Banner Art by Tony S. Daniel
This list is not exclusively for characters that I do not like, as I said before. It’s for characters that I think have negatively impacted modern comics in a significant way. Batman has assuredly negatively impacted modern comic books.
That being said, I won’t pretend to be the biggest Batman fan. I like him well enough. However, I think the more interesting parts of his character aren’t explored that often, namely the dichotomy of Bruce Wayne and Batman being more of a literal identity disparity and could arguably be multiple-personality disorder than other heroes like Superman and Spider-Man. I also feel that his hardcore and brooding persona does not line up with the fact that has never and will never take a life in modern continuity, resulting in him seeming a bit like a moody goth kid living in a frigging mansion.
Many of my issues with Batman and why he is on this list have been covered in my first Batmanification article and supplemented with the other editorials in that series. I will recap that for those who have not read them though.
Essentially, Batman managed to permeate every aspect of mainstream DC comic book in recent years. Up until the Rebirth initiative, much of DC’s offerings had become thoroughly dreary, “edgy,” and attempted at being something akin to hardcore. While Scott Snyder’s Batman is highly revered, and I personally enjoyed Tony S. Daniels’ and Jason Fabok’s work on Batman: Detective Comics a great deal, this aesthetic lens and storytelling style does not aptly fit onto other characters like Superman, Green Arrow, Supergirl, the Teen Titans or most of DC’s characters.
I have nothing wrong with dark stories. I mean, hell, I count Remender, Parker, and Bunn’s Venom with Flash Thompson, Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, and Bunn’s Magneto among my favorite comic book titles of all time, and they dabble in some pitch-black ideas. The problem comes when dark stories have no emotional variance or, to put it more simply, when dark stories are all you tell. Your stories become one-note, and, if you don’t balance the downs with some ups, that “darkness” begins to lose its impact. You need to have some moments of levity to maintain the narrative weight.
Problems also come when you try to turn characters like Superman into bland and dreary characters. Yeah, you can try to counter this with the bizarre Superman propaganda rags from the 40’s and 50’s, but there is a reason that those aren’t remembered fondly. I’m not saying you can’t have a dark version of Superman, but it is going to be inherently difficult to do because there aren’t a lot of well-established precedents for this idea except for Kingdom Come, Superman: Red Son, and maybe All-Star Superman. (no, Superman in The Dark Knight Returns does not count). It helps have the potential for darkness built-in to your characters to begin with.
The overall make-up of your comics’ offerings is also a consideration. For a decent amount of time before Rebirth, the Flash and Green Lantern were the only mainstream comics offered by DC that weren’t nigh-depressing. Hell, Hal Jordan was on the lam, the Corps was missing, and there were stories that dealt with all-too-real depictions of terrorism, and Green Lantern still managed to be less moody than New Teen Titans.
This obsession with their top-selling character also resulted in a lot of less famous characters like Hawkman, Firestorm, Captain Atom, Vixen, Zatanna, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Mister Terrific, the true Justice Society, Hawk and Dove, and a lot of other great characters from dropping off the radar completely. As the B-List Defender, I cannot abide by that.
Thankfully, DC has been made less moody and dreary by Rebirth. Books like Titans and Green Lanterns have brought some light to the dark depths of the DC Universe. Green Arrow has more personality now. The bland and brooding New 52 Superman has been replaced by a more classical rendition of the Man of Tomorrow.
However, this has not stopped DC from making sure you can’t be free of the pointy-eared bastard for too long. I have expressed my excitement for Justice League of America, but the looming figure of the Dark Knight in the background of the cover has not escaped my notice. There is an upcoming Green Lanterns story with Batman that has stirred my concern. Also, there is no reason for him to be a main character in the Justice League Dark animated feature.
And I hate being exasperated with Batman. As I said, I do like him, and he can be a great character. I do feel that there are some problems with the character. The focus on his brooding nature makes him a tiresome character, and his “no killing ever” policy makes him a character who is dissonant with his own personality and reputation for brutality.
That being said, I love the Batman: Arkham series of games. Batman: Hush is one of my favorite stories. However, his omnipresence in DC’s recent history has made me absolutely done with freaking Batman.