UPDATE (3-9-10): I just realized something: I forgot to mention that the bolded text in Frank Miller’s NPR editorial were my emphasis, not his. Sorry about that.
Oh no you didn’t, Shanoah.
You didn’t just write a post linking the Dark Knight and the most misunderestimated Warrior on Terror™ of our times.
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* BLOG RANT ALERT * BLOG RANT ALERT *
ELEVATED LEVELS OF INCOHERENT AND IMPOTENT VITRIOL DETECTED
My neat thing today is neat only in the way that watching a drunken bum fight is neat: Batman is joining the War on Terror™! Or he will be! Maybe!
Frank Miller announced way way way back in 2006, at San Francisco’s WonderCon, that Batman will be fighting Al Qaeda in a book titled, or possibly titled, Holy Terror, Batman!
To which I responded with: Oh.
This is old news to you comic otaku, of course, but it’s the first thing that popped into my head when I heard Dubya and Batman mentioned in the same breath; we here at One Neat Thing a Day don’t worry ourselves over pesky things like being current or even relevant. I’m not even sure if I believe this story, if it’s a viable project, or if it’s just like Orson Welles directing The Bat-Man – just another hoax. It’s just too wonderful to be real.
Now, you might think that Batman is going to hunt down and destroy Goldstein I mean Al Qaeda for, say, collapsing the Twin Towers and killing thousands of Americans. Hauling supposedly unstoppable and uncatchable criminals before a magistrate (or a criminal psychologist) is Batman’s thing. Done right, with equal parts John le Carré and Operation: Wrath of God and with Batman’s mad ninja skeelz, his aversion to taking life and his… issues, it might actually be a cool read.
If you thought that, then you are a dumbass.
See, Batman’s a superhero, and superheroes are apparently all about creepy, ultimate good/blackest evil, never-the-twain-shall-meet dualisms. You know! Like a comic book! Or G. I. Joe! So Batman kicking Al Qaeda’s collective ass isn’t just about justice or even about justice at all! It’s about Fighting the Good Fight and Ensuring A Better Tomorrow For Our Children™ and Freedom™ and Democracy™ and making sure Sauron doesn’t get the One Ring!
Actually, no, it’s about kicking ass.
Mr. Miller laid out the philosophical underpinnings for Holy Terror, Batman!, not to mention a healthy dose of self-hatred, in a NPR editorial entitled That Old Piece of Cloth that aired, you guessed it, on Sept. 11, 2006:
I was just a boy in the 1960s. My adolescence wasn’t infused with the civil rights struggle or the sexual revolution or the Vietnam War, but with their aftermath.
My high school teachers were ex-hippies and Vietnam vets. People who protested the war and people who served as soldiers. I was taught more about John Lennon than I was about Thomas Jefferson.
Both of my parents were World War II veterans. FDR-era patriots. And I was exactly the age to rebel against them.
It all fit together rather neatly. I could never stomach the flower-child twaddle of the ’60s crowd and I was ready to believe that our flag was just an old piece of cloth and that patriotism was just some quaint relic, best left behind us.
It was all about the ideas. I schooled myself in the writings of Madison and Franklin and Adams and Jefferson. I came to love those noble, indestructible ideas. They were ideas, to my young mind, of rebellion and independence, not of idolatry.
But not that piece of old cloth. To me, that stood for unthinking patriotism. It meant about as much to me as that insipid peace sign that was everywhere I looked: just another symbol of a generation’s sentimentality, of its narcissistic worship of its own past glories.
Then came that sunny September morning when airplanes crashed into towers a very few miles from my home and thousands of my neighbors were ruthlessly incinerated — reduced to ash. Now, I draw and write comic books. One thing my job involves is making up bad guys. Imagining human villainy in all its forms. Now the real thing had shown up. The real thing murdered my neighbors. In my city. In my country. Breathing in that awful, chalky crap that filled up the lungs of every New Yorker, then coughing it right out, not knowing what I was coughing up.
For the first time in my life, I know how it feels to face an existential menace. They want us to die. All of a sudden I realize what my parents were talking about all those years.
Patriotism, I now believe, isn’t some sentimental, old conceit. It’s self-preservation. I believe patriotism is central to a nation’s survival. Ben Franklin said it: If we don’t all hang together, we all hang separately. Just like you have to fight to protect your friends and family, and you count on them to watch your own back.
So you’ve got to do what you can to help your country survive. That’s if you think your country is worth a damn. Warts and all.
So I’ve gotten rather fond of that old piece of cloth. Now, when I look at it, I see something precious. I see something perishable. (emphasis mine)
We all went crazy on Sept. 11, 2001, I think. We acted like wounded animals. It didn’t matter who got hurt, so long as someone did. That’s natural and expected.
The problem is that a lot of people didn’t snap out of it. Mr. Miller appears to have been one of them.
So what’s he going to do to Help Our Country, Warts And All, Survive?
He’s going to write a comic book where a grown man in a bat costume beats the living shit out of some Third World guys with beards.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. After all, Mr. Miller is the man who brought us the spectacle of 300, which pitted the slave-owning and despotic free and democratic Spartans against the swarthy invading hordes of Iran Persia.
But he’s got something better than 300 tanned, oiled, ripped and barechested Greeks chopping apart Arabs Persians in slow motion this time! As he told the Daily Telegraph: “Superman punched out Hitler. So did Captain America. That’s one of the things they’re there for.”
No, Mr. Miller.
Superheroes are about justice, helping the helpless, defending the defenseless and making this gravity well a better place to live in, not kicking ass. There is a difference, even if many people have forgotten that.
More importanly, though, Mr. Miller, Al Qaeda is not Hitler or Tojo.
Nazi Germany and her ally Japan were threats because they had some of the biggest armies and navies in the world, not to mention plenty of land, resources and subjects from several years of unrestricted empire building. Nazi Germany also had the most advanced weapons and military hardware in the world, at least at the start of World War II. Nazi Germany conquered most of Europe, and Japan most of the Pacific and much of Asia. Nazi Germany also gassed people and then stuffed them in ovens, and Japan raped Nanking and then raped women and called them “comfort women”. Both did involuntary medical experiments, used work-em-till-they-drop slave labor and killed millions.
Al Qaeda, on the other hand, has no expeditionary capability whatsoever. It has no navy. It has no air force. It has no way to land an army on our shores or parachute them behind our defenses. It doesn’t even have an army, unless you count a bunch of guys with AKs, mortars and improvised bombs (emphasis on the “improvised”).
The only reason we even care about Al Qaeda, besides the aforementioned dragging them before a magistrate, is because they might get their hands on a nuke or launch a terrorist attack inside the U. S. – and quite frankly, stopping those are jobs for our spies and our police, not our soldiers.
‘Course, this is a moot point because we’re not even fighting Al Qaeda. We’re fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and a bunch of extremely pissed-off Iraqis in Iraq. (Yes! We’re still in Iraq! And still fighting in Iraq!) We don’t even know where Al Qaeda is. They might be in Afghanistan. They might be in Pakistan. They might living above your Aunt Tessie’s garage. We don’t know, thanks to George W. Bush invading Iraq and then giving his dad the finger. All we know is they’re out there, we can’t find them and we can’t touch them.
But there are other scary motherfuckers with beards out there! Oh goody! Let’s bomb them!
This, of course, reaches to the heart of why Batman fighting Al Qaeda creeps me out. I look at the U. S. Armed Forces – the most advanced, most ass-kickingest combined military force in the world – and then I look at the people they’re fighting. I don’t see Nazi hordes. I see a couple brown-skinned guys with AK-47s, the Weapon of Choice for the fighter on a budget.
Yes, they’re religious fanatics and drug dealers.
They’re also dirt poor and fighting us with whatever piecemeal weapons they can scrounge – and fighting us in their backyards and their homes, I might add.
This is your “existential threat” to America and Freedom™ and Democracy™, Mr. Miller? And why do I suddenly feel like I’m in Star Wars and our soldiers are wearing white plastic armor and saying things like “rebel scum”?
Why do I feel like I’m on the side of the Empire and not the rebels? Why do I feel like one of the bad guys?
Can you answer me that, Mr. Miller? Can you answer me why I would support a idle multi-billionare ninja with more Wonderful Toys than James Bond and his own personal War on Terror™?
Almost everything about the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the War on Terror™ and post-2001 McPatriotism in general makes me feel greasy and icky and corrupted. But happy Mr. Miller doesn’t appear to have a problem with any of that, which is why he’s treating us to yet another spectacle: a rich playboy with father issues  beating up poverty-wracked brown-skinned people.
There’s also something cheap and exploitative about this project. As Mr. Miller told Rotten Tomatoes in 2007: “It’s bound to offend just about everybody.” Even the title (or one of its titles) is cheap, like the campy 1960s TV series that it takes inspriation from: Holy Terror, Batman!
This is what’s happened to our heroes. Once, they stood for something. Now they’re direct-to-DVD from Troma.
Actually, I shouldn’t drag Troma into this. When they offend people, they do it right. They make pointless, gratuitous, drop-dead funny sex and violence. They don’t make propaganda for The Man.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think that he should publish Holy, Terror, Batman!  As he told the Daily Telegraph, “It’s an explosion from my gut reaction of what’s happening now, a reminder to people who seem to have forgotten who we’re up against.” Writing can be therapeutic, and if Mr. Miller was as traumatized as he seems by Sept. 11, 2001, then more power to him. If nothing else, it’s honest.
Still, if he wants therapy, maybe he should follow the advice of fellow Batman author Grant Morrison :
Batman vs. Al Qaeda! It might as well be Bin Laden vs. King Kong! Or how about the sinister Al Qaeda mastermind up against a hungry Hannibal Lecter! For all the good it’s likely to do. Cheering on a fictional character as he beats up fictionalized terrorists seems like a decadent indulgence when real terrorists are killing real people in the real world. I’d be so much more impressed if Frank Miller gave up all this graphic novel nonsense, joined the Army and, with a howl of undying hate, rushed headlong onto the front lines with the young soldiers who are actually risking life and limb ‘vs’ Al Qaeda. (emphasis mine)
For that matter, I wish all the “real men” and “patriots” who support the War on Terror™ and the Eternal Struggle Against Elemental Evil would follow Morrison’s advice. Maybe they’d get an idea of what war is really like. Maybe they wouldn’t support it so thoughtlessly and relentlessly next time.
Maybe there wouldn’t be another 9/11.
That’s what would make the world a better place.
 The Daily Telegraph adds: “In this compendium of all his statements, bin Laden does not name Batman personally, but attacks America as ‘the Great Satan’ for exporting a culture of pornography and violence.” Nobody does sarcasm like the Brits. Nobody.
 George W. Bush?
 I also think that Troma should adapt Holy Terror, Batman! into a movie. Seeing a terrorist doing a Troma Meltdown after being punched in the face by Toxic Avenger Batman would make my life complete.
 I also love Morrison’s take on Batman: “…I want to see a Batman that combines the cynic, the scholar, the daredevil, the businessman, the superhero, the wit, the lateral thinker, the aristocrat. He terrifies the guilty but he has great compassion for the weak and the downtrodden and will lay his life on the line for anybody who’s in trouble. He’s a master of yoga and meditation who has as much control over his body and his feelings as any human. He has a wider range of experiences than most people will dream of in ten lifetimes. This is not a one-note character! So, while I won’t pretend we all live on Sunnybrook Farm, I don’t think its appropriate – particularly in trying times – to present our fictional heroes as unsmiling vengeance machines. I’d rather Batman embodied the best that secular humanism has to offer – a sour-faced, sexually-repressed, humorless, uptight, angry, and all-round grim ‘n’ gritty Batman would be more likely to join the Taliban surely?” (again, emphasis mine) 
 Yes, I like footnotes. 
 You already knew that? 
 Oh, good.