If I were to become a super villain, I know exactly where I would go to start my career.
I would steer well clear of Metropolis; even with Kryptonite, I would last no time at all against Superman. I would avoid New York as well, due to most of Marvel’s A-list heroes hanging around there. London is out as well due to it being Wonder Woman’s current home city. In fact, I’d avoid almost any city that was home to a member of the Justice League or the Avengers.
Because, you see, I’d make a name for myself in Gotham City. I know what you’re thinking; why would I cause trouble in Batman’s city? The man that half the internet is convinced can beat any opponent you care to name is very dangerous, right?
Sure, I’d last no time in a fight against him but I wouldn’t need to. All I’d need is ten minutes to talk to him and it wouldn’t be long before he gave up being Batman for good.
Now, the predictable response from Batman fans would be that the Bat cannot be broken. He’s endured torments and psychological trauma that would break anyone else and still keeps going. How could I possibly hope to break a will like that?
It’s quite simple actually, but before I get into the psychology of how I’d do it, I need to go over Batman’s impact as a superhero.
At this point I have no doubt have provoked the fury of Batman’s internet fan-base.
Even especially Frank Miller, so I may as well leap in with both feet.
The status quo of Batman’s series depends on him ultimately being a failure.
Oh sure, he averts the destruction of Gotham time and again and defeats his many super villains like clockwork. But in terms of long term results, Batman achieves nothing. I remember someone pointing out that Batman ‘patrolling the city’ demonstrates just how atrociously high Gotham’s crime rate is. You see, if Batman stops five muggings in one night, it means that he’s managed to stumble across five muggings basically by wandering around the city. A modern city at night is full of shadows and dark alleyways; not to mention that’s a huge amount of ground to cover. Which means the crime rate is so high, that he can spend the night fighting crime after crime in the limited amount of ground he can cover in the hours of darkness.
This means that the presence of Batman is doing almost nothing to make the crime rate drop; it can’t have ever have been much worse than this or the city would have devolved into sheer anarchy.
Then there’s Batman’s rogues gallery; sure he keeps sending them to Arkham Asylum, but they keep escaping and their gangs and resources are there waiting for them when they do. But hey, that’s not Batman’s fault is it? It’s the corrupt systems of Gotham that let this persist.
Bruce Wayne is a multi-Billionaire at the very least; he is perhaps the single richest person on DC Earth. The ever-increasingly sophisticated tech that he uses would cost absurd amounts of money. A single fighter jet can cost tens of millions of dollars (if not more) never mind the hyper advanced Bat-wing. The new Bat-mobile in Arkham Knight is described as a ‘billion dollar tank’. All things considered, he must spend tens of millions of dollars a year on his crime fighting activities. Then there’s his expenditures with the Justice League (even in continuities where he doesn’t pay for their space station, he still spends plenty of resources on his adventures there). And he is able to pay for most, to all, of this out of his own personal money because Wayne Enterprises is always depicted as being flush with cash. Not to mention that it would be impossible to spend that much corporate money without lots of people figuring out whom Batman is.
So the point is that Bruce Wayne has enormous funds to bring to bear even before getting his company involved. Lobbying is a major factor in the political system of any democratised nation and no nation more than the US. Simply put, even just using his personal funds, Bruce would have massive influence in both federal and state politics. Eliminating the horrendous, and blatant, corruption riddling Gotham should be no problem in the face of such influence. So why doesn’t he?
Well, if he did, there’d be no series, but there has to be a reason in-universe.
And here’s where we get to how I’d break Batman’s will. I can’t claim full credit for this idea; like most of my plans to destroy all things great and good, this came about during a conversation with my cousin. My cousin noted that, for a supposed genius, Bruce’s plan to punch crime into submission is fairly poorly thought out.
In fact, he pointed out, it’s actually counter-productive; by focusing on the criminals instead of what drives them to crime, you make them career criminals. You might rob a convenience store because your family needs to eat and you’ve been out of work for a while. Unfortunately for you, Batman is nearby and you end up with cracked ribs and a criminal record. Now it’s even harder to find honest work, so they’re forced to commit more crime. Except, they’ll probably join one of Gotham’s many criminal organisations after going solo failed so spectacularly. The real reason Gotham’s super villains don’t simply put a bullet in Batman’s head when the rare chance comes around is probably that he’s increasing their manpower.
Has Batman failed to realise that he’s, at best, making no difference if not actively making things worse? Probably not, more likely, it doesn’t matter to him; in his heart, being the Batman was never about making Gotham a safer place. If it was, he’d use his genius level intellect and enormous resources to make Gotham a model city in a matter of years. It’s not even about making himself feel powerful after watching his parents die in front of him, because he’d be driven to produce tangible proof of his power by getting results.
No, being the Batman is all about punishing himself. If there was one relevant thing doctor ‘Generic Love Interest’ from Batman Forever said it was her wondering why Batman would put himself through such nightly torture. Ignoring the physical danger and injury, he routinely sees the worst humanity has to offer. He’s putting himself through this waking nightmare to punish himself for only being able to stand by helplessly as his parents were shot and bled to death in front of him. It’s not rational to blame himself, but neither’s taking on crime itself in a series of street fights. Or risking the lives of children in your care by turning them into vigilante soldiers; guilt’s illogical like that.
And that’s the key to breaking Batman’s will to fight; forcing him to face and admit his true motivations. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. And being the Batman is definitely less healthy and productive than…almost anything else.
In my next article, I’ll be covering why Cthulhu is a misunderstood loner who just needs to be hugged (actually, probably not).