What does Batman mean to the world? How do parents explain such a character to their kids? As a child, I was first introduced to Batman in possibly the best way: Batman, the ‘60s television show. This show is non-threatening and presents danger in a comical way that makes it a wonderful introduction to the Caped Crusader.
We’re approaching the 80th anniversary of Batman, who first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (1939). The iconic character has gone through various mediums to have his story told, from comic books, TV, film, and we’ve seen multiple actors (for voice-over or live action) take control of the Batcave. The tragic depths that define Batman have inspired podcasts (e.g., The Arkham Sessions). It’s created a cast of unique characters that have developed beyond the frames of Batman’s story (e.g., Batgirl, Joker, Gotham).
Batman has become more than strictly a detective roaming the streets of Gotham City. He has become a symbol of hope for characters within a story, while providing everyone in the real world, especially parents to their children, an opportunity to discuss death, justice, and the restrained efforts (mostly) of vengeance. It’s safe to say that Batman does give parents an opportunity to see a superhero make difficult decisions.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of Batman and age-appropriate content that will help parents identify when to introduce these various iterations of our leading character.
Length: 3 seasons
TV-G Rating, via TV Parental Guidelines: “General Audience – Most parents would find this program suitable for all ages. Although this rating does not signify a program designed specifically for children, most parents may let younger children watch this program unattended. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little to no sexual dialogue or situations.”
As a child, this show represented so much more than the title character. Batman showcases the need to trust and depend on others. Batman, played by Adam West, relies on Robin, Commissioner Gordon, and others to defeat larger-than-life villains. In the best way to introduce any kind of violence to a child, fight scenes would always begin and end with some form of “POW!!” or “WHACK!!” This provides a simple format for kids to see good fight evil, without the darker imagery that can come with superhero films from today.
Batman also showed me as a child that anyone could be a villain. It let me know that the Catwoman might seem charming, but that does not define her morality as she battles wits with Batman and Robin. This TV series generates a classic depiction of a character attempting to do good, even in the face of conflicting emotions toward his enemy. This relationship between Batman and Catwoman lets every viewer see that things aren’t simply black and white. Not only can life be complicated, but even the mightiest of heroes will sometimes question their own actions.
Batman Begins (2005)
Length: 2 hours, 20 minutes
PG-13 Rating, via Motion Picture Association of America: “Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13 – Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.”
Depending on your child’s maturity for violent scenes, Batman Begins is a fantastic look into what created the iconic character. From the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, to the guilt and rage associated with their deaths, and the ultimate quest to find one’s purpose after losing everything.
Batman Begins dives into the gray with Christian Bale’s performance, as he flaunts Bruce Wayne’s wealth to appear as a socialite to disguise his true nature as Gotham City’s true protector. This method of deception does not only fall on the shoulders of the “good guy.” Misdirection and toxins play a big part in the way villains attempt to destroy the people in Batman’s city.
This is a much darker adaptation of Batman, compared to the ‘60s TV show. There is violence, death, and scary imagery that are not suitable for younger children.
Batman Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles (2017)
Rated: 12+ Only
Length: 183 pages
Teen Rating, via DC Comics: “Appropriate for readers 12 and older. May contain mild violence, language and/or suggestive themes.”
Tom King’s Batman does more than focus on the very nature of being the World’s Greatest Detective. The War of Jokes and Riddles lets his audience discover the nuances behind the veil of the criminal world. In such a case where villains start taking sides, to fight each other, where does Batman and the rest of the world stand in all of this? Well, there is a lot of collateral damage in this storyline.
Beyond the scope of many, many deaths, all to indulge the Joker’s need to laugh, Batman moves beyond the simple premise of “find and stop the threat.” He has to find a way to stop numbers too large to contain, while staying within the lines of moral superiority. This story is absolutely a brilliant way for parents to highlight to kids that heroes are vulnerable. They can be pushed to the limit and sometimes the realization that those lines that separate the good and the bad are quite easily blurred.
Although there is death in this story, the violence might be more easily acceptable than seeing something in a movie. Batman Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles highlights how easy it is for revenge to be a motivating factor and it presents Batman and other characters in a way that shows we’re all human. Well, maybe not the Joker – he’s just crazy.
As Detective Comics #1000 releases later this month, celebrating 80 years of Batman, there are plenty of options for you and your family to discover or further explore the lore of such an iconic character.
What was your or your kid’s first experience with Batman? Have you found a different character within the world of Batman that you call favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below or head over to Facebook or Twitter and let us know what you think. If you like this content, don’t forget to like this page and send out a big Bat-Signal to all of your friends.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.