“I’m Batman.” A low gritty voice, hooded eyes, and a strong, sensual mouth--what’s not to love about a guy running around in a costume, saving the city?
I love superheroes. Yes, there’s something to be said about the everyday kind of heroes who really do change the world, but as a society, we revere the independent spirit, the one who chooses to set things right, the one who sacrifices for the greater good--in other words, the unrealistic ideal. But why? What is it about the hero that draws us in and makes us keep coming back for more?
Batman is a good character study for a couple different reasons. Along with Superman, Batman has been a comic book, television series, cartoon, and movie subject that many have followed through many changes. But what makes him a superhero? Unlike many other superheroes, he doesn’t have any actual super powers. Instead, he uses his considerable wealth to buy crime fighting gadgets of the dark and dangerous kind. And spends his free time, saving the criminal-magnet city of Gotham from its many threats. Unlimited money and time would seem to be an advantage for a superhero, but it certainly isn’t what appeals to audiences, in my opinion.
The truth is, even if he is a heroic figure, he is far from perfect. And in that is the true appeal. His need to protect the city and right the wrongs is selfishly motivated. His parents’ deaths and the rise in crime in Gotham prompted his initial desire to don the costume and make a difference. He wanted revenge. What kind of hero is motivated by revenge? But it is the imperfect hero that we truly love to love. Batman embodies the imperfect hero that we can’t help but watch and want a happily ever after for at least once.
I personally struggle with creating imperfect heroes, but I am working on this part of my characterization. I am drawing on movies, mentor books, television shows, news stories, and real life problems of the people around me (can you say “name change“) to make my heroes more appealing in their imperfections, so I have long conversations with my hero and his family and friends until they tell me exactly what it is that will make readers really want to know him and really want to root for him. It is a work in progress, and I am constantly discovering new characteristics and tweaking my imperfect hero.
Now, look at the following portrayals of the caped crusader and comment on who you believe played him best:
No fair going for the shirtless guy just because (okay, it is Christian Bale) of the hotness factor.