After the trauma experienced by young Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) it’s incredible how he was able to transform himself into the caped crusader – fighter of evil. Once you scratch beneath the surface of this dark, moody, tortured vigilante, you quickly learn how the challenges he faced in his youth were actually the catalyst for his dual life of playboy billionaire by day and ‘right-fighter’ by night.
A shocking event
Bruce had a happy childhood growing up in Gotham City as the only child to wealthy, yet charitable parents Dr Thomas and Martha Wayne. That was until tragedy struck and changed the course of young Bruce’s life forever. Wayne and Martha were walking home from the theatre one night with Bruce in tow, when they were held up at gunpoint by a mugger, a criminal known as Joe Chill. He demanded the pearl necklace that Martha was wearing. When Dr. Wayne refused to hand it over, both he and Martha were shot dead. Bruce hid in the shadows and watched in shocked silence, unable to move as his beloved parents’ lives were taken.
Fortunately, physician and social worker Leslie Thompkins was making a house call to the Wayne’s residence that night, and arrived to see a terrified and traumatised Bruce. With help from the family’s wise and loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce was raised on the Wayne Manor Estate becoming a loner, with very few friends.
There was only one problem. Bruce couldn’t move on. He was tormented by the vivid memory of that night, seeing his parents murdered by some low-life scum.
He was angry, but instead of turning that anger inward, he chose to turn it into something useful – ridding the world of some truly nasty characters.
Remember his oath?
“I swear by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals.”
So Bruce spent his youth travelling the world, training himself to intellectual and physical perfection. He learnt crime-fighting skills including chemistry, criminology and forensics while studying hunting, hand-to-hand combat, gymnastics and many forms of martial arts.
Why the bat?
It’s interesting that Bruce chose a bat to be his symbol. The story goes that he had a bat phobia stemming from childhood when one crashed through a window in the manor. So instead of allowing his phobia to take hold, he picks his own most-feared creature and embraces it. His theory was that he would make himself stronger by using a symbol which actually frightened him. Interesting stuff! He designed a cool looking costume equipped with some amazing experimental technology and set out against the crime and corruption that thrived in Gotham City.
And so Batman was born.
His physical prowess and technical ingenuity makes him an incredibly dangerous opponent. He soon discovers the city has no shortage of villains to fight; Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Bane and Ra’s al Guhl, all coming face-to-face with Batman’s brilliance.
As you know, Batman, unlike other ‘Superheroes’ actually has no ‘super-powers’ at all. He’s a man – a highly intelligent and skilled man, but still just a mere mortal. Well, ok, he does have a few nifty gadgets in his utility belt, but his greatest weapon by far is his extraordinarily inventive mind.
Batman’s strength lies in his determination not to back down. He uses the pain of his loss to keep him motivated in his mission to rid the streets of violent criminals. He never let the tragedy of the past dictate what his future would look like. He set himself his goal, swore his oath and under cover of darkness (and mask) put all he had learnt to good use.
So why hide behind a mask? Why not just go out and punch a few lights out? Well I guess the story wouldn’t be as enticing if he did. Batman likes to stick to the shadows, completely silent and unseen. Eventually, he strikes, but until then he remains hidden from anyone looking for him.
Was he really hiding behind that mask? Probably – after all, he still had his playboy reputation to uphold. But when you set out to rid the world of evil, does it matter whether you do it incognito? Probably not! As long as you achieve the desired end result (no more villains) it doesn’t really matter if you put your hand up and say “Um… that was me!” If it feels safe to have a mask on to do what you need to do, then go for it!
Oh and throw into the mix the bat cave! Talk about facing and embracing your fears. Isn’t a bat cave where bats live? As for the bat-mobile, well seriously, if you had bucket-loads of money and you needed a mode of transport complete with an arsenal of ingenious weapons, you wouldn’t choose a Hyundai!
A true hero
Perhaps of all the superheroes throughout time, Batman is the most relatable and realistic. He’s just a guy. Sure he has a lot of good stuff going on in his life, but he could have chosen a different path. He could have chosen self-harm, drug abuse, self-indulgent behaviour or a couldn’t-give-a-damn attitude. He didn’t. He chose to make use of his time, learn stuff, stretch a little, get good at a bunch of things, and Gotham City is all the better for it. He chose to face his fears and turn his anger into making the city a safer place. No wonder he’s still a hero to many little (and not so little) boys.