Is Batman An Antihero? (Full Explanation)


Some characters always do the right thing, and their motivation is always exactly right.

You just know that the character will always act that way and it is kind of comforting. It is predictable and it makes following the character simple as you can pretty well guess how they will react to any given circumstances.

It is not so simple when it comes to Batman.

In most situations, Batman will act the part of a hero in the same way that Superman does. However, there are many occasions when his actions may have the right motivation but are not carried out in the way a hero should act. There are also occasions when his actions are heroic, but not the result of a heroic motivation. In short, Batman can be considered an anti-hero in many stories.

In this article, we are going to go deeper into the concept of the antihero, especially in the context of Batman and other characters in the DC and Marvel Universes.

Definition Of An Anti-Hero

An anti-hero is a protagonist (one of the main characters in a story) who typically does not meet all our expectations of how a hero would behave, the anti-hero may feature some of them but lacks some of the important attributes, such as morality, or courage.

In most cases, their actions are such that they deliver the right results, but they get to that point for the wrong reasons.

For example, the anti-hero may carry out what would be considered a daring rescue of an innocent victim.

The problem is that they do so because it fits in with their own interests and not because they cared about the plight of the victim.

Is there such a Thing as an Anti-Villain?

You do not hear the term so often, but there certainly is.

An anti-villain is similar in some ways to the anti-villain, in they have only part of the attributes of the villain.

An anti-villain may possibly have the noblest motive for an action that is the wrong thing to do.

There are Different Kinds of Anti-Hero

Let’s see what kind of Anti-Heroes exists in the superhero world.

THE CLASSIC ANTI-HERO

The classic hero has a list of qualities that we applaud.

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Take Superman, for example, he would have the following qualities in most stories:

  1. He is confident.
  2. He is courageous.
  3. He is intelligent.
  4. He is good-looking.
  5. He is skilled in combat.

The classic anti-hero would be described as:

  1. He may be Self-doubting.
  2. He may be timid.
  3. He may be anxious.
  4. He may be unable to fight well.

In most stories, the anti-hero overcomes these issues and still manages to defeat the foe.

This type of anti-hero is not so much a grey character, it would be more accurate to say that they just do not match up to the readers/viewers’ expectations of the hero.

A good example would be Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit.

THE CYNICAL ANTI-HERO

This anti-hero has a good grasp on morality, but they are cynical about life, and if asked they would say that they just would not make a difference.

This type of anti-hero is sometimes referred to as a “Reluctant Hero.”

They tend to be more concerned with their own personal agenda and will generally only join the cause if they see their own interests being involved.

A good example would be Hans Solo from Star Wars.

THE PRAGMATIC ANTI-HERO

Just like the cynical anti-hero, the pragmatic anti-hero is primarily concerned with his own personal agenda.

The thought of being a hero just has no attraction.

However, while the cynical anti-hero must be dragged into the battle reluctantly, the pragmatic anti-hero will jump right in, if they see injustice. However, when they join the cause, they may choose to take a route that is less than honorable to achieve the honorable ends.

An example would be Edmund Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia.

UNETHICAL ANTI-HERO

This anti-hero is full of good intentions, and he does things for the best of motives, but their motivations tend to relate to elements of their past and their motivation is based around a desire to take vengeance on the wrongdoers, so any action will not be confined to righting the wrong but will probably include unnecessary violence as a punishment.

A great example of this kind of anti-hero is Conan the Barbarian.

THE FAKE ANTI-HERO

This anti-hero places himself among the good guys but their motivation and morals are not good at all.

They will cooperate with the good guys but, they are not much better than the villain they are fighting.

Tell the same story from a different perspective and the anti-hero might well be the villain. A current example would be Walter White, from Breaking Bad.

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Marvel Anti-Heroes

Before we go on to look in detail at Batman, here are a few other anti-heroes from the comic world.

Marvel is full of anti-heroes that just laugh at the law and are not bound by them.

They see their own personal morality as far more important.

They set out to achieve their goal (albeit a worthy cause) and care little for the vast number of innocents that perish as collateral damage.

The Hulk

The Hulk may be fighting alongside great superheroes, but still manages to create death and destruction on a huge scale amongst bystanders.

The Hulk does not think this through and simply reacts on impulse, leaving us to wonder whether the villains or the Hulk is the greatest threat.

Ghost Rider

The ghost Rider works on the principle of punishing evildoers using an “eye for an eye” morality.

The sole purpose of this character seems to be in dealing out “justice” to the bad guys.

Cable

Cable is driven by vengeance after the slaying of his wife and daughter.

He is a killing machine but nevertheless has a certain moral path and goal that is personal to him.

These are just a few of the many anti-heroes in the comic world.

If all the protagonists in the comic universes were true heroes with all the right motives and track record it might be a little boring.

The anti-heroes serve to offer protagonists that are flawed like the readership.

Batman – Is He An Anti-Hero?

In the introduction, I described Batman as an anti-hero in many stories.

In truth, Batman has changed over the years and certain writers have led him down opposing directions.

Batman, who first appeared in 1939 was a product of the age. In the very earliest stories carrying a gun and executing his opponents was quite acceptable to Batman.

However, as time went on his personality changed, and one of the earliest principles adopted by Batman after this change was that he did not kill, and he would do just about anything to avoid it.

The original Batman was just a detective in a costume, but over time he moved away from this crime fixation, and he has been seen fighting aliens and saved the world. All a far cry from where he started.

The fact is that people like anti-heroes.

When we see a character struggling with his fears and forcing himself to do the right thing although he is scared, we have sympathy and perhaps even understand what he is going through.

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There may be things about the anti-hero we do not like but we know that he is on the right side, unlike the antagonist who we clearly see as the bad guy.

Batman frequently breaks the law. He rarely meets with the police and the mask he wears is just as much to hide his identity from the police as it is the bad guys.

Batman can be surly and lacking in humor and certain actors have played him as having a personality that is not easy to like.

He makes it clear that he does not really enjoy being the hero and it seems that in his heart he would prefer to be doing something else, but nevertheless, he does well because he has the resources to do so.

The movie the Dark Knight brought all this to the fore. Commissioner Gordon, the police chief, says about Batman that Gotham City has got the superhero it deserves.

He sees Gotham as a cesspool of corruption and crime and regards Batman as just a reflection of that.

Batman is called the Dark Knight, as opposed to being called a Knight in shining armor.

A clear acknowledgment that Batman is more of an Anti-Hero than a Superhero.

Reasons Why Batman Can Be Seen As An Antihero

We will complete this article by looking at a couple of reasons why Batman has to be considered an anti-hero.

REASON 1 – BATMAN IS A SIMPLY A VIGILANTE

A vigilante operates outside the law.

Their intentions might be good but the way they choose to carry out those good intentions is outside the law / Batman places himself outside the law / At one stage the Dark Knight becomes a wanted man and is hunted for his crimes.

Despite being a wanted criminal Batman remains a hero to some of the people

REASON 2 – BATMAN IS A DANGER TO SOCIETY

The mere existence of Batman is making criminals up their game to combat Batman, would the crime rates in Gotham be as they were if Batman was not there?

If Batman was to go, many people believed that much of the crime would go away too.

Final Thoughts

Batman can be viewed as an antihero in many stories and that is possibly how the character has been kept fresh since 1939.

Superman has also survived a long time but to do so his character has been upgraded over the years to a much more powerful one than we first saw when he was introduced.

Batman has taken an alternative route to longevity.

Mojmir Trefulka

Fascinated with Superheroes since childhood. I'm 35 years old and I'm from the Czech Republic – a small country in the middle of Europe. I love comic books and superhero movies. Superheroes are my passion for a very long time and I love writing about them – let's have fun together.

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