It isn’t exactly a new theory, as some believe that Batman is the true source of the evil that plagues Gotham City. But it is a theory that DC comics have largely left unexplored. Which has left fans to debate this on their own. In Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight, they are finally getting into this theory more and pushing it forward. In order to believe this theory, you have to believe that, in order to avenge his parent’s death and rid the world of evil, Bruce Wayne inadvertently creates his own enemies.
It’s by choosing to dress up, as a bat, he has created the template for other people, to be dangerous and assume new identities. You also have to believe that in doing this, he begins to break the law in favor of their own personal codes of right and wrong. Batman’s personal code is framed as being dark, but ultimately righteous and justifiable. Characters, like the Joker, on the other hand, are depicted as being brilliant. But also broken. And in this case, only want to see the world burn. The big question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not the ends justify the means? I think this is something that all of us have to think about with our own lives. Have you ever done something wrong, in order to make it right?
Batman: White Knight does eventually dig into the concept of Batman creating villains, but it opens with a critique of Batman himself. As the Joker leads Batman, Nightwing, and Batgirl through a high-speed chase through Gotham, the Dark Knight’s younger companions are increasingly worried about the lengths their mentor is willing to go to in order to catch his arch nemesis. Batman repeatedly puts multiple citizens in direct danger while the Joker playfully teases his pursuers from the comfort of a hoverboard.
As always, Batman closes in on the Joker and the two fall into their familiar back-and-forth that always precedes the Joker being hauled off to Arkham yet again. But in this instance, the Joker imparts Bats with a bit of wisdom that shakes him. The crime, the terror, the constant fights that leave innocent bystanders dead—the Joker does it all out of love for Batman and what he gives to the city. Gotham, the Joker muses, is actually a rather humdrum place that he once tried to enliven with comedy. When comedy failed, he turned to villainy and managed to get a rise out of Gotham’s citizens, but it wasn’t until he and Batman became mortal enemies that the city truly came alive.
Batman: White Knight actually inverts the roles of Batman and the Joker, in terms of hero and villain. And is this something you can actually believe? After this fight, Commissioner Gordon arrives on the scene with the police and Joker presents the theory that it’s Batman who is the villain. He also presents a proposition – he will go on anti-psychotic medication in order to become the kind of person who can fix everything that Batman has left broken. Batman sits on the Joker’s chest and forces pills down his throat. Making it seem like Batman isn’t the “nice” one. They go back and forth about whether or not Batman is part of the Gotham police force, and needless to say, the Joker makes a good point – which indicates he is.
All of that being said, Batman: White Knight is looking at the idea of police brutality. I think this idea is quite interesting. For years, we have assumed Batman is working from a place of “good”, and giving him the benefit of the doubt in terms of the ends justifying the means. But now he will have to go to court to prove that he isn’t horrible. Which, I don’t think will be an easy thing to do. I think we see this a lot with comic books and superheroes. They are there to “save the world”. They are going to protect their city, but often times innocent people get hurt or killed. What can we believe? Time will give us an answer to this one, but I do like the idea that they are exploring these moral concepts in some detail.