A section from
‘A Jedi shall not know hatred, nor fear… nor love.’ from Star Wars Episode II
He is better known as The Batman, but The Batman was not always Bruce Wayne behind the mask. Dick Grayson and Jean-Paul Valley have donned the mantle of the caped crusader, but neither have the appeal of Bruce.
Bruce Wayne could have lived a charmed life with all his wealth, resources, looks and intelligence. It’s ironic that the added element of obsession with his parents’ murder before his own eyes made him into a superhero among humans and a human among superheroes. The events that started Bruce’s metamorphosis into Batman (the murder of Martha and Thomas Wayne) are repeatedly invoked in comics and film; this reinforces his image providing both clues and speculation about the nobility and dangerous obsession behind the mask.
After the loss of his parents Bruce left Gotham in a self-imposed-exile cum quest for a real education. Clues to what he studied can be derived from what his peers and adversaries call him - ‘a master strategist’ , ‘the world’s most dangerous man’ and ‘one of the best detectives in the world’. Among other skills Bruce is super competent in criminology, martial arts (physical & mental) and business management.
After returning to Gotham he is unable to channel his fury and his attempts at tackling criminals leave him with a bloody nose and a bruised ego. Learning a valuable lesson from his failures, he goes into zen-mode and realizes that he needs to strike into the heart of a criminal by playing on fear and guilt. He adopts the guise of a bat not just as a symbol of fear but as a badge of triumph over his own personal demons.
His obsession drives him to constantly hone and update his skills, that is why in a world of gifted superheroes he can not just hold his own but also stare down the Man of Steel in their rare but inconclusive disputes. Also unlike Kent who is most often seen as Superman during the day, the Batman is in his element at night. And Bruce and Clark might work towards the same end but their means are opposite. Batman’s pragmatism versus Superman’s idealism. Batman’s cynicism versus Superman’s optimism. Batman’s guerilla tactics versus Superman’s frontal assaults. Batman’s manipulations versus Superman’s straightforwardness. You get the picture...
Though Bruce has little real time for social interaction, and his playboy dalliances are purely for image purposes much like Francisco D’anconia’s from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. But he has had serious relationships - most notably with the deadliest of adversaries. Selena Kyle (The Catwoman) was his wife according to one storyline, as was Talia Al Ghul with whom he had a son - Damian/Tallant/Ibn Al Xu’ffasch. Other more normal ‘bat-girls’ include reporter Viki Vale, psychologist Chase Meridian and socialite Silver StCloud.
Bruce ‘marriage’ to Talia, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul ended up causing a lot of trauma to both. Their mutual attraction resurfaced when they are thrown together by chance (!), Talia was out for revenge and Bruce was crusading as the Batman when they met. Their subsequent relation and marriage resulted in a marked change in Bruce - he went out of his way to tone down his obsessions once he became aware of Talia’s pregnancy and even declined taking on a villain. Fatherhood seemed to be a suppressed dream but for some reason, probably understood only by women, Talia told Bruce that she had lost his baby when the child born a little premature. That conversation leaves them both devastated and they part ways. Bruce only comes to know of his son’s existence years later.
Wayne is a constant presence on the Forbes Fictional 15 since 1939, and of late is beaten by the likes of Scrooge McDuck, Gordon Gecko and Tony Stark (Iron Man); but Wayne Manor commands a better market value than Tony Stark’s pad. Wayne Industries is a conglomerate with interests in defense, technology and infrastructure, and Bruce makes the best use of the cutting-edge tech available to him for his nocturnal activities.
The Joker - the Batman’s eternal nemesis is the very anti-thesis of what Bruce stands for. While the Joker uses random acts of insanity to spread violence and terror, Bruce has spent years training himself to fight for justice. The Joker’s insanity gives him a degree of immunity to the fear that Bruce’s avatar stands for, and he takes the battle for Bruce’s home killing and harming those closest to him.
Close on the heels of the Joker is Ra’s Al Ghul (the Demon’s Head) - a virtually immortal eco-terrorist whose goal is to purge the earth of all evil by killing almost everyone and starting clean and anew. Ra’s and his minions - the League of Shadows have been credited with training a young Bruce Wayne in the art of Ninjutsu. Bruce shares a complex relation with the man - mostly battling him but sometimes teaming up, once marrying his daughter and almost providing him with an heir. Compared to the Joker who is the opposite of Bruce, Ra’s is almost a criminally-inclined Bruce born a few hundred(?) years ago.
Keeping Bruce busy along with the criminally insane Joker is the criminally-brilliant Riddler, the criminally-aware ex-DA Two-Face and the deformed Penguin.
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