Doing Batman Right 3: Doing Batman Wrong

By Bob Case
on Nov 8, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

Last week I covered my core “Batman rules”: The more Jim Gordon the better, Gotham is fallen, and Batman is a reluctant hero. But these are just mine. The fandom in general seems to have settled on a different set of rules, ones that I don’t necessarily hate or anything but don’t exactly love either. I’ll call these my “suspicious Batman rules.”

Suspicious Batman Rule #1: Batman can defeat anyone with _____ amount of prep time.

I get the appeal of this. On paper, the superpowerless Batman is the underdog against virtually everyone in the DC Universe. And one of the most satisfying things you can do in fiction is have the underdog win, through ingenuity, grit, and in Bruce Wayne’s case, a nearly unlimited budget.

The movie wasn`t great, but they sure got the bat suit right.

The movie wasn`t great, but they sure got the bat suit right.

So the occasional bat-whooping of one of those hoity-toity actual superheroes (or supervillains) can be fun to read. But it’s something to be indulged in moderation. Batman is a creature of Gotham, and Gotham is in the DC Universe but, to me at least, not of it. So often it even seems to exist in a different time than everywhere else, some sort of relaxed, flexible pastiche of modern day and the prohibition era.

For this reason I’m always suspicious of any kind of Batman crossover. I know enough about the comics industry to know that crossovers are a staple of their financial diet. Doesn’t mean I have to like it. The ones I do like don’t feature fighting as a centerpiece, but debates between Batman and his contemporaries about how to be a superhero properly. Green Lantern and Batman had a particularly good one in one of the “All Star” comics.

I didn`t read Dark Knight Returns for a long time, because I thought the whole Batman and Superman fighting thing was dumb. Now that I`ve read it, I admit it`s pretty good, though still not my favorite.

I didn`t read Dark Knight Returns for a long time, because I thought the whole Batman and Superman fighting thing was dumb. Now that I`ve read it, I admit it`s pretty good, though still not my favorite.

Suspicious Batman Rule #2: Batman never kills people.

Writing that might make it sound like I think Batman should kill people, which I don’t. But I don’t particularly care for the no-killing rule as the character’s strictly-defined moral event horizon. For one thing, it seems to suggest that for Batman to beat people within an inch of their lives is perfectly fine, so long as he doesn’t finish them off. For another, it recenters the moral core of the character around the no-killing theme rather than the vigilante theme, which is the one I prefer.

It’s also a product of the medium moreso than the character itself, and I might as well link Shamus’ thing again so long as we’re talking about this.

The sidekick of the no-killing rule is the no-gun rule. Like above, I don’t think that Batman should carry a gun. But that’s just because he’s a superhero, and if you give a superhero a gun you basically have to turn them into one of the “gun ones,” like Cable or the Punisher. But one of my favorite bits of Batman trivia is that very early incarnations of the character actually did carry a gun, and were basically pulpy detective-types that wore spandex and a cape instead of a trenchcoat.

Also, there`s no place to put a gun without ruining the silhouette.

Also, there`s no place to put a gun without ruining the silhouette.

So basically the no-gun rule is like the no-killing rule: an effect rather than a cause. It shouldn’t be overemphasized thematically.

Suspicious Batman Rule #3: Joker Joker Joker OMG Joker

When I was a kid watching the Adam West show, if you’d asked me to name the “highest ranked” Batman villain, I would’ve said the Riddler, because on that particular show he was the most commonly used one. There might’ve even been a brief period when Bane occupied the number one spot, having been the foe to have most thoroughly defeated Batman.

But nowadays the Joker is pretty well understood to be number one with a bullet. That’s partly because there have been so many good ones: Jack Nicholson’s is now underrated, Mark Hamill’s has always been underrated, and Heath Ledger’s is (correctly) rated very highly. Then there’s Alan Moore, who made the character about as thoroughly his own as it’s possible to do.

As good as the others were, when I read Joker dialogue, it`s Mark Hamill I hear in my head.

As good as the others were, when I read Joker dialogue, it`s Mark Hamill I hear in my head.

This has the side effect of reinforcing Suspicious Batman Rule #2, since many think that the Joker’s main goal is to get Batman to kill him, thus breaking the no-killing rule. This is another thing I don’t quite buy into. Better to have the Joker’s motives always remain murky, rather than nailing him down to a specific endgame.

Either way, while the Joker may be first among equals in the rogue’s gallery, I don’t particularly like elevating him to such high status at the expense of the others.

Suspicious Batman Rule #4: Batman is a big meany no-good poopy head.

Batman can certainly work as a dark, troubling character. Some of the very best stories have basically asked the audience, “just how nasty can this guy get before you stop rooting for him?” The Bruce Wayne side of the character has a rich vein of patrician arrogance, which the best writers have, at various times, mined for high-quality ore. There’s also potential in the contrast between young, idealistic Batman (say, Batman: Year One, which is my personal favorite comic) and older, cynical Batman (say, The Dark Knight Returns).

But you won’t, at this point, be surprised to hear me advocate for variety in all things caped and crusading. Of course, the Adam West Batman was a boy scout through and through, but you don’t have to go that far. The animated series in particular often hit a memorable note: that beneath the suit and the scowl, Batman is a big softy at heart. Finding the nobility in the character has a bonus side effect: it makes the sight of a cynical, cruel Batman that much more unsettling by comparison.

So, those are my four “Suspicious Batman Rules,” the ones the character tends to follow now that I don’t particularly like. Next week we’ll get into the rogue’s gallery, and why they’re so important to the Bat-universe.

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  1. Preciousgollum says:

    Turning the ‘NO-KILLING rule’ on its head for a second, the original view of crime was: ‘Criminals are a cowardly & superstitious lot’, and over time the Batman comics became more familiar with implementing psychology as an explanation for villain characters.

    So, if a humanist sees somebody who is ‘suffering’ from superstitious belief, then the humanist belief would probably be to help them and show the error of ways.

    …ergo, the humanist (and by extension Batman) sees every person as being WORTH an attempt at saving, even if in all likelihood the scenario won’t resolve itself in such a way.

    In summary, Batman sees criminals as sick people in need of treatment & reform, and therefore tries to avoid killing them.

    … Of course, the actual reason is because in the early days comic books were for MARKETED TO CHILDREN, but you might be able to see how that thought process layers on meaning over time.

    • wswordsmen says:

      The early days were also right before and during WWII, where no child was shielded from death because there was a very real war going on and someone they knew probably died fighting, which is why no killing was cemented closer to the 1950s and the Comics Code Authority era.

      And yes that was because of the kids.

      • Preciousgollum says:

        Hmm… might have to re-read the early comics again. I don’t remember them having any sort of glorified or visceral violence-worship attached to them.

        Take Superman as an example:
        When the Mine-shaft workers were trapped, and it was deemed to be the negligence of the boss, I think Superman threatened to put the boss down his own mine, but he didn’t beat him to death or snap his neck in eye-glowing rage.

    • Agammamon says:

      In the early days Batman actually killed people and Superman was a complete dick.

      https://www.ranker.com/list/the-50-greatest-examples-of-superman-being-a-dick/ariel-kana

      http://www.cracked.com/article_20111_the-6-most-brutal-murders-committed-by-batman.html

      *Early* comics were full of violence – its was the existence of that that lead to the creation of the Comic Code to cut-off direct government censoring of the industry.

    • The Big Brzezinski says:

      I think it’s even deeper than sympathy for the mentally unwell. I think Batman sees a slightly less lucky version of himself in each of his rogues. His desire to stop their destructive behavior and help them comes, fundamentally, from his love for his fellow man. I particularly remember his softer touch with Harley Quinn. She felt to me like someone who could lead a normal life if she would just stay on her meds.

      The Epilogue episode of JLU had Amanda Waller explain Bruce Wayne to Terry McGinnis, and us, pretty definitively. Spoilers from 2005 ahead.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjlYwIJpxQc

      Btw, I’m not all a fan of the in-universe “Project Batman Beyond” idea. I think it’s a terrible tacked-on contrivance that adds nothing and ruins a major theme of the Batman Beyond series. But they didn’t screw up the characters to do it, so that’s something at least.

  2. Flux Casey says:

    I can appreciate having Batman have an extreme aversion to guns. Guns are what took his parents and so using guns is like a betrayal of them. You can root that into a very real place for the character so it isn’t arbitrary and has nothing to do with NO KILLING. That’s the route the animated series went with, I believe. And there was fantastic payoff for that in Batman Beyond when old man Batman is well past his prime but still trying to fight crime. An inch away from being defeated by some no-name thugs, he reaches for a gun and points it at his attacker, driving him away. And that’s the event that gets him to hang up his cape.

    • Jack of Spades says:

      I’m with Flux Casey on the no-guns policy. The image of his parents being gunned down is seared into Bruce Wayne’s mind; it is the formative event of his life. He identifies guns with murder. Batman’s idea of pure evil isn’t the Joker, it’s Joe Chill in his longshoreman’s cap with his .45. He can tolerate Jim Gordon using one, but it’s never going to be a weapon he’ll be comfortable with.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Precisely this.Batman using a gun should,in his mind,make him the equivalent of the mugger who gunned down his parents.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      This is correct. It’s been analyzed numerous times in comics (even one particular based on the animated series, where Batgirl insists on carrying a gun for protection and Batman is adamantly against it).

  3. Syal says:

    The No Killing rule in particular is limiting in the type of story being told. It works when Batman is fighting gangsters or lone villains; even Arkham City can get away with it since everyone’s still technically in prison. But every so often someone puts Batman in a war zone and it just gets absurd. Arkham Knight or The Dark Knight Rises are inappropriate settings for that kind of line.

    Plus it often ends up ringing hollow; Dark Knight’s Batman doesn’t kill anyone, but he doesn’t seem to shed any tears about other people killing mobsters. “I don’t kill people, I let the villains do that” is not a great line in the sand to draw.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      And then you get the comically hypocritical situations, extremely common in the older comics (don’t know enough to say Gold or Silver Age or whichever) wherein Batman, while strictly abstinent from ever killing anyone, would find his adversaries fortuitously die through convenient flukes with alarming regularity. It’s funny in those old comics just because of how contrived it is, but I always cringe whenever this crops up in fiction; the message seems to be that anyone who crosses the heroes, from purse snatchers on up, certainly deserve death, but that it would be uncouth for the heroes to dirty their hands with the necessaries. The (usually one-off) villain gets written out of the canon to make way for the next, and the audience gets their bloodlust sated without compromising their sensation of (vicarious) moral rectitude and impunity.

      As often pointed out of Batman’s “no kill” rule in particular, this is almost always more a means of circumventing ratings standards or tailoring the material to a certain age group more so than any intentional ethical stance by the writer, but the context is still there, and the practice is pretty common even among works that really have no excuse. The most obvious example that springs to mind is the finale of Valkyria Chronicles. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that none of the game’s named, face-having villains are directly killed by the player’s squad, but the finale really pushes it over the line for a couple of reasons I won’t bother explaining in detail. Suffice it to say it’s the one moment in the game I distinctly deplore the game’s tone, and understand what other players might mean when they say they can’t bear it in general.

      • Pax says:

        This kind of goes along with movie Batman’s high villain mortality rate. They sure seem to fall to their deaths a lot. Of course, then you have Batman Begins’ “I don’t have to save you” line at the climax, which always makes me yell, “Yes you do! You’re Batman!” at the TV.

        • The Rocketeer says:

          Yes, it’s usually either a fall or being hoist by their own petard, often literally. But if the author’s goal was merely to show that criminals tend to provide their own undoing, a reasonable theme for the material and an otherwise natural reading of the consistent pattern, that doesn’t necessitate the criminal always dying; they could just fall into their own trap, zap themselves unconscious, trip and fall into a hole, let slip the clue to turn their infernal contraption on themselves, etc., and pout while Batman and the Boy Wonder chuckle over their prone, hog-tied selves in the last panel before the Hostess Fruit Pie advertisement. But no, they ALWAYS FUCKING DIE. You just kinda have to admit that the author explicitly wants them dead.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          No he really doesnt.Id add this as one of the suspicious batman rules “Batman has to save everyone”.No,he really doesnt.He fights criminals,and him saving people is just a side effect of that.

        • shoeboxjeddy says:

          Does Batman have to save villains from their own foolishness? I would say not in every case. But beating R’as to near unconsciousness and leaving him on a crashing train is basically the moral equivalent of beating him up and deliberately leaving him on train TRACKS. And I’m sure Batman would have recoiled at doing the latter.

      • Preciousgollum says:

        Hmm… just getting to the last couple chapters of Valkyria Chronicles.

        … Will report back with my findings …🤔

      • BlueHorus says:

        I’ve always hated this kind of thing (is it a trope? Probably is), whatever the story. A classic example from pretty much every western I’ve ever seen:

        The hero & bad guy face off in a pistol duel. The hero is faster, but he doesn’t shoot the bad guy – he shoots the gun out of his hand!
        (Or, he wins in a fistfight. That often happened.)
        Bad guy falls over, is clearly beaten but still alive. Hero says something dismissive like ‘you’re not worth it’, and turns away – and, every single time, the bad guy gets up and pulls out a knife, or a gun, so the hero whips around, draws his gun and kills him. He was forced to do it!

        It’s the writer finding a way for him to kill the bad guy guilt-free/make the hero look less bad. The writer wants the bad guy dead, the audience probably wants him dead, but heroes don’t just shoot people like that, apparently. So let’s make the bad guy extra reprehensible/cowardly/dishonourable so that it’s okay to kill him.

        This situation earns bonus hypocracy points if our hero has already gunned down dozens of faceless henchmen earlier in the film: where was their last chance, asshole? Stop faffing around and just shoot the damn guy – we know it’s going to happen anyway.

        Not that I’m saying that Batman should shoot people in the face while they’re lying on the floor helpless…but it would have been more honest than having them conveniently fall into a vat of acid or whatever as they did.

        • Kylroy says:

          Watching action movies as a child featured a lot of my Dad yelling “break his wrists while he’s helpless, you idiot!”

        • Supah Ewok says:

          You haven’t seen The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly then.

          • BlueHorus says:

            I haven’t. Mostly what I’ve seen have been played on late-night TV, fairly generic action schlock. Pretty sure one had Chuck Norris in it, which is a fairly good schlock indicator.

        • shoeboxjeddy says:

          I actually think this works if the hero refuses to kill someone who is unarmed or otherwise helpless. I think that’s a pretty decent moral framework for an action movie hero to go with. If the villain has no weapon or way of hurting other people, you probably should NOT gun them down in cold blood.

          • BlueHorus says:

            Sure. And then the bad guy should go to prison, or to court and face justice, because being good is hard. We all want to see him die, but that would be crossing a line. That’s very suitable for a particular type of story.

            What annoys me is the writer contriving excuses for the hero to kill him (or him dying in a freak/ironic accident) in a way that still make the hero look ‘good’.
            (I say) Either the bad guy survives – which is often not satisfying – or the hero takes full responsibility for their murder/execution.

      • This reminds me of Disney’s “The Villain Falls off a Cliff at the climactic moment” trope.

        Yeah, a “no killing” rule makes sense when you’re dealing with petty crooks. It makes no sense whatsoever when you’re dealing with mass-murdering psychos and you know you’re just letting them go to kill again.

        • shoeboxjeddy says:

          My fave is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Dwarfs brought deadly weapons to their final confrontation, they DEFINITELY intended to beat the evil Queen to death. It’s just that Zeus (or Thor if you prefer) engaged in some blatant kill stealing at the end there.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      I think the “no killing” rule works in the context of Batman being a vigilante who has to draw a line somewhere and let the justice system make the ultimate decision. It’s not that he should think that killing is never justified, but he should believe that he shouldn’t be the one to be judge, jury, and executioner.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        The Punisher believes the system has failed. Society can’t or won’t punish the guilty, so he has to.

        Batman (most of the time) believes the system has failings, but is not a failure. (And why would he? The system benefits Bruce Wayne just fine most of the time.) He has to give it a chance to work, or why is he fighting for it?

    • INH5 says:

      Arkham Knight or The Dark Knight Rises are inappropriate settings for that kind of line.

      But Batman totally does directly kill at least 2 people in Dark Knight Rises: Talia and the driver of the nuke truck. He also redirects a missile into one of the Tumblers, which is definitely lethal force whether or not the guy driving it actually died. Plus he gives his bike to Catwoman, who uses the onboard guns to kill Bane and take out 2 of the Tumblers (again, lethal force even if the drivers survived). And he starts an uprising that must have killed at least several dozen people.

      It’s really weird in hindsight how little this has been discussed since the movie was released, in contrast to subsequent controversy about Superman and Batman killing people in the Snyder movies. Sure, a nuke was about to go off and kill millions of people if Batman didn’t do all of the above, but it’s still not that far from, say, the situation Superman was in when he killed Zod at the end of Man of Steel.

  4. Richard says:

    I kind of would like to see a bat-gun.

    One that launches bats, of course.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      It should be a sonic weapon that non-lethally incapacitates evildoers with high-frequency audio pulses! You know, like the echolocation of a dolphin.

    • galacticplumber says:

      Does a batarang that dramatically pisses off all the bats in the area to attack the person hit count? If so we’ve got that in at least one of the two justice league shows.

  5. Pax says:

    As far as the Joker’s motivations go, I always liked the one from (I think) the Batman Beyond/Joker Returns movie, where he just wanted to make Batman laugh. Of course, it’s fair to say that Batman and the Joker doesn’t find the same things humorous.

    Thinking about it more as I type this, though, I can also increasingly see a warped version of “just wanting to make Batman laugh” that includes making him laugh at what Joker thinks is funny, and then it becomes the same exercise as making him break his no killing rule/show him the black comedy of the world.

  6. ehlijen says:

    The no killing rule has some importance beyond the character having to be kid friendly: If Batman is to be an ally of the police, a ‘good vigilante’, as per the More Gordon rule, he cannot become judge, jury and executioner. He needs to restrict himself to essentially making arrests and letting the courts handle the rest.

    That of course means no deliberate killing, but can, if the story is to be dark, still allow for unintended deaths. But even so, I just don’t get Batman mounting machine guns on any vehicle he uses (those are for killing multiple people, no two ways about it). Even if Batman kills in the story, the sheer danger of collateral damage should keep a him from using them inside city limits. Even a Batman who kills isn’t the Punisher.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Even non-Bat, non-vigilante civilians can take the life of another in their own self-defense or to reasonably save the life of another, police or no police. Batman does need to be held to a higher standard since he’s already transgressing the law and conventional ethics, and deliberately placing himself in positions where these kinds of decisions must be made; and you could argue that it’s incumbent on Batman to use minimal force with his remarkable advantages in training and resources. But if you stretch that to an absolute extent, you end up right back at the idea that Batman can’t be depicted as less than perfectly prepared or perfectly capable in all tasks.

  7. Decius says:

    If Batman kills people, he risks making more orphans. Orphans who will become his evil opposite.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      I can’t actually tell if this is a(n intentional) joke or not.

      • silver Harloe says:

        Why would it be a joke?
        Killing people’s parents often motivates them towards revenge. Batman knows better than anyone what a strong motivation that can be.

    • Meriador says:

      Wasn’t that what Prometheus was supposed to be? I mean, his parents were killed by police, but it’s the same general idea.

      (I’ll admit I only know who Prometheus is from Arkham Asylum and subsequent wiki-reading)

      • SharpeRifle says:

        Meh in general …kinda….he had extra stuff though….cybernetic implants , a helmet to upload skills. If you played Shadowrun (paper) he basically was using skillsofts not just “normal” human skills like Batman. They beat him once by uploading Stephen Hawking.

      • BlueHorus says:

        I was going to say, surely there are at least three Batman or so villains with this exact backstory (or very similar)? There has to be at least one.

        I don’t know (I generally don’t read comics), but with seventy-plus years of comics and however many villains surely somebody has come up with ‘very similar backstory to Batman but turned out different’ as a concept for a story/bad guy.
        That idea’s a bit of a no-brainer.

        • Boobah says:

          If nothing else, there’s always Owlman, Batman’s counterpart in the alternate universe where the villains and heroes have swapped sides. Also, with the second Blue Beetle, inspiration for that dude from Watchmen.

          Mind, Owlman isn’t so much about ‘What if Batman had chosen differently?’ as ‘What could be more awesome than Batman vs. Batman?’

          Owlman isn’t helped at all because he often comes packaged with sane, good counterparts of Batman’s Rogues… and since those guys are on the same side as Bats, they actually interact with him in a non-fisticuffs way,

          • SharpeRifle says:

            Owlman also originally had powers…..they made him more “evil Batman” later…but intially he was “super” intelligent(that one is always questionable as a power) and could briefly control minds ….sometimes.

        • SharpeRifle says:

          Honestly in the end I think most of the truly good Batman villians embody some aspect of him gone wrong. In Riddler its the intellect, in Bane its the physicality,heck in Poison Ivy its the passion for a cause. The every time they have tried the “Evil Batman-Like” they tend to build in a simple beating method to show why Batman is “different”. You know the “You almost had me NotBatMan…thankfully i had my Bat-Family to back me up, unlike you!”

          Heh….for some reason I’m remembering the “International Batmen” from back in the day….not Batman Inc. It was a buncha reskinned Batman inspired heroes Knight and Squire from England, Legionaire from Italy etc.

          I’d also come to think of it pay good damn money for DC to make that Batman villian… “He’s everything Batman is but…he’s NotBatMan!” and then the entire story when people ask him who he is….”I’m….NotBatMan.”

  8. CoyoteSans says:

    I imagine in an industry before the fall of the Comics Code and before Dark Knight Returns, The Riddler got so much play simply because he was the most fun villain the writers could use. When it’s all non-lethal happy-go-lucky (relatively) schlock, then the guy who does that with a certain sense of arrogant style and bombastic brick-ticklers would probably be the most appealing option in their toolkit. After the rise of the Dark Age, of course, they followed the big guys lead and changed gears to the fun nutbar who also routinely kills people in over-the-top gruesome but hilarious fashion.

    And the thing is, the whole “JOKER JOKER JOKER” thing is so infectious, in the one cartoon they tried to make with a strict “No Joker” rule, Beware the Batman… they ended up just turning Anarky into a Chinese Knockoff Joker anyway, which satisfied absolutely no one.

    • Vermander says:

      I remember reading an interview with the writers of the Animated Series where they said that Riddler stories are hard to write, because you need to come up with multiple riddles for Batman to solve without making the audience feel like you cheated. There’s also the fact that the Riddler isn’t a physical threat to Batman, and isn’t normally portrayed as a gang leader with a bunch of henchmen, which means not a lot of fight scenes. A lot of Riddler stories become overly reliant on traps or ticking clocks to create excitement. Too often the story plays out as “Batman must solve a puzzle to get a clue and avoid setting off a trap, repeat”.

  9. Supah Ewok says:

    The No Killing rule is pretty much necessary, if you want a non-messy explanation for why any of Batman’s rogue gallery is still alive.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Which is another reason I don’t really get as twisted up over it as some. Even more so than trying to keep the stories more kid-friendly, the no-kill rule was an element that rose up from pure author contrivance, a handwave for the iron necessity to keep up the all-important brand and the moneytrain on the rails. I don’t really take to heart how hard and idealistic it must be for the Batman to resist killing when I know that it is actually a very easy and pragmatic decision for the writer. It’s not nearly as blatant as breaking the fourth wall saying, “You’re caught, Riddler! Welp, see you next issue,” but it’s on the continuum.

      Really, it’s more akin to how you know, 100%, without even thinking about it, that the male and female leads in a TV series aren’t actually going to get together romantically until the series ends. They’re gonna tease the absolute shit out of it for as long as they can get away with, and you might be as invested as you can be in that relationship, but the writers aren’t kidding anyone and no viewer kids themselves that this state of affairs is devoid of cynicism and contrivance. And if it ever does happen, the first thing they’re going to do afterwards is abnegate it as immediately and totally as they can, no matter how sloppy and blatant their objective is, to immediately restore the all-important status quo once more. And that’s what the no-kill rule is: it’s convenience-driven sit-drama quality writing for a man that dresses like a nocturnal avian mammal. That’s just doesn’t put me in a philosophical state of mind.

    • JBC31187 says:

      Which is why it’s a bad idea to make Batman’s enemies super-twisted edgelords. If Joker barbecues a bus full of nuns and puppies, there’s really no rational explanation as to why no one just shoots the bastard. Everyone just looks dumber.

      The Timmverse view was that the superheroes were like cops: try to avoid killing, but sometimes it’s the lesser evil. So if Batman drops Joker into a smokestack or shark tank, oh well. Superman’s not going to kill a bank robber, but he will blow up the alien dreadnought heading to Earth.

      • ehlijen says:

        There is a justification for not killing the Joker: He’s insane, and thus by law needs to be committed to an asylum, not sent to prison or death row.

        Batman has almost always stood for justice, and killing without a death sentence handed out by a judge isn’t justice. It might be the lesser evil, if you believe in that, but even then it’s still not justice.

        Same applies to the dreadnaught attacking earth. First, that would be war, not crime fighting, and even if it was, it would be self defence, not justice. Again, that’s fine if your story isn’t about justice, but if it is, it’s not the conclusion you need.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Frankly,they shouldnt be.Yeah,joker is fun,but having him escape punishment over and over and over makes the whole shtick tired,ruins the character of joker,and ruins the characters of everyone involved.Injecting new blood every so often is a good thing.Both for heroes and for villains.

      • ehlijen says:

        Fresh and new villains are good. But repetition of the classic villains can be done:
        Make stand alone stories, each of which assumes that, say, the Joker had never been caught before. Or, having them escape fits just fine into more camp interpretations like the Adam West show.

        It sacrifices much of the ability to have continuity, but a recurring rogue’s gallery was already an impediment to that. Batman and Gotham city are, in my opinion, a setting more conducive to episodic rather than ongoing stories. I know they’ve been given a lot of arc plots, but there was a price for that, and that’s a swiss cheese arkham asylum.

  10. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    Totally off topic, but I absolutely hate how every third word is emphasised in comics.

    On topic: suspicious rule #1 really annoys me, because it’s not possible to prepare for everything.

  11. Zaxares says:

    Yeah, I never understood the “no killing” rule for Batman either, when he’s willing to beat up thugs and his enemies in a way that more or less ruins them for the rest of their life. Beating somebody into unconsciousness is very likely to lead to brain damage, and for someone who was unskilled/desperate enough to turn to crime for a living, that all but ruins their chances for ever picking up a proper vocation. Broken arms, legs and backs means that person’s no good for physical labour in the future either. So what is the crippled, brain-damaged thug going to do? Continue to sit in prison forever leeching money off the Gotham tax fund? And what if they had any dependents? If a child’s father/mother’s injuries are severe enough that they basically have to go on disability for the rest of their life, maybe even needing a full-time carer, then you’ve now ruined that child’s life too, placing an immense financial and emotional burden on them that they may not be able to escape for years.

    As for the Joker, I personally feel that he’s obsessed with trying to make Batman crazy/crack, because the Batman is living proof that the Joker need not have chosen the path he did. Both men had traumatic, life-shattering events, yet while the Joker broke under it and embraced insanity, Batman rose above it. The Joker desperately wants to bring Batman down to his level, because if he can’t, then the Joker’s entire worldview and his justification for doing the things he does is wrong.

    • Arakus says:

      To the thing about them not being able to get jobs: I don’t know if this applies to other versions, but I think it’s mentioned in the animated series that Wayne Enterprises hires a lot of former convicts and it’s implied they’re mostly people Batman fought.

      (Although that concept is arguably even more messed up since it means Wayne is creating a workforce who are considered unhireable by most other companies so they basically have to work for him.)

      • Preciousgollum says:

        Still, ex-cons working for Wayne Enterprises is better than being sacked by a company for having been a cyclist giving Donald Trump(‘s car) the middle finger, and, because the photo went viral, you post the photo on your own facebook timeline, which is the excuse the company then uses to sack you, for ‘rudeness’.

        Points go to Comic Books. 😆 As Homer Simpson once said: “To daddy, the real world gets fainter and fainter every day.”

      • shoeboxjeddy says:

        The issue with that argument would be that Batman doesn’t encourage people to turn to crime. He discourages it, with violence. Him then mitigating some of the resultant harm is just being more responsible for his actions.

        • Preciousgollum says:

          Violence is, ultimately, the deterrent against crime… hence the existence of Security Guards, Baliffs, Police, Riot officers, SWAT teams and Armed Forces…

          … the only difference is the level of violence applied being proportionally based on the level of severity posed by a suspect… usually.

  12. Preciousgollum says:

    In the very first appearance of the Joker (Batman #1), it was originally planned that Joker would be killed off, but then someone had the idea of keeping him alive with a hasty last-minute panel, and the rest is history…

  13. Dreadjaws says:

    A few things I disagree with:

    “Mark Hamill’s has always been underrated”

    In what universe? His Joker has always been one of the most popular ones.

    About the no-guns rule, someone else has explained it better up there, but it’s more of a psychological issue than an arbitrary rule.

    And, for the love of God, you did not just praise All-Star Batman & Robin. No, just no. Nothing in that book, save for the art, is salvageable. Hell, that argument between Batman and Green Lantern only exists because both characters are massively misinterpreted. Batman is precisely the disgusting jerk you complain in point #4, while GL is turned into a complete idiot.

    Anywayyyyy… let’s talk about the no-killing rule. This is, of course, strictly a product of the original medium. Comic books are published with regularity, so, save obviously for the mini-series and self-contained stories, they need to continue for as long as possible. The no-killing rule is merely a consequence of having to maintain the status quo. If Batman kills a foe, then he can no longer fight him, so the writers would have to either retire the stories or constantly come up with new characters. Note that characters that do kill (such as The Punisher) have to either come up with increasingly contrived reasons for the villains to survive, having them come back to life or relegate the characters to mini-series instead.

    The problem comes when they try to stretch this rule to other media. Sure, in TV, where the rating has to be more appropriate for many ages you might not see this kind of thing, but in movies or games aimed to teens and adults, having villains do horrific things and no one ever even try to kill them becomes preposterous.

    The no-killing rule should be “Don’t kill unless necessary”, instead of “Don’t kill under any circumstances, no matter how much innocent people die in the process”. Both of these are neatly analyzed in a couple of comics. The former has Batman and Superman discussing killing the villains if it came to it. The latter is a What-If story where the symbiote that creates Venom starts consuming other heroes and taking their powers, while the heroes refuse to kill the creature. At the end, Black Cat kills it with a sonic gun and chastises the heroes for letting all of those people die in the pursuit of their silly ideal.

    Meanwhile, take a look at Batman: Arkham Origins, when Batman has a fight with Bane where he lefts the latter almost dead and then revives him with electric shocks. Gordon doesn’t see that part and later complains to Batman about kiling him. And I’m like “Bitch, he was fighting for his life! Killing Bane would have been perfectly acceptable under those circumstances, you holier-than-thou jerk who had no problem gunning down a couple of harmless mooks earlier.”

  14. Vermander says:

    In my head, I always modify the “Batman can defeat anyone” rule to “no gets the best of Batman.” I don’t have any problem with Batman losing an occasional fight, I just don’t like to see him look like a chump. If he’s going to lose, then I at least want him to achieve something through the loss, whether it’s disrupting his enemy’s plans, buying time for his allies, or just going down swinging like a badass. And if he’s up against an opponent he has no chance against, I have no problem with him fleeing the fight and speed-dialing Clark or Diana on the batphone.

    On a related note, what I’m really sick of is Batman fighting with other superheroes (or really any heroes fighting with each other). I especially hate it when the writer has one character humble or humiliate the other to prove a point. I feel like it diminishes both characters when they treat each other that way.

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Heres another rule for your list:
    “Batman is brutal.He constantly breaks bones and beats thugs to (near) unconsciousness”

    He really isnt.Not even the darkest interpretations of batman are brutal all the time.Subduing multiple opponents is a tricky part,and when batman goes into such a fight with no plan,sure he is bound to break a bunch of bones.But he really shouldnt be doing that.As a smart guy,he should rely more on ropes,smoke bombs and other tricks like that,to just incapacitate the thugs until the police can take them in.Brutal bats should be used sparingly.

    • Hal says:

      That one’s complicated, of course, because it really depends on if the medium is using “cartoon rules” or “reality rules.” That is, if you punch a guy in the face and knock him out, will he come to a while later feeling groggy, or is that a life-threatening injury? Most of the cartoons treat knock-outs like no big deal, so Batman isn’t a brutal pit fighter, just a guy subduing his opponents non-lethally.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        You can still depict fights brutally in a cartoon.Usually by showing tears to the clothes if you cant depict blood.And some fights in dc cartoons are deliberately depicted as brutal,usually due to rage or mind control.

    • Meriador says:

      I’d like to point out that these are rules that Bob doesn’t like but doesn’t actively hate. “Almost murders everybody” is not something I suspect he’s “meh” towards.

  16. Joe Informatico says:

    Re: SR #1 — I like the interpretation (from Chris Sims) that Batman doesn’t have kryptonite secretly stashed because he plots for the day he’ll have to stop Superman. He has kryptonite that Superman gave him, because Clark knew if he was ever corrupted or compromised somehow, he could trust his friend Bruce Wayne to find a way to stop him.

  17. Porecomesis says:

    I feel like #1 was poorly justified for personal preference and rooted in very shaky logic if not outright subjectivity. The others are fine but #1 is very poorly explained.

    Personally, I’m not fond of the fact that claim implies other characters cannot react to Batman’s strategies, as if he only needs to develop enough of a Prep Score to overcome their LVL. It also seems to imply characters aren’t changing their own stratagems and mentally preparing themselves for their next encounter with Batman, assuming they’re locked in power stasis for Batman to catch up to.

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