There’s a scene in 2013’s Man of Steel where Clark Kent goes to church seeking guidance from a priest. Aliens combatants, from Kent’s home planet Krypton, are broadcasting a message to draw him out of hiding. He’s torn between stepping forward or remaining in the shadows. The priest stands over Kent, from the aisle, as the Kyrptonian confesses from the pew.
Normally in a scene with two characters speaking the cameras are positioned over the shoulders of the characters to show their point of view. First we see a camera tilted upward to show Kent’s view of the priest (who eventually sits on a railing, but is still looking downward). We should then see a reverse shot from the priest’s perspective looking down on Kent. Instead we see a shot that’s tilted upward, as if the priest was looking at Kent from the floor.
Why did director Zack Snyder choose to frame the shot this way? My theory is that he meant to emphasize the stained glass depiction of Christ over Kent’s shoulder, kneeling in prayer, just as Kent is. As far as symbolic references go this one isn’t that subtle.
This weeks article is all about when it’s a good idea to link your story to icons with deeper meanings, and when they can hurt your story by feeling unearned. I’m going to focus on Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice because they’re filled with examples of heavy handed symbolism.
(Spoilers for Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice follow).
When director Zack Snyder released a photo of Ben Affleck, looking somber in the new Bat suit, Photoshop savvy netizens inserted him into sorrowful scenarios, and the Sad Batman meme was born.
When the studio released a photo of Superman from Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice they put rain droplets in the foreground, preventing enterprising satirists from developing yet another meme. They underestimated the power of Photoshop. May I present Sad Superman: cut out, with the droplets removed, and polished to perfection. I even threw in a colored version Sad Batman, with feet and a cape I’d added on.
Copy the PNG files and send these characters out on your own adventures.
To see more of the crazy things I’ve done with Sad Batman, take a look at my article on the perils of Living with Batman Syndrome, and don’t forget to check out my Design Gallery to see other comic book and movie parodies.
You or someone you know might be suffering from a debilitating condition, one casting darkness over your outlook, attitude, and wardrobe. If left untreated, it can manifest through violence, erratic behavior, and a very specific dance. It can be triggered by life events: the loss of a job, a relationship, or the death of one’s parents. Those afflicted cannot will themselves out, after all, it’s their “will to act” that got them into it.
Symptoms include a loss of interest in socializing, prolonged feelings of guilt, and a fear of flying rodents. Those with the condition may have trouble sleeping, unless suspended upside down. They may feel persistent pain in their overworked glamour muscles, resulting in a puffing of the chest and a broadening of the shoulders. They may experience an overconfidence in their martial arts ability, followed by a compulsion to get into situations to demonstrate it. This is known as ‘restless fist syndrome.’
In worst case scenarios, those with the condition have a death wish involving a spiked wall, a vat of chemicals, or an automated freeze ray.
I’m of course referring to Batman Syndrome.
The condition is often misdiagnosed as asthma, due to the patient slipping into ‘gravel speak’, wheezing through lines from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, often dialogue never spoken by Batman himself. Coughing through quotes like, “Not the hero the city deserves, but the hero the it needs,” they may sound as if they’ve run up several flights of stairs.
Once the condition has gotten this far, the effects may be irreversible. That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms early on.
Early warning signs someone may be developing the condition include:
Tying a towel around their neck, they leave it long after their hair has dried.
They draw abs, and or nipples, on the outside of their clothes.
They paint their mirror so only their lips and chin are visible.
Their pants are weighed down by an assortment of nonlethal weapons, bundled nets, and shark repellent.
Trickling sweat, draws attention to the bodysuit peaking out from their collar.
Distracted, they look for grappling points on nearby buildings.
Looking away, you catch them trying to disappear in the middle of a conversation.
Beating around the bush, they ask if anyone you know has access to any ‘lightweight fabrics,’ for a friend.
They refer to you as, “My ward, old chum,” or “boy wonder,” despite your age or gender.
They suffer anxiety during public functions, checking windows for sniper positions. They look over every security guard at museum openings. They’re suspicious of large cakes at charity functions.
There’s a search for “nearest cave system” in their GPS application
Flipping through their wallet, you find they’ve drawn a cowl with pointy ears on George Washington.
At the department store, they ask, “Do you have any gloves like this that go up to the forearm, and also do you have any shark toys, preferably with large blue fins?”
At the auto dealer, they ask, “Does it come in black? Also, can the fender be retrofitted to conceal a motorcycle?”
Types of Batman Syndrome
All Batman Syndrome types are not the same. The symptoms of a high-functioning person with the condition may manifest as an occasional reference, while someone with a severe case, might break their leg jumping from building to building.
These people are fans of the films, the Arkham Asylum video games, and one of the cartoon interpretations.
They’re unaware there was a Robin after Dick Grayson, let alone an alternate universe where the Dark Knight was played by Thomas Wayne. They couldn’t tell you any one of Harley Quinn’s three separate origins.
They know not of Dark Claw, the amalgamation of Bruce Wayne and Wolverine, of Batman’s face off with the Predator, or of Superman’s stint as Gotham’s protector.
Their symptoms are manageable, allowing them to lead normal lives, hold jobs, and kiss girls.
Keeping their cowls in the closet, these people hide comic books beneath their mattresses. Their action figures are tucked away in the attic. They have most of their symptoms in check.
They slip up every so often, dropping out of context quotes into casual conversation. They tell the manager at Chuck E. Cheese they’re buying the location and setting some new rules about the ball pit area. When someone swears to God, they instinctively shout, “Swear to me!” They tell people not to thank them for small gestures, like opening doors.
An Atypical Detective can go years before they’re ever diagnosed, suffering in silence.
Chronic Caped Crusaders
Referring to their parent’s basement as the ‘Batcave,’ these people wear blue and grey pajamas into their thirties. Drawing Catwoman masks on centerfolds, they make-out with life-sized cutouts of Anne Hathaway, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Eartha Kitt.
Shaving the bat-insignia into their chest hair, with Prince’s Batdance blaring in the background, they practice their fight regiment in Bat-symbol underpants.
Preaching the gospel of Gotham, they are evangelists of the Knight’s quest, arguing the series cannon in public. They have a screenplay waiting for the Nolan brothers to green-light.
Major Dark Knightification
This is someone who wears dark eyeliner, anticipating a need to pull down their mask at a moment’s notice. They hoard a colony of bats in their apartment. They drop smoke pellets to conceal bodily emissions.
Loosing their grip on reality, they see phantom Bat-signals during the daytime. Their world has gone ‘full-Gotham.’ They see gargoyles where others see smokestacks. They see art deco statues where others see street signs. They see the Wayne Tower on every skyline.
Someone suffering from full Dark Knightification will get into fisticuffs with birthday clowns, knock umbrellas out of the hands of affluent gentlemen, and stop their car at cornfields to tear scarecrows off their stands.
Those who are this far gone, enjoy normality only one night a year, on Halloween.
Although there are several effective treatments for Batman syndrome, or Dark Knightis, there is no known cure. Flareups will occur during high crime periods, prolonged darkness, and the summer movie season.
If you’re concerned someone you know suffers from Batman Syndrome, offer support and understanding, without enabling their behavior. If they pressure you to make them a bat suit, make sure to use rainbow fabric. If they get confrontational, just say, “That’s what he wore, in 1957, so that’s what I’m sewing.”
Never ignore comments about mail-order masks, vigilante justice, or comic book conventions. These are cries for help. Your loved one has a Batman on their back. You can be their Joker with a crowbar ready and willing to pry him off.
For the millions afflicted with the condition, there is hope. Director Joel Schumacher, offers an effective treatment plan: weekly viewings of his film Batman and Robin will lesson a person’s appreciation for the character. The cartoon Beware the Batman is also available. This should tide those with Batman Syndrome over while Director Zack Snyder labors to find a cure.