The crapped crusader

Here’s a question for anybody who’s ever watched any of the incarnations of Batman – how much did the Bat-cave cost?

Even if the cave already existed – which it may have done, the geology of Gotham isn’t my strong point – then you still need to have power hooked up, computers wired in, secret tunnels tarmacked, slidey poles installed, etc.

Then you need it done by workers who are willing to travel there every day in secrecy, and never talk about what they’ve seen and done. The secret building of the underground drug lab in Better Call Saul is nice comparison. A crew who don’t know where they are, held incommunicado for months, highly paid but never knowing who they’re working for, or what the ultimate aim of their project is.

better call saul
Batman: The meth years, pictured yesterday

All of that costs a lot.

How about the Bat-mobile? Imagine the cost of dozens of people designing a car, with military-grade technology, without any of them having an overall view of the complete project. That is some seriously expensive project management there, on top of designing a car from the ground up…and let’s not even start on the Bat-copter.

All of this is fine, because Bruce Wayne is a billionaire, which is comic-speak for him having a limitless amount of money, so let’s change the question slightly. Who is Batman’s greatest enemy?

The Joker? The Riddler? Penguin? Two-face? There are plenty in need of a swift KA-POW!

Except that, at a fundamental level, they’re not Batman’s enemies, they’re his enablers. Their existence justifies his methods, and excuses any amount of collateral damage. So long as they represent evil he is by default good, just for opposing them. The two sides of the battle feed off each other, constantly perpetuating a reality that spirals around the psychological problems and dubious personal motivations of pantomime villains and heroes.

The real enemies of Batman – well, I don’t think they’re even allowed to exist in the comic-book world. They are the people who see the infinite amount of time, energy and resources that Bruce Wayne is prepared to throw at ‘fighting crime’, grab him by the shoulders, shake him and yell, “For God’s sake, man, do something useful instead!”

In fairness, the comic where Bruce Wayne doesn’t have a car with a jet-engine and, instead, spent the money on community youth projects is probably dull as fuck, and when The Joker is poisoning the water-supply, or Bane’s threatening to detonate a nuke in the middle of Gotham, it’s probably pretty hard to see the big picture and not go along with Wayne exorcising his upper-middle-class demons with a spot of punchology.

“Sure, I’m not wild about vigilantism, and that Bat guy has obviously got some serious problems, but if you don’t want Scarecrow’s psychedelic gas released into the atmosphere then he’s the only viable alternative.”

Which, via the DC Universe, brings us to our own reality, and the election.

This is the election that Johnson and Corbyn dreamed of; each of them faces a cheaply printed caricature of their opponent; Immoral Oxbridge-boy vs The Beardy-Weirdy Leftie, each of them prepared to throw billions at vanity projects, both of them telling the country that they are the only alternative to the other. Both of them believing that they are Batman, when they’re actually both Jokers.

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Two-face would approve of this election

If the election ends with neither of them winning then we have a window for one side or the other to back us out, into a world that isn’t based on moral black & white and three-colour printings of good and evil.

The other side will resist, because you can’t maintain a comic-book fantasy when only one person is caped-up, with Lycra and a mask – look at how hard the Labour out-riders went after Rory Stewart during the Tory leadership election to see this in action – but if the outcome of this election is inconclusive then we’ll be asked to pick again before too long.

If that comes to pass then remember that the choice shouldn’t be about who is viewed as hero and villain in a world where everybody else exists, without agency, only to be a victim of crime or an innocent saved from it, it should be about a choice between serious candidates, with the intelligence to understand that the problems of the nation aren’t solved with a hi-tech cave and a convenient can of Shark-repellent bat-spray.

Don’t reward parties that won’t give you that choice.

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