Not understanding Batman is becoming a trend. It didn’t start with Zack Snyder, but he’s sure trying to rival Tom King in mastering it.
At a recent event Snyder showed off three of his movies, including Batman Versus Superman: Dawn Of Justice as well as Watchmen, Snyder was asked about Batman’s no-kill policy versus the machine guns he’s breaking out in that movie. He basically said, and the video below will go more into it, that Batman would totally kill people in the real world and if you don’t think so you’re living in a “fantasy world”. And considering this is still around Batman’s 80th anniversary (a coincidence I’m sure) I guess we have to give one article to discussing what people don’t understand about Batman.
Ignoring the fact that a work of fiction IS a fantasy world, since somehow the man who made Sucker Punch doesn’t seem to know the difference, it’s a statement that says more about Snyder’ view of the world than it does Batman. Ewan Paterson of WhatCulture breaks down most of what Snyder got wrong. I will throw a few things in myself.
Catch more WhatCulture comics on their YouTube channel, and there are links to their other channels there.
First off, how does Snyder know a “real” Batman wouldn’t kill? There are people who will conduct a “citizen’s arrest”, which means keeping them until the police shows up. There have been cases of people killing to save their lives, but they didn’t have Batman’s training to never kill unless he has absolutely no choice, and it’s usually up to the writer to give him that choice. With no writer in a real world scenario an actual vigilante might be in that situation more often than a fictional one, but most vigilantes also don’t work with the police, live in a mansion, have a ton of money to wage a one-person war on crime, or draw in like-minded people and kids who need a non-violent outlet for their rage. In fact the more you break down Batman the less likely he could exist in the real world, and we have a real-life superhero community. Even the most controversial members of the community don’t go around killing people.
Even if he was right let’s now stop ignoring the fact that fiction is a “fantasy world”. You can do anything you want in fiction. Whether it’s good or not is up to you but you can still technically do it. As one of the many commentaries I’ve seen and watched on the subject noted, Watchmen was about what superheroes would be like in the real world…although a rather cynical take on Alan Moore’s part…and it was a disaster. (Not the story, the world of the Watchmen.) This is why DC and Dan DiDio trying to use Watchmen as a blueprint for the DC comic universe was a bad idea, and so was hiring the director of the movie. The DC Universe is about heroes to aspire to be, not so much having super powers or running around in animal costumes outside of furry conventions but in doing good and being a good person, to help others and never give up against great odds. Snyder thinks superheroes just exist to beat bad guys up but when you start being the bad guy? Who determines the guilt, innocence, or potential redemption of a criminal? Snyder had no desire to address this.
As far as defenders saying “Batman used to kill AND carry guns”, as Patterson noted DC eventually changed that because it set him apart from The Shadow or The Spider, costumed crimefighters who were willing to grab a firearm and waste their enemies. Even the Shadow didn’t just start randomly killing everybody by the way. In the old radio dramas he left the villains alive to stand trial quite often. They knew kids were interested in the character and were worried about the message being sent, especially with watchdogs like Fredric Wertham (he will never go away will he?) breathing down their necks, so Batman stopped killing and gained a teenage partner that brought him out of that “dark” period of his life. He also decided on his “no guns” policy, added in later and explained that Batman only saw guns as a tool for killing, something he would bring up in numerous incarnations.
You can’t go by Tim Burton’s take because he got a lot wrong. Batman doesn’t kill, wouldn’t use a racing tank (although sadly that’s informed way too many Batmobile designs, including the DCAU version), but at least he remembered Batman was a detective. Christopher Nolan’s take had Batman not saving Ra’s Al Ghul, which was also wrong because Batman has saved the life of his enemies before. He is not going to be judge, jury, and executioner. He has even worked to reform the bigger enemies and even henchmen who just needed a better break to get out of the criminal life. So Batman is also a force for redemption for those who seek it. That doesn’t fit Snyder’s vision of a “hero” though. One part of his statement in particular comes to mind.
“It’s a cool point of view to be like, ‘My heroes are still innocent. My heroes didn’t #$%#ing lie to America. My heroes didn’t embezzle money from their corporations. My heroes didn’t commit any atrocities.’ That’s cool. But you’re living in a @#$#ing dream world.”
I get the feeling that Snyder has been let down before…perhaps many times, and that has altered his view on heroes. Some heroes do let us down. Look at the stuff he listed. “My hero doesn’t commit atrocities” or steal or whatever. I get the feeling he thinks heroes will always let you down and are really horrible people. That’s basically what he’s saying here. However I don’t believe every real world hero is full of crap and is secretly a bad person, or even most. Sadly a few do exist. 2018 showed us a lot of that and 2019 seems to be starting the same way with that recent college scandal and more celebs being accused of inappropriate actions (to put it mildly). We do have to be better than our heroes, and maybe Snyder is just incapable of doing that. He wants to tear down rather than build up. Again, this is the man behind Watchmen, an adaptation of superhero deconstruction, and Sucker Punch, which (and I’ve only seen reviews of the movie but they were longform scene-by-scene reviews) is such a downbeat look at humans you’d swear he hates his own kind.
This is the problem with both DC and Warner Brothers. They keep hiring people who don’t see heroes in the same way that made DC great. From Zack Snyder to the guy behind Gotham they all seem to be creatives who see the worse in people and the lowest opinion of what humanity and the “real world is”. They only want to see the bad, so they are always the wrong choice for heroes created not to ignore the bad but to seek and promote what’s good about people. This is why DC is falling apart and since it’s my favorite comic and extended multiverse watching that downfall saddens me.