Anime & Comics

Is Batman a Vigilante, Superhero, or Antihero?

Gotham City’s Dark Knight is certainly one of the biggest names in the history of comic books. Gotham City is a dark, corrupt city where the mostly corrupt police doesn’t actually do its job properly. From that corruption, or – to better phrase it – the need to fight it, Batman was born. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Batman is the topic of today’s article, as we are going to tell you whether he’s a superhero, anti-hero, vigilante, or all three!

DC Comics is a comic book publishing house founded in 1934 and is, along with Marvel, the largest American comic book publisher. During its history, DC Comics has created some of the most memorable characters in the history of comic books, heroes and villains alike. Some of DC’s most famous heroic assets are Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman, while on the side of the villains, we have the likes of Joker, Lex Luthor, Reverse-Flash, Darkseid, Brainiac, Penguin, and Black Manta.

Now, let us discuss our character of the day – Batman!

Who is Batman?

Batman is the superhero alter ego of Gotham-based billionaire and playboy, Bruce Wayne. He is the chief superhero protector of Gotham City, debuting in 1939. He was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

Batman’s life was marked by the tragic murder of his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, by street-thug Joe Chill while Bruce was still a child. Orphaned, he was left to the care of his loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth, who raised him and became his friend and assistant. While in his adolescence, Batman – believing that criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot – took on the mantle of Batman and started fighting crime in Gotham City.

He initially fought common criminals and mobsters, such as corrupt policemen, politicians, and the likes of Carmine Falcone or Sal Maroni. He was initially considered as an enemy by the GCPD, but as Batman developed a working relationship with the incorruptible Jim Gordon, he also started cooperating with the GCPD. Later on, strange criminals began to appear in Gotham, and thus – Batman’s Rogues Gallery was created, consisting of supervillains like the Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Bane, and others (2).

Batman (right) and members of the Bat-family, from left to right: Batgirl, Red Hood, Red Robin, Nightwing and Robin, as illustrated by Greg Capullo for Batman #15 (February 2013) Source: DC Comics

Batman also has an important role within the Justice League and has fought alongside Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Cyborg to save Earth from large threats. His own superhero group (the Bat-family) has expanded in time to include different superheroes like Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood, Red Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, and others (3).

What is Batman?

The true nature of Batman’s crime-fighting career is a very interesting question. He is a very unconventional crime fighter and although he does not kill, he’s been known to show extreme brutality when facing some of Gotham’s criminals, but also mercy and understanding for some of them. This is why we ask ourselves – is he a superhero, anti-hero, or vigilante? Let us examine the arguments.

There are compelling arguments for Batman to be considered a superhero. First of all, he is on the side of good. Despite his dark appearance and the corrupt ambiance of his narratives, Batman fights for the good in the crime capital of the world. He represents traditional superheroic values such as idealism, courage, and morality, despite them being dressed in very dark robes. Along with that, he does good for all the right reasons. Fighting crime in Gotham is not easy and it can damage one’s psyche, so Batman really does the best he can in a world where hope and light are scarce, which makes him an unorthodox superhero, but a superhero nonetheless. He is more heroic in the narratives involving the Justice League, where he can show his true heroism, without the corrupt environment of Gotham City.

The vampire version of Batman from Earth-43 killing Joker, as narrated by Doug Moench; Source: DC Comics

As for Batman being an anti-hero, there really aren’t that many arguments for that, at least not within the primary narrative continuity. An anti-hero is a character that does heroic deeds from time to time, but he doesn’t represent the traditional values of heroism (morality, idealism, courage) and doesn’t always do good for all the right reasons (a lot of the time, his motivations are purely egoistical). Just think of the likes of John Constantine or Lobo for comparison. The Prime-Earth Batman is certainly not an anti-hero, despite his unorthodox methods. He doesn’t kill, he has a very strong sense of morality and is really just a disappointed idealist. Some alternative versions of Batman – for example, the vampire version of Batman from Earth-43 – could be considered as anti-heroes, but that is not the main continuity.

Batman being a vigilante is pretty obvious. Vigilantism is defined as pursuing (summarily) justice without the authority of the law. This is really a no-brainer because Batman does pursue justice, he fights for justice, but he doesn’t have any legal authority, which makes him a literal definition of a vigilante. He does follow his personal code of conduct, but he can be far more brutal and unconventional when compared to legal authorities.

Conclusion

Batman fighting his nemesis Joker in the Endgame storyline, as illustrated by Greg Capullo; Source: DC Comics

We can state that Batman is a superhero and a vigilante, with one not excluding the other, the other actually being a proof of his unconventional heroism. He cannot be described as an anti-hero, at least not in the Prime-Earth narratives, while some alternative versions might deserve that label as well.

This concludes our article. We have given you a definitive answer on Batman’s crime-fighting status, labeling him as a superhero and a vigilante, with solid arguments and evidence for our opinion. We hope you found our article informative and that you’re sure to follow us for more of the same! See you next time!

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