Monday, February 13, 2012

Batman is Antiquated

I think this is one of the problems comic books have that isn't often discussed, and uttering the phrase I used for this post title in a room full of nerds is apt to get some nice explosions of disbelief out of folks.

But the idea that billionaires can lead truly private lives is super, super old fashioned. It requires an era where reporters didn't delve into people's personal affairs and even if they did discover, say, that Babe Ruth was an alcoholic whore-monger, their sense of propriety (and the money to be made selling heroes) would lead reporters to keep it to themselves.

Quaint, huh?

Batman is about as modern as Zorro.

Let's walk through a thought experiment to illustrate how out of touch an idea Batman is.

1. Bill Gates meets a young boy and takes a liking to him.

2. Bill Gates begins to spend a lot of time with this boy and is frequently seen with him around town at all hours, especially in the shady parts of town.

3. Bill Gates adopts this young lad, and cuts him into a sizeable part of his fortune.

4. Beginning to look into this weirdness, a reporter begins to hear rumors that Gates has been spending money unofficially. Like lots of money. He finds a trucker who reveals that Gates has been building some sort of underground dungeon, custom-made cars, various weapons, supercomputers, at the cost of a couple billion dollars.

5. Looking into the financial side of things, the reporter, who has now brought a financial expert in to help him investigate the case, discovers that Microsoft has secretly opened an entire new division doing research into things like exotic cars, aircraft, weapons and computers.

6. Delving deeper into Gates odd goings' on, reporters speak to a doctor off the record. This doctor has treated Gates and his young, adopted ward for various injuries, blunt force trauma, the occasional concussion, bruising consistent with multiple auto accidents thing like that.

The doctor was paid handsomely to keep his treatments off the books but finally had pangs of conscience after treating the young boy for a severe electrical burn and Gates for a gunshot wound.

7. After an outcry from shareholders about these odd expenditures and odd behavior, the SEC launches an investigation of Gates and Microsoft.

8. The young boy Gates been spending so much time with is found dead, beaten to death in one of the parts of town where he and Gates have been seen together.

I think we can all imagine where things would go from here.

The media shitstorm that would surround this would make the OJ case look like a press conference given by a minor league baseball team.


Louis Porter Jr. said...

Well I agrees it does work in this day in age, I think some of the things about the Bruce Wayne / Batman setup that make the comparison to Bill Gate not equal.

1) Wayne "meet" Dick the night his parents were killed. I think most could agree since Bruce had already gone through this he might be the best to understand Dick current situation. Not that strange.

2) Bruce and Dick don't hang out in the shady parts of town. Batman and Robin hang out int eh shady parts of town.

3) Bruce did adopt Dick until he was a adult, well past getting out of college. He was his ward for years. Think foster care.

4, 5 & 7) OK If you run a Ponzi scheme right you can keep this up for decades. They easy way to handle this, Wayne Enterprises in a private company and he as the CEO and president has to repeort to owner, which he is also. The new tech is explained by expanding your business interest. Google does it all the time and no one blinks.

6) OK this is a tough one, but Doctor Conrad Murray proved, you can buy silence if needed.

8) Well this might be a tough one...

Chuck said...

Hey Louis, welcome man! :)

The thing about "hiding" anything in our modern world is that you really can't.

It's just a matter of how hard someone decides to look.

Think about Tiger Woods- lots of reporters had various parts of the story, they held onto it because they felt being on good terms with a megastar benefitted them more.

But once ONE thing got out and made "juicy", the incident with his wife clubbing his car as he backed out of the driveway, suddenly all the other sordid bits became more "newsworthy" and there was an avalanche.

I think my batman thought experiment would go similarly.

Once an especially juicy detail got out there- people would start sniffing for more.

And *especially* in the case of the CEO of a publicly traded company, the paper trail would be ridiculous.

Of course, this is why I singled out Batman.

Someone like Spider-Man, or Superman, who were less public figures would have an easier time keeping a low profile.

But again, as we see with serial killers, (or even, say, the Unabomber) once someone with enough resources decides to find you, it's just a matter of time.

Someone knows something, or sees something they shouldn't, and suddenly police have a suspect to match all that DNA (and even someone like Superman would leave it everywhere).

Again, I think Spiderman comes out ahead- wearing a full body stocking, and having a low profile secret ID, he'd have a much easier time hiding.

I think this is part of the reason why Marvel has remained a bit more relevant (and- generally speaking- a bit more popular).

Spider-man's Secret ID is a bit more plausible; Tony Stark has "come out" as Iron Man; Wolverine doesn't give a shit; Mr. Fantastic never bothered, etc.

Chuck said...

And remember- in the case of, say Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton- these guys were just trying to hide illicit extramarital sex, which by its very nature happens behind closed doors.

And it *still* became public knowledge the moment someone decided to start looking into it.

Imagine if they were trying to hide multi-billion dollar caches of military grade weapons, armor and vehicles.

Sunsword said...

Great point, Chuck. As much as characters become sacred and individual stories become gospel, if characters don't evolve with the times they stagnate. Its a shame its easier for publishers to bring in "Big Names", instead of innovating.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting thoughts. What I find most amusing is that it is the "modern" version of Wayne that you're calling "antiquated."

In the early days, Wayne was just a guy who came from a wealthy family, not a billionaire CEO. How many of those types garner the same media attention? There are lots of rich, playboy-types who could easily do such crazy things in secret.

But now that they depict him as a billionaire tycoon like Gates, you're absolutely right that there's no way he wouldn't be under media scrutiny.

jaerdaph said...

Great observations, Chuck. Yeah, it is hard to hide or get away with *anything* in the modern 21st century world. WikiLeaks comes to mind for me as well.

"And it *still* became public knowledge the moment someone decided to start looking into it."

That's because people have big mouths and are willing to talk, especially for money and 15 minutes of fame. Gentlemen's gentlemen like Alfred Pennyworth are archaic ideals now too. Today for example, anyone who has ever worked for Michael Jackson has a tell-all book for sale. Alfred would never have written a book about Bruce Wayne/Batman - the very notion would have been anathema to him.

Anonymous said...

I thought we had all already agreed that secret identities for vigilantes are just like FTL travel for Picard, magic for Sabrina, psychic abilities for Bester, and superpowers for just about everyone else... they simply work.

Bruce Wayne's inability to maintain privacy is by orders of magnitude the most believable thing about Batman.

yellowdingo said...

Bruce Wayne exhibits certain traits where he will take home the Robin - this is in fact his third personality - The Child (the other two being The Playboy billionaire and the Batman).

Its the Child that will rescue a broken and injured robin and take it home for Alfred to care for: and that is his weakness: If the Robin were a Bad Robin - say a brutally beaten and raped teenager named Harley Quinn who has been out killing child molesters and runs into more than she can chew then she might wake in Bruce Wayne's apartment with only Alfred and assume that Bruce Wayne is just another Kiddie molestor and Kill Alfred - once they ask questions about the Age of Bruce Wayne's 'girlfriends' and how this one is under age and how she killed Alfred then He is going to be as much a criminal outcast as Batman.

Once that happens he loses the support of Wayne Enterprises...

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