you see him smiling, you are probably in for a world of hurt. However, behind that grumpy exterior there may lie a dangerous psychological condition that detaches him more from reality than one could imagine. Peter Pan Syndrome is not officially recognized by the American Psychological Association but is well known in popular culture that refers to someone never wanting to grow up and become a productive member of society. Bruce Wayne could easily be read as someone who puts on both the masks of the billionaire playboy and of Batman to avoid being an actual adult. Here we have a man in a costume, with every possible gadget imaginable, a secret base in his own personal cave, and a butler that cooks and cleans everything for him; not to mention, that he gets to beat up villains and criminals with no bedtime in sight. This is a young boy’s dream life. In his own way, Batman, wants to go and take other orphans like him to live with him and share in this fantasy world. Now, most comic book writers purposely avoid depicting Batman as happy with his situation, especially after Miller’s interpretation, but one can clearly see that there is a disconnect with the real world and that he is willing to bring boys with a similar tragic past as his own into it.

Each of the Robins go through a maturing process that allows them to find their own identity that goes beyond their father and mentor in Batman. Even in the pre crisis era, Dick Grayson after many years would leave Batman’s side to join the Teen Titans group as its leader. He would then decide to leave Batman’s shadow and forge his own heroic identity, Nightwing. Dick would eventually travel back and forth between Bludhaven (a municipality bordering Gotham), New York City, and Gotham City itself performing his own particular style of vigilante justice but always willing to help his mentor and father figure should it be needed.

The second Robin, Jason Todd, is a completely different case than what happened to his predecessor. Pre crisis, his short story was almost identical to that of Dick Grayson. Post crisis, he was a streetwise punk whose introduction is with him trying to steal the tires off the batmobile. Rather than being orphaned by crime, his mother overdosed and his father was one of the many nameless mooks that worked for one of Gotham’s criminals and are never seen again. Batman found a youthful spirit in Jason that was desperately needed after Dick left his care. While he is not a natural acrobat, Batman sees a lot of potential for his protege and fears that if left alone he would become another one of Gotham’s criminals. While Bruce sees another chance to become a good father figure, Jason is rebellious and refuses to fit the mold of Robin of his predecessor. Here lies a lot of the conflict between the two that evokes something closer to a father-son relationship than what was seen before but ultimately what made most fans dislike this new Robin. With his lack of popularity, a unique aspect to the “Death in the Family[12]” story arc put the power in the hands of readers. During the search for his biological mother, Jason Todd is captured, beaten, and tortured by the Joker while his mother looks on after she was tricked into being bait for him. Jason was left for dead in an abandoned building covered with explosives. The penultimate installment ends with time ticking away and Batman racing to save him. Readers were given a 1-900 number to cast their vote to see whether Jason Todd survived or not. With a margin of less than one hundred votes, Jason’s fate was sealed  and batman would arrive too late. Bruce considered this moment to be his greatest failure and his grief was almost on par with that of losing his parents.

After the tragedy of pretty much losing his child, Bruce Wayne became even more reclusive. He placed Jason’s Robin uniform in the Batcave as a reminder of his shortcomings. It is in that sadness that he suddenly finds Tim Drake, a young boy that would become the third Robin. Rather than an orphan that needed saving, he was a kid with some family troubles but was a huge fan of Batman that recognized that his hero needed help and he volunteered. An incredibly gifted detective, Tim by the age of nine had determined the identities, of the original Robin and subsequently of Batman. Bruce was obviously impressed and decided to take him under his wing but would make him go through six months of training before even his first night on patrol with him. After maturing as an adult, Bruce would become an important father figure to Tim, even as he still had both parents alive. Several years later, Tim’s father Drake was killed and his mother became emotionally unstable, leading to him being formally adopted by Bruce and even given the surname of Wayne, something that no other Robin had gone through.

Batgirl

Barbara Gordon may just be one of the only major female characters in Gotham City that is not a villain or a love interest for Batman. She was originally created as the daughter of James Gordon with his wife Barbara and a younger sister to the baby James we see in Batman: Year One. She is later introduced as being Gordon’s niece but a car accident left her orphaned at a young age. James and Barbara brought the girl to live with them and formally adopted her a little later on. Marital problems would later lead to a divorce, with Barbara taking James Jr. with him out of Gotham and James Gordon Sr. taking custody of Barbara. He was a very caring and protective father to her, to the point that when she expressed interest in becoming a detective, he forbade her from pursuing that career for her own safety. As an act of rebellion, she would take on the mantle of Batgirl, eventually getting training from Batman and with it, another father figure.

While an important character in her own right, many storylines revolve around Barbara being a love interest to Dick Grayson or as a target to make Batman and/or Commissioner Gordon suffer. Perhaps the biggest example of the latter can be found in the one shot graphic novel The Killing Joke[13]. Here, the Joker decides to torture James Gordon to show Batman that anyone can be corrupted. To do this, he goes after his daughter and in a memorable scene that rippled through the main continuity, he shot her point blank and shattered her spine, leaving her paralyzed. Gordon is distraught but endures this and many other tribulations as a metaphorical Job to prove that he will not succumb to darkness.

Another interesting moment of Barbara being a central figure while not being center stage is in the episode “Over the Edge[14]” in the 90s cartoon. Here, a battle with Scarecrow leads to Batgirl falling to her death and crashing on top of her father’s car. With her dying breath, she apologizes for not telling him the truth. Batman rushes to console his friend and father figure but is suspected of being her murderer. Gordon, quickly realizes Bruce Wayne’s secret and goes over with a full police force to capture him. Nightwing, Robin, and Alfred are imprisoned and a battle between Gordon, Batman, and Bane leads to the death of all three of them. At this moment, Barbara wakes up and realizes that she was having a nightmare thanks to Scarecrow’s fear gas. Her own anxieties manifested themselves into a battle to the death between two of the most important and influential men in her life. No longer able to keep her secret hidden, she plans on telling her father the truth about her identity. As she is about to tell him everything, James Gordon demonstrates his parental affection and trust in his daughter as he stops her and says that she does not have to say anything, she is a grown woman capable of making her own decisions and that he will love her no matter what. In that one brief exchange, we see a demonstration of a father’s love that lives on as both characters remain alive throughout the main Batman continuity.

Damian Wayne

For most heroes, the idea of settling down, getting married and starting a family is dangerous because their responsibilities will always take precedence and the people you love will be put in danger. Batman is certainly no exception but that doesn’t mean that having a child is, pardon the pun, inconceivable. The “Batman and Son[15]” story arc reveals that Bruce Wayne had fathered a child with Talia Al Ghul that she has kept hidden from him until she asks him to take her of his now ten year old son. Damian takes the role of the young boy by Batman’s side as even Tim Drake is now an adult, so the father son relationship of a Dynamic Duo. What makes this case interesting is that Damian is already a skilled and deadly martial artist. Being raised by assassins, he is a killer’s instinct, as evident that his attempt to prove that he is useful to his father’s quest against crime ends with him beheading  a minor villain called Spook. It is clear, that Bruce’s role needs to be less of a mentor and more as a father to his son in order for Damian not to become a sociopathic vigilante. The social skills and manners of a child are the priority of their training together. After all, Batman’s relationship to his previous protégés was about the balance between preserving their childlike innocence and destroying that innocence by training them to fight against the cruel world that had already hurt them. Damian’s case requires that innocence be instilled in him and to appreciate the value of human life. Luckily, he has Alfred, Dick, and Tim to help him in this paternalistic endeavor.

A Prodigal Son and the Claiming the Place of a Father

Just before the appearance of Damian, a character long thought dead made his return. A criminal calling himself Red Hood, a moniker once used by the Joker, begins dismantling crime organizations and making his own, all the time saying how he and Batman have unfinished business. This “Under the Hood”[16] story arc revealed that the criminal was a resurrected Jason Todd that was astonished that his father figure had not cleaned the streets of crime in retaliation for him dying. He is completely flabbergasted upon realizing that he had never been properly avenged and that the Joker was still a menace to people. Batman  now sees his failure as a father as even worse, since death was an occupational hazard but having lost his son to evil made his worst fears come alive. The rest of the narrative revolves around the potential redemption of Jason Todd, only to see that he is too far gone as evident by his torture and attempts to kill the Joker.

Jason would come and go as he pleased for several years throughout the storylines. However, in the “Battle for the Cowl[17]” limited series, the apparent death of Batman leads to a conflict as to whom would take the mantle of their father and his identity. Dick Grayson is the obvious choice, but a will made by Bruce specifically forbids him from becoming Batman because he had already found his place as Nightwing. The reluctance of passing down the essence of Batman is troubling for Bruce, since he wants his sons not to take up the traumatic burden of Batman and that they find their own paths in life. During that time, Jason Todd claims what he assumes to be his rightful place as successor to the Dark Knight. The ensuing battle between Jason and his brothers in the Bat family brings to mind the wars that sparked between siblings to prove who the rightful heir to the throne is. Tim Drake ends up donning the Batman suit after Jason almost kills Damian but ends up getting wounded himself. It is up to Dick Grayson, the symbolic first born to take out Jason Todd, which he is able to do after an all-out brawl. Jason barely escapes, leaving a reluctant Dick to shed his identity of Nightwing to become Batman. In addition, Tim Drake would become his own hero, Red Robin, and Damian would take the role of Robin to help his older brother.

Thomas Wayne and Flashpoint

            One of the more interesting narrative aspects of comic books is that alternate realities are not uncommon and stories that would completely contradict the main continuity can still be told with confusing the reader too much. No inquiry into the paternal issues of Batman is complete without looking at the events of “Flashpoint[18]”. Here, the Flash (Barry Allen) finds himself in a world different than his own, thanks to the nefarious plot of a speedster super villain that has created an alternate timeline. His investigation leads him to find Batman, only this reality there are no Robins or Bruce Wayne and this reality the Dark Knight is actually Thomas Wayne. Bruce was the one that was killed on that fateful night and a grief stricken father would become a symbol of vengeance for all of Gotham’s criminals to fear.

Thomas’s incarnation of Batman is a dark one, willing to kill many of Gotham’s most dangerous criminals. his is a quest comprised of personal solitude and vengeance. The story becomes more complex as we realize that the Joker is still a menace, raising the question as to why the Dark Knight has not killed him off like so many others. It is not until the end of the series that we find that this world’s Joker is not only female but is actually Martha Wayne. Her son’s death had caused her to lose her mind and any grasp of reality, even as her husband struggled to stop her crimes and possibly rehabilitate her. Here we see a very gender stereotypical reaction to the unimaginable pain of tragically losing a child. The father is emboldened with renewed strength to make those responsible pay. His feelings are buried deep, because if he ever let anything out beyond anger and determination, the sadness would cripple him and make him lose whatever purpose has allowed him to cope. On the other hand, we have the mother that is inconsolable in her grief. She cannot face reality and can only express herself through her sadness. She weeps uncontrollably and her emotions are so strong that she loses all reason. The chaos manifests itself making the pain grow for herself and others.

Flash would eventually explain to both Thomas and Wayne the details about his own reality and how their son grows up without them. Martha restores a semblance of her sanity upon hearing that  her child is alive and well but the revelation that Bruce’s life is one of constant pain and suffering shatters her fragile psyche. Knowing that her son is meant to live in misery is too much and she leaps off a building to take her own life. Thomas realizes  that his world should never exist and helps Flash return to his own timeline and make things return to normal. Before this sacrifice is made, Thomas writes a letter to his son, pleading to his son that he be a better father by focusing on the wellbeing of Dick, Tim, and Damian rather than the importance of the mission that Batman undertakes. Flash would eventually save the day and delivers the letter to Bruce, who is deeply moved and appreciative of his friend and of his father’s love.

Portrayals of Batman in Animated Television Shows

            For my generation, Batman the Animated Series, shown during the 90s in the Warner Bros. channel was the iconic version of how the Dark Knight should be portrayed. Grim, serious, but all around a nice guy made this Batman someone to fear and yet worth your trust. Several other cartoons have been made changing a few elements around, like the early very pre crisis Super Friends and the recent  The Batman and  Batman: Brave and the Bold which show a different side of the Caped Crusader. Two other programs have very important scenes considering aspects of paternity and Batman.

The first off is Justice League Unlimited[19], a revamped version of Justice League,  where Batman is surrounded by other superheroes of DC but no version of Robin exists. One episode, “For the Man Who Has Everything”, heavily based on an story done by Alan Moore of the same name, has Batman momentarily under the control of the Black Mercy, an evil plant that traps you in a dream world where you are at your happiest. Batman’s idyllic place revisits the moment when his parents were killed, only to this time have his father beat up the mugger as a young Bruce cheers him on. The dream only lasts a few minutes but it shows a sense pride in his father for fighting back. This reaction leads one to wonder whether Bruce ever thought that his father was not strong enough to defend his family, which in turn motivates him to be well trained in just about everything.

There are several other episodes where Batman’s emotional scars are still raw over the passing of his parents. However, there is one that places him as an actual father to a new Batman. “Epilogue” serves as a crossover to Batman Beyond[20], where forty years into the future Bruce Wayne entrusts troubled teenager Terry McGinnis to be the new Batman. The episode question shows an older Terry confronting Bruce as to how blood tests show that he is his biological father. The investigation leads Terry towards Amanda Waller, former head of Cadmus where she reveals that she is responsible for this thanks to a complex process involving  nanotechnology. The process was done to ensure that the world would still have a Batman in the future, though they never went ahead with the part where Terry would be orphaned. Terry’s conflict of choosing which father figure is more important to him mirrors nature versus nurture, the man who raised him versus the man who trained him and to whom you owe your genetic material. In the end, we find him at peace with his identity, and Bruce becomes more paternal as well, making sure that he gets sleep and eats well in between patrols.

The second cartoon that shows Batman actively taking a paternalistic role is Young Justice[21] which resembles a more serious version of the Teen Titans series. Batman is placed as a supervisor for the team and a liaison between them and the Justice League. The team includes a young teenage Dick Grayson as Robin, alongside Superboy (Cadmus clone of Superman), and several other former sidekicks. Batman takes an active part in Robin’s life, even playing basketball with him after a rough day, even if he calls it training. In the episode “Schooled”, Bruce confronts Clark Kent and asks him to be a part of Superboy’s life, since “the boy needs his father”. Superman clearly dismisses this notion and leaves angry and it is not until several episodes later that takes an investment in Superboy’s life; albeit as a big brother figure.

Perhaps the episode that best sums up Batman’s identity as a father is “Agendas” where the Justice League is deliberating whom to accept as its newest members. During the debate, the issue of age comes up, once Captain Marvel is revealed to be ten year old Billy Batson. Batman responds that he knew this secret but accepted him into the league regardless but Wonder Woman scolds Batman and the following dialogue takes place:

Wonder Woman: I shouldn’t be surprised, since you indoctrinated Robin into crime fighting at the ripe old age of nine.

Batman: Robin needed to help bring the men who murdered his family to justice.

Wonder Woman: So he could turn out like you?

Batman: So that he wouldn’t.

This exchange shows the struggles of Batman as a father figure. He takes in Dick and the other Robins not to extend his own legacy but rather so that no one else would suffer like he did. It is because justice could not be served that Bruce Wayne needs to find a strength inside himself to keep going, something that he cannot do alone, a drive that comes from being Batman.

Conclusion

Our identities are heavily influenced by our fathers and father figures. Sometimes we achieve success because of these paternalistic roles, other times we do so in spite of them. Batman and many others in his supporting cast are no different. No matter what the continuity or medium, Bruce Wayne is emotionally conflicted due to the trauma of losing his parents but he can go on thanks to the help of Alfred. His sons, both biological and surrogate, help him with hearts and fists to protect Gotham so that no one else should share their despair. Even Gordon, who has no mask or heroic mandate faces similar struggles as a parent. They struggle, just like any other parent, to keep a balance between protecting and preparing them for the life that awaits them. For that is one’s paternalistic duty, to preserve and destroy the innocence of their children.

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[1] Ríos, Hugo. “Paternidad.” Al otro lado de tus párpados.  (trans. Gabriel Romaguera. San Juan: Isla Negra, 2006.) Print. Reprinted here with permission of the author.

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[4] Wolfman, Marv (W), George Perez (P),  and Dick Giordano (I).  “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Crisis on Infinite Earths #1-12.( April 1985-March 1986. DC Comics.) Print.

[5] Rousseau, Jean Jacques. Emile, or On Education. (1762. Trans. and eds. Christopher Kelly and Allan Bloom. London: UPNE: Lebanon, NH, 2009. )

[6] Wertham, Fredric. Seduction of the Innocent. (Rinehart and Company, Inc: London, 1954.) 189-190.

[7] Batman. (ABC. 1966-1968). Television.

[8] Batman, directed by Leslie H. Martinson. (1966. 20th Century Fox.) Film.

[9] Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked, directed by Steve Kroopnick. (History Channel . 2003. ) Television Documentary.

[10] Miller, Frank (W)(P) and Klaus Janson (I). Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. (Febr.-June 1986. DC Comics.) Print.

[11] Miller, Frank (W), and David Mazzucchelli (A). “Batman: Year One” .  Batman # 404-407 . (Febr.-May 1987. DC Comics.) Print.

[12] Starlin, Jim (W), Jim Aparo (P) and Mike DeCarlo (I). “Batman: A Death in the Family.”                  Batman #426-429. (Dec. 1988-Jan 1989. DC Comics.) Print.

 

[13] Moore, Allan (W) and Brian Bolland (A). Batman: The Killing Joke. (March 1988. DC Comics.) Print.

[14] “Over the Edge.” The New Batman Adventures. (Warner Bros. Network. May 23, 1998. ) Television.

[15] Morrison, Grant (W), and Andy Kubert (A). “Batman and Son.” Batman #655-658. (Sep. -Dec . 2006. DC Comics.) Print.

[16] Winick, Judd (W), and Doug Mahnke (A). “Batman: Under the Hood.” Batman #635-641 and 645-650. (Feb 2005-April 2006. DC Comics.) Print.

[17] Daniel, Tony (W) (P) and Sandu Florea (I). Batman Battle for the Cowl.  (March -May 2009. DC Comics.) Print.

[18] Johns, Geoff (W) and Andy Kubert (A). Flashpoint. (May – Sept. 2011. DC Comics. ) Print.

[19] Justice League Unlimited. (Cartoon Network. 2001-2006). Television.

[20] Batman Beyond. (Cartoon Network. 1999-2001. ) Television.

[21] Young Justice. (Cartoon Network. 2010-Present.) Television.

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