The Moral Dilemma of Batman

WARNING: I won’t divulge the book’s plot, but I will mention some characters featured in the story arc.

Another wonderful piece which kept me from studying last week: the lovely graphic novel titled Batman: Hush, story by Jeph Loeb and artwork by Jim Lee and Scott Williams. A friend recommended it to me two years ago, and I only just got around to reading it. If you’re a fan of Gotham’s Dark Knight in any capacity, read it now.

I enjoyed the book for a variety of reasons. The artwork is just gorgeous: from the glossy cover to the pages and sketches, I really liked the deep colors, use of shadows, and careful contours. Here’s one nice tidbit:

The book is also a neat way to brush up on some classic Batman villains. Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Scarecrow, and the Joker are just some of the many characters that pop up in this action-packed storyline.

Now, Batman has always been my favorite DC superhero for a very simple reason: I love how Batman technically doesn’t have superpowers (although the billionaire budget doesn’t hurt any), and yet he risks everything to keep Gotham safe and fight crime and evil.

So imagine how this conversation I had with a roommate over 2 years ago went down:

The argument started cos I was talking about a scene in the Marvel Daredevil movie. Matt Murdock, out of his misplaced sense of vigilante justice, lets an acquitted rapist get run over by a subway train. I said that scene always troubled me, and that I was convinced a hero like Batman would have saved the scum, and than tossed him over to a police station.

So imagine my shock when my roommate frowns at me and says:

“Actually, I thought Batman was considered kind of a bad guy.”

My blank face must have said it all, because she continued to argue that she had always thought Batman was a more morally tortured superhero in that he did things out of his own self interest, and that he might even be considered an antihero. She claimed she was basing her arguments on stuff she had read online, and as the argument got more heated, she angrily whipped out her laptop, stating she KNEW I was wrong, even though she had trouble backing up her own argument.

Now most people know I can get heated when I’m arguing a point I really think I’m right about, but I was surprised because my roommate was generally a very mellow person, not at all prone to arguing for the sake of pride. I felt my confidence waver: who was right? The question wasn’t whether Batman was good or bad, but rather to what extent was he more morally questionable compared to other heroes.

I hurriedly messaged a friend of mine well-versed in matters of comic book lore (coincidentally, it was she who recommended Hush to me). When I posed the question, she wisely replied:

“He’s EXTREMELY morally tortured. However, he’s tortured by his WANT to do things like let scum get run over by trains, but his unflagging internal compass…stops him from doing things like that….

…Batman hates killing, hates shooting, and is very careful about his ability to serve justice. The basics of it is: while he knows that he’s the primary recon and retrieval unit for the law enforcement of Gotham, he deprives himself (very wisely) of the power to determine sentences.

And actually, while he SEEMS rather self-interested, he’s perhaps the most selfless of the superheroes…

…And he’s an anti-hero in that, as a person, he interacts terribly with society, and often takes the unorthodox/”wrong” route to justice, but at the heart of it, he’s perhaps the noblest of all of the superheroes.

But actually, you’re right. Unless he had to choose between the rapist and an innocent, Batman would save the scum.”

At the time, I just kind of had to take her word for it. But after considering why Batman saves the Joker in the 2008 film The Dark Knight, and after reading Hush, I realized my friend was absolutely right. My Batman worship continued unwavering.

Incidentally, other images in the book have me very impatient for the film coming out next summer:

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