Why the knight stays dark

"Batman: Gotham City" | Art by AndyFairhurst. Used with permission.
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? This question is the engine that drives the battle between Batman and his arch-est of arch nemeses, the Joker.

Batman’s story is one of tragedy. Bruce Wayne was a boy when his parents were shot and killed in front of him. They were the victims of a desperate criminal in a desperate city.

Wayne is an orphan left in the care of the family butler, and he is heir to Wayne Enterprises and its massive fortune. He decides that as long as he draws breath, he will do whatever he can to make sure no one else has to feel that pain and loss. He decides to become a symbol. He decides to become Batman.

Wayne spends the rest of his life training every part of himself to fight against injustice and those who would prey on the vulnerable. He closes himself off to everyone but a handful of people whom he trusts with the hope that no one will ever get hurt because of his actions.

The knight stays in the darkness so others don’t have to.

Over a long period of time, Batman starts to make a positive change in Gotham City. Crime is lowered and the streets are safer. Batman even takes in a protégé to ensure that his legacy of protection will not end with him.

Things are looking up until a criminal shows up on the Gotham scene with seemingly no regard for human life. The word on the street was this guy called himself the Joker.

Batman had dealt with all sorts of dangerous criminals in the past, but this one is different. The Joker is the human embodiment of madness. He has no cause. He has no vendetta. He acts as an agent of pure chaos.

The Joker sees Batman’s rule against killing as the only difference between them. And therein lies the great irony of Batman and the Joker: Batman will never kill him because he doesn’t want to become the evil he fights, but only death will stop the Joker.

As their strange dance continued, so too does time. Batman trains his first sidekick so well that he becomes a hero in his own right, Nightwing. Batman then finds a troubled young boy named Jason Todd to become his new sidekick.

After a while training as Robin, Todd learns that the woman who raised him isn’t his biological mother. He desperately follows leads all over the planet before tracking her down in Ethiopia. There he learns his mother is being blackmailed by the Joker to draw him in. Todd is captured by the Joker and beaten to within an inch of his life with a crowbar.  The Joker leaves him and his mother trapped in a room with a timed bomb as Batman races to save them.

Late by only a few seconds, the explosion knocks him back as he nears the door to the building.

He can’t save them. He fails.

He takes full responsibility for the young man’s death; if he hadn’t taken him in and trained him, none of this would ever have happened and the Joker would never have targeted Todd.

Batman will never kill him because he doesn’t want to become the evil he fights, but only death will stop the Joker.

Batman spirals out of control after this. He is overwhelmed with rage, sorrow and depression at the idea that this death is his fault. He had sworn to protect people from deaths like this, not cause them.

Batman’s strength and determination were forged in the crucible of his vulnerability. The Joker is his perfect nemesis, because he preys on vulnerability in a way no other villain does.

Every time Batman opens himself up, his weakness is used as a pressure point against him. He’s learned the hard way that to be the hero Gotham needs, he can’t risk being made vulnerable like that and must wall himself off from those he loves.

I don’t envy Batman. He might be a superhero, but he’s also a lonely, hardened one. Having relationships and being vulnerable with the people we love is part of what makes us human, and he has to sacrifice that part of his humanity so others can have theirs. The knight stays in the darkness so others don’t have to.

Jason Dueck

Jason Dueck

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
From Captain Kirk to Commander Shepard, Jason's love for science fiction extends to the final frontier. When he's not geeking out, Jason can be found studying communications at Red River College in Winnipeg.
Jason Dueck

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