Archive for November, 2014|Monthly archive page

Rethinking Batman

Yes, I’m rethinking Batman. It’s my little slice of internet, I’ll have whatever fun I want.

I like Batman. I really do. He’s a kick ass superhero without the powers. The only problem is he has unlimited resources, being a gazillionaire, and all too often he’s made into a Gary Stu character. The thing is he’s not invincible, and many writers forget that.

So here’s my take — or rather, how I’d build up Bruce Wayne (as a comic reboot or a TV series ala Arrow)

Okay, Bruce is still an orphan of Crime Alley. Let’s add that he’s adopted. Why? Because it opens possibilities for race, ethnicity, sexuality, or even gender identity. Hell, let’s add gender to that list. Make “Bruce” a nickname. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is what Bruce does after his parents are murdered.

He doesn’t want to be a victim like his parents. Alfred, working in Bruce’s best interests, gets him signed on for martial arts classes. After a bit of shopping around, Bruce finds ninjutsu to his liking. He trains until he’s ready for college, so if he’s ten when Crime Alley happens, he’s got eight years worth of training (probably a 2nd degree black belt, at best, probably just 1st depending on the disposition of his Sensei).

Bruce goes to Japan, taking up dual programs in Criminal Psychology and Forensic Science. On advice of his Sensei, he also continues his training at a local dojo. It takes him seven years to complete both programs, in an effort to get the most of his ninjutsu training. He stays an extra year to attain the rank of Sigung (Grand Teacher), before coming back to Gotham at age 26.

His first intent, back when he left for college, is to join the police force, but Bruce is a schmottguy. He does his homework. He realizes that the crime families have got their hooks deep into the city, and comes to the conclusion that he can’t fight the criminal element as Bruce Wayne. Taking the lessons in social camouflage from ninjutsu to heart, Bruce establishes a party-boy identity. He has that seed of an idea of how he wants to fight crime in Gotham, but he doesn’t have a full plan yet.

And he can’t do it alone.

Bruce uses his wealth and his position with Wayne Tech Enterprises to establish a network. Technologists, doctors, informants, the few good lawmen on the GPD (including James Gordon), all of these contacts are established in secret. Some know who he is, others don’t. Money helps a great deal in many cases. This will take about four to six years, during which Bruce assembles the materials he needs to do his “field work” and establish his moniker as Batman.

While he’s got access to amazing technology, most of it stays at the Batcave. He’s got some advanced gear: armor, the zip-line gun, maybe some nightvision or other tech built into the cowl and mask (and yes, he wears a full mask). However most of his gear is simple, low-tech. Shuriken, smoke bombs, flash bangs, and coils of parachute cord to entangle and capture criminals in close combat. He’s more likely to use stealth and infiltration to gather information before making a move, gathering as much evidence as he can so the courts have a better chance to convict. As he hammers the mob, it creates that power vacuum allowing the Rogues’ Gallery to rise up. After several years of this, as he reaches his late thirties, he not only realizes he can’t do it alone, but he can’t do it forever. He’s taken damage over the years, using his medical connections to get patched up. Broken ribs, joint reconstruction, organ replacement (cloned from himself so as to minimize rejection), all done on the sly thanks to his contacts in the medical field. But it still adds up.

Having maintained the playboy billionaire attitude for some time, Bruce Wayne becomes much more philanthropic, taking in not just one ward, but several: Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain, et al. Orpahns who all suffered at the hands of criminal acts, and also want to see justice. So Wayne takes them in, lets them be kids at first, but he start to train them. In other words, he starts his own clan of shadow warriors.

Now, if I were writing this as a series, I’d probably start this once Wayne had his network setup and he started doing his Batman thing. It’d give an opportunity to explore other characters, like the Joker, Riddler, Gordon, Nightwing, the whole lot. More importantly, it helps establish Wayne’s humanity, even in the face of world shattering weirdness that would involve Supes, Diana or the rest of the Justice League.

After all, superheroes are people too.

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It All Adds Up

In a recent discussion on Twitter I brought up the importance of first impressions to people interested in the STEM fields. One point I made was that decisions aren’t always made out of one big moment, but sometimes lots of little factors play into it. “Little things add up to big things,” I had said. One person responded with “no, little things only become big things if you dwell on them. Let them stay little.” The attitude expressed felt fairly dismissive towards little things being important. It made me think and wonder how well the “little things don’t matter” holds up to mathematical scrutiny.

I mean, a 3% interest rate is a “little thing,” right? Well, no, not when compounded monthly over a long series of time. Sock away $1000 for fifty years, add $100 a month over that time, and see where the interest takes you.

How about a tenth of a degree, that’s a “little thing,” isn’t it? Well, if I’m aiming at something 10 meters away, maybe. I’m off the center of my target by a centimeter. But at 100 meters, I’m off by ten times that distance. If I’m aiming at something that’s 200 million kilometers away, say Asteroid 67P, well guess what?

Maybe 0.1% of a population is a little thing, right? Depends on the population. With 7 billion people here on Earth, that’s still a sample of 7 million.

Little things add up.

A cell in the human body is a “little thing.” What happens when one cell mutates, does something a little different, and passes that sequence on to other cells nearby? Now it’s a tumor, and someone’s life is on the line.

A platelet is a little thing. But platelets build blood clots. A clot in the wrong place causes a heart attack or a stroke.

Little things add up, even if you don’t pay attention to them.

A guy giving a woman a “once-over” might be a little thing. When it happens so many times in a day, when a woman starts wearing paranoia as a form of armor because she doesn’t feel safe, even where she works? Is it so little any more?

An act of microaggression is a “little thing.” Then a co-worker does this sort of thing to you every day. Not listening, yanking tasks out from under you after you said you were working on them, not calling you by name, not knocking on your cube before talking to you, not communicating during a vital project, dismissing your ideas because he didn’t come up with them, and talking over you in meetings. When your manager wonders if he has to professionally separate the two of you, and you say “I’d accept that,” then it stops being a little thing.

Little things add up.

Thirty minutes is a little thing — not a long time at the very least. But if that thirty minutes is spent walking, that can lead to weight loss, better fitness, a better self-image, and even a positive outlook.

A word is a little thing. Put enough of them together in the right order using the right set of skills, and you have a novel.

A photon is a little thing, but their presence is what we need to see.

Little things add up. They can become big things whether we like it or not. What matters is how we treat those little things.