What makes a good super hero? Is it strength? Speed? Earth shattering cosmic power? Supreme intelligence? Astounding abilities that defy the very laws of nature? These things certainly amaze us and capture our imagination, but what brings us back to the comic racks week after week to follow our favorite heroes? I believe it is heart. Powers and abilities do not make the hero. Villains have the same powers and abilities, but our heroes are set apart by their sacrifice.
A hero is willing to pay the ultimate price, fighting against odds that are a million to one. Not backing down or giving up even when their death seems eminent. Simply put a hero fights for those who can’t fight for themselves. Not because of their powers, but because there is something inside that will not let the evil of this world go unchallenged. We are attracted to this deep character trait, and I think we often look for that trait in ourselves. Don’t we all want to be Batman deep down?
I mean what super hero personifies this trait more than the caped crusader? Batman is a superhero without superhuman abilities, yet he garners the respect and admiration of every super hero in the DC universe. It seems the only super ability Batman has, other than being a billionaire, is the ability to never give up. Surely, it can be easy to portray Batman in these types of situations. However, Batman just celebrated his 75th birthday. With 75 years worth of story it would be hard for any writer to come up with fresh ideas that keep us enthralled and coming back for more. This is the reason why we often see writers and creative teams change from one story arc to the next. The rotation continues until a writer comes on the scene that seems to understand the character in a new way, and gives us stories that we have never seen before.
Scott Snyder is one of those writers. Batman is one of those characters who has been looked at and examined from every angle. His origins visited, revisited, and told every way possible. It would seem all possible avenues of his story have been explored, or so we thought. Snyder gave us a storyline that visited Batman’s past and brought out aspects of it that changed his world forever. Snyder’s Court of Owls story arc was a stroke of genius. At one point Batman finds himself in a labyrinth in the hidden Court of the Owls where he will be judged. It is a powerful sequence where Bruce Wayne must face proof that he may have had a brother that was taken by the court. His search for the truth leads him into a final battle with one of the Court’s Talons. The Talon reveals himself to be Bruce’s brother, Thomas Wayne. An epic battle ensues where Batman prevails, but the fate of the talon is clouded in obscurity.
Snyder’s magic didn’t end there. The return of the Joker in the “Death of the Family” story arc, blew me away. This was a massive undertaking with writing credits going to many other great writers, but spear headed by Scott Snyder. The Joker is Batman’s main villain. You can’t just have the Joker pop in have some scheme planed and then foiled by Batman. That doesn’t fly anymore. When the Joker comes to town you go all out. However, the question is once again raised, “How do you make a well known character seem fresh and new?” I have to say that this was the Joker as never seen before. Such a deep a connection was shown between who Batman is and who Joker is. They really are yin and yang. Joker winds up getting the best of the whole Bat family, even revealing that he knows all their identities and that he always has. He just refuses to ever reveal them because he loves Batman too much. In the end of the story we find that he may not have known at all, but it is never clear whether he did or not.
Batman assures Nightwing, Red Robin, Batgirl, and Robin that Joker never has and never will know their identities, but the damage is done. Trust is lost between Batman and his family. Bruce still struggles to rebuild that trust.
Scott Snyder’s vision of what Batman can be and where he can as a hero go is so intriguing. He knows how to bring those deep human aspects of Batman and put them right in front of us. He is truly an Artisan of Comicdom.