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Oh, the superhumanity} ?> The second that we got to the train station—before we even parked—I spotted some co-attendees for my first-ever Comic Con. The red cloak and Thor’s hammer were the first things to clue me in. Costumed folk were everywhere on the way to the convention, and as I walked the streets of New York with my husband, we played many rounds of “Cosplay or Everyday?” Some I was able to figure out and some remain inconclusive for me.
My husband and I met the first Godzilla suit actor, Haruo Nakajima, and got his autograph for my son, who has wanted to be a kaiju actor since he was four. Doing that for my son made my day, but seeing the cosplayers, the merchandise booths, the life-sized TARDIS, and the exhibits was amazing—I’d like to do that every year.
But my favourite part was attending a presentation by Scott Snyder (Batman writer), called “DC Entertainment Spotlight on Scott Snyder.” Snyder shared the challenges of writing and all of the rejections he faced before he got anywhere (that was great for me to hear). However, his best insight was when he shared about his vision of Batman.
Much of the discussion focused on the villains that plague Batman, because no hero can be discussed independently of his or her villain(s). While a true hero isn’t defined by his villains (try as the villains might to make it so), he is, in part, shaped by them. Snyder pointed out that the villains totally outweigh the heroes—the hero-to-villain ratio favours villains almost exponentially—making the defeat of evil an insurmountable task.
In the Batman universe, the most formidable villain is Gotham itself. The city is the embodiment of evil; it represents the constantly changing, breeding, and nurturing of crime, giving it a home and offering it the shadows in which it lives. Snyder spoke of the Joker being like the devil. He is the one who hears your fears and tells you that they define you. Both the city and the clown make it their business to distract, dishearten, and destroy Batman from fulfilling his destiny.
While the villains are all about fear and intimidation, Batman is a symbol of inspiration—relieving fears, offering hope, and bringing evil out of the shadows and in to the light. He makes a dent in the crime, but knows that he can’t do it all on his own. He has Robin, the Gordons, and, eventually, the Justice League—because the evil is too much for one person, even a super person. His awareness of his weakness (his inability to do it all himself, his emotional vulnerability, and mortality) makes him stronger and a better hero.
When Snyder opened the floor up to questions, someone asked, “Why doesn’t Bruce, rich as he is, put more money into social services and help fight crime through the system?” Snyder’s response was perfect. It’s the same question (essentially) that people ask about Jesus—why didn’t He fix everything? He has the power to. And the answer is the same. It’s not his job to fix everything—Batman (and Jesus) is there to inspire us to require justice, to bring it, and to live it. Throwing money or the power of one individual at the system would be a temporary fix. If the attitudes and actions of people aren’t changed, the problem will be masked over and then appear again when we become complacent.
That’s what makes superhero stories, and for me, especially Batman’s, so great. There are no easy answers for defeating evil, but each of us can be part of the solution. Heroes like Batman shine a light on the reality of evil, our tendencies to believe untruths about ourselves that prevent us from living our potential, and the need for wounded heroes to bring healing to a broken world.