Easily the most accessible superhero, Batman continues to thrill audiences after seventy years of fighting crime. With no special super powers and unlimited funds, the Caped Crusader holds a special place with superhero nerds across the world. Superman is from the planet Krypton; Green Lantern has his badass ring, Wonder Woman her invisible jet allowing her to fly in a seated position. Ask any superhero geek who the greatest superhero is and they’ll answer Batman every time, usually mentioning his super-sleuthing techniques and his awesome array of toys like the Batmobile and BatWing at his disposal to stop the bad guys. It helps to have a Rogue’s Gallery full of the most interesting baddies ever to give Commissioner Gordon a reason to fire up the Bat-Signal as well.
Getting his start in the pulpy Detective Comics in 1939, The Bat-Man was nothing more than a guy in costume who took care of crime problems outside of the law. Obviously Batman didn’t care about the rights of criminals, due process, innocent until proven guilty, etc. It wasn’t until his own comic book spinoff debut that the editor decreed he couldn’t kill anyone or use a gun. Inspired by The Shadow and Sherlock Holmes, Batman fought crime his way, kind of an outlaw damn the law let’s get the suckers kind of way. Noir fiction blurs the line between the good guys and the bad guys, and Batman clearly straddles that line. Later issues revealed his origin; tortured by his parents’ death, Bruce Wayne vows to end crime in Gotham City. Damn good reason to take up crime fighting on your own.
A city ravaged by organized crime, a man tormented by the death of his parents, taking the law into his own hands, dispatching his own justice while shoving an icy spike of fear into the hearts of his enemies. Know what that sounds like?
Noir. Plain and simple.
Batman is Noir.
What about the money factor? Surely, he couldn’t fight all those criminals without the hi-tech gadgets he has at his disposal.
Wrong. Again, consider his origin. Tortured, obsessed, compelled, perverted sense of justice, lacking a moral compass. All Noir terminology. Sure, the money aspect makes for sweet eye-candy scenes in the movies, but Batman can do what he needs to do without all the toys. He can do what he needs to do to fight crime because he acts outside the law. No jurisdiction, he is judge, jury and incarcerator. Sorry, no Dredd references here, that’s another article.
Torture fuels his obsession, will and determination the catalyst that compels him to act out his revenge. Without Wayne Enterprises, he could still inflict the fear needed to control the criminal element in Gotham. Applying mind over matter, Macgyvering the tools he needs from garbage can lids and rotting nets and ropes culled from the dumpsters behind the pier, Batman can still get the job done because he doesn’t have a choice. Who needs the Batmobile. There’s nothing wrong with a flat-black Cutlass Supreme with tinted windows and a screamer under the hood. Broke-ass Batman with his Cricket phone could create his own database with a little help from Commish Gordon, easily accessing files for the skinny on the perps.
Blasting back to the past, who needs computers? Our penny-pinching Dark Knight hangs out near the newsrooms and police stations, nibbling on any tidbit of info to get him to the scene of the crime before the police get there, so that all they need to do is graciously accept his little hog-tied gifts of knocked-out baddies. At night, he watches the sky for the Bat Signal, which is nothing more than a spotlight moving quickly against the clouds. Budget cuts suck.
Tin-cutters shear through garbage can lids, forming little Batarangs. Our hero would need a lot of these, using them more as throwing stars than actual boomerangs. Throw them at the villain’s knees to slow him down, lasso the smelly old fish rope and wrap up the case.
Smarter than the average Bubba, Batman creates an armor of cardboard and fiberglass, constantly redesigning his outfit to evolve with the criminal element. He can’t afford a gun, so he must use wits, speed and subterfuge to disarm his assailants. A good right hook helps as well.
Two heads are better than one, so he enlists the hyperactive kid down the street to help him in his endeavors. Slippery and agile, the kid proves his worth when he slides through the doggie-door and springs the lock so Batman can get inside and catch an unsuspecting bad guy while he’s relaxing in his La-Z-Boy.
Money has nothing to do with Batman. The gadgets are cool as hell but unnecessary. Obsession, compulsion, revenge, determination and will. These qualities separate Batman from the other superheroes. Where there’s a will, there’s a way definitely comes to mind. Imagine how the story dynamics change if you eliminate Wayne Enterprises Research & Development. Get rid of all the money and now you have pure Noir. Play it straight and gritty, and you get the definition of Noir.
Play it Noir, and you get Batman.