Season Two of my Serial Heroes feature is drawing to a close. Before I hand over to David McCaffrey I would like to do a quick recap and thank each of my guests that have joined me this week.
Steven Dunne for his serial killer post with special mentions for Thomas Harris and Hannibal Lecter.
Caroline Mitchell brought Stephen King’s Bill Hodges – one of my favourite authors but a trilogy I have still to read!
Alan Jones told me he did not read about recurring characters then revealed he was a huge fan of the James Bond stories.
Michael Wood shared his love of one of my personal favourites – Dalziel and Pascoe.
David Young has introduced me to the books of William Ryan and the feedback I had on this post has shown me I have been missing a real treat.
This week (as with Season 1) has been a real treat for me to share. To everyone that has contributed – THANK YOU!
And now one remains. A character that embodies the term Serial Hero. David McCaffrey this is where you take over…
The most significant date in my life (Kelly is now reading this and thinking ‘the day we got married, birth of your kids…those ringing a bell?’)
But that was the year Batman made it to the big screen. Actually, let me correct that. Batman – The Movie starring Adam West, Burt Ward and the most eclectic and colourful sets of villains ever to grace the cinema screen (well, until Batman and Robin but we don’t talk about that!) hit the screen in 1966.
But the first, modern day, no nonsense, balls out iteration of the Dark Knight detective landed courtesy of Tim Burton in 1989.
Everyone knew it was coming. The trailer had ran before screenings of Wing Commander starring Freddie Prinze Jr, with cinema goers leaving once the trailer ended. No dialogue, just scenes from the film set to Danny Elfman’s amazing and emotive score. And then we had the poster. Again, no fanfare, just the logo there in its entire bat shaped glory. It didn’t need a title beneath or above it – everyone knew what it meant and what it signified.
I had always been a Batman fan, ever since I was a small boy. But with that movie, my whole world exploded I ways I could have never have foreseen. I was introduced on the back of the film to a universe I never even knew existed – comics, graphic novels, annuals, statues, figurines. Everything a fan could ever want and so much more.
But why Batman? What drove the fascination that has grown exponentially year after year in my life to the point that my work colleagues now come back from holidays abroad with Batman comics in a foreign language without any promoting from me to look out from them? They just do it because they know I love it.
We all know the history; Bob Kane and Bill finger created the character as a juxtaposition to Superman introduced the year prior and following a viewing of Leonardo De Vinci’s artwork of a flying machine that came with the quote “Your bird shall have no other wings than that of a bat.”
But what is about that particular character that I love so much that I used to wear t-shirts beneath my school uniform in the hope that having his strength and determination close to me would stop me being beaten up virtually every day and made to eat cigarette butts at the back of the bus (it didn’t but needs must!).
Well, the answer is simple but multifactorial. Let me explain.
Firstly, Batman is not a superhero. That is the most important aspect to remember. He has no superpowers, isn’t invincible and cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound. He is a man. Just a man. Yet that is why he is the most significant and powerful individual in the DC universe (and Marvel…yes, I’m saying it. DC is the best!!!) .
He was a boy who suffered a tragedy and, using his granted considerable money and family renown, travelled the world, gleaning experience from the most powerful and influential teachers, alchemists and fighters in the world to becoming THE world’s great detective. His drive and strength of will to not only avenge his parents murder but to also condition his body and mind to such perfection that he could ultimately be someone who could stop the same tragedy befalling another family made him the ultimate example of willpower and how far an individual can push himself for a belief. This is the man, the human being who became so proficient and skilled that he could take down Superman. Hell, he once took down most of the Justice League! This one man. This one, gifted, intelligent man took down gods. I stand corrected…he is a superhero. More so because he has no super powers. And it is that fact alone that makes him the most compelling of heroes in the whole pantheon of comic books. There would be no Shadow, no Daredevil if not for Batman. He set the stage and drove the aesthetic forward so that he would forever be emulated and copied, but never equalled.
Secondly, Batman is a character that we can all identify with. Superman, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Captain America, Green Lantern…all awesome characters but can you actually identify with any of them? I imagine not.
But why are we able to identify with him? Perhaps it’s because there is a part of him in each and every one of us. We all have two sides to us, that dark half and a light side. The one we turn towards might depend on the circumstances. Maybe we turn to the darker side when we need to be stronger or fight for something worth fighting for and we turn to the light one for comfort. I turned towards Batman to escape traumatic experiences in my childhood; to escape the psychological abuse my father gave me.
Bruce Wayne turned to his to fight crime and help the people of his city – Gotham City. His life needed that tragedy to bring Batman to life and maybe that’s how it is for us all. Maybe we can only identify with our darker sides because we have suffered. I think that is one of the reasons he is so easy to associate with. We can see his pain and believe it drove him to becoming a better, albeit more violent version of himself. We may not (and hopefully not!) become violent but I do believe we can become stronger and reinvent ourselves as we need to. That’s what Bruce Wayne did. He is us and visa versa.
Thirdly, I think we identify with Batman because we want to be him. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t? I certainly do! “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” Those were the words spoken by his nemesis, The Joker at The Flugelheim Museum.
The Batmobile…cool in any iteration. The grappling hooks…awesome. Batarangs…check, awesome. The suit…check, coolest outfit ever! The voice…well, you could do that without the above, but all the above does make it a million times better!!!
But seriously, I love the character because he makes a difference without those superpowers I mentioned earlier. A normal guy who is rich, yes, but one who dedicated his life to helping others, in this case by fighting crime.
Is he a psychopath? Hmmm, hard one to answer. I think The Joker says it best in The Killing Joke, the seminal Alan Moore/Brian Bolland graphic novel that brought us the first glimpse of whom The Joker perhaps once was. “It only takes one bad day to turn an ordinary man insane.” Batman is that flip side of the coin, with The Joker on the other half. Two sides, Ying and Yang, one unable to exist without the other.
I love Batman because I wish we had him, here, in our world. Gotham City has him to watch over them, but our world is far more complex and insidious. We are not as lucky as they are and we can often only dream of a guardian figure of compassion that watches over us and keeps us safe in our beds, who knows the ways of the dark night and holds fast to his beliefs that he is and can make a difference.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was something I had waited over 30 years to see. My hero battling Superman and knocking him down a peg or two. Yes, the film was heavily criticised, yes, all the Marvel fans are saying their films do comic book characters better (for the record I love the Marvel films, however DC has nailed the television arena in a way Marvel haven’t quite. Though Daredevil is excellent!) but to see my childhood saviour on the big screen with Big Blue was everything I had every dreamt of and more…and I saw it four times. SO I can confirm, it was!
The Killing Joke will finally be released as an animated movie, unrated and in its complete version, with Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy and the entire original cast doing their original character voices…cannot wait!
The point I am making is that Batman is not only my favourite character for everything I have already mentioned, but because there is so much left to come. Christian Bale was awesome, Ben Affleck, perfect, Michael Keaton will always be my Batman, but the whole appeal of the character is that he can be told in a million different ways (Commissioner Gordon has been him in the comics in the New 52 series) .
But before I go on for another four pages, I shall leave you with this that perfectly sums up why I love Batman so much and will continue to for the remainder of my life most likely. Yes, he saved me in my childhood, yes I get excited about anything Batman related, but this is pretty much it…
‘All cities are Gotham City, warrens of malice where the entireties of the lost are an inconvenience, where shrieks of children are ignored and where innocent lives are slain on a whim. Yet we live here, in our Gotham City, we raise our children, we laugh, we celebrate, we brave the terrors and sometimes, at our best, we deny them with acts of kindness, decency and love. It would be nice if we had heroes to help us. I have often walked through Gotham City and every time I wished someone strong, cunning and compassionate was walking with me. Gotham City has that hero and every night he walks his big city beat.’ Tales of The Dark Knight by Mark Cotta Vaz
David McCaffrey’s Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/David-McCaffrey/e/B00NA7RJOU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1462570912&sr=1-2-ent where you can order copies of all his books.
David’s novel Hellbound scored 5/5 when I reviewed it. The twist on the serial killer story that Hellbound took actually led me to create a whole series of features which have since become a key part of my author Q&A’s and guest features. It is a book I whole heartedly recommend and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hellbound-Tally-Man-David-McCaffrey-ebook/dp/B00PK958I0?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc
You can find David on Twitter @daveymac1975