British Columbia

Batman researcher looks at link between hero and psychology

Batman might be better known for Zap! Pow! and Whazzam! But what about his ego, superego and id? A U.S. researcher visiting UVic has been studying the Caped crusader's psychology.

“Batman is who he is because of his self-control… killing the Joker would be giving up that"

Ben Affleck is seen as Batman, in a promotional image for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Zack Snyder)

For almost 80 years, Batman, has captured the imagination of fans around the world through comic books, films, radio dramas, TV shows and video games.

And Travis Langley, a psychology professor at Henderson State University in Tennessee has spent his career asking why that is.

"Batman has always been a hero interesting to me. The popularity of the character is a reason to talk about it and to use it to real people," he told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"His origin itself is very human. Superman is an alien from another planet and has these powers. … Batman became a larger-than-life figure because his parents got murdered in front of him in an alley, and that taps into the most primal fears we have."

Langley is the author of Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight and is visiting the U Victoria for a panel discussion called An Evening with Batman's Brain.

He says Batman is an area of scholarly interest because he's defined by his psychology.

Adam West, left, portrayed Batman in the high-camp '60s series. Batman has changed a lot through the ages, Travis Langley says. ((ABC/Associated Press))

"And because he is defined by his psychology, his enemies are defined by their psychology," he said. "With Superman, when a writer creates a new enemy, they have to start out with what challenges his powers, likewise with most other superheroes."

"With Batman, you start with what challenges him as a character. So you get a richer rogue's gallery and richer stories with more depth very frequently."

Langley says Batman is a character many people aspire to be and are inspired by. He's also changed to meet changing social needs. For example, in the 1980s, the character addressed societal fears about violent vigilantism.

"Psychologically, Batman is who he is because of his self-control … killing the Joker would be giving up that self-control," he said.

Leonard Robinson, dressed as Batman, visits as a child in hospital. The Maryland man, inspired by the Dark Knight, delighted thousands of children by impersonating Batman at hospitals and charity events. He died in 2015. (Kenny Kemp/The Charleston Gazette via AP)

With files from On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: UVic event looks at what really makes Batman tick


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