The Dark Knight Researches: Batman and the Library

It’s fair to say that when a film grosses over $160 million in one weekend that it has made a dent in the American cultural psyche. On its opening weekend, The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s final installment of his Batman trilogy, did exactly that. Capitalizing on themes such as vigilante justice, class warfare, symbolism, and anarchism, TDKR, climbed up the box office charts to become the third highest opening weekend movie to date. So the success of the movie and trilogy, made me take a step back to research, what and who this caped superhero, devoid of powers, traumatized into vigilante justice from witnessing the death of his parents, is. As it turns out, Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939, fresh off the heels of the success of Superman. Kane and Finger (who would later get into a pretty heated fight over the creator rights of Batman), used several aspects of contemporary 1930s culture to mold their hero, but the most notable were Zorro, the legendary savior, hidden to the world by his mask, and Sherlock Holmes, the master sleuth and scientist, who relied on brains, and the power of perception to uncover hidden details overlooked by common detectives. As the hero grew over the years, aspects of his character came more into focus. His alter ego, Bruce Wayne (named after Robert the Bruce), the philanthropic playboy orphan,  used his vast fortune to equip Batman with a Batcave (not yet supplied with a giant dinosaur) and a utility belt, fully equip with the “wonderful toys” that Jack Nicholsan’s Joker, pined for. As the years went on, a number of factors, including the end of World War II and the Congressional settings based around Frederick Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent, pushed Batman and many other comic books into a more campy feel, represented in the 1960s television show staring Adam West. The light-hearted Batman would last until the 1980s when Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, rebooted the cowled hero’s universe, making it more gritty and serious. Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) would reflect this new serious and dark take on the franchise, that Nolan would then capitalize on.

If you would like to learn more about the Caped Crusader, read his exploits, or watch his movies, then check out some of these articles and books featuring the Dark Knight.

Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul
edited by Mark White and Robert Arp
PN6728.B36 B376 2008  (*at PSC Library)

In these 20 essays philosophers weigh the content and intent of Batman’s many iterations in comic books, graphic novels, and mass media iterations against Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard and Lao Tzu. With tongue only partly in cheek the contributors examine whether the Dark Knight always does right and the sources of his virtuous hatred, where he fits within the social order, and whether his origins form the majority of his identity. They ask whether the Joker is morally responsible and whether Wayne is a moral exemplar, the tao behind Batman, and the existentialism that seems to follow rather than lead him. The result is rich and rigorous as well as very entertaining and would serve well as a classroom reader.

Articles on Batman

Brody, M. (1995). Batman: Psychic Trauma and Its Solution. Journal Of Popular Culture28(4), 171-178.

CRUTCHER, P. A. (2011). Complexity in the Comic and Graphic Novel Medium: Inquiry Through Bestselling Batman Stories. Journal Of Popular Culture44(1), 53-72.

Dreyer, R. (2009). Clap If You Believe in Batman The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan (Director). Perspectives In Psychiatric Care45(1), 80-81.

Kolenic, A. (2009). Madness in the Making: Creating and Denying Narratives from Virginia Tech to Gotham City. Journal Of Popular Culture42(6), 1023-1039.

Markovitz, A. (2008). The Joker’s Wild: A Villain Through History. (Cover story). Entertainment Weekly, (1001), 30.

Orr, P. (1994). The Anoedipal Mythos of Batman and Catwoman. Journal Of Popular Culture27(4), 169-182.

Peters, T. D. (2007). Unbalancing Justice: Overcoming the Limits of the Law in Batman Begins. Griffith Law Review16(1), 247-270.

Wood, A. (2007). Pixel Visions: Digital Intermediates and Micromanipulations of the Image. Film Criticism32(1), 72-94.

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