Saturday, September 26, 2015

My darkest knight (for Batman Day 2015)

Illustrations: Jim Aparo, Inks: Mike DeCarlo, Colours: Adrienne Roy
It's International Batman Day, and I've a piece in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald about my childhood with Bruce Wayne's alter ego.

In 'My darkest knight', I discuss Batman's strange appeal. His honesty about his own sickness, and willingness to sublimate his most violent and painful urges--these provided a civilising model for me. A sample:
As with all mythic personas, Batman is a collection of tales and traits, not some single, eternal substance. Mine is the grieving foster-father of Death in the Family. The vigilante who is shot, stabbed and feverish, because he needs to suffer to atone. The maniac who limps back to his cave right after his fever breaks, stopping only to shave. The rage saves him again and again – but only so he can try to save everyone else. My Batman is guilty, furious, masochistic and profoundly lonely. Billionaire Bruce Wayne becomes a daylight persona. He is committed to the mask, his doomed, painful, often laughable vigilantism. Not because he is perfectly free, but because he is just free enough to accept his lifelong sicknesses, and sublimate his most destructive urges. 
For me, this was a needful pathology. Well before my first primary school punches, I learned that love is little protection from brutality and anxiety; that trust can be foolish, and meekness a vice. I was not yet a cynic or pessimist, but I knew that the promise of domestic safety was easily punctured. I took to the Batman mythos, not because it promised me toughness or tactical domination, but because it suggested something other than happiness. The Dark Knight afforded a glimpse of well deployed pain: of deft suffering.
Read the full essay here.


The Bloke said...

And what happens if he discovers he doesn't deserve the pain?

Damon Young said...

Good question. Off the top of my head, at least two possibilities:

1. He recognises that he doesn't deserve it, but this makes no difference. Much suffering is undeserved, but can't be dispelled. He uses it to drive his alleviation of others' suffering.

2. He devotes his enormous resources to feeling better, which might be narratively dull but leaves him healthier and nicer to be around.