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My name's Joel Kelly and I live in Halifax, NS.

I'm a 20something guy doing digital and social media strategy for a Halifax-based marketing agency.

I'm a vegan nerd and marketing asshole.

You should follow me on Twitter.

Contact me about whatever (like, say, your marketing questions) at

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My uncomfortable infatuation with Batman

Because some people want to miss the point, I need to state here that, yes, I know that Bruce Wayne isn't Batman right now.

So, I love Batman. Like, probably too much.

If you've seen me speak, or have had more than one or two conversations with me you know this.

I'm not a comic book expert, I haven't read all of the Batman books, and I don't know every detail (not even most details), but that's not the point.

My desk at work is decorated with Batman toys and sticker story adventures that someone sent me. I don't wear bandaids that aren't Batman themed. No one who knows me has any trouble thinking of something to buy me because I'm always happy to get something Batman-related.

So, why? What is it about Batman?

It's the character, it's the story, it's the context. It's the fact that everything that happens to Batman, and everything he does, everything he is, is informed by his past.

There's a depth to the character's history, a yearning, a powerful reserve of sadness and hope that defines him.

There could be a Batman book where all he does is go shopping for new Bat-socks and it would mean something. Because we know so much about Bruce Wayne, how he thinks and feels, that we could read into every single thing he does a deeper meaning.

And a Batman bandaid means something to me because of that. It's not a bandaid, it's part of a story. It's meaningful, if only slightly.

Because of all the context.

And the context of Batman, the backstory, the mythos, the whole deal is just incredible.

That's why I love Batman.

Who knows, maybe all this "context" and "storytelling" nonsense is actually important. Maybe we can all learn a thing or two from Batman.

Before you start reading the comments, you might want to go and click the Drama Button. Link via Ryan Deschamps.


thenewcomer said...

That is really sad. I suggest you go to your local library, get some good novels and read some more. As you get to know more fictional characters, you will find yourself slightly ashamed of this childish obsession with a one-dimensional cartoon character, while wondering what it would be like to date Axel from A fairly Honourable defeat.

Joel Kelly said...

Thanks for the tip and for stopping by.

tom said...

Wow. I think thenewcomer spends too much time worrying about what his/her English profs said. Anyone who doesn't understand that the Batman story taps into humanity's deepest mythology hasn't read enough Batman. He's the modern-day Hercules. Good food for thought Joel.

Matthew said...

Listen, thenewcomer, it sounds like you need to go to YOUR local library and take out some Batman comics to read. That's right, they're at the library. You clearly have no basis for your argument because you obviously haven't read a Batman book. I know this because there are fantastic Batman books written by excellent writers. Some of which are Frank Miller, who redefined Batman in the 80s with The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore, who created ridiculous depth into the relationship with the character and the Joker in the acclaimed book, The Killing Joke. Moore also wrote a little book your uneducated head might not of heard of, The Watchmen which has been given praise from the likes of Time Magazine and The New York Times.

So before you belittle someones interest in something that seems "childish" to you, maybe you should stop being an uninformed whelp and do a little research first.

Joel Kelly said...

Tom: Good point, thanks!
Matt: Finally read The Killing Joke a couple months back. WOW. Thanks for your comment!

Kassandra said...

Hey, at least it's not Spiderman. Then we'd have a problem =P

I think it's interesting that people would go so far as to assume that because you like comics you don't read novels.

I like the Star Wars movies, but I don't refuse to be open to anything but because of it. Hrm..

Limitbreaker said...

You probably came on board in the Schumacher days, or because you caught some of the animated series. If you can't discern an Adams from a Sale, you don't deserve to talk about Batman like you know the mythos inside out - hell, Bruce Wayne isn't even the (goddamn) Batman right now. It's people like you, who think they know about the mantle that spoil it for the rest of us. Jumping on because it's the cool thing, that's sad.

Joel Kelly said...

Hi Limitbreaker: In the post I admitted that I don't know the mythos inside and out. But I'm sorry that I've ruined the whole thing for you. Thanks for stopping by!

Also, apparently I'm not as old as you, so sorry about the year in which I was born to have my first exposures to Batman.

Joel Kelly said...

Kassandra: Precisely :)

Limitbreaker said...

Ah, so you're not allowed to read stuff before the year you were born? You're attributing context to insignificant tripe like 'bat socks' when you don't even understand/know the character's history or experiences.

You're not infatuated, you have a crush.

Joel Kelly said...

Thanks for the tips, Limitbreaker.

Joel Kelly said...

So, for other Batman fans: Suggestions on your fav books?

Matthew said...

There are so many good bat-books for both the vetern (Limitbreaker) and someone not so familiar (thenewcomer). A fun set of books that can get you all sides of Batman are the Batman: Black & White series. The collection contain a wide variety of short stories written by both senior Bat-writers and people who have never written the character. Same goes for artists. So it gets you a very interesting gamut of Batman that I'm sure you'll find something you love in.

Personally, I know I'll probably get flack for this, but I really enjoy Hush. Loeb and Lee do an excellent job at creating a new character and not giving the same ol Batman story. Lots of mystery, pretty much every Batman rogue is in the book, and the art is stunning.

Joel Kelly said...

Awesome, thanks for the info, Matt!

Jeff White (GMail) said...

No one knows comics quite like Matt. It's rather crazy.

And, anyone who thinks that comics are just for kids, really should read Scott Mcloud's Understanding Comics. It will give you a far greater insight into the semiotics and meaning of comics and why they're such an important form of media.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic. Was this another lesson on how to draw people to your blog? Mr. Miyagi would be impressed.

Kathryn said...

I don't know anything about comics. I don't read them personally. I do know that, in my experience, you can't judge someone by what they read - at least I hope not. I also know that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and to not have that opinion attacked. Having said all that....

I have seen the Batman movies. I find Bruce Wayne intriguing. He's human and fallible and learning and real. I wouldn't have known that about him without context. I do like his "story". I feel like I know enough about him to keep me interested. That's good story telling.

Blogs that tell good stories (like the Batman story) are often intriguing because of context (like Bruce Wayne). Those ones keep me coming back.

People identify with Batman/Bruce. Writing that you identify with keeps you reading.

Thanks Joel.

Joel Kelly said...

Jeff: Good call!

Anon: Writing about what you think and love can get people interested, certainly. Thanks for reading, hope you liked it!

Kathryn: Thank you Kathryn, good points! As far as being attacked, I don't think I really was. I mean there's been some rude phrasing, I guess, but talking about what you actually think tends to get people to tell you precisely what they think, too :)

Ben said...

Oh Joel. If you had a superpower it would be to bring out the haters. Nicely done :)

Kathryn said...

I wasn't referring to you. I was referring to the people who left the comments with "rude phrasing". They don't deserve to be attacked either.

Joel Kelly said...

Ben: Well, at least it's something.... :)

Kathryn: Gotcha.

Anonymous said...

The "Miyagi" post was more of a thought on people learning something without realizing it. You posted a topic: Batman. Someone determined that because they read text presented in the novel form, they were superior to you and that brought about a discussion. That discussion is likely to get at least these few people to check back to see what has developed since they last replied or whatever. They could very well tell a friend who tells a friend, etc... and, there you go. You have a following. Sure, it might be tenuous, but it's a start. And thus, a blog was born.

Joel Kelly said...

Wonderful point, Anon, thank you :)

Limitbreaker said...

Hush isn't bad, and the Heart of Hush followup is good. Prefer the Loeb/Sale stuff to the Loeb/Lee - Dark Victory and The Long Halloween. Miller's DKR is overrated; Year One is very good - avoid year two/reaper. War on Crime is good, though opinions on Alex Ross' art are often very strong for or against.

For more 'mainstream'-ish tales that offer more about how Batman works rather than how he thinks, No Man's Land and KnightFall have interesting sides to both. There's also a novelization for Knightfall by Dennis O'Neill that's decent.

If you want to read some interesting views on the character himself, there is an excellent book called "Batman and Philosophy" (part of a series of "...and philosopy" style books out there) - it's quite good, and makes for starting points for some interesting discussions.

Whatever you read, follow up your reviews/thoughts on your blog - so we can watch as you realize much of what you knew barely scratched the surface.

@Matthew: The Killing Joke, to me, talks more about Gordon and Batman than it does the Joker.

Joel Kelly said...

Thanks for the info, Limitbreaker. Already read a few of those, and I'm slowly making my way through the canon.

thenewcomer said...

One at a time:
A Fairly Honourable Defeat was never recommended to me by an English prof. I stumbled upon it all by my little self in a second-hand bookstore. I had never heard of Iris Murdoch before.

And I'm sorry if associating a love of cartoon characters with childishness is offensive to (some) of you, but the fact remains that for the past 4 years, since my daughter was old enough to watch cartoons, I have watched her going through crushes on Garfield, Frolo in the Hunchback, Alfredo in Ratatouille, Rasputin in Anastasia, the Pink Panther, and most recently and lastingly, Tintin the boy journalist. So for me, crush on cartoon character=child-like behaviour.

Next point, just because academic (or pseudo-academic) text is produced on an item of pop culture, does not mean that the said item is somehow rendered a superior art form. For example, I've read academic dissertations on Beverly Hills 90210.

Now I would suggest that you Batman lovers turn the table: just because something IS recommended by English profs, shouldn't mean that you just ignore it. Just because some texts are written in words of more of one syllable, doesn't mean you should gape and shake your heads in incomprehension. Go on, try. Try reading a book without pictures. You might enjoy it.

Joel Kelly said...

thenewcomer: Many of us have read both comics AND novels/literature and have found that it's possible to enjoy both things. Your feedback is appreciated though. Thanks for reading!

beverley said...

Hey Joel. I found your post insightful and entertaining – almost as entertaining as the controversy that followed.

I think the big point to take note of after all this is you're not the only nerd in the room.

Heather said...

Hmm. I wasn't going to get involved in this until I read Katherine's comment about the 'grumpy' posters not deserving an attack... I have to disagree a little here. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but let's be honest here. These posts were not merely opinions being expressed. They were hostile comments, verging on abusive. If I were a Batman enthusiast (which I ain't) or an avid reader who happened across this piece only to be disappointed by its lack of depth and detail, I have three (grown-up) choices: 1) I can move on (this blog clearly isn't up to my Batman/Literary standards - there are hundreds of others that would satisfy my needs), 2) I can enlighten the author with my own knowledge, share my own thoughts on the topic which might lead to better content the next time around or, 3) I can employ constructive criticism. These posters opted for none of these options. They simply got angry and petty and let the author have it, which understandably triggered unfriendly responses from other posters.

Melanie said...

I think it's important to embrace literature in all of its forms. Comics, graphic novels, novels - these are all forms of literature, most of which cover the same basic human themes and struggles. Comics just use a different method, and can sometimes pull the imagination further than other forms of literature.

Joel Kelly said...

Thanks Bev, so glad you liked it!

Heather: A lot of rude tones, to be sure. I guess Kathryn's point was of the "two wrongs don't make a right" variety. Fair enough, you know?

Melanie: Couldn't agree more :)

new_punishment said...

Bruce Wayne never had a beard ... something to consider.

Joel Kelly said...

Darrin: Indeed!

Sionne Roberts said...

First off, kudos again to you Joel...on inciting significant engagement and commentary over what would appear to be a fairly innocuous blog post. You seem to have the gift of Inflammatory Online Statements and that is much better than the alternative, ie. being vanilla, politically correct and...let’s face it - just plain boring.

My only advice is that before you issue your next words of wisdom, you go here ( or here ( and then Photoshop your head onto a "Cancel My Subscription, I'm Tired Of Your Issues" t-shirt image. To use a comic book reference myself, it’s like Kryptonite to almost all forms of trolls you will encounter on the InterWebs...

Anonymous said...

As far as canon and continuity goes, comics put out some pretty shitty stories. There's a reason DC has a "crisis" crossover every decade or so. It's because they get characters bogged down in so many lame storylines that they have to kill a whole bunch off and start anew. Basically they restart for new readers and the really good stories that got the character right (for the most part, the examples listed here)stand the test of time. That's why the most recent Batman movies have been so successful: they got the core psychological mess of Batman down perfect.

People have a crush on Superman when he is in a movie or when they kill him off. People have a crush on Wolverine when he's an Aussie "Peopel's Sexiest Man Alive 2009", people have a crush on Spiderman when there's a fanboy directed movie.......everyone always loves Batman- even when he's Val Kilmer or a former ex-Robin and Robin is Bruce Wayne's Bastard son.

Joel Kelly said...

Great tip, Sionne! :)

Anon: Very good points.