Hoptellectual: On Duty

Summer has set here in the swamp they call Washington, DC. My Pabst immediately starts sweating when I take it out of the fridge, my front stoop feels like the only place to spend an evening and the trees seem to glow green. Also, I saw this yesterday:

I refrain from speculating and writing about movies in general just because there are so many I haven’t seen, and I often have a hard time remaining fluent in conversations about movies not called Star Wars or Terminator. Summer is the time of blockbusters, though, and everyone has a say when it comes to these films.

Needless to say, the boy who grew up reading Batman Detective comics is dying with excitement. From Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween to Frank Miller’s Year One and Paul Pope’s uncanny and epic Batman Year 100, Batman remains the most compelling superhero in my eyes. When Batman crushed Superman in Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, I jumped for joy. In Alex Ross’s tour de force, Kingdom Come, I was so excited for the Batman-Superman showdown that the only thing that could calm me down was Blade Runner.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized why Batman fascinated me so much. I identify closely with a lot of superheroes: the patriotism of Captain America, the calm demeanor of Cyclops, the outright nerdiness and awkwardness of Peter Parker. Batman represents the best of them, but he best exemplifies a superhero through his sense of duty and respect for a strict code of honor.

Morality is a tough subject. My more philosophical friends in college would always come back to it and want to debate it endlessly. I always had an incredibly difficult time keeping up with certain assertions, but the one thing I could follow was the assertion that morality can be an individualistic idea. We see Batman’s morality and his code stretched to thinning and maddening extremes in The Dark Knight (“This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object”), but he sticks to it. He sticks to it because he’s lost without it, just a vigilante throwing himself out there for an abstract form of justice. With the code, Batman gives himself a duty that needs to be performed and the constraints from which to do it.

We’ve talked about ecological constraints and systems constraints before. The truth is, oftentimes it’s the daily constraints that help all of us thrive. Think about your daily routine and how breaking it just complicates the day. I always admired this about Batman, he lives with a heightened sense of morality and duty. These both come as byproducts of his extreme amount of wealth and, most importantly, his ability to collect and analyze enormous amounts of data (that’s a Hoptellectual for another time…). In the end, Batman is a detective, and this drives both the stories and his somewhat obtuse and cryptic personality.

It’s not that he’s unfeeling or uncaring—he’s feeling and caring to a fault—it’s just that he faces constraints and must make reasoned decisions about how to best use his time. Without his belief in his work, his duty, he would be Bruce Wayne the playboy at all times. I don’t think I want to watch a summer blockbuster about that guy…

As an aside, if you have my Year One or Year 100 comics, please return them. You know who you are.

Feel a kinship with a certain superhero? Let us know all about it. Facebook, Twitter, email (mwbeercollective@gmail.com) or just turn on the Batlight. We’ll be there.

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