I used to collect comic books, this was such a fun hobby. I do believe that comic book stories lines are reflections of what is going on in the psyches of people and they are a good way of peering into where the society is on a whole. it was Joseph Campbell who said that dreams are a personal myth and myths are a public dream. There is no need for me to go and talk about the the symbol-likc language of dream and how it allows us to access our subconscious and other things etc.
I touched on this a little bit in my post: Taking the Negative: The Movie Hero , but comic books do not portray a world as diverse in terms of race gender sexuality etc as the world we actually inhabit and the reasons why are astounding. But that isn’t what I wanted to talk about today. Let me present you a common comic book scenario
Psychotic killer on the loose , gets captured through fantastic battle of wits and sometimes physical feats if endurance, strength and courage are performed. This killer of course breaks out of incarceration seemingly at will.
Batman & the Joker
I always wondered if Batman killed the joker, would it in the end save more lives and prevent destruction? I can pose the question another way: Can we as a race ever justify the taking of life if it was deemed that said life would cause countless hurt and destruction? We can go even deeper than that with our questioning: What is a human life worth?”
So far it is not worth much looking at the atrocities committed in the last few centuries: world wars, colonialism, slavery, ethnic genocide, etc. I feel that because we have not individually and a societally decided what a life is worth we keep finding ourselves at a stalemate in many important issues womens rights, ageism, racism, zenophibia and immigration to name a few.
The Killing Joke & Psychology
One of the themes this Batman graphic Novel explores is “the possibility that Batman is just as insane as the criminals he faces, but manifests insanity in a different way. In an interview, Moore summarized the theme: “Psychologically, Batman and the Joker are mirror images of each other.” Says critic Geoff Klock: “Both Batman and the Joker are creations of a random and tragic ‘one bad day.’ Batman spends his life forging meaning from the random tragedy, whereas the Joker reflects the absurdity of ‘life, and all its random injustice.'” The Joker also serves as an unreliable narrator. He admits to his own uncertainty, as he has disparate memories of the single event (“Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another… If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!”), accentuating the comic’s depiction of “a world unraveling toward relentless urban violence and moral nihilism…”
At the end of the novel Batman attempts to reach out to the Joker and offers to help his old foe recover and put an end to their everlasting war, which Batman fears may one day result in a fight to the death. The Joker declines, ruefully saying it is too late for that. He then says that this situation reminds him of a joke:
See, there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum… and one night, one night they decide they don’t like living in an asylum any more. They decide they’re going to escape! So, like, they get up onto the roof, and there, just across this narrow gap, they see the rooftops of the town, stretching away in the moon light… stretching away to freedom. Now, the first guy, he jumps right across with no problem. But his friend, his friend didn’t dare make the leap. Y’see… Y’see, he’s afraid of falling. So then, the first guy has an idea… He says ‘Hey! I have my flashlight with me! I’ll shine it across the gap between the buildings. You can walk along the beam and join me!’ B-but the second guy just shakes his head. He suh-says… He says ‘Wh-what do you think I am? Crazy? You’d turn it off when I was half way across!
Each Hero represents a particular kind of crisis to me, and I would like to deal with each of the major superheros, and what they represent societally, personally, and in a way when necessary mythologically. The end goal of all of this is of course to look at ourselves and society from another angle and enrich the views we have of it already.
Vote to Determine which Superheros I will cover
- Op-Ed: They Kill Supervillains, Don’t They? In Movies, At Least, Heroes Use Lethal Force (geek-news.mtv.com)
- Are Batman Characters Portrayal of Heroes, and Villains influenced by Lombrosian Ideals? (geeksyndicate.co.uk)