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Revisiting the wild days of my youth

Specifically, that part when you start looking for old TNG fanfic, blink, and suddenly it's six hours later. *facepalm*

In other wild days of youth news, in a world quite like pre-Rebirth DC's, Timothy Drake-Wayne is encouraged by his adoptive father to develop some sort of silly overly public persona, lest people notice that there are *two* hypercompetent young adults with an overly developed sense of responsibility in Gotham, and deduce his secret identity (which, by the way, is Bruce No, of course I'm not influenced by any traumatic childhood experience linked to a favorite character who happened to be a masked vigilante hiding his identity behind the mast of a useless fop Wayne's main worry vis-a-vis secret identities, never mind that Tim figured his identity through a wholly unrelated kind of clue).

Anyway, Tim Drake, never one to miss an opportunity to enhance his persona as an enthusiastic geek among civilians, allies, and enemies alike (not to mention, *be* the enthusiastic geek he actually is, disguising it as a disguise), decides to go into the world of competitive yo-yo play:



Every one of his age peers, plus every former Robin and above half of the cumulative roster of the Titans will keep mocking him about it forever (perhaps item #7 in the Reasons I'm Tempted to Establish a Totalitarian Cyber-utopia in Gotham list Tim keeps in a little telepath-proof box in his mind), but Bruce is impressed. He has to alternate between faking clumsiness and being specially dense in order to compensate for the extreme sports he has to publicly engage in to cover how obviously trained he is, but Tim can actually show some reasonable dexterity and agility in his civilian life without endangering his cover. No matter what physical feat somebody might catch him doing, he'll shrug it off to his training, and everybody will both believe him and continue to find him utterly harmless and not a little bit silly, because, let's face it, he's a competitive yo-yo player. Plus, it's something that can be modified into some forms of useful training (add sharp edges to the yo-yos, work under increased and/or unstable gravitational fields, etc), so it's not as complete a waste of time as showing up to parties he's paying for and would pay far more not to attend, and distracting himself by Sherlock-scanning everybody until the sheer density of infidelities and petty crimes gives him a headache.

It's sheer genius.

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Whenever I want to make a Batman comic extra cool, I redraw in my mind every Batman panel with Bruce Wayne doing the exact same thing, but wearing a black Armani suit with a tastefully hidden set of utility belt+cowl devices.

We're constantly reminded that Batman is human, but the fact that he dresses like a superhero makes it less psychologically salient (on purpose: he designed Batman *not* to look human). Seeing the actual guy do what he does — I mean, not just the "kicking criminal arse"/detection bits, that's a more traditional type of badassery, but when he fights or otherwise interacts with metahumans — gives me unholy amounts of glee.

Batman: the grumpier third of the Trinity. Iconic.

Bruce Wayne: The guy who's solving a case on the "phone" with Jim Gordon while sparring/flirting with Diana of Themyscira on a moon base he designed half of, in (surely very expensive and tricked-out) jeans and a t-shirt. That's the one who inspires me.

Morrison sometimes very much gets it.

And this panel improves tenfold IMHO if Bruce's in civilian clothes (not as opposed to his suit, there's no Batman suit) and Superman isn't (although you'd have to change cowl for tie).
I've developed the distinct impression that Batman would naturally be less curt (and/or brutal) with both enemies and friends if they just let him do the thing he became Batman to do, which is to stop "traditional" crime and corruption in Gotham City. He didn't want to stop people from trying to freeze the city or throw the planet off its axis or something like that. Yes, they have to be stopped, but he's unfathomably annoyed by the fact that he can't trust certain "other people" to do it right while he protects families walking through alleys.

Rationally, he understands that saving a kid from a mugger can't take precedence over saving the city or the world (besides, the kid will be just as dead if the world's destroyed).

Emotionally, every large-scale threat he has to stop or help stop, every personal enemy attacking him he has to defend from, is time away from doing his real job. I bet he behaves cold and distant even from most non-Gotham allies because he's internally screaming at them "Stop bothering me and. Do. Your. Fucking. Job." but he can't because he doesn't trust that they will.

Bottom line, we seldom (and every reboot, it seems, less often) see Batman "doing Batman." We see Batman distracted from his work by the crazy and the less-competent-than-they-should-be, and you know how absolutely frustrating and soul-destroying it is to have to constantly take time away from meaningful work because others failing at theirs. He'd probably be much less grumpy if he could dedicate himself fully to city-level crime and corruption.

As it is, he has to do that, and Rogues stuff, and JLA stuff, and he can't, and he has to put the important things last, and gods, I'm getting stressed myself just imagining it.

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This is both hilarious and deeply sad

I don't really follow the Injustice comics, but according to posted pages I've seen around, it's canonical that grown-up Bruce Wayne still doesn't know

  • In which refrigerator they keep the milk.

  • How many times he ate today.

  • How many hours he slept.

  • Where his wallet is.

  • How to even pretend to face the concept of mortality when it comes to a parental figure.



He deals with these issues through

  • Alfred takes care of it.

  • Alfred takes care of it.

  • Alfred takes care of it.

  • Alfred takes care of it.

  • I'll either die before Alfred or keep him alive indefinitely through Batman money and trickery.



I don't think it's an analytical stretch to suggest that Bruce — world-class genius polymath that he is — avoids knowing how to deal with domestic issues not because it frees up time for the Mission (although that's perhaps how he justifies it to himself) but as a childish attempt to force Alfred to stay alive by making himself depend on him. Being able to fully function without Alfred would be to acknowledge that he might one day have to, and that's not something Bruce is ready to face.

And speaking of refusing to accept the mortality of parental figures and Alfred's long and mostly fruitless attempt to get Bruce to own it, there's that famous dialogue between them in front of Jim Gordon's hospital bed that time he was nearly killed:

Batman: Jim Gordon will pull through.
Alfred: Or what, Master Bruce? You'll dress up like a giant bat and haunt the night for the rest of your life?

Frankly, I don't know why so many writers try to find new and flashier psychological issues for Bruce. He's a mostly sane mostly adult person with a psychological trauma that makes him obsessed with preventing death, particularly violent death. He knows it's impossible to save everybody, he knows it's not very healthy to even try, and yet he has shaped his entire life around this obsession with practically monomaniac intensity. You'd think that's psychological distress enough.

Being Batman is crazy enough, there's no need to pile stuff on top of it.

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If we are to go by canon, Alfred dedicates almost half of his interactions with Bruce to attempting to feed him or getting him to sleep, with at best mixed results. Canon also emphasizes, although doesn't directly show as often as I'd like, that Bruce keeps himself at peak physical and mental condition through an absolute dedication to training and expert knowledge of his own physiology.

You see the problem.

Granting that he's certainly proficient in every method known to man for efficient sleep, he's still technically human. More to the point, he knows his biology inside and out: he might be able to keep working without sleep for a ludicrous amount of time, but he also knows he cannot keep himself in Batman shape without proper sleep.

The same goes for food. I'll accept the idea that he basically lives off a combination of weird things he learned about while traveling and hyper-advanced synthetic stuff, so he doesn't really need to eat a lot of anything we'd recognize as food, but he wouldn't go on patrol with insufficient carbs and protein inside him any more than he'd go without body armor.

By which I mean, if he had to, definitely, and he'd be good at compensating for it. But he became Batman by giving himself every possible advantage (within those weird boundaries of his, mind you). He reads the files of the people he's going to pursue. He studies the blueprints and ownership records of the place he's going to stake out. He loads up on antidotes for whatever poisons are likely to be around this time.

And he eats a damn turkey sandwich or something so he doesn't have to worry about his blood sugar during a fight. Bruce's diet is as precisely engineered as the Batmobile's maintenance schedule, and for exactly the same reasons.

The same considerations apply to his sleep. He's one of the smartest humans alive. He knows very well he's not quite as smart when he has pulled an all-nighter. Not quite as fast. Still faster than the average mook, yes, but in what universe has that been enough for him? I buy it that when he's in one of his periodic emotional crisis he goes out and nearly kills himself by overwork, and I also buy it that, to a degree, he has offloaded the job of keeping track of this kind of thing on Alfred, not because he cannot do it himself (Bruce traveled all over the world, and a lot of that he did alone and in weird places; "he can't feed himself on his own" is silly) but probably because during those first months after Crime Alley he'd refuse to sleep because of the nightmares, and might've been too depressed to eat, so Alfred getting him to sleep and eat became part of what "home life at Wayne Manor" is like for them both... and now I gave myself a sad.

Or, to look at it from a cuddlier point of view, Bruce pretends Alfred has to coerce him to eat and sleep so he can feel he's taking care of him, and Alfred has to pretend he doesn't know Bruce finds it at least as comforting as he does.

But a Bruce who doesn't sleep regularly the minimum amount of time he has figured out he needs to keep himself at peak performance (which isn't four hours every other day, I bet) just never got to become Batman, or didn't *survive* as Batman for long.

Therefore: Get enough sleep. Get enough and good food. Treat your wounds. Take care of yourself first, so you can take better care of Gotham.

This message has been sponsored by Bruce "Has To Be Expected Would Be A Great Personal Trainer Except That It'd Kill You" Wayne and Alfred "The 'I Swear to God, Master Bruce' Is Silent But Constant" Pennyworth.

Bruce Wayne, Ladies and Gentlemen

Bruce: This situation is too dangerous, leave Gotham.

All the Robins[1]: Sure. And by "Sure," we mean "Nope." Dick, literally: "Ignoring Batman's pretty much the definition of being a Robin."[2]

Bruce: *kidnaps the Wayne-ish subset of the Robins, puts them in stasis chambers, and stashes those in the Fortress of Solitude* [3]


[1] Minus Tim and Steph, and, yes, Rebirth can kiss my tushie, Steph was/will be a Robin and Cass was/will be a Batgirl, and the whole Mother thing can kiss my tushie, too.

[2] Batman, somewhere: "... And that's why I have a team of adoption lawyers on retainer." Alfred, somewhere else: "I'm sure sixth time will be a charm, Sir."

[3] Alfred: *files away the idea, as Bruce's developing a tolerance to the sedatives he uses to "convince" him to rest whenever his injuries are particularly grievous*

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Just did a quick reread of Deathstroke #5

It's the one where, for byzantine semi-Xanatos Gambit reasons, Deathstroke kidnaps Damian and puts him in the world's slowest and most useless death trap. It's a very fun issue for two reasons.

One: when Ravager tells Batman she'll tell him where Robin is if he helps them, he just jumps from the roof and says No. Lost boys are a dime a dozen. I'll just get another one.

Two: As Robin and Deathstroke are lazily sort of pretending to try to get into each other's head (while the latter is "watching" the former "drown" (it's all very Xanatos)) and Slade wonders what the League of Assassins did to Damian, he answers Oh... You wanna be my dad now?! Fine -- And then he *exposes his throat to the camera, smiles the most most psychopathic smile you could imagine, and says* -- Come on in here and slash my neck. Then I can be your kid, too.

The first time I saw it, my reaction was a silent but heartfelt emotion that can best be expressed by the nearly-mystical term Dude.

My takeaways are that 1. Bruce was obviously playing to Rose's psychological issues, 2. he's a very emotion-driven man who can also be almost psychopathically disciplined when he thinks it's the right call, and 3. Bruce has nothing on Damian's unbridled psychological savagery. Bruce grew up a nice person (with, I postulate, underlying issues), got hurt, and trained himself into somebody capable of violence. Damian was hurt from day zero, and was trained all of his life for violence of every kind. He had to figure out and learn how to express kindness and caring — every animal he saves is a Fuck You to his entire upbringing — because he grew up being taught otherwise.

Damian was abused by most definitions of the term. It's not cool, it's not nice, it didn't make him a better person. He speaks interpersonal brutality — the deliberate, forceful establishing of hierarchy — with the same unconscious fluency than Cass speaks hand-to-hand violence, and for similar reasons, and although both of them have gotten much better at communicating in other ways, it's still their mother tongue.

Anyway. I'm, as usual, overthinking a couple of lines of dialogue. The short version is that Damian was raised with a very unique "operating system" for interpersonal interactions, one that's very painful and unhealthy, and that has as a minor and totally-not-worth-it side effect his capacity to be brutal in ways that, say, Jason could never be.

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Random thought the first: Why does Clark say "Rao!" as an spontaneous expression of surprise? He learned about Kryptonian culture, but as an adult, and even if we grant that Kryptonian teaching techniques might be particularly intensive, all of his habits and beliefs are compatible with his contemporary US upbringing, and don't reflect any Kryptonian influence. His religious leanings seem to be toward a vague ecumenical theism, any specifics rather questionable given his personal experiences with literal angels, gods, devils, and, let's not forget, his personal death and resurrection, which for any strongly normative Christian should've been quite disquieting on theological grounds (now there's an AU for you; a very specifically Christian Clark Kent would have had pretty much the same exact career as Superman, with the same morals and understanding of himself as an ordinary person with extraordinary abilities that give him extraordinary responsibilities, but what would personal resurrection filtered through Christian dogma do to his self-image?) And anyway Kryptonians of the Jor-El era seemed fanatical about cultural (and genetic?) "purity," not religion. So is "Rao!" an affectation? Did late-stage Kryptonians use it as an expletive, and Clark got into the habit of using it because when, say, a huge sentient space crab suddenly appears over Metropolis with the intention of impregnating the city you have to say some variant of "oh shit!" but Superman isn't supposed to?

Random thought the second: Bruce complaining about Clark not training Jon more intensively isn't Bruce being a pragmatic emotionless bastard, it's Bruce being emotional and rather irrational when it comes to kids. Objectively, you have to train the hell out of a Robin if you want them to be relatively safe (you can also not make or let them be Robin, but that sanity ship sailed long ago), but Jon seems to have Superman-level powers. You can always have more and better training, but when it comes to that kind of power, the main strategic concern isn't how technically good they are, but how ethically. Bruce's main concern shouldn't be Clark teaching Jon to better control his powers (which, yes, it's important to avoid accidents of he "oops, sorry about that skyscraper" kind, but it's not as if Clark isn't or won't) but rather Clark raising Jon in that very rare Clark Kentian ethical stance that made it possible for somebody with his level of power to wield it not just selflessly, but also with a politically and culturally light touch. And *that* requires Clark and Jon spending time together bonding, not training.

Perhaps seeing a child that seems unavoidably going to pick up their line of work activates Bruce's panic "must train!" fear reflexes. Or perhaps, and this doesn't exclude the previous option, training is the only way Bruce can truly conceptualize how a father-son relationship can work.

I wouldn't heed his advice, nor give him a pass on his serious and willful errors as a parental figure, but I'm not without empathy for his issues. He probably can't access his own memories of his childhood without triggering his trauma, so, as kind as he is with children (and any well-written Batman is 100% a softy and not at all scary to any kid), being a father is more of a long-term relationship, and he's not particularly knowledgeable at the not-cape bits of it.

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I think a good anti-Batman argument would be: we live in a society where the State has the monopoly of law enforcement and the use of force (the latter is less true in the US, but the former is... at least for now, knock on wood). Whatever the motives and outcome of his war on crime might be, it's a huge, prolonged crime, premeditated to a ludicrous degree.

The counterargument for this — although it is a counterargument in favor of other crimes — cannot be that in a more just society what he does wouldn't be a crime, because he knows that's not true, and is actually rather active preventing vigilantes in Gotham other than himself (or, of course, the people he trains and/or controls).

A possible counterargument, as much as I've grown to actively loathe Frank Miller, is that of course he's a criminal. He's a master criminal, an Arsene Lupin who has never had to steal anything, so he could indulge his ethics from day one. I'm fine with that Batman, but it's one that could/should embrace the fact that he's a criminal; do the same things he does, but with less of a chip on his shoulder (at least regarding, say, thieves; even career thieves have the right to feel righteous anger against a murderer, but Bruce breaking and entering into somebody's house to beat them up because they robbed somebody else's might be ethically arguable if you grant his skills as a detective and moral integrity, but he should at least be aware of the irony).

Not that Bruce will, ever. Because he's a generally mostly moral man, an assertion I'm more comfortable making about the animated series' Bruce Wayne than many versions in comics, by the way, but Batman is something he has to do, not something he chose to do. Batman is how he sort of copes with his trauma; morality and the law only factor into it because it was a criminal who killed his parents (for another scenario out of an infinite spectrum of possibilities, cf my Fuga fic). Bruce empathizes with victims, cares for people, wants to help even his enemies (again, more true for some versions than for others) but if that were his main drive he wouldn't be Batman, he'd be doing Wayne Foundation stuff all day long, and/or be a doctor, and/or enter politics. He's Batman because he was hurt, and the injustice of how that kid was hurt makes the concept of law a joke. He's not punishing criminals because they break the law. He's punishing them because they break people.

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Also: the developmental psychology of group minds.

Marathoning Leverage again (Why do I procrastinate the most during the most deadline-heavy month of the year? Because it's the most deadline-heavy, and hence stressful, month of the year, of course. It wouldn't be a maladaptive behavior otherwise, would it?).

Anyway, one obvious observation is that the Leverage crew is, to all intents and purposes, a Batman gestalt a la More than Human (although this is somewhat true of every such group in fiction). That is, if Batman were more focused on issues of class and political inequality as drivers and enablers of crime.

As he probably should. (My counter-argument is that, yes, Bruce should dedicate his money and absurdly polymath genius to fixing up the politics of Gotham rather than beat up thieves one by one — I know it sounds implausible, but come on, so is Batman — but against a costumed criminal Batman is still the best response, and even if you buy that there would be no rogues without Batman, which I don't really do, there's Ra's and the JLA-level ones. Crime Alley needs a clean GCPD, not a Batman, but the world does need a Batman.)(My counter-counter-argument is that Gotham might be the urban equivalent of an evil metahuman, a semi-supernatural metastable Petri dish of insanity that can only be kept in check by something as insane as Batman.)(But I digress.)

I drafted a quick description of the series arc as a psychodrama about Bruce Wayne (Nate's the Bat, and Season 5 ends up with Bruce growing up and becoming 120% more badass because of it; if you compare the end scene of S1E01 with the end scene of the series, the Nate-driven gestalt does what it does because Nate is broken, and the Parker-driven gestalt does what it does because Parker isn't), but that probably only shows that (a) I need to pause my marathoning, (b) should get more sleep, (c) relate everything to Bruce fucking Wayne.

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