Gothic Council: Is Batman Goth?

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Yeah yeah yeah, The Avengers is awesome. Let's not forget that The Dark Knight Rises will soon be here! I have always been keen to claim Batman as a goth icon, but I thought I'd get clearance from the Gothic Council before I committed myself.

Joining us this week are fashion designer Batty, Webmistress at Morticia's Morgue Becky Plexco, author Carmilla Voiez, DJ Martin Oldgoth, blogger at Night's Plutonian Shore Sarah Fanning, author of the Encyclopedia Gothica Liisa Ladouceur, and co-founder of the Age of Decay festival Alethea Carr.

Batty: My opinion has always been...while dark and brooding, goth, no. Disturbed and learned how to work with that, maybe, but just because the name "Bat" is in it does not goth make.

Not saying Batman isn't cool, but he's more an upper-class misfit than a goth. Do a lot of goth people like him? Sure, but comic books tend to cross the subcultural and cultural world.

Gothtopia: I'm pretty sure "upper-class misfit" is probably the goal of every goth. Maybe Batman is our übermensch.

Batty: Maybe, although I think his fashion sense tends more toward the yuppie mentality. However, that might just be because I can't see Christian Bale as anything but the guy from American Psycho.

Becky Plexco: I think the outfits, acting and mood of Batman Returns qualifies Batman as goth. I mean, look at Catwoman's costume.

After Michael Keaton left the franchise, I have no comment. It went a little more fetishy than goth. I've always thought the comic book Batman was very dark and disturbed. Adam West, not so goth, but one of my faves. Damn, now you're making me update my Batman Web site so I can brag about it.

Gothtopia: YOU HAVE A BATMAN SITE? I feel so close to you right now.

Becky Plexco: I haven't worked on my Web site much the last few years. One of my goals is to overhaul the whole thing and update the crap out of it. I've had a ginormous fansite for lots of goth and fan-related stuff since 1997.

Carmilla Voiez: Is Batman goth? I don't think so. His anger is turned outwards rather than inwards. He's privileged. He fits in with his non-goth cronies. He plays dress-up, but is that what we consider goth? Maybe he's F.O.G (friend of goth)? I've never seen him dance to Bauhaus. Now that is an episode I'd love to watch!

Becky Plexco: Corporate Goth, maybe? And wouldn't inward anger make him emo?

Martin Oldgoth: I was never a huge comic/superhero geek, but Batman for me was the only one that truly stood out. Maybe it's the timing, but growing up with Adam West on TV was what got me hooked as a kid.

It appealed on that level, and then as I grew up, so did the way the world viewed Batman. In essence I guess he could be considered a goth of sorts, albeit one of those ones into rubber and angst as opposed to vodka and dancing.

Sarah Fanning: No, I don't particularly find Batman to be goth. Dark and broody, yes, and at times (depending on the writer) sociopathic.

I have enjoyed this latest Batman series and am looking forward to seeing the new one (though I doubt it will match the awesomeness of The Avengers). These new ones have really stayed truer to the darkness of the comic books.

I appreciate how maniacal and less circusy they made the Joker. Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent/Two-Face was so much more jarring, having shown his fall from grace and descent into madness than the slap-happy Tommy Lee Jones version. And I love that they brought in lesser known villains like Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neeson was perfect , though part of me just saw him as the anti-Qui-Gon), Scarecrow (who was brilliant!) and Bane (I hope they do this story arc right).

I do like Christian Bale in this role (though I hate his Batman voice). He conveys the tragedy and brokenness that is Bruce Wayne well. When you stop and think of the Batman universe, almost every major hero and villain are personifications of one mental illness or another.

Liisa Ladouceur: I omitted Batman from my Encyclopedia, but in hindsight he does belong. He likes to dress up in dramatic costumes that includes a cape, lives in a cave, wrestles with inner angst, rarely smiles and, oh yeah....has his own Bat Symbol! Totally goth.

Who amongst us goth girls doesn't dream of meeting a Dark Knight in latex? (Oh, is that just me?) Granted, I have no idea what he reads, if anything. Or listens to. Is the primary definition of a goth someone who actually likes and listens to goth music?

Well, I suppose Danny Elfman's Batman Returns theme could count in his favor there. I vote yes to include the Caped Crusader in the club.

Becky Plexco: I think your perspective on Batman can depend in part on what era you grew up during. Martin and I are old school and in the '60s and early '70s a spooky kid grasped onto anything we could, and Batman was the spookiest good guy. And the most angsty.

One of my favorite Batman comic book covers in the '70s was one where he fought Dracula. Kids who grew up in the '80s and '90s had a slew of horror and twisted heroes and villains to choose from, so a lot of the Batman magic was probably lost on them.

But when the first Batman movie came out with Michael Keaton, it transfixed me. I went to see it at least a dozen times in the theater (mostly by myself). And then when Batman Returns came out, I thought my head was going to explode. I'm not actually a huge fan of the way they played the Penguin in the film, a few too many black body fluids for me, but Devito was a very tragic figure where the Joker didn't really seem to be.

Just saying when the pickings are slim, you'd be amazed what seems dark and spooky.

Alethea Carr: I'm joining the minority here -- at least in part. Now, Batman would be truly goth if he told Alfred, "Start up the fog machine and put on some Bauhaus!" but he is certainly a gothic character in the literary sense. The struggle against injustice, the hidden secrets of his identity, the family mansion with its underground lair -- all of this, plus the fact he lives in Gotham City -- makes him extremely appealing as a hero we can claim and be nicely attuned to.

And as Becky said, growing up in the '70s, there weren't many heroes who dressed in black and lived in bat caves. You took what you could get while sifting through the detritus of popular culture, and you treasured it. Plus, the Batmobile kicks ass. I'd have a hard time choosing between it and a hearse!

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