Comic strip critiques Batman’s odd logic

Let me destroy another superhero for you:

You’re welcome.


Yeah, I saw that. I liked the color-blind casting, but the whole “lives in a salvage-yard” premise was kinda weird, and the cantankerousnessness, and the constant clutching of his heart and saying “Oh, this is the biggest one I ever had. You hear that mom and dad? I’m coming to join you.” just got old after a while.

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Yeah, Wayne Enertprises is usually cast as “good big business.”

But in-universe-logic, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a bit of a whitewashing campaign. Wayne Enterprises has good jobs…but that doesn’t help people move out of Gotham’s ubiquitous slums? Wayne Enterprises does charity work…but that doesn’t help the thousands of very mentally disturbed people littering the streets? Wayne Enterprises offers scholarships…but all the brilliant scientists turn to increasingly ridiculous crime sprees to finance their projects?

He could accomplish so much more good with “reclusive zillionaire Bruce Wayne pays for people to get the help they need and elects progressive city leaders” than “reclusive zillionaire Bruce Wayne puts on expensive pajamas and punches the mentally ill.”

I mean, it’d make a shitty comic book, but STILL. :slight_smile:


I never liked Batman, and I feel like for as far back as I can remember, the reasoning has been pretty much along the lines of this comic. It just made no sense to me that a super-intelligent bagillionaire would choose this route to try to solve the crime problems in Gotham.

Though I have to admit that I’m quite enjoying the new Gotham show on Fox. Sure, it’s just your standard “solve a new crime every week, with a little bit of ongoing story to keep things moving forward week to week” schlock, featuring cameos by future Batman villains as kids (or younger versions of themselves), but it’s pretty enjoyable schlock.

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Maybe Prohibition, but keep in mind this was nation-wide in the 1920s. And the timing doesn’t work at all with the massive expansion in crime rates, or explain why they started going down after 1994.

Truth is, the only good explanations for the big twentieth century crime wave seem to be a combination of demographic change and addition/removal of environmental lead contamination. Nothing else really correlates well.

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Any other webcomics from 2013 you’d like to bring to our attention?

The relationship between poverty and crime is complex, but they are statistically correlated - areas of high poverty are areas of high crime Why that correlation occurs is not entirely clear (personal hypothesis: poor people are more likely to be incarcerated for the crimes they do commit than the wealthy), and the last few years of the Great Recession have been something of an exception to the trend that has sociologists reconsidering many of their old theories.

As for your current crop of criminals, check out the most common felonies in the US: Batman isn’t out there driving drunks home or rehabilitating drug addicts or getting people into anger management classes so they don’t beat their spouses. He’s not actually fixing the problems that Gotham has. He’s concentrated on a small set of really very insane people. And he deals with them ineffectively: they always get out and crime again.

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He’d be out of a hobby if they didn’t.


Which is the whole fallacy of super heroes comic now that you think about it; the villains always escape.

The problem however, is that Superheroes and Supervillains are profitable; same with each and every single media that tells the glory days of knights, soldiers and warriors. The sad truth, whoever, that none of those things improve society in the long run; they’re tools of greed, whether it was the corporations’, the governments’, or their own.

True heroes are the ones that save peoples lives from poverty, diseases, accidents, and/or natural disasters; but those uplifting stories pails in entertainment value in comparison of action stories. As for crime, it’s more complicated since people sinned beyond what written in the law; you got scumbags that finds loophole to manipulate and misinform both the government and the public. True Villains are the grudge filled bigots that feared the inevitable, and do everything they can to make sure that their existence remained relevant for future generation (I.E. Koch Industries); the criminals that Batman fights were most likely product of a defunct political and social system, which makes them more relatable than Batman himself now that you think about it (then again, this is coming from a cartoon nerd).

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That is kind of why Batman is THE WORST! At least, like, the X-men are mostly fighting racists and genocidal maniacs (and themselves). At least they don’t imagine that they can fix the world without fixing how people think about the world.

…which is a big part of why Americans have crappy healthcare and little economic security, but a bloated military and trigger-happy cops…Our thinking is too narrative. News media get ratings from entertaining stories, not from reporting on events that happen.

The Batman story is what all conservatives think we need: millionaire vigilantes. It also kind of shows why that kind of solution isn’t really any solution at all.

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Reminds me of this:


I’ve heard this a few times. It’s hard to miss that there’s an obvious contradiction, and it’s right in the name ‘Superman’. To be fair, I’ve seen some superhero comics explore this contradiction, X-Men in particular.

So occasionally, we see Superman inspiring the people of Metropolis to action – but how does that work, exactly? Because the people of Metropolis know they’re not Superman, so seeing Superman accomplish something doesn’t say much about whether they can accomplish it.

One of the things that nags at me about a lot of popular entertainment, including the speculative fiction and narrative computer games that I enjoy, is that there’s a heavy emphasis on the importance of heroes – special individuals who change history. The problem is that concept is anti-democratic.

Presumably, we the readers, part of the demos, are identifying with the hero and imagining that, given the right circumstances, we could confront the problems we see that seem beyond our ability to resolve. But this leaves me to wonder, if the net effect of these stories is to leave us feeling that the only way we can imagine addressing injustices is through the actions of some individual hero, one who is specially gifted in some way – rather than imagining how we could redress those injustices through collective action.

I’ve kept trying to imagine a democratic hero – the demos as hero – and I wonder if the available narrative forms really enable such a story.


Socialism, and particularly communism, tends toward benevolent paternalism. Marx was not a member of the proletariat, nor were Lenin or Mao. Superman was not of the people, but did things for the people.

(If you want a good explanation of the socialist background of Superman, read Grant Morrison’s Supergods. The subject isn’t really my wheelhouse. I just wanted to clarify that paternalism doesn’t run counter to socialism, historically.)

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My first thought – no joke – is Captain Planet, whose cornball omnipotence is born out of the efforts of mortal folks. Probably no coincidence given its central and repeated aesop. And not particularly well-executed. But you could probably learn a lot from the ways that series fails about how to do it better.

A lot of ensemble works – from The Avengers to X-men do this better, too. X-men, in particular, has a central conflict born out of the wicked side of democracy (fear of the Other) that can only be fought with super-powered democracy (peace and incorporation with the Other).

An important part is to have the heroes have massive flaws so that they must depend on “normal people” to some significant extent. Superman never depends on “normal people,” but at least he seems to like people. He doesn’t need to fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, he chooses to, because he likes those things. His enemies are threats to those things. Batman never depends on normal people, but for him, it’s a liability, that puts him at odds with his stated goals - his enemies are mostly just maniacs. Normal people are casualties in this clash of the unbalanced - best they can do is get out of the way.


In real world, these are called inventors. See e.g. the role of Henry Bessemer and what he did for availability of cheap steel, or what Fritz Haber did for nitrogen chemistry. Such people alter the course of history pretty significantly.

The scary part here is how few these are.

I’ve seen it argued that certain forms of innovation are privileged over others, so innovation is actually more common than is usually acknowledged.

That aside, most people can more readily imagine actually inventing something useful, or writing a good novel, etc., with time and effort. There’s an episode of the Simpsons, where Homer becomes an inventor – not that the Simpsons are that realistic, but Homer Simpson is distinctly lacking in superhuman abilities.

Superhero origin stories generally involve the superhero somehow acquiring superhuman abilities, which simply isn’t possible. Though in this, Batman is a notable exception, his only superpower being that he’s independently wealthy in a way that doesn’t compromise his principles.


“Any sufficiently advanced financial system is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur C. Buffet


Exterminators was interesting. They killed bugs.

Also these:

POLICE: Look, a playing card by the victim
POLICE: The five of diamonds!

JOKER: (in the shadows) (patting his pockets) Goddammit


You could make an argument for V For Vendetta, insofar as V inspired the demos to become himself.