People think it’s an obsession. A compulsion. As if there were an irresistible impulse to act. It’s never been like that. I chose this life. I know what I’m doing. And on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however, isn’t that day. And tomorrow won’t be either.
–Batman, Brad Metzler “Identity Crisis”
I didn’t want to do this. At least not this soon. I started this whole thing because I never talk about myself. Most people know me as a goofy, fun loving joker and very few get to see the gears working behind the scenes in this crazy messed up head of mine.
I never talk to anyone about how I’m feeling. Even with my closest friends I only ever have hollow conversations about pop culture, so books and movies rather than thoughts and emotions are standard topics of discussion. But since today marks the release of the latest in the series of DC Animated Universe films, and since I’m running out of ways to distract myself from having to deal with my whole “dad situation”, I want to take a little time to talk about Batman.
Today I went out and bought a copy of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns part 2 on BluRay.
I imagine it would’ve had to have been an amusing sight, watching me watch this movie. Every now and then I’d catch myself involuntarily whispering, “Damn, I fuckin’ love Batman!”
I thought about maybe writing a review but instead I decided to be a little more self reflective and try to put into words why Batman matters to me so much.
So? Why am I obsessed with Batman?
Because I feel more emotionally connected to him than to most real people in my life.
It takes a person of a special disposition to consider a fictional character, originally created for ten cent pulp rags, as an emotional touchstone. I am aware that most people will say I’m crazy when, in a world full of poverty and violence and real suffering, I say that Batman is important, but he is to me. The effect that this character has had in shaping me into who I am today is so significant I’d go as far as saying that it makes me understand religious fundamentalism in a frightening way.
I’m not saying I agree with the fundees AT ALL, I’m just saying that I understand how these crazy nutjobs can get so incensed over their most strongly held beliefs. If I can almost come to blows with a stranger at the comic shop over something as trivial as a freaking superhero book, then it makes a weird sort of sense that people would go to war over religion.
And that’s really what I’m trying to say. Since 1992 Batman has been my religion.
June 19th 1992.
I remember the exact date because it was my older brother’s 12th birthday as well as the original theatrical release date of Batman Returns.
I’ve been obsessed ever since.
At first it was about the adventure of it all. I was only six years old at the time. Little kids are impressed by the car and the gadgets and the BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. As I grew older and read the works of Grant Morrison, Jeph Loeb, Paul Dini and especially Frank Miller, I started to see the true complexity that makes him so interesting.
Batman is as crazy as I am.
I am crazy.
I say it so often and so candidly that people sort of just shrug it off without really letting it sink in, but the truth is that there’s so much wrong with me that just the thought of trying to list it all is exhausting. I’m psychologically damaged in a way that I fear may never be fully repaired and while I’m certainly not dangerous I’m self aware enough to know how unpleasant it can be having me around. This means I either spend a lot of time alone or having to apologize for myself.
If you read Batman through a certain lens, it becomes very clear, very quickly, that he’s not at all a hero in the traditional sense. He’s more insane than the weirdos he’s always locking up.
He’s a an obsessive compulsive, paranoid sociopath with dissociative personality disorder and an infallibility complex. He went through emotional suffering at a young age and has never been able to get over it and, more to the point, it appears he’s not even trying since he’s intentionally putting himself into situations that will make it worse.
I feel like I’m talking about myself when I write that.
One day I’m going to write about the experiences both past and very recent that have contributed to my overall mental instability. For now I’ll just say that I recently sat down and had a real conversation with someone recovering from a substance abuse problem. Although it was a brief talk, and I’ve never dealt with this kind of problem myself, I was amazed at how connected I felt to this person. Being able to talk about feelings with someone who could draw upon their own personal experiences to really understand the type of pain I had been feeling was so different. Even now I’m still trying to work out how I felt about it.
What I’m hamhandedly trying to say is that never before did I have anyone who I felt I could relate to emotionally and so I used Batman as a surrogate.
I would read about this poor little boy so full of anger who grows up to be a man with no hope for a happy future and while it didn’t necessarily give me hope for the future it did give me that feeling of “at least I’m not alone.”
I started this entry with a quote that gives us a glimpse at the denial that Batman lives with everyday. He’ll never admit to himself just how crazy his actions are and how little control he has over his obsessions.
That’s at least one thing I’ve got going for me. I’m happy that I’m able to recognize that I’m all messed up in the head.
It makes me feel like maybe one day I won’t be.