Comic Book Boys
Peter Middleton’s essay “Boys Will Be Men” begins with simple anecdotes about the relationships between boys and men of different ages. Middleton then changes his focus towards comic books, where his focus remains all the way through the rest of the paper. Circling back to his original thoughts, the focus on comic books leads to an analysis of comic books in regards to children and their development into men. In his conclusion to the essay, Middleton states, “Nevertheless, action comics for boys are certainly damaging because they offer false solutions to the difficulties of growing up which both sexes face” (Middleton ...view middle of the document...
In other words, along with the costume’s portrayal of masculinity with its tight fit over chiseled muscles, Batman shows a complete disregard for the law that seems to go hand in hand. Middleton touches upon this in his essay, “Not that [Batman] is a criminal but he is not simply an agent of city hall. In many of the stories he is at odds with the official handling of an investigation, and in the way” (Middleton 127). This is the exact type of situation that unfolds in the movies, more specifically in The Dark Knight, where city hall actually calls for the arrest of Batman and issues the warrant to make it official. Batman’s infamy is what makes him popular. His ability to walk a path in which he fights for justice but not in the way that justice wants him to sets Batman up as a figure of supreme masculinity. This is possible because of the history of courageous and testosterone driven men acting outside the law.
The latest Batman movie was titled The Dark Knight not because it was something cool, but because it cleverly held the meaning of Batman. The knight of medieval times is seen as a representative of the code chivalry. Chivalry in turn gave birth to the first heroes, in that they were destined to battle heroically, always for sake of justice no matter what the means, and often for the sake of a woman. All of these traits point to the modern Batman because in actuality he is a Knight, but a Dark Knight because he fights for justice but by his own means. In “Boys Will Be Men,” Middleton comments upon justice, “These superheroes can be said to gain their power from the law… In the superhero comics justice exists independently of the hero, although he draws the power of his manhood from it” (Middleton 127). Middleton argues that it is both the connection to the law and the disconnection to the law that is seen as manly to the readers of the comic books. As such, Batman becomes more like a cowboy than a Knight, while a Knight answers often to a King, a cowboy answers to himself and justice alone. Furthermore, the fact that cowboys were always seen as the real men throughout popular lore, Batman’s masculinity is increased by his role within justice.
While it would seem accurate to say that Batman is the definitive leader among the DC Comics world in popularity, Spiderman is Marvel Comics’ equivalent lead man. Although not shrouded in notoriety as is the Batman throughout the Marvel series’ history, Spiderman goes through phases due to the same reasoning. Spiderman often goes from being immensely popular and loved by the general population to periods in which he has operated under the radar as is customary of Batman. Within the Spiderman movies of late, audiences witness both periods in Spiderman’s life, from hated to loved with little change in his behavior. And it is Spiderman’s costumed behavior that must be looked at to see the presence of masculinity. As Middleton states,
“The stories are about being, not becoming, a man. Superheroes...