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Batman and Joker, A Literary Examination

The common perception of comic book characters is that the heroes are good and the villains are evil. It’s that easy and few think much further of them than that. Perhaps this phenomenon was born from the school of thinking that comics are for children. Children who are naïve and incapable of understanding the moral gray areas that are associated with the adult world. But as all artistic mediums produced by intelligent adults do, comic book writing and illustrating developed over time. As the audience grew to incorporate older readers, the writers realized the inadequate depth that their characters were boasting so publicly. The readers craved for something more from these sparkling heroes and dirty villains. They turned to the outside world and chose to introduce the more realistic idea that the line between good and evil is not so effortless to discern. Put some dirt on that hero, clean some off our villain, and let the reader interpret what they must.

What is it that makes the Batman’s casualties different from those induced by the Joker? They’re both just more dead bodies. One person killing can hardly be called noble when another killer is called evil. The motivation is what makes the difference. Batman kills thieves and murderers for revenge, but that isn’t that much better than Joker killing for pleasure. They are both pleased when the victim is dead, both of their hearts lye in a Satanist place. They are so close to each other but still manage to stand on opposite ends of good and evil. They exist to counteract the other and when it comes down to simple facts, what they do is not so different. Without the terror, and anarchy, and the ability to kill coldly without remorse that Joker represents, the Batman could not exist to fight against them. And without the Justice, Order, and calling to protect the small that Batman represents, the Joker could not exist to counteract them. For every force there is an equal and opposite force. It’s physics. Batman writers realized this and as Batman became an established character they were inspired to create his perfect villain, the Joker. Because the Joker and the Batman are so similar they foresaw that this would introduce easy conflict into their comic storylines. Without the Joker, there would be no Batman in Gotham City.

Joker; psychotic serial killer, terrorist. He is the physical embodiment of madness; the putrid green hair, sunken and dark eyes, pale and sickly face, topped with an enormous and lavish smile. There is a great simplicity in the ravenous character of the Joker’s visual appearance. It is what he stands for that makes him such a paramount villain. The Joker stands for anarchy, cold killers, terror, and madness. The Joker is the product of a changing society on the cusp of the birth of serial killers, the fear of people who speak and act out against the government. Joker is the great nightmare of conservative republicans. He sets out to rip the system from the ground, rock by rock, inducing panic and anarchy. Before the return of Batman, Joker lies docile in his imprisonment. He appears stable, coherent, and dare I say sane. He shows little motivation to break out from Arkham. He cannot exist when Batman does not. But when it is announced on public television that Batman has returned, Joker is depicted with an enormous smile. This is the return of the iconic Joker, and suddenly the story becomes just as much about the dormancy and then sudden return of the Joker as it is about the return of Batman. He calls Batman his Darling. He knows that it is time to break out and he does, killing several hundred in a big “Hello, Darling” to Batty.

Batman; cloaked crusader avenging the petty murder of his parents when he was a young boy, striving for the nobility and simplicity of Justice. Batman represents the selfless Samaritan that so much of society aspires. He fights in the name of justice, order, and due punishment. Batman is the product of the fantasies of common people who wish to make a greater difference and make a stand against people who take advantage of the weak and helpless. Batman is allowed to continue his crusade by Commissioner Gordon because Bruce Wayne is a privileged, white male who would avenge whether or not he had the backing of the police. Gordon is just thankful that Batman fights on the side of the weak and not on the side taking advantage of them. There is no such thing as a selfless action, so we cannot believe in a hero who kills purely in the name of good, but instead the more likely motivation is to soothe a scar deep inside the hero’s psyche. Batman pulled off the role of vigilante, he saves people, and in the end it is the results that count for anything. Gordon was willing to over look the illegal nature of Batman’s crusade because he knows that the police are not accomplishing their job, and could use the help.

Acknowledging that without order there can be no anarchy, without killers brandishing the ability to kill without remorse there is no need for the protectors of the small, we must acknowledge that that if either the Batman or the Joker were to cease to exist, than so would the other. Both Batman and the Joker are aware of this reliance, the knowledge that they are both in existence because of the other. Batman seeks to vanquish Joker because he wants Batman to die along with him. (In Frank Miller’s story he does not kill the Joker because he is terrified of losing the Batman, who has been a part of him for such a long time.) Joker knows and he loves Batman for creating and resurrecting him. His kills are like grandeur gestures of affection for his lighter brother, love letters of bodies and gristle meticulously planned and expertly executed. The two characters share a lifeline link, like a mother and her child share an umbilical cord. They are biblical brothers of the soul. They are the Cain and Abel of the twenty-first century and the Batman gospel has become the great modern tale of fratricide. They symbolize the two paths that a person can take, sometimes stumbling helplessly down the wrong path whatever that may be for them. The Batman and the Joker symbolize the struggle in all of us to overcome the potential for evil that we all have blooming deep inside of ourselves.



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The.JokerThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
May 12 at 3:04 pm:
Cool, except you need to fact-check one tiny, but important, mistake. Batman does not kill. He punishes, but he nevers kills people. He finds it is a very cruel way of bringing about justice.
 
ironsidegirl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
today at 2:05 am :
In the first comics, like Detective Comics 27, he did kill people. The character has dark roots. And even if he doesnt kill people, the physical torture he makes people endure is sometimes just as cruel.
 
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