The Legacy of a Hero
So one of the things I want to start doing on the website is jot down some ideas that I want to mention after we get done recording or where I am struck by something particularly deep throughout the week. My hope with this small system is that it gives you all, the listeners and viewers, to get time to pick into our brains and it gives me some more time to practice some of my good old writing abilities.
So legacy. There are many heroes who have had many people uphold their identity: Batman IS Bruce Wayne, but Jean Paul Valley, Dick Grayson, and James Gordon have all been canon versions of Batman with varying degrees of success in the city of Gotham. We now live in an age where the hero is replaced by another character much like how Jim Gordon became Batman while Bruce Wayne was amnesiac and the legacy of that character and the symbol of what that character means has become the most important part of that hero.
One of my favorite quotations by Scott Snyder on the aspect of Batman and his run from 2011 to whenever since he seems to never stop writing the character is that “Our Batman, to me, is kind of a figure of inspiration, and a little bit about sort of getting out of your house and being brave when you’re facing your personal demons or you’re facing problems that seem too big to solve on a national level or global level.” Batman, not Bruce Wayne, exists as a character who rises to the occasion and tells you that the world outside is scary, but you can do whatever it is that you fear or that you can be brave when in the face of darkness. Snyder goes on to say that Batman says “I’m going to fight it best I can so that you can get up and fight and take baby steps towards the things that might be insurmountable in your life.”
Batman as a legacy gives people the strength and courage to do what they need to. Dick Grayson moved away from the role of the Dark Knight and became Nightwing to establish himself, but there is something about the character, about the calling of Batman that drew him in after Bruce’s death in Final Crisis. It wasn’t so much an obligation to Bruce or to Gotham, but was very much a calling to show that hope and inspiration can survive through the darkness of a place like Gotham. Nightwing traveling the city alone is very different than DickBats taking on the villains of Gotham.
Batman as a force is something that inspires people. Why do you think villains, the very people that Batman fight decide to take on the symbol themselves. From someone like Jason Todd who embraced the identity of Batman in Battle for the Cowl to Bane, Hugo Strange, Harvey Dent and even Deathstroke found something special in the identity of Batman. To take it a step even further, Bruce Wayne established Batman Incorporated in Grant Morrison’s run of the same name where people all over the world took on the symbol of the Bat and found some sort of meaning behind it. It used to baffle me that someone like Kate Kane wanted to be Batwoman; however, she never joined the Bat-family because she did not want to be someone else’s soldier. She accepted what the symbol meant in Gotham and wanted to protect people in a way she could not in her civilian identity.
What I think I am trying to get at is Batman is pretty important and his symbol, his status, as the watchful guardian is something that is important to people and takes on a sense and belief of power. Even in Detective Comics 936, Jacob Kane, Batwoman’s father, notices that Batman is a status symbol, one with power, but is misused by Bruce Wayne himself. He sees the Batman symbol as a militant force not something that is meant to clean up the city and redeem Gotham when it very well does not see itself redeemable.
I think the basic gist of everything I have talked about so far is that legacy is important, it is something that is meant to be protected and then upheld so that other people could look up to that archetype perhaps.
We live in the world where characters move in a very organic manner and possibly outgrow their role or they give their blessing to someone else to fight on with their name. We have seen Odinson give Jane Foster his blessing and calling her worthy, we have seen Captain America pass on his iconic shield to Sam Wilson and take on a new shield even, and now Tony Stark’s Iron Man mantle is being passed to a new character, Riri Williams, and the one and only Victor Von Doom.
I have a lot of thoughts about this new Marvel shake-up. Though right now I can’t really speak on it because Riri has appeared in four issues of the comic on two or three pages at a time. Doctor Doom himself has been a supporting character and this is going to be his FIRST ongoing title since his inception. I really enjoy how Marvel writes rookie characters who are learning to go through things, look at Miles or Kamala. I also enjoy how Marvel has villains trying to do the right thing like with AXIS Carnage. I am not sure how these characters are going to make their way into the legacy of Iron Man, and who knows how long it will last (when does Avengers Infinity War come out again?). The success of this strategy where Marvel takes a new hero and puts them into a new role works, people buy the book, people buy into the character once they get to know them. Brian Michael Bendis is taking the time to develop this character when Civil War II ends in a few months, that much we know since she is appearing on and off again and Tony is now aware of her existence.
This is not a “diversity push” as some people want to call it, but it is more of a way to bring out characters that more readers would be interested in. I had friends who never read comics until someone like Ms. Marvel came along as her own character with a powerful creative team. What I’m trying to say is that this is not some corporate mandate to make characters of other race or backgrounds take the roles of your characters, they still exist, they stood for something for that character. Why else in the world would someone new want to take on their name? Yes, you can tell me that these are only fictional characters who have no personality outside of a printed page, but hey they exist and they have their own agenda that is different from their “parent” even.
You can say that Iron Man is not about the suit, that Iron Man is Tony Stark, but look at the current state of comics where he is passing down his role whether it is intentional or not to someone who wants to make a difference. That is the concept of legacy. That is the truth that exists in the world of literature to me. You become a symbol, you take on the symbol so that you can become something you never thought you would before.