From Batman psychology is a topic that fans, writers and even psychologists have discussed extensively. Watching him struggle to determine which side of himself, Batman or Bruce Wayne, was the true personality at the core of his being has always been an important part of his story. However, recent issues with The Dark Knight have suggested not only that Batman is the true personality, but that he actively tries to suppress anything that would reinforce the part of him that is Bruce Wayne.
Night wing #98 (by Tom Taylor, Daniele Di Nicuolo, Adriano Lucas and Wes Abbott) had a moment where Nite-Mite, Nightwing’s own fifth-dimensional imp, conjured up the real Batman to use as a cautionary tale. He stated that Batman denies himself every kind of happiness, from love to family to even carbohydrates. While it’s a humorous moment, it may have inadvertently touched the heart of the Batman/Bruce Wayne dynamic. What if Batman isn’t denying himself happiness, but denying anything that would strengthen the Bruce Wayne part of himself? Essentially, Batman refuses to be happy because he thinks it would weaken him.
Batman sees Bruce Wayne as a weakness
Proof of this can be found in the backup story “I Am a Gun – Part Two” from Batman #129 (by Chip Zdarsky, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles of VC). It describes a time from earlier in Batman’s career when he created a backup personality to take over in case his mind was compromised: the Batman of Zur-en-Arrh. What separates the two is that Zur is Batman without Bruce Wayne’s influence. Compassion, empathy, and the morals his parents taught him were stripped downright from this “pure Batman” to create the ultimate vigilante.
This reveals that Batman believes that should his mind be compromised, the only thing strong enough to resist anything that could control or break him would be a Batman without Bruce Wayne. A Batman without the weakness. If he can find a way to separate Bruce from Batman, then his efficiency as a vigilante would skyrocket since he doesn’t have to worry about the restrictions Bruce puts on him. There would also be no other business or personal ties that demanded his attention, other than protecting Gotham City.
This theory is supported by Dark Crisis: Worlds Without Justice League – Batman #1 (by Simon Spurrier, Ryan Sook and Troy Peteri) where Bruce Wayne literally split himself in half so he could live both lives. He lives one as a vigilante and the other as the architect of the last safe place on Earth. It was a way to live and explore both lives what happiness those paths would bring him, and while it wasn’t the most stable solution, both men were ultimately satisfied. The fact that this is his ideal world proves that he believes he would function best as two separate individuals.
The tragedy of Batman’s self-denial
What makes this so heartbreaking is that Batman is desperately trying to deny the existence of an integral part of himself. He views Bruce Wayne as weak because Bruce cares, but this goes against everything Batman stands for. More to the point, Batman only exists because Bruce cares so much about him. He may not be the hardened vigilante, but without that night of trauma Batman wouldn’t have been born, nor would he remember why he vowed to fight criminals. It wasn’t to punish the world for what happened to him, it was to make sure no one ever suffered the way he did. Empathy for others is the basis of Batman’s entire existence.
Yet Batman continues to go out of his way to deny Bruce Wayne’s happiness at every opportunity. He chose not to marry Catwoman, he deliberately puts distance between himself and his loved ones, and he apparently even refuses to eat carbs. All this indicates that perhaps this is not just a form of self-denial, but self-loathing. Batman would only go out of his way to deny himself any kind of joy if he thought he didn’t deserve it. Perhaps it is an expression of the survivor’s guilt. Bruce Wayne was too weak to save his parents from being killed by an ally, but Batman could have, so Batman must take the reins.
This is a tragedy, of course, because it essentially blames a child for not stopping something that was out of his control. The fact that Batman didn’t see this didn’t just cost him a lot of chances find its own form of peace but has also had a negative impact on those closest to him. He holds himself to an impossible standard, and when he inevitably falls short, he takes it out on himself.