Is “Batman” Dumb?

WARNING: the following paragraphs may spoil a couple of recent Batman stories, but if you didn’t already read them you probably don’t care all that much, so I’m not sure who this little charade is for. Still, forewarned is forearmed, right?

Although I’ve been on board the book since before the 52 were New, I have not been a lifelong reader of Batman. I’m sure that a lot of you in the loyal iFanbase here have been with the Caped Crusader since at least the Jean-Luc Whatshisname days, though, if not before. With that in mind, maybe one of you can tell me: is there a storyline somewhere near the heart of the cherished part of the canon where everyone in Gotham City suffers a traumatic brain injury at the same time? Am I giving them too much of a hard time about Bruce Wayne’s very, very, very very obvious, often-quite-literally-and-very-closely-staring-them-in-the-face secret identity when I should actually be really proud of them just for maintaining as well as they are?

I beg your pardon...?

I beg your pardon…?

I don’t know whether it’s Gotham, or whether it’s writer Scott Snyder, or whether it’s me, but someone somewhere is daring me to drop this book.

We’ve been reading Batman together for the last year or so, right? Of course we have. We have been calling it our communal Pick of the Week practically every time it comes out. We think Batman is a great book.

Why do we think that?

I know there is no “how do his friends not immediately see through his secret identity?” joke that hasn’t already been made, so I won’t waste your time (I’ll save it for my killer chunk about airplane food) but there’s suspending your disbelief and then there’s lashing it to a pole like a hurricane is coming. These last few arcs of Batman have made me want to hand-write apologies for all the times I rolled my eyes at authors who had the villain deduce that Peter Parker “must be a friend of Spider-Man’s.”

Bruce Wayne is, at this point in Scott Snyder’s run, behaving like one of those serial killers on an episode of Dateline NBC who wants to get caught. He is one issue away from sending taunting letters to the cops that “accidentally” have Wayne Manor return address labels on them. (If all of this were building to the epic “Bruce Wayne’s Cry For Help” storyline, by the way, I’d get Scott Snyder an Eisner if I had to break into Eisner’s tomb to do it.)

For the moment, let us leave aside the storyline about a secret, omniscient Court of Owls who see all, hear all, and are everywhere up to and including behind the cracks in every floor of every building. We just finished a story in which the Joker proved that he knew where the Batcave was, kidnapped Alfred, tortured all of Bruce’s children, and then disappeared, leaving the World’s Greatest Detective to deal with his disappearance by saying, “Well, he seems probably dead. By the way, once I went to his cell and tried to explicitly tell him I was Batman on purpose to see what he would do, but I’m pretty sure he was doing that ‘la la la, I am not listening’ thing aaanyway, who wants to go out for milkshakes?”

This was followed up by issues #19 and #20, of course, when Clayface’s newfound powers gave him the ability to out Batman by touching him. Batman was able to deflect this by saying, “A-ha, but I am wearing Bat-Saran Wrap over my face with Bruce Wayne’s DNA on it!” without any one of the police detectives he was saying this to replying, “All right, but why were you wearing that? When exactly did you stop to put it on? Do you have a lot fake skin with other people’s… ‘DNA’ on it? Just around? Where are you getting enough… ‘DNA’? When are the other times you use that?” Having convinced everyone that his identity remains a mystery, Batman then hears Clayface say “Bruce Wayne doesn’t love his kids” and loses his mind on him. The police detectives see this and think, “What a good friend Batman is.”

There comes a time when the characters are so stupid, you have to stop thinking, “Yikes, they are stupid” and start thinking, “I’m reading this; am I stupid?”

"So you, uh, got a whole faceful? Of his DNA?" (I am a child.)

“So you, uh, got a whole faceful? Of his DNA?” (I am a child.)

“It’s comics,” they will say to me when they see this. We expect our comics to be serious-as-a-dead-child stories about open-mouthed dum-dums who could still believe in the Tooth Fairy. It’s not a bug; it’s a feature. That “Joker fell in water; guess he’s dead” thing alone has been done so many times this most recent one was probably a “reference.” But maybe we have put so many spins on that classic story (from the forties, for eight year olds) that we have upped the ante past the maximum safe ante height. Any more, it’s just rubbing our noses in the mess we’ve made. Imagine the next poor sap who has to write a Joker story. For Batgirl.

I realize that this tightness in my craw is at least indirectly Marvel’s fault. They have had their share of whoppers, no doubt, but over the course of my reading history they have started leaving the whole “secret identity” area behind. Of course it still comes in handy from time to time– what would Daredevil be without it?– but Spider-Man is the only one who gets any real play out of it anymore. In the sixties, one of the things that made the Fantastic Four unique is that they didn’t wear masks, or even uniforms at first. The more X-Manhood became a racial thing, the more they followed suit; you don’t really see many of the mutants covering their faces these days (other than Wolverine, who is wise to be covering both his face and his ass after having killed more people than cancer). Over time, your Iron Men and Captains America have gotten exhausted coming up with excuses for why they were late to the theater, so they just started using the amazing true one they had. Everyone got familiar with one another, and everyone joined every team, and the battlefield got more and more like a workplace. And so it came to pass that I found myself reading about pitched superhero battles where flying people in rainbow raiment bolt into the fray shouting, “For Steve!!!” Going from that to whatever citywide codependency is going on in Gotham will give a man whiplash.

I will leave it up to you to tell me: have I become too jaded, or not jaded enough? Should I be giving Batman a break? What am I missing? Because I know what Jim Gordon is missing, and it’s driving me batty.


Jim Mroczkowski uses his real name and photo. You should try it.


  1. As regards Gotham, specifically the types of Gothamites Bruce Wayne/Batman pals around with, not realizing, this is as much a part of Bat-history as the Batcave is. From the get-go, Bruce Wayne would be somewhere, usually some sort of social get-together, something would go down, Bruce would roll under a table and emerge from the other side as Batman and no one ever batted an eye.

    Batman had an obvious working relationship with Bruce Wayne’s butler. Bruce is the only person in Gotham rich enough to afford to be Batman. Bruce gets a new ward just as Batman gets a new sidekick. Bruce is crippled and in a wheelchair when there’s suddenly a new (crazy) Batman running around. Batman disappears when Bruce is in prison; Batman reappears, nutso angry, when Bruce breaks out of prison, yelling that he’s been framed. Bruce admits publicly that he’s been funding Batman for years, standing next to his sons.

    Batman’s tied with Spider-Man for my favorite character, but this part of his stories is ridonkulous. The only unreasonably secret secret identity that should be more obvious to everyone around him is Superman’s.

  2. The whole Joker thing and then the clayface arc made me wonder the same thing. Especially the moments where clayface was Bruce Wayne and you could clearly see the bat logo under his open dress shirt. All he had to do was look down and he would’ve known Batman was lying about the DNA switch and then really all he has to do is plot a way to expose him

    • Clayface was framing Bruce for robbing a bank by making it seem he stole a bunch of Batman Inc stuff to do it. He knew he was wearing the breastplate from the batsuit. He just wanted to draw out the “real” Batman so he could expose him.

    • Now I’m going to be a hypocrite. If Clayface sampled Bruce’s DNA, he could make himself look like Bruce’s body, but he couldn’t know anything about the clothes since they are not part of the DNA. He could make it LOOK like Bruce was wearing a suit, or tuxedo, or whatever, but it would just be based on what that would look like. So there’s no way the bat logo should show based on DNA – that can only come from Clayface’s imagination. Maybe it was an attempt to discredit Bruce?

  3. Here’s one for you – how could Lois Lane not figure out Clark is really Superman all those decades? Now I agree that it isn’t an excuse for sloppy writing, but “It’s comics.” You answered your own question. The WHOLE THING is far fetched, if you’re going to accept the situations depicted, why quibble? If you think it’s stupid, and if it bugs you that much, don’t read it.

    • Yeah but Superman would constantly engineer situations where Clark and Superman were standing next to each other by using Martian Manhunters shapeshifting abilities or even the 90s Supergirl as a stand in for Clark. Batman hasn’t done this kind of stunt in forever. Would it have been that hard to have Dick Grayson where the batman outfit during the press conference where Bruce announced he was funding him? I think the point really is that while other heroes go to great pains to keep their identity under wraps Bruce has just stopped giving a crap and everyone else seems to be turning the other way. It’s like the entire city of Gotham is populated by the Chicago PD.

    • To be fair, Bruce Wayne and Batman Inc. was all Morrison. His “big genius idea” to keep Bruce’s true identity a secret was by using rumors on the internet forums as misdirection. It’s obvious Clark Kent is Superman (all that hides that is a hair sweep and glasses) but not so much that Bruce Wayne is Batman. They don’t even associate with the same civilians besides Jim Gordon, Lucius Fox, Lex Luthor (he’ll never out anyone ever), am I missing anyone? Superman hangs out with reporters in both identities, even talks to them face to face all the time, and let’s them photograph his face a million times a year. I think Superman would be pyres before Batman.

    • “lose his secret ID” I mean.

    • Yes, the whole Batman Inc thing was Morrison. That was the first time Bruce Wayne publicly acknowledged any link between himself and Batman. At the time, and for the story Morrison was telling, it seemed like a good idea. However, since DC has carried that over in continuity, all the others writers are also bound by it. Whether they address it directly or not, it will be in the back of readers’ minds. I kind of think Morrison put subsequent writers at a disadvantage with this link. I also would not be surprised if DC swept it under the rug.

    • DC probably will, and should sweep it under the rug, along with most of what happened in Batman Inc. It probably shouldve stayed in a bubble after flashpoint so Morrison could do whatever he wanted ( which he kind of does anyway). Why not pretend that’s how it really is, and the Damians in both universes were different but met the same fate? I’d be happy if DC did that.

  4. Probably right. The same could be said of Superman who’s only defense from being outed as Clark Kent is a pair of glasses and a slouch. And Robin, Nightwing, and Green Lantern only have little masks that only cover their eyes. It was even a joke in the Green Lantern movie.

  5. There was a scene in No Man’s Land (the old Batman epic) where Batman tried to reveal his identity to Gordon, as a trust building exercise. Gordon intentionally looked away and said: “I’m a cop. If I really wanted to know who you are, I would have figured it out a long time ago.”

    I get the impression that DCs writers want to approach their heroes from the perspective that Marvel has been taking (ie. secret identities are played out) but their characters are so steeped in tradition that the status quo is a very difficult thing to tackle.

    We are talking about comics, after all. There’s a certain level of disbelief suspension that is implied when reading and discussing the medium. Different books apply said disbelief in different ways and places.

  6. The conceit for the last few years, at least for Batman’s villains was that they didn’t particularly care WHO was behind the mask. They were only interested in him while he was wearing the mask.

  7. Snyder’s Batman is alarmingly stupid. Character motivations switch on a whim, plot contrivances all over the place, poor dialog, some really illogical storytelling choices…it’s not a good comic book by any stretch of the imagination. What’s more alarming is the love for something so intellectually vapid and poorly crafted(outside Capullo’s admittingly wonderful pencils).

  8. Personally I think the whole joker not caring who batman is was an important part of DotF. At the minimum DotF was a great Joker character study and see Joker making a conscious effort to not ruin the mystery is thought provoking. The Batman logo under the dress shirt when Clayface was Bruce didn’t make sense at all. Its the only thing about those two issues that bothered me, but I decided to let it go and essentially pretend it didn’t matter. I would like to read batman stories where his identity is no longer a secret, if so many other characters can not have secret identities so can Batman. I actually think this would be a great way to end Batman Inc/Grant Morrison’s run, but I have heard that Morrison wants to leave Batman the way he found him.

    • Also while I did think Batman banging on Clayface’s containment apparatus at the mention of Damian was a powerful scene it probably could have been executed better.

    • I’m not in favor of dumping the secret identity for Batman. One of the appealing aspects of the character, in my mind, is the tension between Bruce Wayne’s responsibilities, his persona and Batman’s. I think that Batman would be less interesting if he were free of the burden of a concealed life.

      As for the question of recent stories, personally, I lay the blame at Morrison’s feet. The moment, Bruce announced that he was funding Batman, I rolled my eyes and said “you’d have to be an idiot now not to think Bruce Wayne is Batman.” All of a sudden the former cover story of care-free, couldn’t care less playboy doesn’t hold any water. Now, it would make perfect sense for both to be the same person. The recent Clayface story is simply Synder doing the best he can with what he’s been given. Personally, I’ll be quite happy when Batman Inc ends and, hopefully, we can all forget the whole Bruce Wayne is Batman’s banker ever happened . . .

      That aside, I don’t think that Batman’s secret identity is any more transparent than most other superheroes. Yeah, part of this is “just comics.”

      As for the Joker and Gordon, I think, that both of them, for their own reasons, chose not to look too deeply into who Batman is without the mask. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of Gordon and Batman’s relationship, that you’re never quite sure how much Gordon knows/suspects . . .

    • I’ve wondered how Batman would work if everyone knew he was Bruce Wayne, but we kinda see it in “Kingdom Come” (somehow he still lives in the same place after only 2 of his most dangerious enemies attacked his base and home) and “Injustice Gods Among Us” (it doesn’t stop him at all really). The only problem is that some deus ex Machina would happen and erease it anyway (Spider-Man, the Flash).

    • @ cosmo, your definitely right about the Morrison stuff. I like Batman Inc and Morrison’s run in general but Bruce funding Batman never really meshed with Bruce Wayne the playboy. Once Batman Inc ends I bet DC kinda “buries it”. Ideally it probably would have been best for Morrison to finish his run before the New 52. I also agree with the Gordan/Batman relationship. Gordon is not dumb, he just has reasons for not wanting to know.

  9. Well… Yeah. I’ve been saying this all along. I think the series is generally “good” overall, and Snyder has flashes of brilliance, but more often than not the series has screamed “pseudo-intellectual / shock-value” to me.

    It goes all the way back to issue #1. We find a guy who was killed days ago but for some reason left a message saying that Bruce Wayne will die within 24 hours… as if he knows when his body would be found, and as if he would even care about protecting Bruce Wayne for some reason, AND be enough of a genius to leave a clue in some sort of “invisible paint” or whatever. Seriously. Read the whole arc and try to make logical sense of this big moment in the first issue. It makes no sense and it’s ALL done for “Se7en”-style shock-value.

    Then in issue #5 Batman drinks some water just after surmising, in one of Snyder’s laborious monologues, that it probably has poison/drugs in it anyway. Stupid. Bruce has only been gone a DAY but he’s totally ragged and desperate enough to drink water he knows is poisoned. And he’s only been gone a DAY, keep in mind, but Damian’s on the verge of tears about it, even though Bruce has been MIA on missions that lasted much, much longer than that in recent memory, and Damian wasn’t nearly so quickly effected then. Stupid pointless maudlin stuff.

    Bruce is overwhelmed by one Talon at the end of issue #5… but in issue #6 he recovers miraculously for NO reason, like Hulk Hogan coming back at the end of a match. (And Bruce will go on to fend off a whole platoon of Talons in issue #8, before he even gets to his armor suit… but ONE of them totally overwhelmed him before.) Capullo’s art is magnificent in #6, but there’s no reason for what’s transpiring here. And Bruce is apparently so smart that he figured out how to blast a big escape hole with just a bit of camera-flash power that he was sneaky enough to steal… but this was right after he was stupid enough to drink poisoned water that he knew was poisoned. It makes no logical sense.

    Bruce’s power levels and intelligence vary widely from issue to issue, but Snyder either doesn’t expect his readers to notice, or else he’s so blinded by his own shock-value and so enraptured by his own long-winded monologues… that as a writer he doesn’t even notice himself now unintentionally inane many aspects of his “sophisticated” plots are.

    Then in issue #7, when Bruce returns, we see that the Wayne defense perimeter is actually just ALFRED WITH A SHOTGUN, and Alfred doesn’t even recognize Bruce at first. Think about that. It’s stupid on every level, especially since Snyder has gone out of his way to ramble on about how great Wayne security technology is. Also,d Alfred has been worried sick about Bruce, waiting for him to return… but at first he doesn’t even recognize Bruce or be expecting him to return to one of his bases?

    That’s only the first arc. It’s not even worth continuing trying to explain how stupid a LOT of Snyder’s plot-points continue to be after that. If people can’t pick up on it by now and are still dazzled by long-winded monologues (since when is Bruce Wayne obsessed with talking to himself about architecture for pages at a time?), then I don’t know what to tell you.

    Still… decent series overall! I liked most of what I read so far (I just dropped it after the most recent issue) and I thought the comics were worth the money I paid for them. But they have all the (pseudo-)sophistication of mid-’90s Spawn comics, for real. McFarlane’s writing is basically on the same moderate level as Snyder’s, as far as I’m concerned. Both of them can write better comics than I could! So, I don’t really hate them, you know?

    Nervous Alfred with a shotgun is a cool visual, though.

    • Issue five starts with Harvey stating Batman has been missing for eight days.

    • Ding-Ding: Excessive dialogue, reliance on shock value, gaping holes of illogic.

      This run is likely to burn out very soon. There’s few big boulders to address after the bat cave has been infiltrated, Alfred abducted, Damian killed, Joker.

      I’m glad most are having fun with Batman. It’s not for me.

  10. Personally I think one of the best things that could happen to many DC characters (ahem Superman) would be for their secret identities to be exposed. It would be much more interesting for Clark Kent to have to figure out how to live as Clark Kent with everyone knowing he was Superman then this whole secret identity thing which just isn’t relevant in the 21st Century. I mean I bet Google and Facebook in the DC universe could figure out who these people are let alone a government super computer.

    • The problem is that most people tend to ignore the giant supercomputers. In an early (early early, like #8) issue “Amazing Spider-Man” and John Bryne’s “Man of Steel” both had supercomputers out Peter Parker and Clark Kent. Que the “yea right! This thing is busted! That guy a superhero?!”. Except for Flash and maybe Batman, I don’t think outing a bunch of characters in the DCU would make them more interesting. Also if everyone lknew Clark Kent was Superman, I think that would just lead to him hanging out in the Fortress alot or just making up a new identity.

  11. I love Snyder’s run, but I’ve never tried to poke/solve many of the holes in his stories. What’s the point? It’s one of DC’s best characters (and one of the most popular in our culture), there’s only so much you can tweak about the character. That said, the Court of Owls thing is weird. The Court should’ve been able to kill Bruce Wayne a dozen times over, and had all this information about who he is and what he does in his free time.

    The Joker… The Joker is nuts. Nothing he does makes a whole lot of sense. When was the last time he legitimently tried to kill Batman? It’s been a few decades I think. Bruce poking the bear and trying to reveal his secret ID is a big leap.

    As for the whole plastic wrap covered in Wayne’s DNA… Are there better excuses in the older comics, really? They went all over the place and some were alot more bizarre.

    This is stuff off the top of my head too, none of it anything I obesess over. I’ve noticed Marvel’s heroes seem to be foregoing the secret ID thing, when was the last time Thor turned into Donald Blake? Cap and Iron Man are the same I think. Hard to tell if that’s the movies or just the characters being too large to need them anymore.

    • I was just wondering the other day whatever happened to Dr. Blake, Nurse Foster et al. Blake seemed important at the beginning of JMS’ run, then disappeared. I liked how he was part of Tony’s fail safe plan during Stark Dissembled, but I don’t think that we’ve seen him since then. Personally, I blame the film/Ultimate conception of the character. True, in today’s day and age, Dr. Blake isn’t necessary, but, still, it’d be nice to see him again . . .

    • I was reading “Thor: the World Eaters” by Matt Fraction and Blake was in there briefly
      but just as a head voice/blue ghost. Jane Foster was like a 3rd level background character i think. I think it was before the film that Blake was being phased out, and the Ultimate version might’ve helped that. Thor totally doesn’t need an alter ego but it’s weird to see him just leave that behind, like Moon Knight not spending his time driving cabs/being a millionaire/ and being Marc Spector day-to-day. It’s funny, most of the roster in the Avengers movie don’t have secret IDs except for Cap (presumed dead, but will probably announce/drop his real name eventually) and Hulk (Banner’s name isn’t known to the world at large even tho he’s wanted by DOD,NSA or whoever). It’d almost make sense for Hulk to shed Banner (again) like Thor just for simplicity and movie profits.

  12. The entire idea of Batman wouldn’t work if Bruce Wayne went public. If every villain, common crook, and police officer knew who was under the cowl, his entire mission would be forfeit. It can’t work the same way it does for someone like Tony Stark because the entire crusade rests upon the idea of Batman as a creature of the night, a phantom. He has gone to great lengths to keep the myth alive on the streets, and to give that terror a human face would endanger the whole operation. Once criminals of Gotham truly know that not only is he a man, but a famous man, he’s dead and Gotham burns to the ground.

    I’ve been reading more Marvel lately than I have since the early 90’s, and I agree that the lack of secret identities does free up a certain amount of believability. But DC has kept such a firm grip on the concept over the decades that so many of those characters simply wouldn’t work without it. Plus, when handled correctly, it’s tons of fun. The reason Spider-Man is still maintaining a secret identity is that his story just wouldn’t be as compelling. No one cares if everyone knows who Captain America is, but Spidey fans shit a brick whenever they try to out Peter Parker.

    The problem isn’t that the secret identity still exists, the problem is how creative teams choose to handle it. Batman Inc. was a fun idea under Morrison’s watch, but when it branches out across the other titles, you see how flawed it really is. Bruce’s secret identity doesn’t work if you’re constantly waving it in everyone’s face. The further apart you keep Batman and Bruce Wayne, the more believable it is. I can’t argue with any of Jim’s points, because he’s right. As much as I’ve enjoyed Snyder’s run, he has pushed it a bit by keeping Bruce and Batman so constantly intertwined.

    • I totally agree about Batman Inc. It was an interesting twist that was obviously key to where Morrison was taking the books, but it clearly has been stretched too thin. The reboot was the perfect time to get rid of it, but DC clearly didn’t know what they were doing post-Flashpoint. I’ve always thought Batman should have gotten the same treatment as everyone else with Inc being excluded from the new continuity. And we could have avoided all of the fallout from Damian’s death taking over every title right after the two mega crossovers of Death of the Family and Night of the Owls. I just feel like the entire Batman family of titles has been hamstrung by trying to make Batman Inc fit in.


    The occasional “I have a bit of a cold” ploy and no one’s the wiser.

  14. Comics should be as dumb as any other form of entertainment.

  15. Comics should be as smart as any other form of art.

  16. To me Batman is Batman… Bruce Wayne is a much less interesting character and the less the story is about him, the better.

    • I’m with you.

      Superman IS Clark Kent, but Batman IS Batman, and Bruce is trappings he uses when he needs to. But it seems he does need it quite a bit.

      It would certainly give way to some interesting stories to have him outed, and have him abandon the pretense. I think Bruce enjoys using his billionaire philanthropist abilities to fight crime on a larger scale than he can as Batman, though…housing projects for the poor, creating jobs in Gotham, and more recently Batman Inc…what would he do if he didn’t have that option? Turn more into a Rha’s Al Ghul version of Batman? To me, that is some interesting story ideas.

    • On one hand, I agree, Batman is more Batman than Superman is Superman. However, I disagree that the persona of Bruce Wayne is boring. I think that it can be fascinating watching Bruce navigate his various environments. Plus, the mock playboy romps can offer a touch of fun to an otherwise grim narrative — one of my favorite parts of Bale’s performances in Nolan first two film is how Bale acted out the seemingly addled, absent-minded playboy. In those films, I would argue, Bruce Wayne is as much of a character as Batman.

  17. Marvel has done away with secret identities but many of their issues now revolve around: just how old are these characters. Magneto was how old looking when the original x-men were young and he is a holocaust survivor, still looks the same age. I think they have changed the wars that Nick Fury and the Punisher fought in, questions of bottled water existing when cyclops was young. DC kind of did away with this portion with new 52.

    This is just comics, the nature of time and secret identities, generally when push comes to shove for the characters they find out whatever friend has known, capt stacy, aunt may etc. There are multiple Batman stories that imply that Gordon knows but doesn’t say or chooses not to find out.

    Even more funny is due to recent events in Batgirl Gordon is trying to track her down and it is a young attractive red head who came back to being active in Gotham around when Barbara had her back healed.

    Then you have things like Spiderman trading his marriage to the devil to rez aunt may or cap being assassinated we promise for good, only not really.

    It’s just comics.

    • Magneto was de-aged back in the 90s during some storyline. He got turned into a baby and then they reversed it so he had them make him a younger man just because why not shave off 30 years if you can.

  18. Just read your precious little Marvel books instead.

    • this is my favorite post in this thread

    • +1, can I steal this the next time someone writes this kind of article?

    • Actually, I’m gonna have to make it a +2.

    • Did anyone else envision BCDX stoking a cat and twirling a mustache when saying that?

    • I actually though my comment was going to be deleted when I posted it.

      It just seems like Jim always wants to go back to the comfortable arms of Marvel rather than spend time with DC. I guess I’m kind of the same way in reverse, but it was the 3.99 pricing that pushed me away from Marvel, not secret identities or anything like that.

    • Everyone’s got their preferences when it comes to story styles and characters, and some people like one publisher over another, it’s true.

      It doesn’t make him wrong, though…

      Also, reading Batman for the last 20 issues seems like spending some time with DC to me, but hey.

  19. These are comics, and as such I am willing to suspend belief about identities. It’s a crucial part of the Batman story, and over the years a few people have put the two together which adds to the believeability a little. When taken in context Morrison’s Batman Inc idea works well and I think its clever and could even possibly silence Gothamites trying to connect the two. Admittedly it hasn’t worked out too well in the other books (where its used more as a plot tool than a building block). Ultimately, I like to believe that Gothamites would rather just not know who he is, and that way keep the lore and deterrent alive and well. The beginning of your piece is a critique in the comic as it currently stands, and its nice to see a new-reader perspective on the New 52 Batman. There is “suspending” belief and then there’s “SUSPENDING BELIEF”, and this run has been ramping it up as of late. After reading this last issue I felt like you felt in this article. Batman has left the streets and lives in this world where Alfred must be a Genie instead of a butler with all the conveniences Batman is granted. It’s really too bad.

  20. This was laugh-out-loud funny, nicely done.

    For me it’s not “it’s comics”, it’s “it’s not real” (Morrison has a nice passage on this in Supergods). I can take this just like I can take Romeo and Juliet falling in love in five seconds or Bruce Wayne wouldn’t have died a month into the whole batman thing. It’s not about holding up a mirror to reality so much as it’s about holding up a mirror to our inner, emotional lives. We all feel like there’s greatness inside us that the world doesn’t see and all that.

    Realistically, yes, batman is stupid. Dressing up like a bat is very silly. As a personification of things we feel and dream, he’s awesome.

  21. I agree that the whole “its just comics”-thing feels very much like an excuse for a lot of plot holes. For me, this excuse works if the comic in question is not supposed to be taken too serious.

    For example when stuff like “DNA-fake-skin” would happen in the new FF, Guardians of the Galaxy or Red Hood and the Outlaws, I wouldn’t care. The concept of those comics is for the most part light entertainment (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, I love FF). They simply don’t take themselves too serious and neither should the readers.

    But Batman is a good example for a comic that takes itself very serious (at least it seems that way) and aims at being very dark (again: nothing bad about that). I think stories like that benefit a lot from their “supposed” realism, as it creates a kind of urgency and suspense. I think in stories that lean more towards “realism” and darker tones it is a lot more difficult to suspend your disbelieve when the solution to a problem in the story is so unrealistic that it can be summarized in: “well, it’s just a comic”.

    • Exactly! If you’re going to champion yourself as this very realistic comic with real world consequences like the Death of the Family arc did, i think those same cause and effect principles should extend outwardly to the rest of your book and the rest of the decisions your lead character makes.

    • Keep in mind this series and this particular story had a 8 ft tall shape-changing clay monster, and before that thousands of immortal assassin frankenstiens, and contact lenses that act like supercomputers.

    • Wait, your contact lenses don’t act like computers? You’re telling me that you have regular old contact lenses? Are they glass? Do you also have a flip phone?

    • Wow, it’s like you actually know me! What color am I think of? 😉

    • Um, I have a flip-phone, can I still enter the clubhouse . . ? 🙂

    • Did you bring beer? Well then get in here!

  22. Really, when you think about it, Batman should have put DNA from some random nobody on the fake skin mask. Then when Clayface sampled it, he could have flipped out. “Batman is… I don’t know who you are. Who are you? You’re NOT Bruce Wayne! WHO ARE YOU?” It would have driven him NUTS to have to obsess over that.

    • It would have been really cool if he put multiple samples on the mask and when clayface morphed he turned into some kind of amorphous mixture of different people. Maybe even animal DNA, if clayface suddenly morphed into batcow I would have started crying from laughter. It would have been an interesting fight tactic against clayface’s new power and some more awesome art from Capullo.

    • Wow guys, those are some great ideas…why didn’t Snyder think of those? I’m not a hater, but sometimes I think he is overrated. But he is a really good writer.
      I’m serious, the Batcow angle could have worked..and been really clever, done by a smarter writer.

  23. Yes.

    But don’t worry he prepared for it ahead of time.

  24. What a great article. I didn’t realize till I read this that secret identities aren’t really being tackled these days like they were in the early years of comics. I guess the fictional people over at Marvel and DC are too busy trying not to get killed over the next major event. But joking aside, there is a great difference between suspension of disbelief and pure logic.

  25. It does seem like this run has been losing some of the Batman luster. I can’t speak for Batman Inc., but the book does seem to be getting a little lazy in some of the writing and seems to be running out of steam. I still like the idea of keeping secret identities, but Batman/Bruce Wayne need to be more separated in a more logical or even less complicated way; even if it comes to doing something as blatant as to just clearly show Batman and Bruce Wayne in the same area/place at the same time. Now I may get some flack for this next comment, but it also kind of seems that Snyder is trying to put some “Nolan Batman” cues in this series as well. Not to say that these movies are necessarily bad, but that Batman is very different from the comic Batman (in my opinion) and doesn’t seem to work all that well in the comic universe.

  26. I am tired of the dark/horror take on Batman, whether it is Snyder’s Batman or Nolan’s Batman (I have enjoyed both, but lets move on). I would like to see a more intelligent Batman, a Batman who really is the world’s greatest detective, and a Batman that uses more technology and gadgets instead of just punching everything. In short, lets have a more intelligent, less violent batman.

  27. It isn’t just you. I dropped this book a while back. In fact, I dropped all if the DC books. For the first time in probably thirteen years, u am reading zero DC books.

  28. Wow. I never really thought about any of this until you laid it all out there Jim. Each arc has dealt with Bruce’s identity in some capacity and, to be honest, showcases just how stupid everyone is when putting two and two together. But since I just noticed it now it hasn’t hurt my enjoyment of Synder’s run but maybe that’s been the point so far? Or just a happy accident?

    But I do admit him freaking out at Clayface when he changed to Damian should have been obvious to everyone in the room. That was kinda too eye roll worthy for no one NOT to put everything together.

  29. “We’ve been reading Batman together for the last year or so, right? Of course we have. We have been calling it our communal Pick of the Week practically every time it comes out. We think Batman is a great book.

    Why do we think that?”

    I have asked this question every time. Snyder’s run is a retread of better writers work, but without all the subtlety, craft and intelligence. Abandoning Secret Identities though has lead to some of Marvel’s worst comics, like Civil War and Dark Reign. Tony stark who mind-wiped everyone around the world to protect his identity, was fighting for Government Registered Superheroes and throwing people into a scifi equivalent of a Siberian prison for disagreeing with him. Matt Fraction had to write a year long reboot of Tony Stark, not Iron Man, just to deal with that, which it self was awful and contrived.

    So no, Batman does not need to abandon his secret identity, just his current writer.

    • Sorry gotta call you out on this, I thought his runs with blank mirror, court of owls and dotf story lines are copying which better writers work?

      I mean back it up, what writers have attempted story lines like all of those?

      With Gordon’s son

      The secret society with connections to batman and the Wayne family

      And the return of the joker.

    • To be fair, just about every Batman writer has attempted a story about the Return of the Joker.

  30. Nobody cared who I was until I put on the mask

  31. My two-penneth:

    Snyder’s run has been good in general and I’ve got no plans to jump off any time soon. Of course there are plot holes, but on the whole we are not talking about anything on a ‘Prometheus’ level.

    My issue is that every arc is built up, mostly by Snyder himself (‘If this was the last chance I got at Batman, this would be the ________ (insert character) story I would tell’). As a result of this I feel that Snyder makes too many attempts to think outside the box to the extent that the first few issues of a story are good but the end stutters (Thomas Wayne Jr, The resolution to DotF). He would do well to look at Dini’s run on Detective; short, tight stories which did not look to re-invent the wheel, just show Batman up against his villains in an intelligent and entertaining way. From what I can recall the only major story Dini did in his run was ‘Heart of Hush,’ with the others been 1-2 issues.

    I think he’s a great writer with some good ideas, but almost tries too hard with his punchlines.

  32. My personal theory has always been that the people of the DC universe have that condition where they have trouble recognizing faces (apparently this a real condition). So when Superman puts on glasses he becomes Clark Kent and no one notices. Same with flimsy masks like Hal Jordan uses as Green Lantern. It’s only when they reveal themselves to someone that the person makes the connection. That’s at least how I wrap my brain around it…

  33. In Snyder’s defense, it kinda felt like this was his (tiny) science fiction arc…both issues seemed very gadget-y and fantastical. Feels like the goofy skin misdirect was intentional, and he comes across to me as the kind of writer who throws things like that in without necessarily hitting you over the head with it.
    Sometimes, he hits you over the head with it, and it might even be awesome (frickin’ Owlman!)
    I dig what you’re saying about secret identities, but it’s a slippery slope..what’s next? No Costume? Dressing like a giant bat is kinda dumb, isn’t it? And what about the scary voice? Or him always having the drop on everybody? He’s got no superpowers, wouldn’t he be the first guy to die facing Darkseid ?
    Still and all, a very thought provoking article (and pretty daring, considering Bats’ current cult status in this post Miller world), thanks for your work.

  34. I gave up on “Batman” after issue #1. The Court of Owls has always been there, but Batman is only just now becoming aware of it? Gimme a break.

    • You should have stuck with it, Batman’s always known about the Court of Owls because they were a fairytale story told to kids in Gotham. When he was 8 he actually went investigating to find the Court and came up empty. So the reason the Court gets the jump on him is Bruce saying “This can’t be the Court, they’re not real, I’ve been here before and there’s no evidence, they can’t be real”. Plus they’re a secret society, they’re supposed to be hidden from discovery. Ra’s Al Ghul existed for centuries but Batman still only discovered him in the 80s after Dick had gone to college.

  35. I agree, Batman — while largely unaffected in the “new 52” — has struggled nonetheless. The first mistake was dropping Stephanie Brown in favor of restoring Barbara Gordon. By being the lone continuity change, it sticks out like a sore thumb. The Court of Owls was dumb. I can not get over the Joker returning to kill off Batman’s assistants — failing — somehow causing this giant rift that is obtuse at best, and then the next MONTH they kill off Robin #4 anyway in an unrelated nearly random story that almost seems like an afterthought relative to the 20+ issue Joker series that was priming the death of a Robin. It is one of the worst, most bizarre death sequences in the history of comics. Maybe it isn’t the comic book killer that the Death of Superman was, but it certainly estranged my tenous interest in the Batman International series and has tested my relationship with the batbooks. Let’s be honest, outside of the Justice League — which is a really great book to date — the rest of the new 52 is an absolute mess.

  36. also? comics are for kids. or they were, and on some level they still are, despite the “mature” subjects and depictions. on some level, you have to accept the metaphorical and allegorical levels of these stories like a kid would.