Wednesday, December 2, 2015

When Did Bruce Wayne Become Tony Stark?

Over in the main Batman title, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are still working on the Super Heavy story arc that follows the adventures of the newest Batman in Gotham City, former police commissioner Jim Gordon. It’s been an interesting twist on the “someone takes over as Batman” story we’ve seen before. Here we have a man older than the one he’s replacing. Gordon has a lifetime of skills and training as a police officer that seem anathema to the super hero lifestyle. Over the course of this storyline, we’ve watched Gordon struggle with his desire for justice pursued through the rule of law while wearing the mantle of a super hero. It isn’t an easy match for our erstwhile Gotham top cop but he’s in there fighting the good fight and trying to figure out how to make it all work as best he can.

The last time we had an extended time with someone other than Bruce Wayne as the Batman was back about 5 years ago when Dick Grayson took up the role of the Caped Crusader in the wake of Bruce’s “death” at the end of Final Crisis. The bad thing about that run of stories was how interesting it was to see how Grayson’s take on being Batman differed from his mentor. With writers Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder at the forefront, Dick Grayson as Batman was something I really did not want to see come to an end. Yes, we know how these things work. Bruce Wayne would come back and be the Bat once more. But in an unexpected twist, we got the both of best worlds with the development of Batman Inc. Both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson got to be Batman. This was undone when the New 52 came around.

In the case of Jim Gordon as Batman, I’m less attached to this new status quo. I’ve enjoyed this take on the Batman mythos but it’s clear from the development of Snyder’s story that Gordon cannot be Batman forever. No matter if Bruce Wayne assumes being the Bat once more or not, I think Gordon is seeing from a unique perspective the pressures that come with being Batman. Gordon, like Wayne, may be a champion of justice but Gordon is at heart a cop, not a super hero.

If Jim Gordon can’t be Batman for much longer, who will be? Snyder established that Batman died in his climatic showdown with the Joker during Endgame. However the same substance that Joker was using to regenerate himself got to Batman and restored him to life. But the Bruce Wayne who went into the grave is not the same one who climbed out. Bruce is restored to life but without the memories of the tragedy that drove him to his war on crime. He is without the knowledge and training that made him Batman. Yes, we know how these things work: Bruce Wayne will be Batman once more. But how is still a question that remains to be answered.

But the main thing I wanted to write about in relation to this storyline regards Bruce Wayne’s reputation in Gotham. When did Bruce Wayne become Tony Stark?

A lot of what Batman does relies on an ever sophisticated line of weapons and technology.  A lot of that tech comes from Bruce Wayne’s company, Wayne Enterprises, surreptitiously of course. Now Bruce Wayne would have to be pretty damn smart to know what kind of tech works best to support Batman’s war on crime. He’d have to be smart enough to know how to use that tech and maintain. And he’d have to be smart enough to even create tech where it doesn’t exist. So in many ways, Bruce Wayne would have to be as smart as Tony Stark over at Marvel.

The thing is, in the Marvel Universe, Tony Stark was known as a super genius who could invent all sorts of stuff even before it became public knowledge that he was also the invincible Iron Man.  So if you see something with the Stark logo on it, you could ask Tony Stark, “Hey, what’s the deal with this thing?” and he could likely tell you. It’s sort of his thing to go around inventing stuff.

Over in the DC Universe, while Bruce Wayne would have to be as smart as Tony Stark to maintain his Bat tech, this is not something that I assumed was known in the DC Universe. His rep is that of a billionaire playboy philanthropist with only a passing interest in the company that bears his name. yet in the course of the Super Heavy story arc, there have been references to Wayne having a greater detail of knowledge of what his company produces that I would have previously expected. Early on, Jim Gordon needs help from Bruce Wayne for his technical expertise. Perhaps this is just because Gordon is no dummy and he knows Batman and Bruce Wayne are one and the same. But there are other references to Wayne technology having direct input from Bruce Wayne.

Maybe I’m reading more into this than is there. But it seems to me that Bruce Wayne is getting a lot of credit for actually creating technology. But Bruce Wayne can’t be Tony Stark. What makes the Batman work for Bruce Wayne (or anyone else who is not Jim Gordon) is the mystique of the Dark Knight, the shadowed protector of Gotham City. Having Bruce Wayne be a known technical genius tends to put that mystique at risk, of having Bruce play his role too broadly. Of course this may be one of those shifts in character that occurred in the post New 52 DC Universe and that I somehow missed. If that’s the case, add another item to the list of things I don’t like about the current DC Universe.

And that’s that for today. Another new post coming up tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.


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