It’s hard to imagine anyone in Gotham City taking Batman all that seriously. A close examination of the past couple of years of the Dark Knight’s comic book continuity points out that this guy has been on vacation more often than George W. Bush. If he’s not the laziest superhero in the world, he’s certainly the most absentee.
The latest ‘time out’ that Batman takes occurs in the final issue of Batman: RIP, the big ‘oooh it will shake everything in Batman’s world up!’ crossover* written by Grant Morrison. Without spoiling this issue’s ‘big reveals’ (all of which will be written away within a year, but whatever), I will say that there is a point where the action jumps ahead six months and we’re told no one has seen cape nor cowl of the Batman. In all fairness, this time many people think he’s dead.
But even still, this represents only the latest in a series of sabbaticals that Batman has taken that, when looked at through the prism of ‘comic book time’ (ie, everything you have read in the DC Universe has taken place within the last ten years, and even most of that took place like a year or two ago), make him seem to lack motivation. He just took a whole damn year off, for the love of Pete!
At the end of the excruciatingly bad Infinite Crisis, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman all took editorially-mandated leaves of absence that made little compelling story sense. Batman and Robin took a year to trot the globe, revisiting Bruce Wayne’s steps in training to become Batman in the first place. Because DC is so amazing, this trip began with Bruce and Tim Drake getting on a cruise ship in one of the gayest moments in modern superhero history. It was kind of glorious.
A year is a hell of a sabbatical. I rarely even get full weekends off!
Batman also took an extended vacation when Gotham City needed him most. After the city was destroyed by an earthquake**, Batman took 100 days off. He fucked around as Bruce Wayne at Congressional hearings, trying to get the United States government to do something other than declare Gotham City to be closed off, ‘in a manner totally like that awesome movie, Escape From New York! Signed, the President.’ Because he spent a lot of time establishing that Bruce Wayne was a total dick and waste of space, nobody took him seriously. Meanwhile, many of the other heroes from Gotham battled street by street to keep the remaining earthquake survivors safe from gangs, villains and the malicious, murderous whims of DC editorial.
Batman’s modern history of taking some time off starts a decade ago, and it at least began with medical leave. That was when Bane famously broke his back and Azrael took over as Batman. Later Nightwing took over for like a week or something. In this case I can forgive Batman – a broken back is no laughing matter, and it took Superman himself down in a pretty big way. But it’s hard to look at this period in Bruce Wayne’s life as anything but the germ for his future laziness.
I have to imagine that citizens of Gotham City, constantly living in fear of crimes both small – muggings and robberies are rampant in this hellhole – and big – will you be the next victim of a Joker Smilex attack? – must feel some disappointment in their self-appointed savior. The Huntress seems to be on duty with more consistency than The Batman, yet he gets all of the headlines and big superhero club memberships.
Note that I have done absolutely no research on this piece, except for one quick Wikipedia look-up to make sure that the No Man’s Land story did in fact take place over 100 days. So Batman may have taken more vacations than I have described. In fact, he probably has, as the truth is that it isn’t Batman who is so damned lazy, it’s DC editorial and its writing staff, using the same concepts and conceits over and over again.
* marking the historic 7,000th time DC Comics has done this
** the 5,634th time DC Comics shook up the Batman universe. This was part of their ‘blowing cities up’ period. Other cities destroyed: Coast City and Metropolis. Metropolis was rebuilt by magic. Grown ups are the biggest audience for comics today.