On Batman

What's Wrong with Bruce Wayne?

By Robin S. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

A family–mother, father, and their young son, Bruce–exit the side door of a theater and walk into a deserted alley.1 A hoodlum with a gun demands the woman’s necklace. The woman’s husband tries to protect her, but the hoodlum shoots him, and then his wife,2 instantly leaving their son an orphan. Bruce eyes the hoodlum, his parents’ killer, and says, “They’re dead! You killed them . . . you killed my mother and father . . .” and the narrator notes:

Something about young Bruce’s eyes made the killer retreat . . . they were accusing eyes that memorized his every feature . . . eyes that would never forget. . . . The killer was never found, andsoon after, a young lad made a grim promise. . . . (Batman #47)

At his parents’ grave, the young man swears to “dedicate my life and inheritance to bringing your killer to justice . . . and to fighting all criminals!” From that tragic act were sown the seeds that would grow and produce the best-known superhero without superpowers: Batman.3

It’s clear the enormous impact the murders had on Bruce Wayne–they cast a long shadow. He spent years acquiring the skills and knowledge that would enable him to avenge his parents’ deaths and fight against injustice. The personal cost of his singular goal has similarly been massive: He has no personal life in the conventional sense, with the exception of his “Bat-family”: Robin, Batwoman, Batgirl, and his butler-cum-superhero’s executive assistant, Alfred.  …

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