Monday, October 16, 2006

Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, and Capitalism

I was reading the other day about the upcoming "Batman Confidential" series, which will be beginning with a story arc describing the first time Bruce Wayne met Lex Luthor. And this got me thinking about Capitalism.

Back in the first few tellings of the myth there were two competing modern outlooks, that could be described Superman/Metropolis vs. Batman/Gotham. Suerman was the optimistic, positive hero, and his city was the glistening, clean, artistic and cultural caricature of New York. Batman was the dark, brooding hero, and his city was the dirty, corrupt, backalley caricature of New York.

The City matched the personality of the hero.

But once Lex Luthor had his story changed from "mad scientist" to "corrupt Billionaire industrialist", the possible dualities shifted. Now, it was possible to compare the cities to their leading Billionnaires: Luthor/Metropolis v. Bruce Wayne/Gotham.

Now, we all know that Bruce Wayne is "good", and Lex Luthor is "evil". But we also know that Billionaire industrialist employ lots and lots of people. Every batplane is built by the hard-working folks at Wayne Technologies, and every Kryptonite Suit is built by the well-compensated scientist at LexCorp.

But, when viewed in that way, one can start the see the emergence of the "Corporate Raider-Hero" mindset that was prevalent in the mid-1980s when Lex Luthor got a career change. One can imagine that evil-Lex would have no problem making dramatic layoffs in any economic slowdown -- who cares if the employee has seven hungry children at home! Wayne Technologies, one might imagine, has a more employee-friendly policy. One never hears of picketers or striking trade unionists at a Wayne-owned company.

If we had to imagine, we would imagine Wayne being pro-Union, and Luthor being a Union-buster.

But now, how do we see the "souls" of our two competing New Yorks? Why is Gotham rife with street crime, gangs, crime bosses, rapes, and murders, while Metropolis is an idyllic urban Utopia with just the occasional visiting Supervillian? Why don't we see the poor of Metropolis as often?

Is there a subtext here that the correct moral outlook to business is actually closer to Lex Luthor (or Gordon Gecko) than Bruce Wayne (or George Bailey)? If Bruce Wayne were a more ruthless industrialist, would there be more small business sprouting up around Gotham? If Lex Luthor weren't engaged in "creative distruction", would Metropolis be so grand?

I'll be curious to see if any of these issues are addressed in Batman Confidential, or if it is just a battle between Good and Evil. I'd like -- at the very least -- for Lex to ask Bruce, If I'm so bad, how come Metropolis's economy is so much stronger than Gotham's"? And I'd like to hear Bruce's reaction.

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Blogger plok said...

Well, Metropolis has crime, doesn't it? Intergang, and all that...Suicide Slum...LEX LUTHOR...

I think if I were Bruce Wayne I might answer this by saying something like "Because freakin' Superman lives in Metropolis, that's why. Planes don't crash, boats don't sink, meteors don't hit, nuclear bombs don't go off. BUT! Metropolis would probably have an even better economy if you weren't around, I bet..."

Then when I walked out of the room he'd have one of his subordinates fired or killed, just out of pique.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

Sure, Metropolis has crime. I was speaking in comparative terms, regarding the amount and the nature of those crimes.

Gotham and Metropolis are clearly not the same city. How would you define the difference, if not that Gotham is grittier, more corrupt, and "crimier"?

8:03 AM  

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