Open Thread: Batman As Feudal Lord

[Spoilers abound, obviously.]

Gavin Mueller has a fun piece up at Jacobin, looking at the politics of The Dark Knight Rises and the Nolans’ Batman trilogy in general. He skips over what I agree is a rather ho-hum bit of analysis — the Batman conceit is somewhat fascist; but so are all superhero narratives — in favor of boring-down on a more provocative claim. Despite his Enterprises and his billions, Mueller writes, Bruce Wayne is much more Louis XIV than Forbes 500:

This Batman-as-financier stuff is a trick played by casting the actor whose greatest role was a psychopathic i-banker. Yes, Wayne is rich, but that’s not the same as being a capitalist. The guy running the bodega down the street is more of a capitalist than Bruce Wayne. Wayne has no interest in profit, in accumulation, in investing his wealth to produce more wealth. If you don’t see M-C-M’ you don’t have capitalism. Now, the character of Bruce Wayne has always been imbued with noblesse oblige, but let’s not get that confused with what a capitalist does. Wayne funds orphanages and renewable energy in distinction to the actual capitalist, Daggett, who is trying to pillage Wayne Enterprises, Bain-Capital-style. Daggett is pointedly dissed at a party full of rich people because he’s only interested in money. Those silly noveau-riche, so gauche, am I right?

So this is a class struggle all right, but it’s not between Bane’s pseudo-proles and Gotham’s elite with their cop army. That’s a sideshow. The struggle is within the ruling class itself, between the capitalist Daggett and the aristocratic Wayne. Wayne is far more feudalism than finance: heir to a manor complete with fawning manservant, unconcerned with business or money-making, bound by duty and honor even if it makes him a recluse.

I’ve enjoyed all of the Nolan Batman movies, for what it’s worth. But at the same time I struggle to deny describe much of Mueller’s criticism as without merit. It certainly bugs me, too, how inept the Nolans seem to be at injecting pathos into their films in some manner other than through dead or dying female love interests. However, with the recent Rotten Tomatoes incidences fresh in my mind, I think I’ll stop typing now and hope Mueller takes the heat in my stead.






66 replies
  1. 1
    The Gimp says:

    Well, yes, but Wayne also HELPS people while the Atlas Shrugged crowd try to pull a hostile takeover.

  2. 2
    AHH onna Droid says:

    Headline was cut off in dolphin. Thought it would read Batman as fetish symbol.

    More accurate, imo.

  3. 3
  4. 4
    AHH onna Droid says:

    All superhero stories are not fascist. Read the original Wonder Woman, or the original Tick, or the original SUPERMAN, which was a Saul Alinsky, timetraveling Bill Ayers fantasy of the little guy enacting revenge, I mean meting justice on bullies. Supes as the ultimate gman, puppet of the 1% and the MIC started in the paranoid 50s ( when all comics started to suck) but really got bad in the 80s and 90s.

  5. 5
    Cheap Jim says:

    I’m sorry, but I can’t quite bring myself to having deep thoughts about a comic-book movie.

  6. 6
    Keith G says:

    [Spoilers abound, obviously.]

    I hear that there is a lot of gun violence during the first reel.

  7. 7
    flukebucket says:

    I won’t be able to sleep tonight unless I take the time to say that Frank Gaffney is as crazy as hell.

    thank you. I feel much better.

  8. 8
    jl says:

    ” I struggle to deny much of Mueller’s criticism as without merit. ”

    I need help parsing that. But, I can type sentences like that myself, so not making fun.

    The link says the Rotten Tomatoes hate speech started when critics called the new Batfilm ‘bloated’? Really?

    A bloated super hero film. Isn’t that a given, these days?

    Edit: now, if you called a film a bloated carcass, I can see that igniting some hate speech. Many films these days remind me of bloated carcasses. But just, merely bloated is all, gets up hate speech? I guess I am just out of it and old fashioned.

  9. 9
    MBunge says:

    As a fanboy, it’s hilarious to see normal people fumbling around with this stuff that we were thinking about years or decades ago.

    Mike

  10. 10
    SatanicPanic says:

    @AHH onna Droid: IIRC the Avengers are considered government agents.

  11. 11
    burnspbesq says:

    @Cheap Jim:

    I’m sorry, but I can’t quite bring myself to having deep thoughts about a comic-book movie.

    Ditto. I’m not interested in turning this escapist entertainment into something it’s not.

  12. 12
    NonyNony says:

    Batman as “Lost King of Gotham” is actually almost as played out an analysis as “Batman the Fascist” is, to be honest.

    Batman is a rich guy who dresses up like a bat to fight crime because his parents were gunned down when he was a boy. If you play that straight you end up with a messed up man-child acting out a revenge fantasy instead of growing up and learning to deal with pain in a healthy manner.

    If you don’t play that straight and go for the fantasy instead, you end up with a guy who fights against a clan of ninjas who want to use magic crazy drugs activated by some Kirby-tech microwave generator to drive people insane for who knows what reason. Later he might fight a crazy anarchist who dresses like a clown. Later still the ninja clan might show back up again to beat him up and throw him in a pit for some reason.

    Anyone who takes the Nolan Batman movies as trying to make a statement about anything other than “Batman is awesome!” is really, really taking it all far more seriously than it deserves. Unless you have a PhD in Popular Culture or Film or something and can get a publication out of it.

    (I mean seriously – in the second movie Nolan literally puts in a scene where a raft full of civilians is saved by a “Killer With A Heart Of Gold” stereotype. I mean I enjoy the movies as much as anyone – and Heath Ledger’s Joker is particularly amazing to watch – but these movies don’t have any more depth to them than the ones that Tim Burton did.)

  13. 13
    Brachiator says:

    the Batman conceit is somewhat fascist

    Well, no, since most superheroes, including the Batman, work alone. They do not create or lead social movements. They are more benevolent ubermen and women, if you need to do the allegory thing.

    And there is also Tarantino’s sly take on Superman:

    Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race

    Also, too

    SEMI-SPOILER ALERT

    Nolan is pretty upfront to a nod to A Tale of Two Cities in the movie. This relates not only to Nolan’s depiction of Bruce Wayne’s motivations, but also to Nolan’s take on revolutions gone very sour.

  14. 14
    Chris says:

    That’s not feudalism vs capitalism, that’s just old money vs new. The same thing existed in the days of feudalism, with old established bloodlines vs commoners who’d either bought a lordship or won it in battle.

  15. 15
    Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn says:

    It certainly bugs me, too, how inept the Nolans seem to be at injecting pathos into their films in some manner other than through dead or dying female love interests.

    Boy howdy, you got that right.

    I went into Inception *really* expecting to enjoy the heck out of it (I was already several months’ familiar with Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack, which is truly a thing of beauty). In the end, all I could think was, “that was ‘Memento’ with a whole bunch of explosions, but lacking any real resonance.”

    I also saw his Bat flick with Ledger as The Joker. Good performance on Ledger’s part, but all I took away from that movie was, jeez that was loud.

    I liked the quieter Nolan much better.

  16. 16
    BenjaminJB says:

    Well, the feudal theme has always been pretty strong in the Batman comic books–Dark KNIGHT, anyone? (And let’s at least wave to the alternative Batman who actually is a knight.)

    But sure: in the first movie, William Earle (::cough::) notes that he’ll keep the Wayne empire save for the young boy; in the second movie, it’s noted that Wayne Manor is in a section called the Palisades, which kind of sounds like a walled part of a castle; and in the third, he corrects Selina Kyle to note that he was born in the Regency room–which connects up with his role as uncrowned king of the Wayne business empire in the first movie.

    But even without that, Mueller is correct to note that Wayne isn’t profit-oriented and that people who are profit-oriented don’t come off well and don’t end well in the Nolanverse. (For instance, Earle, Daggett, all the criminals that the Joker kills, etc.)

  17. 17
    AHH onna Droid says:

    @SatanicPanic: 1960s, case in point. Hate to anger the fanbois, but commercial silver age comics were pretty much shite except for Spiderman, little wonder Stan Lee wants to remind you all the time, even if reasonable people can moot the quality of the art. One of the ‘ greats’ went straight up objectivist in that era, lets not forget. Eight year olds aren’t big on deep, thoughtful storylines.

  18. 18
    eyelessgame says:

    Has it already been noticed that “Daggett” is a contraction of “Dagny Taggart”, almost?

  19. 19
    MBunge says:

    @NonyNony: “these movies don’t have any more depth to them than the ones that Tim Burton did.”

    That’s true of the 1st and 3rd. The middle one does interestingly take on the fantasy that a society’s problems can be fixed by some guy who won’t play by the rules.

    Mike

  20. 20
    Dennis SGMM says:

    I’m still plying the existential depths of the “BIFF!” and “POW!” balloons that made the 1966 version of Batman such a long-lived topic of discussion among cineastes.

  21. 21
    VincentN says:

    What’s wrong with having deep thoughts about a comic book movie? Is that any different from having deep thoughts about any other kind of fiction from television shows to novels? Yeah, you can say the Batman movies are just about cool explosions and battles but most writers try to inject some themes or structure to their work so I don’t see it as ridiculous to try to extract possible statements or interpretations out of such things.

    People have always used stories as metaphors or allegories to things happening in the real world. The idea that noblesse oblige in the rich class while condescending may be more preferable to the bandit IGMFY mentality of today actually sounds like an interesting discussion to have.

  22. 22
    Robin G. says:

    @NonyNony:

    Batman is a rich guy who dresses up like a bat to fight crime because his parents were gunned down when he was a boy. If you play that straight you end up with a messed up man-child acting out a revenge fantasy instead of growing up and learning to deal with pain in a healthy manner.

    That’s basically Bruce Wayne’s character arc in the Nolan movies, actually.

  23. 23
    mdblanche says:

    @burnspbesq: But what else are our country’s English majors supposed to do with their time?

  24. 24
    El Cid says:

    Actually, in a Marxian stages of capital analysis, the Wayne fortune is pre-capitalist, belonging to the merchant class elites.

    It began as a comic analog of the Dutch East India Company. Such a deep background is necessary because (a) you had to have a lot of money come from somewhere, and (b) it allows for all sorts of deep lineage tricks for comic writers — pace The Phantom, turns out that dressing up in bat themed outfits and fighting crime was a pastime of many of the Wayne family rich.

    You know, because families like the Rockefellers and Carnegies are always the first ones you imagine putting their own bodies on the front lines by fighting crime.

    This whole tradition in fiction can be seen in the same spirit of African praise poetry, in which one way that popular culture puts checks and balances on otherwise unchallenged rulers is to so praise them and bring to life their legend of overly moral achievement that you’re actually trying to inspire and/or shame them into better behavior.

    IOW, I don’t think such writers truly imagine that corporate types or even those from such inherited wealth really are likely to act like that.

    They’re (a) working within constraints that you have to come up with some imaginary source of all this wealth and funds and contacts the hero needs to do his thing, and (b) modeling how such privileged elites should be.

    In the first Nolan movie, for example, Wayne’s dad is a doctor who’s not really a Wayne Enterprises exec type. His murder somehow galvanizes the cities’ elites to do something or other to save the city, which bizarrely enough must have been something other than cutting their own taxes or cutting all regulations.

    In the comics, the Wayne Enterprises super-complex exists as the front for Batman to use different types of power to gain influence and block other corporate initiatives.

    This, then, is the myth of Batman — the guy with the absolutely perfect and driven willpower, the guy without the typical types of superpowers, though with an absurd level of genius which allows him to just tell himself to learn something and, boom, he’s learned it — nuclear engineering, engineering, martial arts, financial maneuvers, chemistry, medicine, blah blah blah.

    So if Batman tells himself to learn to fight from all the world’s greatest amazing experts, bang, it happens, he does it, and now he’s the greatest.

    And if Batman tells himself to run this giant company to keep things hidden while in a subtle manner also save the world, well, there ya go, he’s done done it.

    This is why Batman’s not a capitalist — he’s not motivated by mere human motivations. The sorts of things which are supposed to drive entrepreneurs are generally beneath him. He told himself at a certain age to dedicate himself to bringing criminals to justice because some guy shot his parents, so, end of story.

  25. 25
    Chris says:

    @Brachiator:

    Isn’t Dickens way more critical of the aristocracy and monarchy, to the point of blaming them for causing the revolution and making the point to his readers that the British elites should treat the poor better or they’d suffer the same fate?

  26. 26

    Sort of tangential, but I have been wanting to address the suggestions that this movie contains a critique of #OWS. That’s a natural reaction, because some of the trappings of Occupy are employed on a superficial level, and there’s a clumsy moment where some ordinary proles ponder whether the revolution gave them what they had been wishing for.

    But in no sense is Bane’s takeover of Gotham a popular revolution. He claims to be doing it in the name of the people, but he never really employs ordinary citizens, just his own acolytes and liberated criminals. The climactic battle has no ordinary citizens, just cops vs. crooks. Even the citizens’ kangaroo court is presided over by an established rogue (the Scarecrow, though he isn’t presented explicitly as such).

    So if you want to take it seriously enough to look at the class issues (and others here are correct to question whether that’s worth doing), ultimately the class issues are never explored. The 99% didn’t start the fire, nor did they try to fight it; the people of Gotham are depicted pretty much as hostages on house arrest, some of them passively supporting the regime but none of them really taking part in it. All in all, it’s not that different from the other “People’s Revolutions” of the last century.

  27. 27
    WaterGirl says:

    @Keith G: Too soon. Not funny.

    Edit: Maybe at least wait until all the critically injured people still in the hospital are either dead or released from the hospital.

  28. 28
    mechwarrior online says:

    Actually Batman is a capitalist, it’s just dodged over in most of the movies. Wayne Enterprises makes money hand over fist through weapons, energy, and other services, it’s sort of a super conglomerate between Beoing and GE if they were to have a love child.

    Of course, all of this is OK, as is the fact that the Wayne’s are filthy, filthy, filthy, rich while the over whelming majority of Gotham are poor and starving (the inequality is straight of Rio) because the Wayne’s donate all sorts of money and do all sorts of nice things and if they didn’t have all that money to give away things would be worse.

    The entirety of Batman is that yes, things are shitty, but things being shitty is always caused by poor people turning to crime, government being corrupt, and an array of the mentally ill and uppity women. All of whom are beaten to a pulp on a nightly basis by Batman.

    Batman has always been right wing propaganda, most comics are. Batman is glibertarian hackery along the lines of Rand. The difference is that Batmans characters are interesting enough to draw you into the story and have a good time with it and it’s been written by far better writers than Rand.

    Nolan’s Batman and Joker are straight rips off Frank Millers. Miller is also a bit of a right winger but his Batman is the most interesting. Millers Batman arc tends to focus a lot more on the entire “the government is at fault here” angle of the comics than usual, but it’s also the only one that really portrays Batman as a crazy and violent individual who’s essentially no different than the joker, a point which is driven home in the killing joke.

  29. 29
    NonyNony says:

    @Robin G.:

    That’s basically Bruce Wayne’s character arc in the Nolan movies, actually.

    Somewhat. Except for the part where he goes off to the Mysterious Orient to train with a Secret Order of Ninjas who turn out to be an Ancient Conspiracy that actually killed his parents as part of their plot to DON’T LOOK TOO CLOSELY AT THIS PART OR YOU’LL FALL LIKE THE COYOTE CHASING THE ROADRUNNER OVER THE CLIFF.

    I like the Nolan Batman movies quite a lot, but I’m constantly perplexed at the folks who are looking for “deep meaning” in them – especially socio-political commentary. It’s pretty damn clear from nearly the start of the very first movie that the world Nolan is crafting is a fantasyland where the rules of our world don’t apply any more than they do for Harry Potter. There may be some commentary in there, but it is going to be the most superficial kind of commentary that you can get because it’s a superficial world of good guys and bad guys. That’s all there is to them – if you look to closely at them they fall apart.

  30. 30
    CraigoMc says:

    @Robin G.: Except for the part where “revenge” is explicitly rejected in the first hour of the very first movie, then yeah, that’s his character arc.

    The people who dismiss these as just “comic book movies” are usually the ones who miss obvious, gaping holes in their analyses.

  31. 31
    El Cid says:

    @Cris (without an H): I would have suggested that people look for a scoffing by Bane of the sorts of rhetoric that cynical Communist leadership might have used, as he seems to have some sort of (in the movie) East European accent.

    You can hear it in his voice — sure, he hates the elites, but there are all sorts of movements which find reasons that the current elites have failed and deserve to be overthrown.

    Mob leaders do this. Fascists do this. Monarchists do this — yes, really, often blaming the descent of some society on the lack of values lost when the aristocracy was overthrown. Or it’s even more internal — one subdivision of one elite versus another.

    He’s mocking the citizens of Gotham. He says things about opening the city up to you, but under conditions that you do exactly what he says or he kills you all — and he does it in that ‘No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die‘ type voice.

    Anyone whose imagination can only think of Occupy when hearing something with revolutionary rhetoric just has no other history to go on.

  32. 32
    Chris says:

    @Cris (without an H):

    This
    I posted the same in the last thread.

    Though of course, the righties would find a way to tell you that OWS is EXACTLY like Bane’s army because argle bargle and shut up that’s why.

  33. 33
    eric says:

    One more thing: many of us comic fanboys wanted to see a darker batman or a darker hero (like maybe, Warlock), and Nolan made darker movies without making Batman himself darker. There should be something unhealthy in Bruce Wayne that makes him do what he does, but that makes for less money when the protagonist is less likable. In many ways, that is the revolution I saw from guys like Starlin and Miller. there was always the heroic, but there was an element of the “disturbed” that lurked below the surface. that is what is missing in Batman for me.

    Please make a great Warlock movie. The fact that Galactus was wasted so shamefully is a crime against humanity

  34. 34
    different-church-lady says:

    Wow, some people take comic book characters really seriously.

    Yeah, allegory is used to keep people interested, but this ain’t documentary. There’s exactly one reason Bruce Wayne is rich: it’s so that there’s a narrative explanation of why he can have things like a Batmobile that support just enough supension of disbelief to keep people from tuning out entirely. The kind of rich person he is doesn’t have to add up in any way shape or form.

  35. 35
    CraigoMc says:

    @eric: That’s probably the one place where Keaton outperformed Bale. The latter’s Bruce Wayne seems as well-adjusted as he possibly could be, while you couldn’t help but think that Keaton’s was deeply disturbed – e.g., sleeping hanging upside down.

  36. 36
    mechwarrior online says:

    @Cris (without an H):

    Popular revolution with the poors killing the rich and going on blood thirsty orgies of destruction lead by crazy people (joker, bane, et all) or the government itself, only to be stopped by Batman and return to their shit hole because Batman spoke to their hearts is a huge theme in Batman that’s been trotted out more than once.

    The theme that saviors of the poor are always corrupt and evil but the savior of the rich is always good is lock and stock Batman. Even the joker is a poor. He couldn’t pay for his wife’s medical treatment while working two jobs so he stole from his work which lead to his wife being killed and turned him insane. It’s widely cannon that had he just worked and let her die we wouldn’t have had the joker.

    You have to keep in mind that none of the evil people in Batman are truly evil. They either landed up twisted because they refused to step in line and took things into their own hands (Joker), government made them that way (two face, bane), or they were a hollywood liberal (clayface), and things go from there. But in virtually all these cases if they’d just shut up and accepted their lot in life things would have been better.

  37. 37
    Tony J says:

    Miller is also a bit of a right winger

    Holy Colossal Understatement, Batman!

    Frank Miller is such a total and utter dick that even the Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, and All Star Batman and Robin can’t redeem his total and utter dickishness. His ‘Goddam Batman’ is entertaining, yes, but so is Dwarf Porn, for more or less the same reasons.

    Dwarf Porn takes itself less seriously, though.

  38. 38
    CraigoMc says:

    @mechwarrior online: Ummm, virtually all of that was just wrong.

    The Joker and Two-Face are portrayed as having always been disturbed – it just takes on bad day to push them over the edge. (And “government” has nothing to do with it – Dent’s work as the DA is almost always portrayed as noble, while Bane was experimented upon by a military dictatorship).

    That particular Joker origin story (one of many) isn’t an indictment of being poor, it’s an indictment of the way the poor treats society.

    For that matter, in the first hour of Batman Begins: “The first time I had to steal in order to eat, I lost my illusions about the simple nature of good and evil.”

    It’s popular to say that Batman is fascist, especially among those who don’t actually know what Batman or fascism are, but want to make a point of how politically and artistically enlightened they are.

  39. 39
    eric says:

    @Tony J: His Daredevil was an awakening and his style dominated comics for the next 20 years. I remember when I read the first one.

    Still, Starlin’s Warlock (plus Captain Marvel) v. Thanos is the pinnacle for me.

  40. 40
    Brachiator says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I’m not interested in turning this escapist entertainment into something it’s not.

    Didn’t they say the same thing about the blues, jazz, rock, the novel, plays, and even classical music (what else is opera but ridiculous stories blended with arty music)?

    @Chris:

    Isn’t Dickens way more critical of the aristocracy and monarchy, to the point of blaming them for causing the revolution and making the point to his readers that the British elites should treat the poor better or they’d suffer the same fate?

    No. Not sure if I should say too much, since Dickens can easily be relegated to “escapist entertainment” by the culture czars.

    More (semi) seriously, I re-read A Tale of Two Cities recently and was curious to find the editor of this edition including an essay which criticized Dickens for his bourgeois mis-understanding of revolution.

    But Dickens is astutely aware of the way that the ideals of a revolution can curdle into a society which can no longer distinguish between justice and revenge and which consumes itself as rigid ideology becomes the sole measure of value, and mechanical, methodical retribution is the answer to every question. He gets somewhat cloying in seeing a kind of middle class British decency as being the antidote to both aristocratic and revolutionary excess.

    Or something like that, in a foreshortened reply.

    And by the by (MILD SPOILERS again), Nolan has his version of the show trials of the aristocrats in TDKR (Dickens does it better). But in the novel and the film, the verdict is always the same.

  41. 41
    Ed Drone says:

    I find it interesting that Commissioner Gordon fails the ideal when he uses the cover-up of the truth in the death of Harvey Dent (one of the earlier films has this) to enact punitive laws that are straight-up unfair. He realizes this near the end of this film, when the young policeman quits the force in disgust (and promptly moves into Wayne Manor, where we learn that his real first name is Robin).

    So Batman is supporting the false tale of “hero” Harvey Dent (reality — he’s the villain Two-Face), and the draconian laws enacted in his name, to suppress crime and corruption in Gotham. While doing so, he’s snookered by Daggert (I, too, noted the Dagny Taggert possibility), who teams with Bane but comes to a bad end, and impoverished, losing control of Wayne Enterprises. This makes Wayne not only a proto-authoritarian, but an inept one. It’s only when he can use his unarmed-combat skills (and armored car) that he is efficient, and even then, he’s not so good at it, losing his first bout to Bane and getting dropped into the pit that’s the crux of the back-story of more than one character.

    Bruce Wayne, dilettante at business as well as crime-fighting.

    Ed

  42. 42
    mechwarrior online says:

    @CraigoMc:

    Dent was pushed over by government. Dent was going against the corrupt city government and the corrupt cops (the government) who were the ones that killed and maimed him. Had it not been for the corrupt government of Gotham Dent would have turned into two face and never decided to take things back out on the city.

  43. 43
    mechwarrior online says:

    @Ed Drone:

    The Pit is supposed to hark to the Lazarus Pit that restores people and Bane’s still most famous for breaking Batmans back. Once they included Bane he had to beat Batman and there had to be a pit or people would have gone crazy.

  44. 44
    lamh35 says:

    Not political, but Aww man! George and Whizzy both in that deluxe apartment in the sky. RIP Shermen Hemsley!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....99590.html

    Who can forget “The Jeffersons”?
    http://youtu.be/kb6ErLPt4t8

    Or “Amen!”
    http://youtu.be/4N83L29yGKI

  45. 45
    Catfish N. Cod says:

    If “all superhero tales are fascist”, how do you explain X-Men, a story in which the enemies are explicitly fascist and the vast majority of mutants are in fact not capable of derringdo, but are the oppressed (by prejudice) nonetheless? You can argue the X-Men are vigilantes, sure, but they are not capitalist, not monarchist, and not fascist. They act in self-defense, and frequently do the minimum necessary to prevent disaster.

    But they’re not socialist, which I suppose is why Mueller won’t support them. Let the comic writers praise Marxism or else throw down their pens!

    (Iron Man, otoh, can be fairly accused of praising the military-industrial complex: that was the original point of the character. Read Stan Lee’s commentary on the creation of the character.)

  46. 46
    John 2.0 says:

    @eyelessgame: I’m almost certain that Daggett is a reference to the Batman Animated Series. Roland Daggett created the formula that creates Clayface in the series and shows up in a few episodes after that trying to buy out Wayne Enterprises. It’s John Daggett in the movie, but Nolan has littered his Batman trilogy with sly references to various incarnations of Batman (Flass and Zsasz in the Batman Begins, Holly in Dark Knight Rises).

    Wayne-as-aristocrat isn’t a new concept in the books, and particularly in the books that are very obviously inspiration for Nolan. The Long Halloween, Batman Year One and The Dark Night Returns, and Kingdom Come (which is the most explicit about it, and which DKR quotes directly with “So that’s what that’s like”) all cast Wayne one of Gotham’s noble families.

    He IS the Dark Knight. Hell Falcone calls him the ‘Prince of Gotham’ in the first movie. I think it’s part of why Bruce feels responsible for Gotham, it’s ‘his’ city.

    (Longish nerd digression: there’s a character in the comics who’s a former Robin who goes ‘bad’ and starts killing people. He eventually tries to subvert Batman’s ‘brand’ with a harsher Punisher-style band of justice. I’ve only every heard it made explicit once, but this guy is a former street kid who Bruce took in and trained and his view of Gotham was directly opposed to Bruce’s. To Bruce Gotham was a realm to be protected from the evil of crime. To this guy Gotham WAS the evil, since it created the conditions that required a life of crime.)

  47. 47
    Tony J says:

    @eric:

    Not disagreeing with you. Frank Miller has produced some great stories, including his Daredevil run, and what he did with Batman in the 1980s changed the way writers and artists worked. He is today, however, a colossal dick, and in the process of becoming a colossal dick he took the character of Batman along with him for the ride. There’s a reason DC wouldn’t let him have Batman for his ‘Holy Terror! Batman!’ story, and his colossal dickishness is at the heart of it.

    OTOH, Warlock, really? The golden guy with the short-shorts doomed to become his own worst enemy? That would have to be one hell of a pitch.

  48. 48

    Regarding this question of whether you can look for depth in comic books, I want to turn to something Alan Moore said:

    But at the end of the day, Watchmen was something to do with power, V for Vendetta was about fascism and anarchy, The Killing Joke was just about Batman and the Joker – and Batman and the Joker are not really symbols of anything that are real, in the real world, they’re just two comic book characters.

    The point is not that comics can’t be taken seriously, or say something important. The point is, traditional established superheroes are inherently so preposterous, and operate on such a simplified worldview (e.g. that the solution to crime is punching out criminals), that no matter how much we explore them, we can’t get very far.

    I love Batman stories. I respect comic books as a medium and know they can make us think. And I loved the Nolan films, all three of them. They depict Batman in a way that makes me rethink my understanding of the character, but it never stops being that character. That’s why Moore found it more productive to invent his own characters, so he wasn’t saddled with 70 years of existing assumptions that would get in the way of his point.

  49. 49
    MaxxLange says:

    This is a sickness. People can’t simply enjoy a film about a man WHOSE PARENTS ARE DEAD and who dresses up like a bat and fights crime without dragging their politics into it.

  50. 50
    Cheap Jim says:

    @burnspbesq: Well, if that’s my company, maybe I should take a second look. Because you’re an insufferable ass, from what I’ve read here.

  51. 51
    burnspbesq says:

    @mdblanche:

    But what else are our country’s English majors supposed to do with their time?

    They could start by trying to convince me that Camus was wrong when he said “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.” That oughta keep them busy for a while.

  52. 52
    burnspbesq says:

    @Brachiator:

    Didn’t they say the same thing about the blues, jazz, rock, the novel, plays, and even classical music (what else is opera but ridiculous stories blended with arty music)?

    I’m not sure how long something has to stick around to go from being escapist entertainment to being art. Just to cite one example, “Kind of Blue” came out 53 years ago. So something less than 53 years counts as “standing the test of time.”

    ;-)

  53. 53
    Brachiator says:

    @John 2.0:

    Wayne-as-aristocrat isn’t a new concept in the books, and particularly in the books that are very obviously inspiration for Nolan. The Long Halloween, Batman Year One and The Dark Night Returns, and Kingdom Come (which is the most explicit about it, and which DKR quotes directly with “So that’s what that’s like”) all cast Wayne one of Gotham’s noble families.

    Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, the Shadow (Lamont Cranston, a “wealthy young man about town”). The aristocrat turned masked avenger was never original to the comic books.

    Oh yeah, throw in the Green Hornet, too (albeit with an interesting link to the Lone Ranger).

  54. 54
    eric says:

    @burnspbesq: They can’t, cause he wasn’t. :)

  55. 55
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    the Occupy = Bane is as lame as the Bain = Bane of the right. The movie was written years ago.

  56. 56
    Bago says:

    @Ed Drone: Bats never drove the tumbler in this movie.

  57. 57
    John 2.0 says:

    @mechwarrior online: Actually I think ‘the pit’ is a reference to Bane’s origin in the comic, where Bane grew up in a maximum security prison in the fictional country of Corto Maltese for the sins of his father.

    But the fact that Ra’s daughter (and Ra’s path to immortality) emerges from the ‘pit’ could make that reference work.

  58. 58
    John 2.0 says:

    @Brachiator: Nolan does love his pulp heroes.

    Mystic monasteries on mountain tops teaching esoteric mysteries. Ancient secret prisons full of eastern medicine (I’ll fix your broken back with one punch!). Polymath kung-fu billionaires with a fetish for branding. Superscience weapons threatening cities.

    Yeah, he wears his influences on his sleeve.

  59. 59
    Brachiator says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I’m not sure how long something has to stick around to go from being escapist entertainment to being art. Just to cite one example, “Kind of Blue” came out 53 years ago. So something less than 53 years counts as “standing the test of time.”

    Point noted (and somebody did a great audio essay on the enduring legacy of the album, but I can’t recall where I heard it).

    Batman, who first appeared in Detective Comics in 1939 is a bit older than Miles’ magnificent work.

  60. 60
    Tony J says:

    @Catfish N. Cod:

    If “all superhero tales are fascist”, how do you explain X-Men

    Thank you! Exactly.

    And on the whole topic of ‘superheroes are fascists’, that BS trope has been out there for a long time, hell, the late 90s era of comic books was a long parade of writers either subverting or utilising it for dramatic effect. ‘The Authority’ said more or less everything that needs to be said about this stupid trope. Thankfully Warren Ellis has had more influence on the last decade of comic-books than Frank Miller.

  61. 61
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Catfish N. Cod:

    If “all superhero tales are fascist”, how do you explain X-Men

    Or any of Steve Englehart’s stories in the ’70s. The earliest comic I recall reading, which made me an instant Avengers fangirl, was Avengers 113, Your Young Men Shall Slay Visions. It made villains of the people around me, shoved my face in their hypocrisy, and started me down the road to being a liberal ex-fundie, all in just two panels. I was 10.

  62. 62
    stormhit says:

    @NonyNony:

    I don’t know what your all caps part is supposed to be suggesting, but at no point is it stated that the “secret order of ninjas” was directly responsible for killing his parents in some kind of plot.

    Maybe if you were watching it for enjoyment instead of cynically looking for reasons to be a snob about it you could have picked up on that.

  63. 63
    KrisWV says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: OMG, that was my first comic too — when Captain America reads the note from the anti-android suicide bombers that says “Androids have no soles and are an offense to God and must be destroyed – signed “A friend”. And Captain America crumbles the paper, tosses it in the fire and says “I don’t know about your God “friend”, but a God of love is mine.” That moment defined comics for me — and maybe defined me a bit too.

    That story (illustrated by Bob Brown) and the marvel world of the time — Spider-Man, Avengers, Cap & the Falcon, Defenders, up through the New X-men, Bruce Jones’ Ka-Zar, and Claremont’s Spider-Woman — was far from a fascist narrative. Indeed many Marvel heroes (and more than a few DC ones too) only make sense as who resistors of authority. It’s true that Batman and Iron Man always have the specter of authoritarianism in their characters. But only non-comics fans consider that a novel observation. Generations of comics creators have been working with that as they tell their stories.

    Don’t get me wrong — superhero comics aren’t the best art ever made, commercial or otherwise. But they do mean something. To me anyways…

  64. 64
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @KrisWV: Another influential story, for me, was Defenders 22-25 a couple of years later. It was just a throwaway line in #22, when a woman they rescued from a burning slum told them that was all she could afford on what the government said was enough money to support her and her baby, but added to the cat food stories about Social Security, it was enough to inoculate me against the “welfare queen” meme.

    The story was also notable, looking back, for its “Herman Cain” villain.

  65. 65
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @KrisWV: Another influential story, for me, was Defenders 22-25 a couple of years later. It was just a throwaway line in #22, when a woman they rescued from a burning slum told them that was all she could afford on what the government said was enough money to support her and her baby, but added to the cat food stories about Social Security, it was enough to inoculate me against the “welfare queen” meme.

    The story was also notable, looking back, for its “Herman Cain” villain.

  66. 66
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    FYWP.

    I’ll just add that there are scans of Avengers 113 available, including the hate mail panel, which happily saves me from having to do them. That note sounds a lot like Pat Buchanan.

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