Batman: Seeking Old Testament Justice?

May 25, 2005

by Julie Carlson, (254) 710-6681

In the cosmology of comics, Batman represents a version of God sometimes found in the books of the Old Testament - a God of retribution and harsh judgment, says Dr. Greg Garrett, author of the recently released book Holy Superheroes and professor of English at Baylor University.

"Of course, this 'Old Testament' vision doesn't do justice to the true Hebrew idea of justice, which goes far beyond an eye for an eye. But that seems to be Batman's idea: If you commit an evil act, he'll visit punishment on you and it may be real 'wrath of God' kind of punishment," he said.

Garrett says Superman and Batman are the two most important characters created in American popular culture in the last century and represent the light and dark of the hero spectrum. But while Superman believes people are essentially good and just need a little help now and then, Batman was taught by the death of his parents that the world is a dark place.

"The tagline for the Batman comic explains his motivation in this way: 'I made a promise on the grave of my parents to rid this city of the evil that took their lives.' His story is so much more interesting than Superman's because we recognize our own dark impulses in Batman's thirst for justice," Garrett said. "We also identify more with Batman. Superman's strength and power make him pretty close to invulnerable. We know all too well that we can be hurt, and Batman's mortality makes him an appealing hero."

Garrett also can comment on the themes in the Batman story; the upcoming release of Batman Begins and why it will be different from its predecessors; and the Batman franchise, from the campy 1960s television show through the films.

In addition to Holy Superheroes, Garrett is the co-author (with Chris Seay) of The Gospel Reloaded: Exploring Faith and Spirituality in The Matrix and the novels Freebird and Cycling.

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