Monday, 2 June 2014

Can There Be Another Batman

If new super-heroes look like this, there's gonna be trouble

So, if you looked at Jesse Schedeen’s article on IGN from two days, you may find this article somewhat familiar. If you haven’t Schedeen basically asked if another character in pop culture could come around that could ever become as popular as Batman. Schedeen’s response was that if there was- it wouldn’t be a superhero character.

It's a tough question, and my first inclination is to simply answer "No." I'm not sure I can picture a new, original superhero coming along and usurping Batman's throne. Part of Batman's appeal is that he's so primal and fundamentally simple. A boy experiences terrible tragedy and devotes himself to ensuring that no other person will have to suffer like he did. That basic concept has proven very malleable over the years…. Batman was one of the first superheroes, and in many ways he's been a prototype for every costumed vigilante to follow.”

There’s a certain point to which I agree with this; new superheroes haven’t fared well, historically. Take, for example, this week’s review of Scarlet Spider. New heroes take a while to get respect. Even the newer superheroes that appear to work have a rough time at the start. Take Invincible, for example. In the book’s early stages, it was almost cancelled; people hated Invincible that much.

But I think there will be another Batman, or at least there can be. But it won’t just happen, there are conditions and methods that need to take place, just like when Batman was created.

Where we first learnt that nobody will
shoot you if you look cool enough.
The Batman Method

See, Batman first appeared in Detective Comics 27. That’s common knowledge, but the process for creating him wasn’t.

See, Batman was created when the company now known as DC comics realized that there was something to this superhero thing. They commission Bob Kane to design a new character for their future roster. Kane originally designed a character who looked somewhat superman-y with the addition of red tights, a domino mask and batlike wings. Bill Finger saw the design and wasn’t totally impressed. Between Kane and Finger, Batman was redesigned to become the exact opposite to Superman.

What did that mean? Superman had powers, Batman had none, but used his wits. Superman dressed in bright, primary colours, Batman was dressed only in black and grey. Key to Superman’s character was the fact that he stood for the ultimate in human character and compassion. Batman, on the other would watch a man die and call it “a fitting end for his kind”.

It would stand to reason, then, that the next great superhero would want to be completely different to every other hero that had come before- not just in terms of power, but in terms of basic character.

Real Diversity

Noble intentions, great characters, but still missing the point.
But let’s face it, there’s a lot more superheroes now than there ever has been. And there is not much more that can be done to be differently apart from add diversity to the man or woman behind the mask. Now, I’m gonna make this clear- I DON’T mean what the comics industry currently means when they say “diversity”. See, for the comics industry at the moment, diversity usually means black-skinned. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be more non-Caucasian heroes around (there certainly should), but simply picking up a different paint when the colourer is at work isn’t the same as getting truly diverse characters in the lineup.
So how would we get diversity that actually means something? One idea could be to get the hero out of America. Sure, an African-American may mean something in the US, but to the rest of the world, an American is an American. An American Muslim is still an American. A homosexual American is still an American.

How does superheroing look in China? What is it like in Russia? Do Australia and New Zealand have superheroes? American culture naturally permeates all American superheroes, so keeping them in America is naturally going to produce the same old stories with the same old characters but for skin colour and sexuality.
Batman has always been less like Superman,
more like this guy

Drawing from other sources

When Batman was finally created, Kane and Finger weren’t drawing from Superman anymore. They were drawing more from characters like Dick Tracey, Sherlock Holmes, Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel. None of these are comic superheroes, in case you didn’t notice that very important point.
In the same way, a new Batman can’t draw on other superheroes. What if they were to draw on other popular pop culture characters? Indiana Jones? The Phantom of the Opera? Nathan Drake, even? By doing so, the new Batman would truly stand out from the rest.

Clearly, a new Batman is possible, but some truly creative things will need to happen. Me? I’m going to sit back and enjoy the next big thing as it comes.


So what do you think? Where is the next big thing coming from?