"It's a Batman's World": Regulations of Gender, Sanity, and Justice in Batman Comics, 1986-2011



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Batman, or Bruce Wayne, is a famous DC Comics superhero without superpowers who fights crime at night in the guise of a bat after his parents’ murder. He has starred in dozens of animated and live-action films and TV shows, graced YouTube with a fan-written musical, and been continuously published in comics since his first appearance in 1939. While many readers and viewers can likely recall iconic moments, such as Batman: The Animated Series’ “I am vengeance! I am the night! I am Batman!”, it is less likely that they have considered the full weight of those words, and the institutions and infrastructures Batman has enacted and regulates in Gotham City. In this thesis, I examine three modes through which Batman/Bruce Wayne exerts control over Gotham City: first, by performing and enforcing specific standards of masculine and heterosexual gender identity and sexual orientation; second, by hypocritically designing and implementing systems of regulation for the insane; and third, by challenging his system of justice and crime-fighting through the person and experiences of Jason Todd. This project is implicitly Foucauldian, and draws heavily from Michel Foucault’s writings in Madness and Civilization and “About the Concept of the ‘Dangerous Individual’ in 19th Century Legal Psychiatry,” as well as existing scholarship on masculinity and superhero comics, specifically those focusing on Batman.



Batman, comics studies, comics, Foucauldian analysis