In honor of this year’s superhero themed Summer Reading Program, I thought it would be appropriate to describe why a certain superhero is a great literary character. First the argument would probably be made that superhero stories aren’t real literature, to which I will send you to the post from a couple weeks ago. Yes, superhero stories get looked down upon, but they can also show us a lot about ourselves. Thus, their characters shouldn’t be simply tossed aside because you have to look at them on every page. According to this post, there are 5 key elements that a character must have to be a good, memorable character. So we’re going to see how Bruce Wayne/Batman fits all of these criteria.
Recognition means that we have to be able to see ourselves as this character, or have some sort of connection.
Who couldn’t recognize themselves as Bruce Wayne or Batman? Aren’t we all billionaires that own super successful companies and at night hunt the city for bad guys that we beat to a pulp? NO! Of course that’s not true. But most people can still relate to Bruce. He lives a life that he constantly has to keep secrets, while also fighting to do good. Sometimes we go about it in the wrong way, but it is often said that the ends justify the means. No, we don’t have endless cash to fund our crusade against crime. Yet we can connect with the focus to do good for the benefit of all.
Personality show us that we have a relationship with this character.
Batman has seen the dark side of his home town (Gotham City). It drives him to have one goal, to eradicate evil where ever it hides. But this isn’t where it stops for Bruce. He’s a friend, a son, a lover, and a father. All of these he blends in to his crime fighting. However, he has a character flaw that all of his acquaintances have come to accept. Bruce is a loner. Even when teaming up with the Justice League, he will take some time to himself (and usually solves the big mystery in the meantime). But man can be full of wit, and straight up bluntness that most superheroes don’t have.
Humanity is what helps us see the character as more than what they are.
Bruce has long been the epitome of stone faced and unflinching. Yet he has one major soft spot, which usually comes in the form of whoever is in the Robin costume. This started because Dick Grayson went through a situation that reminded Bruce of his own (both witnessed their parents murder). So Bruce took him in and cared for him. Since that time, Batman has always had a special place in his heart for each one of the Robins. As the “Bat-Family” expands (Nightwing, Red Robin, Batgirl, Bat-Woman, etc), Bruce tends to open up just a little bit more.
Enrichment is how we see our characters in the real world. Can the make mistakes and deal with real world problems?
Aside from the crime fighting, we see Batman deal with personal crisis over and over. Batman started with personal tragedy. Bruce Wayne witnessed the murder of his parents in a back alley of Gotham City. This was what sent him on his path to becoming the Batman. Yet the troubles don’t end there. One of the most notable ones was with the death of Jason Todd (Robin #2). Batman went on a rampage where everyone he came in contact with usually got his fist in their face. Yet when Tim Drake (Robin #3) deduced Bruce Wayne was Batman, he was able to convince him that he needed Robin to help him from going to a dark place.
Pain describes how our characters deal with pain.
Batman is no stranger to pain. He’s been feeling it since he was a boy that witnessed his parents murder. Then there was the death of the Graysons. Then Jason Todd. Batgirl was beaten so severely by the Joker, that most thought she was going to die. There was also the death of his own son, Damian Wayne. There have also been countless times of physical pain, most notably when Bane “broke the Bat”, by breaking Bruce Wayne’s back. Through all of the pain, people (especially those who have lost people close to them) have been able to connect with this character.
So what do you think? Can superheroes be great literary characters as well? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.