In 1940 he came, he saw, he conquered. Well, that is not terribly accurate. He certainly came as a comic book character and to his enraptured audience who followed his exploits, he certainly conquered. But that was in an earlier, more innocent time, a time when the world was still between the wars and enjoying life was the concern of most people. After all they had fought the great war and were entitled to some time off from world politics. And Batman’s world? Well, its place was in the comic books their children enjoyed!
But what of his world today? Well, he is still protecting Gotham, and beating just about everyone except when he lost at cards to the Joker in Season 2, Episode 18 "Almost Got 'Em" (Batman disguised as a croc is famously pummelled by the Joker's Four of a Kind before revealing his true identity - classic).
But what position does he hold in our lives today? Does he still relate as closely to us as he did at the time of his conception? Yes, thanks to film directors and Hollywood he is as alive now as he was 77 years ago. The between the war years may have passed into dim and distant memory but Batman is still out there doing what he does best, fighting off evil, saving his city from the corrupt forces that want to take over, ensuring that justice prevails.
And if that is what he is doing, then he must be a true hero for our times. Because in similar fashion our world is as scary as the 1940’s world he was born into. We have had the horrors of 9/11, the descent into the chaos of world terrorism, the scenarios of displaced and distressed children, civil wars of brother against brother and friend against friend.
Did the Hollywood Batman predict all of this or did he respond to it? Who knows? And does it matter? What is obvious and significant is that his movies mirror what is going on in the global sphere. His defeat of Superman in the Dawn of Justice 2016 may well be the struggle between ruling partners when one partner decides to follow the corruption route. How real is that? Flick on the News any morning and you will hear of that scenario unfolding in one nation or another. Think of Joker who wants to plunge the world into chaos. You won’t have to look very far for the Joker in our midst. And in the middle of it all is Batman, who with his cars and extra skills, wants to rid his world of this evil.
His role is ridding Gotham of corruption. Extend your minds for a moment my friends. Imagine Gotham as your town or your country. Is there anyone who could say, hand on heart, that we don’t need Batman right now? I think I heard you say “No”, in fact I would be very surprised if I hadn’t heard you say that. Who could object to the solid values that this once upon a time comic book figure is bringing us? His apparel may be outlandish to us and dare any of us drive his cars but try applying his beliefs to our world and Wow!
And he is human too. Hard to believe, that but look at the very human crises he has had to face. Losing his father in tragic circumstances, overcoming his fear of bats with the mantra” feel the fear and do it anyway”, struggling with the role he has been given, always knowing that he wants an ordinary life but feeling morally obliged to follow the role he feels has been laid down for him.
Relevant to our times? Heck yes, very much yes. Almost two decades into the century we need Batman to spread his creed now more than ever. And to spread it in a way that will make people sit up and listen. Hollywood - we are depending on you to do the necessary.