person versus persona…

since today is the opening of The Dark Knight in the United States, i felt this topic was appropriate.

not long after i got home from HeroesCon, i decided to hang a poster the nice folks from Newsarama were giving away. what poster?

Adam Hughes’ representation of some of the DC Comics’ female characters, titled “The Real Power of the DC Universe.”

there’s been plenty of discussion of this around the net – mostly discussing whether the image pandered to prurient interests or not. i don’t feel it does, but the image’s artistic merit (or lack thereof) isn’t what tickled my brain.

what actually struck me was the caption at the bottom, listing the characters from left to right: Catwoman, Oracle, Zatanna, Black Canary, Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batwoman, Vixen, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.

now, i didn’t need the key to identify the characters, even out of costume (not sure what that says about me), but i didn’t identify them all the same as the caption did. to me, Catwoman is Selina Kyle – that’s her name, that’s who she is. Catwoman is just what she does. the same goes for Barbara Gordon (Oracle), Diana (Wonder Woman) and Kate Kane (Batwoman). Zatanna uses her real name, and the rest i recognize by their alias (as given in the caption).

being an introspective sort (or maybe i was a little drunk, who knows?), i wondered why. why did i seem to connect to certain of these characters in a different way?

some of it may be exposure; i read Wonder Woman every month. but i don’t read Catwoman. or Birds of Prey. and Kate (Batwoman) has never even had a series. i also read Justice Society and Justice League each month: books that feature Power Girl and Vixen, respectively.

so it can’t just be exposure.

characterization comes into play, obviously. Diana spends quite a bit of time as “Diana Prince” rather than “Wonder Woman.” and Power Girl is usually called “Power Girl” – even though her name is Kara Zor-L (Supergirl’s real name is Kara Zor-El, just to add to the confusion).

yet even when she’s wearing the star-spangled britches, i still think of Diana of Themyscira as Diana.

i think that what really makes me remember her (and the others) by her name is an internalization on my part of the natural-seeming humanity (character origins aside) that has been imparted by the craftsmanship of many writers, artists, actors and directors through the years. i’ve connected to them because of a sense of self-recognition. they are three-dimensional to me, even in a flat world.

which made me consider other characters. who else did i have a similar connection with?

Superman? he’s Clark. Spider-Man? he’s Peter Parker. The Thing? Ben Grimm. Iron Man? Tony Stark.

all these characters, i thought of by their “birth” names. or perhaps their “self” names.

but after Tony Stark, i remembered another billionaire: Bruce Wayne.

him, i think of as Batman. he’s definitely fleshed-out and “real” to me. as real as a comic character can be, anyway. but why Batman, and not Bruce?

(and i finally reach the point of this post)

Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are both self-made men, of a sort. both inherited money, but they both recreated themselves for other reasons than fiduciary gain. both are orphans, both are physically normal men (ignoring Stark’s relatively recent “Extremis” upgrades) who daily contend with godlike superbeings – and are successful in doing so.

but, again, why is Tony Stark “Tony Stark” and Bruce Wayne “Batman?”

comparing these two led me to believe that it comes down to a recognition of the anima of each, rather than their personas. the self rather than the mask, in other words.

many of us like these characters, whether they are in four-colour form or projected on a movie screen. Stark is the playboy figure that many of us would like to be – living without a care in the world, driving fast cars and romancing beautiful women. Bruce Wayne does the same things – but almost no one wants to be Bruce Wayne.

and it’s because i think most of us realize that Bruce Wayne is a lie. he is the face that Batman shows the world to hide his true soul. we don’t want to be Bruce Wayne because he’s really a freaking psycho. Tony does good things with the Iron Man identity because he wants to; there may be charitable motives, and there is certainly a drive to atone for past failures, but at the end of the day Tony likes a good party with a starlet on his arm.

Batman doesn’t. he goes to parties (as Bruce Wayne) because it’s expected of him. there are plenty of natural predators that use camouflage; Batman is simply a human one.

with more reflection, i realized that my recognition of Batman as the “true” person was at least a little bit due to empathy with the character (just as i identify with others). but, again, he’s not really someone comfortable to identify with.

so, if you go see The Dark Knight this weekend (along with half the rest of the world), maybe take time out to think about why you enjoy it. is it just for the spectacle, or is there some part of the Batman in you?

quote of the day:

“Wer mit Ungeheuern kaempft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Böse


3 Responses to “person versus persona…”

  1. Bookmarks about Personas Says:

    […] – bookmarked by 5 members originally found by speedfreak621 on 2008-11-17 person versus persona… – bookmarked by 3 members originally […]

  2. M. Downing Says:

    You’re absolutely right.

    I came across this searching for pictures of heroes for the writing/rpg groups I’m with and I stopped to read the post because some of those characters you mentioned I write and enjoy (Tony Stark, Oracle) and some I would never write/play in a million years (Batman). The first name thing is a key. In a fan debate about archery it’s never “Green Arrow” and “Hawkeye,” it’s “Clint and Ollie – and they’ll be drunk before they get a winner.” We know these characters and we love them. The thing that makes Batman fascinating is that he is completely round-the-bend crazy with what has to be an amazing cult of personality despite really not having much of one outside of his pain. The fact that there might be nothing to know which Batman makes him fascinating because we want as readers to hope against evidence that there is something else there other then pure drive. At one point in time he was not as bad as he has become. Ralph Dibny and other perceptive types were able to work with him, not get creeped out, and even leave him with the custody of children. Sadly, as intense and landmark (note I did not use the words “good”) as Frank Miller’s times with the character have been they have also created an abyss within the character which ultimately must be dealt with – even if fanboys tend to fall all over themselves with how badass he is and how Marvel seems to want their troubled billionaire to look just as godforsaken crazy as DC’s.

  3. Ayanna Iveans Says:

    You can certainly see your enthusiasm within the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

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