“Batman is the worst person I have ever met.” – The Lego Movie
I may be done with Batman. It’s not easily said because Batman was the tops for me growing up. Maybe this falling out is temporary. Maybe I just need some space, some time to rethink the relationship. Maybe Supes is up to something interesting and I need to visit Metropolis for a while. I am Gotham’d-out.
Which might explain how weirdly unimpressed I am by Scott Snyder’s New 52 “Batman” from a couple of years back, (the “Court of Owls” story arc). THIS was the critically acclaimed, universally beloved series that revitalized Old Broody? The older I get, the more I see Batman exposed as some elitist, xenophobic thug with a latex fetish. Bruce Wayne would do well to Google that classic Mitchell and Webb sketch where two Nazis examine their own evil insignia and it dawns on them: “Are WE the baddies?”
The Dark Knight needs to take a similar hard look at his fashion choices; verily I tell thee that even Hitler in all his fascist splendor never dressed like such a dick. Batman is the most frightening thing in all of Gotham, a monstrous one-percenter protective of his caste system, bristling at the changing demographics. The Japanese and the Ukrainians bother him in “Court of Owls”: “Those foreigners we allowed into our city,” sneers the blue-blooded, blue-eyed billionaire, in particularly rancid mode.
Otherwise, all I see is an ugly collection of familiar plot “twists” and scenes of men being punched in the face, again and again and again.
To universal critical acclaim.
And where were the bloggers who claim to care about sexism? Why weren’t they worried about the wide gender gap between the victimized men and the women in Gotham City? Why was there no outcry about the lurid details of Batman smashing masculine skulls against brick walls? Can it be that violence against the male species has become so institutionalized that we don’t even notice? Do we live in some sort of “anti-men culture,” in which the physical abuse and frequent murder of men is either not commented on… or loudly cheered?
I’m gonna show you a typical panel from “Court of Owls.”
KRACK! Cool, right? First of all, this is what Batman is doing to the beloved pupil who, let’s face it, was probably subjected to frequent molestation during the Boy Wonder years. This is Mr. Wayne’s soft bitch slap. It’s not the first time this happened:
Or the second time:
Or even the third time:
I ask a simple question of the Batman enthusiast, who very likely didn’t flinch at any point during the many, many acts of violence in these 7 issues. (Issues that, it bears pointing out, are NOT noticeably more violent than the average Batman comic has been since the Frank Miller era). If that panel had involved Batman punching a girl’s teeth out, what would you reaction have been?
Angry campaign calling for boycott of DC Comics?
So how come punched boys don’t bother us? Is our sexism so entrenched that we actually believe men and women suffer any differently when punched in the face? How come critics must inevitably deal with the apparent misogyny in Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke,” but no one would think to level charges of misandry at the makers of “Court of Owls” arc, with their laundry list of atrocities toward the male sex? “Misandry”! The very word seems to invite ridicule, but if us comic book fans still talk with disgust about “Women in Refrigerator Syndrome,” then a sense of fairness and empathy should force us to talk about “MEN PUNCHED SO HARD THAT BLOOD SPURTS AND TEETH FLY OUT SYNDROME” (after hundreds if not thousands of such events in comics.) I can tell you what 10 hours of walking around in Gotham will get you as a male: Batman pulverizing your facial structure.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a dumb comic book, and this doesn’t merit too much contemplation. Still, at the risk of resuscitating the ghost of Fredric Wertham, here’s a detailed, chronological list of the horrors inflicted upon males in a mere 7 issues of the beloved Batman. More than half of these acts of brutality were made by the hero himself. If the list seems too long for reading… well, then we agree, don’t we? It’s simply too much! Skip past the italics to the bottom, then…
( Issue #1)
FIGHT AGAINST SUPER-VILLAINS
– 1 man (“Two-Face”) punched across the face, ( BLOOD SPURTS. This will be a trend.)
– 1 “man” (does “Killer Croc” count as a man?) kicked in the knee cap, which breaks.
– 1 man (“Mr. Freeze”) punched across the face, (FREEZING FLUID SPURTS.)
– 1 man (“Black Mask”) punched in the face, bashing his nose into his skull ( BLOOD SPURTS.)
– 1 man (“Professor Pyg”) gets a hit across the wind-pipe
– 1 man (“Clayface”) kicked so hard it actually makes his stomach EXPLODE.
– 3 men (random villains) quickly punched in face. BLOOD SPURTS (to be fair, Nightwing assists in this part of the punching, so not all can be attributed to Batman.)
-1 man crucified to wall by means of more than a dozen knives. (Batman didn’t do this, although he certainly appreciates the technique.)
(Issue # 2)
-1 man (Batman himself) thrown through a glass window after multiple, if minor, stab wounds
– 1 man dragged out of a helicopter window by Batman (that’s gotta hurt!)
– several men (petty criminals) murdered by Batman after he makes their helicopter crash to the ground, although this happens off-panel so the more naive readers don’t have time to contemplate the inevitable results of Batman’s reckless behavior.
-2 men (security guards) with throats sliced ( BLOOD SPURTS.)
-1 man (majoral candidate Lincoln March) stabbed in stomach.
– 1 man (an “Owl”) dropped to his (apparent) death from a great height. Batman watches self-righteously as the body smashes into a parked car several stories below.
FIGHT AGAINST IRON-MASKED UKRAINIANS
-1 man’s head bashed against a brick wall (BLOOD SPURTS.)
-1 man sliced across the eyes by the hard edge of Batman’s cape (we see the BLOOD SPURT.)
-2 men kicked in the heads by Batman’s storm-trooping boots.
-1 man electrocuted IN THE FACE (these Ukrainians wear iron face plates, making the electrocution bit irresistible to a monster like Batman)
-5 men magnetically joined to a moving subway car by the iron masks in their faces. There they go, dangling off the side of the train, their necks destined to break – a torture too horrific for even the makers of a “Saw” movie to contemplate.
(Issue # 4)
– 1 (Bat)man blown away by a fiery explosion, leading to fractured ribs and a fashionable bandage corset.
– 1 boy locked in an attic for a week, leaving him in a comatose state.
– 1 man punctured to death by FIFTY throwing knives (off-panel)
(Issue # 5)
Admittedly, this issue is the highlight of the arc, and mostly involves 1 (Bat)man being driven to madness in a labyrinth, which is certainly emotional and psychological abuse against a member of the ungentle sex, but at least there’s no bodily violence until – wait- for it:
– 1 (Bat)man pierced by a sword through the back and out the gut
(Issue # 6)
– 1 (Bat)man slammed in the face by a heavy old-timey camera, with BLOOD SPURT.
– When a crowd is asked to decide on the method of the Christ-like Batman’s death, they chant: “Break his neck! Bleed him! Take his feet! Pull his spine!”
– 1 long sequence of (Bat)man having face punched into a pulp, skull cracked against walls, BLOOD SPURTS, repeat, repeat, repeat. In an inventive layout, BLOOD actually drips down the side of this page.
– 1 (Owl)man choked by rabid Bat(man), punched in face, BLOOD SPURTS
-1 (Owl)man pushed through stone wall
-1 (or yet another) long sequence of brutal punching, BLOOD SPURTS, CRASHES THROUGH STONE WALLS
– 1 man dropped to his death down an impromptu well
(ISSUE # 7)
– 1 (Bat)man electrocuted via jumper cable to the nipples
– 1 young sidekick punched in the face by Batman (BLOOD SPURT, TOOTH FLIES OUT)
Total instances of horrifying violence against men in a single story arc: 41
Total instances of horrifying violence against women: 0
And then I realized there’s actually a simple reason for this sexist disparity: Scott Snyder’s Gotham seems to be startlingly low in female characters. Women matter so little in Batman comics, they’re not even worth punching brutally! Imagine! Here’s a rare female appearance in “Court of Owls”- brilliant reporter Vicki Vale. It says everything you need to know about the gender gap in mainstream comics:
Let’s examine that panel. The woman? Diminished in the background, sandwiched into nothingness between two hulking men engaged in dick-measuring: Bruce Wayne and the presidential-sounding Lincoln March. When Ms. Vale opens her pretty little mouth BRUCE WAYNE CUTS HER OFF MID-SENTENCE without so much as an acknowledging glance in her direction. He might as well have shoved her off the panel in the general direction of a kitchen or catering station. He rudely interrupts the woman because the time has come for MAN-TALK, two dudes figuring out the balance of power. The subtext is clear: “You’re not wearing a leather suit, chick; how do you even matter?” The female is barely more than a social lubricant between towering male forces. (March, inexplicably, flirts right back with Bruce, claiming to be “impressed” by Bruce’s ability to read newspapers and keep abreast of major current events. Frankly, if you take away the text, it looks like Ms. Vale is officiating at an exceedingly formal gay wedding.)
That’s one panel that needed MORE punching. Except it should have been Vicki Vale punching Bruce Wayne and Lincoln March: “That’s for not letting me finish my sentences, assholes.”
RATING: GOOD ENOUGH