Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Batman and Bat-Genre

Batman Week ends with a look at his entire run in terms of genre.

Batman stories are generally pretty grim and dark. (And sometimes GRIMDARK.) With some very notable exceptions - giant typewriters and trips to space and a certain 60s live-action TV series were deliberate attempts to lighten him up - he’s been pretty consistent ever since he stopped regularly killing criminals a few months in. These days when there is comedy in a Batman story, it is often about how grim and dark he is. He carries a certain Noirish sensibility with him.

This even applies when he crosses over. Even when visiting Metropolis he finds shadows to stand in. He fights crime, evil and insanity, in garbage-strewn alleys and boarded-up buildings. As Superman is about dreams of power and overcoming great odds, defined by hope from his origin onwards, Batman is about fighting back and taking a stand, defined by tragedy and loss.

Like most of my generation, I met Batman through a certain 60s live-action TV series, and this led to me picking up some of his comics. Unlike Spider-Man and the Hulk, where the main difference in tone between the 70s TV series and the comics was the much lower level of spectacle their budgets allowed, Batman was totally different from the series’ volunteer cop who wears a mask for no particular reason. The first Batman comic I got had him fighting Black Spider as he tried to slaughter a drugs cartel. It was pretty much entirely set around a port where no legal business was happening. At midnight. In the rain. Here was a guy who dressed as a bat to scare people.

So, how does this apply to gaming? Some games see players influencing the narrative around their characters as well as through them, and some have genre rules that can affect the setting. And some PCs just carry their genres wherever they go.

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