A New Perspective On The Bat Family?
First and foremost, I’d like to thank Psychcentral.com for their information included in this article. Cheers!
The world of Batman is one populated by diverse characters and immense backstories. Most characters, especially since the Modern Age of comics have had fleshed out and adult (kinda, I mean…Catman?) stories that weave into arcs and storylines to create what is hoped to be rewarding experiences for the readers. All of this, however, is predicated on a single act involving two gunshots, heard ad nauseum , and the deaths of Dr Thomas Wayne and Mrs Martha Wayne. Death is a constant trope of the Batman Mythos; Always on Bruce Wayne’s mind, it’s what drove him to become the Bat.
But what of those he surrounds himself with? Many (most recently, the Joker) question Batman’s inclusion and aquisition of people into the “Bat Family” . Some believe it’s merely a loneliness thing, while others joke about it being a sex thing. What if members of the BF were helping Batman get over the death of his parents? What if, Batman included, they represented the 5 Stages of Grief?
1:Denial and Isolation
“The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.”
The Character: Jean-Paul Valley
Jean-Paul was a genetically engineered assassin taken under Bruce’s wing and trained for fighting crime, with the eventual idea to take over the cape and cowl if Bruce were ever to be incapacitated or die. During the Knightfall storyline, Bane breaks Bruce’s back, leaving him unable to continue as Batman. While Bruce painfully recuperates, he passes the mantle to Jean-Paul. Unable to cope with the loss of Bruce coupled with the pressure of becoming the Bat, he becomes mentally unstable. Jean displays this isolation; He straight up commands Robin to stay out of his way. Jean-Paul changes the suit to be better fit for purpose- at least that’s the reason he gives. The finished result looks barely like Batman at all. Maybe that was because Valley was trying to forget who Bruce was. Maybe he was in… Denial.
“As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Anger may be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.”
The Character: Bruce Wayne
The original and still- reigning Batman, Bruce Wayne is completely fuelled by the death of his parents. He took that pain and used it to fight crime, to defer the feelings he’s holding onto other people. The anger in Bruce is rarely quelled; many a criminal has likened the Batman to a rabid beast. The younger Bruce Wayne especially had an unquenchable anger, directed at the criminals he hates so much, which returned again as he got older. In the Dark Knight Returns storyline Bats states that “Striking terror…(is the) Best part of the job”. In the RIP storyline, we see the full extent of Batman’s anger when we meet the Batman of Zur En Arrh : Batman almost completely without a conscience, drawing on the pure anger felt from the deaths of parents. He designs a new costume and goes on a tyraid.
“The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control–
- If only we had sought medical attention sooner…
- If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…
- If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…
Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality”
The Character: Tim Drake
Tim Drake, the “smart one” of the Bat Family, was the only ally that worked out Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, after noticing an acrobatic move he had seen Dick Grayson do during his years in the circus. Tim was the 3rd Robin, retconned to buggery during the New 52, but it is his later career as Red Robin that reveals the stage of bargaining.
After the Battle For The Cowl storyline, Tim essentially renounces himself from the Bat family and goes on an insane quest across the entire Globe to find proof that Bruce isn’t actually dead. This is the embodiment of attempting to regain control. Tim had become Bruce’s adopted son at this point, and was in no way ready to get over Bruce’s death. He believed that by relying on his detective skills he could bring Bruce back.
As it turns out, that kinda worked, but that’s not the point.
“Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.”
The Character: Oracle
Barbara Gordon has had her fair share of life shattering events, most of all during the events of The Killing Joke, in which Joker shot her through the spine, paralysing her from the waste down and ending her career as Batgirl. Determined to fight on, she became the Hacker known as Oracle, and would remotely aid the Bat Family via information gathering and intel. Barbara as Oracle depicts many of the signs of depression, especially the second shown above. Barbara, mourning the loss of Batgirl, becomes private, rejecting Dick Grayson’s advances, her mind constantly flashing back to the day He stood in the doorway.
Another example of this depression can be found in Barbara’s protectiveness over her equipment. This is indicative of the worry over practical implications stated in the first example of mourning depression. In War Games, Gordon Blows up her base of operations to prevent Black Mask from using it, reinforcing her portrayed protectiveness.
“Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.
Coping with loss is an ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing”
The Character : Dick Grayson
In a world where people wear capes and punch crime in the face, Richard Grayson is possibly one of the most well adjusted heroes in the DCU. He suffered a tragedy just like Bruce, and he allowed it to give him purpose, not in the revenge way that Batman arguably does, but purely for the reason that he doesn’t want to see people suffering. Dick even goes on to run Haley’s circus after a while (the circus in which his parents were killed), the ultimate act of acceptance. He has taken his pain and even from a young age has put on a brave face.This could be one of a plethora of reasons Bruce chose Dick as his partner. He saw in this boy an acceptance , perseverance and joy of life that a young Bruce Wayne simply didn’t have. Dick is the boy Bruce wishes he could’ve been, in the face of their shared horror. Maybe he was called the Boy Wonder, not because of his amazing agility and acrobatics, but because he is truly a wonder to Bruce Wayne.
Dick later left Gotham in order to help out a city without a hero, to pass on a sense of hope, and branch out on his own. He does not exhibit the dependency on anyone that most Gothamites do, especially as Nightwing. This is a perfect example of using tragedy to find a silver lining and MOVE ON from the loss of loved ones.
For more info about dealing with loss, go here: (http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/000617#.Ur1EWvnjc2I). For more on Batman, go out and bother your local comic book guy (especially if you’re a girl) , or scroll down and click a related article. Mmmmm, knowledge.