Batman Returns To Do What Politicians Won’t: Fight Police Brutality
As 2015 nears its end, the year’s biggest political stories include issues of race, from the ongoing instances of police brutality waged disproportionately on people of color to the racist undercurrents found on campuses like the University of Missouri and others across the country. The deaths of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Walter Scott, and others resonate powerfully with those of Sean Bell, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and thousands of others and the tragedies have begun to permeate discussions well outside of the standard political arena of cable news, presidential debates, and campaigns. Popular culture has long been a place to find reflections on the political and social atmosphere of a nation, and the U.S. is no different. From the words and actions of artists like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Killer Mike, and Talib Kweli (both inside and outside of the studio) to the activists who have made Black Lives Matter a household name, it is hard to ignore the prevalence of death at the hands of the police, and now one of the world’s most beloved superheroes is tackling the issue.
In its latest Batman issue, DC Comics released “Dark Knight III: The Master Race,” one of the industry’s most anticipated installments. In it, images of police brutality take center stage as illustrated by legendary artist Frank Miller, who is also the original writer of “Dark Knight Returns,” a series that first appeared almost three decades ago. This time around, Miller has opted to include powerfully contemporary imagery, portraying Batman as not only the caped crusaded, but one who helps save a young Black man from the murderous grasp of Gotham City’s police force. According to the Washington Post, “the opening sequence of ‘Dark Knight III: The Master Race’ is narrated through text messages between a young Black man in a hoodie and his friend, presumably rehashing recent past events.” Immediately thereafter, the young man can be seen fleeing a cracked and bloody police car, at which point two officers emerge, resulting in the young man’s displaying his open, unarmed palms. Enter Batman, who begins to pummel the overzealous officers, disarming them and effectively neutralizing their power by “beating the officers who had their guns aimed.”
As the comic panel unfolds, Batman himself becomes the target of police violence, but in the end prevails and as the Post reports, “The final pane reveals a significant twist to Batman’s identity, but we’ll leave that out because it’s irrelevant to the police scene.” Whether or not the identity reveal involves Batman’s race is not known, but it is interesting to surmise…would Batman’s appeal grow if it were to be exposed that he was himself a minority? Either way, many argue that what is really compelling here is that police brutality and racist government-sanctioned bodies have become one of – if not the – major political takeaway from 2015, at least domestically speaking. And while Batman fighting on behalf of the victimized is a beautifully poetic reaction to some very serious issues, it lies with the politicians and those in power to make a real change, after all. Most politicians, and especially those with real visibility and an ability to affect change, have yet to come forward with real strength to call police brutality what it really is for millions of people: domestic terrorism. As KRS-One recently quipped, the police are a “federally authorized gang,” and many are left with a painfully tragic question…if the murders of unarmed men, women, and children of color are not enough to induce change, even when caught on camera, then what will? And maybe even more tragic is the idea that the only thing to protect us is an imaginary hero who exists only within the confines of a comic strip.