In this ongoing series of examining the art of the Iconic Batman we return to the work of Greg Capullo as it appeared in Batman #4 of the New 52 written by Scott Snyder. To provide a little context, Batman goes beneath the streets of Gotham City in search of more clues to the Court of the Owls. As Bruce Wayne, Batman's great, great grandfather, Alan Wayne had built most of the great towers to Gotham City. Alan Wayne's lifeless body was found in the sewers that Batman now searches for answers.
The above panel reminds me of another man that was always searching for answers by the light of a lamp and he was the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes. Diogenes often walked the streets of Athens in broad daylight with a lamp. When asked what he was doing Diogenes would reply, "looking for an honest man". The implication of which was there was never one to be found. Batman seems to share the same obsession as Diogenes. Batman's relentless pursuit of truth and justice mirrors that of Diogenes search for honesty in men.
Both men share a cynical nature. Diogenes was in fact a leading proponent of Cynicism and is widely regarded as one of its founders. The philosophy of Cynicism dictates that men should pursue a life of virtue in harmony with Nature. Batman's quest for justice fits nicely into this conception. Ironically, the Cynics of ancient Greece rejected "wealth, power and fame" while as Bruce Wayne, Batman embraces these tenets as a vehicle to enable his search for justice. I'd like to think Diogenes would excuse Batman's extravagant lifestyle as long as honesty, truth and justice were the end result.
There are some salient attributes we can derive from Capullo's illustration. Batman is shown walking through a large sewage tunnel made of granite stones. His light stick providing the only brightness far below the surface of the city. With his cape hanging limply about his shoulders, Batman takes on the look of a monk on his way to cloisters. The life of a monk is a solitary and often lonely pursuit. Something Batman is quite accustomed to.
The water at Batman's feet flows past him symbolic of Batman constantly working against the stream and the difficult nature of his work. The large shadow of Batman's cowl looms behind him. It seems to signify Batman's larger than life stature and the impact he has on the forces of evil despite his solitary approach. It also interesting to see Batman move at such a measured pace. Most often we see the Caped Crusader at a full run, cape whipping about him as he thunders towards the scene of a crime brandishing his own version of shock and awe. In this quiet purposeful approach by Batman we get to share in his intellectual reticence as he works his way through the crime scene. A pleasant break from the overwrought clamor he is often involved in.
Capullo's art and Snyder's writing afford us a look at Batman at his most isolated and reserved. He is remote and reclusive and we get a glimpse of the lonely nature of his endeavor. An endeavor that often demands a moment of quietude to divine the nature of evil and the pursuit of justice, truth and honesty.
Yes, I think Diogenes would approve.
Posted by Dave Healey