One of the things I think people really miss when discussing Batman or writing Batman, particularly when viewing the Nolan interpretation of Batman, is that Batman is not solely a symbol of fear. He’s a symbol of hope as well. Yes, he is something to terrify the criminals, but Batman is also hope for everyone else in Gotham, people who are stuck in a terrible, otherwise hopeless situation. He’s someone that says even when times are blackest, you have someone to look up for and who will help you. He works within the darkness, but he uses the darkness to give hope to the people who are stuck in it, who would otherwise have nothing. That is why he’s called the dark knight.
That’s why I prefer Batman Begins over The Dark Knight. I don’t want to argue which is a better film, I just personally prefer BB. I think it captured that hopefulness of Batman, because Batman Begins takes all of the evil, all of the darkness and the blackness and fear and horror, and it still forges hope. Possibly my favorite scene from the movie is when Batman gives that boy in the Narrows the Batarang - he sees this kid stuck in a terrible home environment, with nowhere to go, and he gives him his symbol to show him that it will be all right.
The symbol of hope is also something that I think a lot of people miss when discussing Superman. I can’t tell you how many discussions I’ve had - or that we’ve all had, on either side - about how Superman is a terrible character because he’s too powerful. Well… yeah. That’s the point of Superman. The point is for him to be powerful, the strongest being in the universe. Because with Superman, the most powerful being in the universe is also the kindest, most loving, most compassionate being in the universe. Superman loves everyone - that’s why he does what he does. There’s the famous page from All Star Superman (which is perfect, go read it if you can) that really sums up who he is, I think:
That, right there, is the kind of person Superman is. He is love and hope and goodness personified. He does not need to be grim and gritty and dark, and Lord help The Man of Steel if that is the direction Nolan wants to take. What Superman is, at his core, is the exact opposite of what Quentin Tarantino says he is in Kill Bill. Clark Kent is not Superman’s lowly view on humanity. Clark Kent is the man, and Superman is Clark Kent’s vision of humanity: kind, strong, loving, and above all else, good. He is someone to look up to, to aspire to be. He does good for goodness’ sake.
Swagga and I were talking earlier today about The Avengers, and how we think it really captured the idea of what comic books and their superheroes are supposed to be: heroes. It’s about hope, it’s about saving people, it’s about men and women who were gifted by fate or by chance using their abilities to make the world a better place. And this is not to say that there is no place for darkness and despair in comic books and superheroes. What is important, though, is not to let the grim and the grit and the despair overshadow and eclipse the goodness and the hope that heroes provide us.