Friday, March 21, 2014

4 Ways Batman Could Better Serve Gotham That Don’t Involve Being Batman

As I stood in the shower this morning, the hot water cascading over my body and enveloping me not unlike the warm embrace of a ravenous lover, my mind inevitably became passionately consumed by one overpowering thought:  What I would do if I were Batman? Obviously, I would roll around in the Batmobile, taking down The Joker, getting into fistfights with Two-Face’s thugs, matching wits with Ra’s al Ghul and staying one step ahead of the law as I waged my one man war on Gotham’s evil doers. In short, I would be awesome.

Except, I wouldn’t be awesome. Not really. No one would be. If anyone were in fact Batman, that would mean we would have access to all the resources that make Batman, well, Batman. And having access to all that and opting to put on a cape and a cowl and patrol the cities at night in the most badass vehicles ever is probably the most irresponsible thing a person could do, especially if what that person wants to do is make real change.

What could a reasonable person with Batman-esque resources do to make life in Gotham City a little less Hellish? Here’re four better, infinitely more productive (although more boring and less comic book worthy) that immediately spring to mind…

1. Become Aggressively Politically Active

Since day one, Batman’s biggest pain in the ass has always been corruption. Sure, sure, sure, folks like Joker, Riddler and Bane get the lion’s share of the credit for being Batman’s biggest… bane… but the real evil in Gotham City doesn’t dress in outlandish costumes and make death traps. No, the real evil in that city is most often hiding out in City Hall.

Corrupt cops, corrupt city councilmen, and corrupt mayors have always done their damndest to keep the people of Gotham down, and sure, from time to time, Batman has exposed a few of them while Bruce Wayne once held a fund raiser for a DA one time. But somehow, these corrupt elements always find a way to worm their way back into public office, all while Batman is out dodging ballistic umbrellas compliments of The Penguin.

What if instead of spending millions upon millions building Batmobiles, Batboats, Batwings, Batcaves and Bat Shark Repellant, Batman instead used that vast fortune to find, vette and fund honest men and women of integrity to serve the people of Gotham City?  We know that Bruce Wayne is Bill Gates rich. He comes from old Gotham money. He has the kind of financial wherewithal and social influence to be a better super lobbyist than super hero. In the time it took him to train to be the world’s greatest detective and the single most fantastic physical human specimen, he could have been building a political machine in Gotham the likes of which the city, maybe even the world, had never seen. Instead of pouring money into franchising the Batman brand, pour money into leaders.

But, compared to beating up performance criminals, politics is absolutely boring as hell. And maybe he likes being hands on. That’s totally fair. So, why not…

2. Give Arkham Asylum a Complete Overhaul

There’s a reason The Joker is always sent to a mental hospital rather than prison. Despite having a higher body count than Hitler at this point, the courts declare him to be in dire need of dedicated psychological treatment.

However, rather than actually send him to a quality mental care facility, he’s sent to Arkham Asylum, a shit hole that makes Bedlam look like Passages and has worse security to boot.

With one check, Batman could fix Arkham, or rather, Bruce Wayne could. He could choose at any moment to give Arkham a much-needed influx of cash and make it an actual place of rehabilitation instead being eerily similar to the kind of place those rich Europeans murdered hot American kids in those Hostel movies. Batman could use his money to court the best doctors, the best security, the best EVERYTHING by merely opening his checkbook.

Actually, why stop at funding Arkham? Why not…

3. Use Wayne Enterprises to Actually Invest in the Gotham City Community

This is the one item on the list that is actually in Batman’s best interests on multiple fronts. Not only does it go to the root of the problem in Gotham City, but it also goes a long way towards making sure Batman has a steady enough income to maintain his Batman lifestyle.

Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in a random act of violence. They were victims of a mugging. A lot of people in Gotham are victims of muggings. See, there’s not a lot of opportunities in Gotham for honest work. Hell, Joker may have even gotten his start as a down-on-his-luck family man who turned to crime for baby formula money. Gotham needs hope, and Bruce Wayne has the means to give them that hope.

No, not by becoming The Bat (remember the point of this list)! By actually doing his job as chairman and CEO of Wayne Enterprises! Batman is one of the ONLY super heroes that can actually help others have a meaningful, productive livelihood. Superman can punch asteroids, but Clark Kent ain’t exactly about to start paying hundreds, maybe thousands of people a living wage. Same for Green Lantern, The Flash, Martian Manhunter or any other member of the Justice League NOT THE HEAD OF A MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION. Batman can do more in the boardroom in one day than he can in the back alleys of Gotham over the course of a year, and yet he evidently just can’t be bothered.

Now to be fair, businessing is boring. There’s a reason I only took one Intro to Business Calss in college and dropped it midway through the semester. Maybe he likes being on the front lines. Maybe he likes getting his hands dirty. Maybe he just likes to kick a little ass from time to time. As you guessed, there’s still a better way to go ab
out even that…

4. Work With the Gotham PD to Make EVERY Cop As Well-Equipped and Trained as Batman

Put simply, there is nothing Batman can do on his own that the police force couldn’t do better. Nothing. And that’s without all those wonderful toys. Could you imagine what the police could do if they did have them?

What if, instead of working in the shadows and above the law, Batman instead worked hand-in-hand with it? What if every member of the GCPD has a badass Batsuit complete with utility belts stocked with the latest CSI equipment? What if every GCPD precinct has a Batcomputer that could do all the crazy shit the one in the Batcave could do? What if instead of one Batman, you had an army of them and they were all legal members of the law enforcement community? Batman's one man war on crime is all well and good, but it's inefficient as hell. A war on crime with the backing of an actual army, on the other hand....

(side note: if you do a Google image search for "war on crime" 10 of the first 12 results are Batman, so what do I know?)

That Batman has never once approached Commissioner Gordon with this idea is just criminal. That Commissioner Gordan has never asked Batman to consider this means he may be the real reason he gets removed from being head of Gotham's Police Department every year or so.


  1. Ok. So for the sake of argument, let's ignore the "because it's a comic book" bit, and they need stories. That's obvious.

    Starting at the bottom, you can't equip Gotham's police with Batman toys, they're already corrupt and the weapons would get out into the wrong hands. That's why Tony Stark gets so pissed when people get a hold of his Iron Man designs. The only way to make sure your inventions don't get used wrongly are by not letting anyone have them.

    Employing a few thousand people in a city of millions will stop muggings? There's definitely some social good that Bruce Wayne could do, but there's no way he could personally employ all people that would resort to crime due to desperation. Not to mention the ones that do it just because they get a thrill, or are addicted to drugs, etc.....

    Fixing Arkham is a good idea. That definitely needs to be done.

    And politics? You watch House of Cards, you should see that politics destroys everyone involved. It's a terrible machine that eats up everyone. Yes, Bruce Wayne could probably go in there and stick to his principles and never waver, because of the dedication he has and the money he can throw to back himself up, but anyone else would fold eventually.

    Since no one else can live up to his standard, I think one man war on crime is the only way to go.

  2. I disagree. Statistics show that even a moderate upturn in the local economy can see a real, statistical drop in crime. And he wouldn't need to employ millions, just enough so that folks can start spending more money in their neighborhoods. Opportunity creates opportunity.

    And as far as politics, I did indeed write with this will ol' Frank Underwood in mind (I almost posted a screencap from the show). If there's one person who is perfectly equipped to play politics for the good of mankind, it's clearly Batman. Not only would he exceed to Underwoodian levels, but it would all be as a force for good. In that regard, he'd be perfectly equipped to start helping Gordon effect real change downtown.

    That said, I will ALWAYS choose to be Batman. Always.

  3. 1) Become Aggressively Politically Active:
    As anyone with a modest understanding of history knows, that political change takes time and witnessing the current state of the United States political system is painful reminder that once things reach a certain level, that it can seem so damn near impossible that even someone with extraordinary will and means (i.e. Bruce Wayne) can look at it and decide that perhaps his time and energy would best be spent elsewhere. You go after a few guys and get them out of office; fine. The same people who bought and paid for them go buy someone else.

    Even the very swaying public opinion can be a challenge. And especially these days, people tend not to like a rich guy who has never had to work a day in his life coming and telling people who are grinding out a living what's what.

    Even with Bruce Wayne's vast fortune, if the city did have good financial manager's he could pour money endlessly into the city and never fully get the results he was paying for. Detroit, anyone?

    2) Give Arkham Asylum a Complete Overhaul:
    Certainly not a bad idea here. There may be no real defense of the state of the facilities at Arkham Asylum. This care is, again, expensive. Hiring doctors who can tangle with twisted minds like the Joker can not be cheap. And knowing how the medical industry and bilk their patients, Arkham could become yet another money pit where the Wayne fortune end up doing only minimal good, when having to house people like the Joker, the Riddler, or Harvey Two-Face.

    3) Use Wayne Enterprises to Actually Invest in the Gotham Community:
    Another good idea, but also another potential money pit without substantially reducing the criminal element or the corruption of city hall. Sure people get could payed more in the city, but then city hall could raise taxes in a variety of ways (paying for pet projects and their own salaries) and criminals would now have slightly more to steal from the average folks on the street.

    4) Work with Gotham PD to make EVERY Cop As Well-Equipped and Trained as Batman:
    Corruption in the police force, would also make this a dicey proposition. Bruce Wayne could end up giving his potential enemies and upgrade. Batman's enemies are well to do also, and I'm sure they would pay a pretty penny for some of those wonderful toys. Even with a substantial pay raise, it still might not be that hard for a cop succumb to the temptation to earn an early retirement by selling some of the new equipment to the mob or one of the super-villains.

    Sure, Batman fills an emotional need for a young rich boy who was traumatized and wants to "take the power back". But in a city, that is infested top to bottom as Gotham is storied to be, drastic measures had to be taken on the level of counter-terrorism. Police officers and politicians have limits because they must uphold the law. While Batman may serve in the interest of justice, he is not bound by the law.

    There is an old Cherokee parable that tells of a you boy who asks his elder about the struggle to choose between right and wrong in his everyday life. The elder tells him of two wolves that live in the heart of every person. One wolf represents goodness, whereas the other represents evil. The elder says that these wolves are always fighting in the soul of every person. When the young boy asks which one wins. The old man replies, "the one I feed." Batman is trying to starve the bad wolf in Gotham's heart so that the good wolf can be fed in it's place, in the hope that it can grow and thrive, and not just survive, cowering in the shadow of the bad wolf.

  4. It seems these arguments all come down to "it's expensive so why bother?" Not to mention that there is literally no example in history of a vigilante working outside the law managing to effect long term, lasting change. There are folktales, tall tales and urban legends, but no actual example of one good guy taking on the system alone and making a difference.

    In fact, Batman, even in his idealized fictional universe, has never brought about actual change. Gotham City is the same shit hole today that it was the night Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered in Crime Alley. Actually, that's wrong. It's worse. Back then there was no Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, Bane, Black Mask, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Ventriloquist, Mr. Freeze, Ra's al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Mr. Zsasz or any number of super villains that Batman has NEVER been able to keep off the streets. He hasn't even taken down organized crime. Granted, for serialized storytelling there's a reason for that, but even in that fictional context, Batman's record is still abysmal.

    But do you know what there is historical example after historical example of? Men and women working within the confines of the law to make a difference in their community. Hitting the streets every night to knock around drug dealers and muggers is all well and good, but social workers, community activists, non-profit visionaries, philanthropists and yes, even politicians are the ones who make real change happen. Hell, even my friend, Atlanta real life super hero Crimson Fist's MO is defusing violence, fund raising for local non-profits and taking homeless people food, clothes and supplies. Even he knows it's activism and compassion that make change rather than reigns of terror.

    It's that sense of service combined with funding that changes the world for the better.

    Now, all that said, I don't actually want to read about Batman doing any of that shit. Batman beating the shit out street gangs is a whole helluva lot more interesting than Batman starting a community outreach program.


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