I absolutely love watching the latest Batman cartoon. Batman was everything any red blooded male wanted to be. He had material wealth. He had a cool fast car that could do almost anything. He had a Batcave bachelor pad. He had a Batcomputer that made a HAL-9000 look like a Commodore 64 first generation game consol hooked up to a monitor that took up an entire side of a cave’s wall. He had a communication system that made the AT&T network look like a couple of tin cups with a string stretched tight. And he didn’t have to go to work at a nine to five.
While most of the villains in this version of Batman are the typical, venerable collection of Joker, Penguin, Cat Woman, Scarecrow, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze and the like, the villains, like the Batman and his associates Alfred the butler, Robin, Batgirl, commissioner Gordon, and etcetera, are developed with an attention to detail that is wasted on most children and even some adults. Often, when I watched this cartoon, I was able to learn a little more about human nature and the way we chose to respond to our surroundings.
For example, there was one episode with a new Batman villain that was new to me, Dr. Hugo Strange. It’s been a while since I saw this particular story, maybe a year or two. But I hope you’ll get the jest of the story. Like most Batman villain characters, Dr. Strange started out benign enough. He was a psychiatrist for Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane. Initially he was just a manipulative doctor using his authority at the asylum for his personal benefit. Eventually, his own corrupt and deviant behavior began to manifest and take on a more sinister tone until eventually he too became one of the crazy criminals.
Dr. Strange felt that his mental capacity was more than a match for the Batman and wanted to prove he was the superior at any and every opportunity. In this particular episode, Dr. Strange requested a meeting with the Batman. All was the detective, Batman graced Dr. Strange with an appearance. Dr. Strange told Batman and his sidekick Robin of his latest fiendish plot. At the very moment the caped crusaders was meeting with Dr. Strange, vials of some sort of human mutating virus was being released into Gotham’s air turning the entire city’s population into zombies. Dr. Strange reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a vial of what he claimed was the only source for the antidote. Always quick to protect the city Batman demanded the vial. The doctor intentionally fumbled the vial and it smashed on the floor of their meeting room filling the room with gas.
Batman picked up one of the glass shards and stuck it in his utility belt. He looked outside the doors of the meeting room and saw that the guards had mutated into zombies. As soon as Batman and Robin opened the doors and stepped into the hallway they had a fight on their hands. All the guards that were so helpful before were now attacking them. The two had to fight their way all the way back to the Batmobile. As they drove back to the Batcave, the people walking the street all appeared like zombies. No one in the city was spared. When the two got to the Batcave, the two saw Alfred the butler had mutated as well. Batgirl had been infected. She actually managed to subdue Robin. The next thing Batman knew, Robin had joined the attacking mob. Batman was alone to save the city.
Batman took the small sample of the vial Dr. Strange broke and used his computers to analyze the composition and replicated more of the formula in bulk. He then placed the formula in a number of canisters to be released as a fog on the entire city from key locations on top of buildings. But at every location he had designated to plant the canisters there were zombies fighting him and trying to keep him from helping. There was the zombielike Robin. There was zombie Batgirl. There was the zombie police force. Each zombie was talking at him using their zombie voice to say stop or no. But Batman knew what must be done.
With the last canister in place on top of one of the city’s skyscrapers Batman stood back and looked out across the city. The Batman saw nothing but utter chaos. Buildings were burning. Zombies were in the street rioting and fighting. It was total anarchy. And there was the zombie Batgirl and zombie Robin. There was the zombie commissioner and the zombie police force. They had surrounded Batman. Batman was breathing heavy and he was exhausted. But the zombies did not attack. They stood back but kept a circle around the Batman. Now zombie Robin stepped forward and again said no in his zombie voice. He held out his hand. Batman was torn he knew what the city needed. He was Robin’s and everyone else in the city’s last hope.
Despite what he could see with his own eyes, despite what he had gone through, despite what he knew, Batman submitted. He gave zombie Robin the trigger that would release the antidote and slumped to his knees. Zombie Robin stepped forward and sprayed a gas into Batman’s face and a second later, everyone was miraculously cured and the inferno that was consuming the city was extinguished. The city was never in any danger from Dr. Strange, at least not directly.
Dr. Strange had developed a plan where all he had to do was infect the Batman and Batman would then infect the city. The vial the doctor had broken in the beginning of the episode was no antidote but a hallucinogen that made the Batman believe he was normal while everyone around him was infected. Since Robin was infected at the same time Batman was infected they perceived each other to be normal. But when Robin was rescued by Batgirl, that link was severed and Robin became one of them.
It took everything Batman had not to push that button. By everything he knew, everything he had seen, it was the only proper course of action. And yet, had he pushed that button, it would have been Armageddon for the city. Maybe Batman was just lucky. But somehow, he was able to make the right decision for the people of Gotham City.
I thought about this particular Batman episode as I listened to President George Bush wax eloquently about his decisions during his administration. Mr. Bush likes to claim that based on the information he knew at the time he has no regrets about the conduct of his administration or some of the decisions he made as President. It doesn’t matter that the information he based his decisions on was faulty. It doesn’t matter the decisions he made may have made the country, and even the world, a much more dangerous place. It doesn’t matter that a million people may have died directly as a result of his choices. History will vindicate Mr. Bush. The ends will justify his means. It’s not his fault!
If Mr. Bush was under that darkly colored cowl with the Batman symbol on his chest he gives me the impression that he would’ve been more than happy to press that trigger and release the toxin in those canisters. It wouldn’t have been his fault because the information he based his decision on was faulty. Screw the potential loss of life or the damage to property. Screw the fact that Mr. Bush may have been duped to be someone else’s political patsy.
I know if I was in Batman’s place and I had pulled that trigger I would spend my remaining days with regret. It wouldn’t matter what information was based on. It wouldn’t matter how I was manipulated. I would think I should have done more to uncover the truth instead of acting so blindly. Maybe I should have taken a cursory glance at the list of chemicals going into the formula I was told was the antidote to see if it actually made sense. Maybe, I should have tested the antidote on a test pool instead of the city at large. There may be a few other maybes I’m not taking into consideration right now.
In closing this article, I started to say that it was a good thing the Mr. Bush is not the alternate ego of the Batman else the fictional Gotham City would have suffered a catastrophic nightmare. But unfortunately, in reality, Mr. Bush was supposed to have been the leader of the free world and his actions caused a catastrophe that led to the destabilization of the Middle East and of Afghanistan with repercussions that have the potential to impact every country on this globe. But that’s okay because the information was faulty. Even a cartoon displays more character than this guy.