Make. It. Stop!
People die every day in Gotham City, the fictional hive of corruption where Batman patrols the rooftops. But not until Wednesday did the Dark Knight find himself investigating a black teenager in a hoodie shot dead by a frightened white police officer, let alone wondering about his own indirect role in the boy’s death.
The latest issue of DC Comics’ flagship Batman series throws itself headfirst into the agonising conversations roiling America more than a year after Ferguson officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year old Michael Brown. The globally iconic superhero confronts racialised police brutality and its intersection with urban poverty and gentrification – problems Batman comes to realise he exacerbates in his secret identity as billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne.
Comics critics say they are hard pressed to remember Batman ever addressing institutional racism and its socio-economic dimensions as bluntly as this in the character’s 75-year history. While police corruption has long been a feature of Gotham – even showing up on the eponymous Fox TV adaptation about to enter its second season – it it is rarely shown to disproportionately impact black people.
Yet Batman #44, a flashback story, begins with the blunt image of a dead black boy, his body left “for the crows,” as the narration reads, resonant of Michael Brown in Ferguson. He wears a hooded sweatshirt, as did Trayvon Martin before George Zimmerman killed the 17-year old. What begins as A Simple Case – the title of the issue – becomes a meditation on the meaning of a rich, white vigilante who attempts to solve intractable urban problems by beating up bad guys. […]
Snyder said that during the winter he came up with the idea of addressing the intersection of police brutality and gentrification during the series’s current story arc, in which Gotham police commissioner Jim Gordon takes over as Batman. News reports from Ferguson and Staten Island, NY, where police choked Eric Garner to death, helped inspire the story: “If we were going to do an issue that dealt with potent problems that people face in cities that are reflected fictitiously in Gotham, then we want to really put our money where our mouth was and explore something that’s extremely resonant right now, and, I think, tricky, murky waters.”