I once was a teenager with aspirations of becoming a comics artist. Above my drawing table, against the wall I would stare at blankly when I didn’t know how to draw what I didn’t want to have to draw, was a collage of Batman images meant to inspire me when I was feeling least inspired. There was something about Batman that clicked with me. Mostly he looked cool. But there was more. I would tell people that I considered Batman an excellent role model, mostly for humorous effect, of course – but only mostly, not quite only. I said I admired his can-do outlook and his lemonade from lemons attitude.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Rabbi Cary Friedman thinks he’s a pretty good role model, too. He even wrote a book about it, Wisdom from the Batcave. Then, even cooler, he mailed me a copy! Thanks, Rabbi Friedman!
Wisdom from the Batcave is, in Friedman’s own words, a book “about recognizing the larger truths in a character of fiction1.” He sees Batman in particular as a model of heroic truth and of virtues like friendship, persistence, and courage. And, you know, I couldn’t agree more. I recommend the book to anyone, comic fan or not. It’s fun. It’s edifying. It’s written by a Rabbi who worked for the FBI.
But I do have one problem with it. In conclusion Rabbi Friedman notes that:
It’s always seemed to me that the people who read Batman tend to be more confident of themselves, of their ability to get the job done and to make a difference in the world than, say, fans of Superman, whose story begins with a gift of enormous, and unearned, power.
What!? Say it isn’t so! Oh well – I like to think that when you combine the ideals of the two you wind up with The World’s Finest team2.
1. Right on. I hope everyone looks for these larger truths in fiction. Otherwise, put the books down. Please. Just stop reading now.
2. A lame comic book joke. Don’t worry if you don’t get it. The people who do get it wish they didn’t.