I have to admit, my version of Batman resembles more closely a hardboiled crime novel than classic Batman. Even Miller's Batman was an insufferable moralist. I didn't say "fascist," which has been an accusation leveled both at the overall Batman mythos and specifically at Miller's Batman. He isn't. Classic Batman does share a few similarities with 1930s fascists, but there are also major dissimilarities. He doesn't kill, for instance. Though it may not look like it, Batman has sympathy for the devil. He wants to reform him, cure him, not kill him. Things like genocide, forced sterilization, ethnic cleansing, the suppression of free speech - none of the fascist playbook is in him. He uses a few of the "tools" of fascists, street violence, terror, vigilantism, but the core of fascist doctrine is absent.
Where does that take me in my re-imagining of Batman? First, a little story about FDR. He grew up in the progressive tradition of the Roosevelt household. Teddy, the first progressive president, was a cousin. But he was still a rich kid. Teddy's sojourn out west tamed him of some of the nastier habits of mind the rich are prone to, but nothing like that happened to FDR...until the polio struck. Several of his biographers credit his paralysis, the many hours spent in hospital wards and spas with fellow sufferers from the lower classes, as being the defining moments of his life. After, he was different. Nothing in Wayne's life compares. "He lost his parents to violence!" you shout. He was still rich after that, protected by his wealth, kept safe by it, humored by it. What he does with his grief, his anger, he acts out a rich boy's fantasy of revenge. He surrounds himself with fabulous martial toys in what is essentially the basement of his parents' house, cared for by a butler. There is very little in classic Batman to suggest the mental transformation that took place in FDR's mind, Teddy's mind, or Thomas Garrett (Who? The action hero of the Underground Railroad.), or any number of people. My favorite transformation took place inside the head of Stanley Hollis. This kind man was a dispatch rider for the British Army in World War II. Not especially interested in combat, I gather, until he stumbled across the bodies of French villagers massacred by Germans. After seeing that, he became a hunter of men, one of the elite killers of military history.
Nothing like that happens to Batman. He becomes a rich man playing at revenge. So let's transform him.
As I said before, my Bats was orphaned when his parents were killed in a robbery attempt at their little mom & pop convenience store. Bruce is sent into the unkind hands of foster care. To escape that, he joins the Army at seventeen and is sent to Afghanistan. Alfred isn't an older guy in my version, he's a young SAS commando who saves Bruce's life. After Bruce's enlistment is up, he heads over to London to camp out in Alfy's flat. The two get up to a great deal of trouble, bar fights, women, booze - they end up working off the books for a repossession firm specializing in high-class merchandise. Bruce and Alfy get into fights with British gangsters, drug dealers, financiers, members of the upper class, all in the line of duty, repossessing expensive cars, jewelry. A very expensive repossession job takes them back to Gotham, Bruce's old home town. During the attempt, Bruce meets Selina Kyle.
"What's with the cat costume?"
"I like costumes. I like cats. It's the perfect combination. You don't like cats?"
"I like cats. I like the women who like cats."
"You should wear a costume."
"You like the night..."
"'I am the night.'"
"Why not a bat? It rhymes with cat."
Alfy likes Gotham. Bruce likes Catwoman. They decide to stay. Many adventures ensue.
R. P. Bird: Professional writer since 1989. Author of the IN THE REALM OF THE GODS
series and the SUZIE crime novels. Crazy, but highly reliable. Can fix