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Batman And Philosophy: The Dark Knight Of The Soul edited by Mark D. White and Robert Arp

1/01/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Batman And Philosophy: The Dark Knight Of The Soul edited in the USA - or Buy Batman And Philosophy: The Dark Knight Of The Soul edited in the UK

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Pub: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 294 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $17.95 (US), $21.99 (CAN), 11.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-470-27030-1.

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'Batman And Philosophy' jumps in at the deep end addressing whether the Dark Knight should kill the Joker to prevent him killing any more people. If you're going to stay within the reality, why doesn't the Wayne Foundation, which is run by you know who, finance improvements to Arkham Asylum so none of those crazies who can evade the death penalty by reason of insanity can't get out. Then again, wouldn't it make sense to lock Batman up himself. All right, it was done briefly in a 70s but you know it's not real when he's allowed to keep his cowl on. The man has a hatred towards crime that is on par with Arkham residents and obsessive towards such aims yet rarely do any of the twenty-five philosophers question Batman's sanity. If he succeeded in stopping crime, what would he do? No wonder he feels a yin and yang connection to the Joker. Far from stopping crime, the Batman's presence seems to draw out all the lunatic criminals.

As you might tell, I was somewhat loaded for bear with the examination of the Batman and his hatred of crime and on some levels, much of the discussion in this book is far more on the shallow side, often with them only referring to the same books of reference. Considering that there have been several incarnations of the Batman, there hasn't been any addressing as to whether any version has been better or worse. This isn't an implication to step outside of the DC Universe reality. After all, the earliest Batman tales probably connect to the Earth-2 version for instance. It wasn't until the 80s when Frank Miller and Alan Moore addressed particular issues about Bruce Wayne's behaviour as the Batman that the toothy grin was lost and he became much a much darker knight.

Picking out odd issues in this book, Jason J. Howard in his chapter addresses a point by saying that the Batman doesn't seek to convert people to his cause. Considering that Batman has had three people pose as Robin and two teams of Outsiders working to his wishes then he might just be a little wrong there. The same could be true of his friendship with Superman. It would make more sense to keep potential enemies closer in case they turned on you than afar.

The real criticism is that there should have been some wider issues covered in this book. Bruce Wayne isn't the only rich man with a need to put on a super-hero costume to take on the bad guys in the DC Universe. He might not even be regarded as the archetypal basis for this neither because until they revealed identities such information would not have been known. Saying that, it wouldn't take a genius to reveal there had to be some wealth and time available to do have such a double life to work out who's behind the mask. Then again, one would have to question how smart the normal denizens are anyway but that's a different topic. Maybe they're too scared to find out.

One thing these 'Philosophy' books does do is make you react, intentionally or otherwise. You shouldn't buy them to be a passive reader. With this book, I think the philosophers involved could have looked at a lot more wider issues related to the Batman and his ethics, not to mention that of the people he associates with than they did but that's largely cos I know the subject matter. Expect to be challenged and have a wry smile at the end of the last chapter.

GF Willmetts

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