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Monday, April 28, 2014 

Len Wein doesn't view Batman as psychotic

In an interview with the LA Times, Wein, who wrote and edited Batman during the late 70s-early 80s put forth his idea for how the Masked Manhunter is best characterized:
HC: You wrote some stories for “Detective Comics” in the early and mid-’70s, and then came on as the “Batman” writer in the late ’70s. At that time, what was your idea of what the character’s book should be, and has that changed over the years?

LW: I don’t think it’s changed. My idea of what it should be was – so many people talk about Batman the psychotic, and I’ve never believed him to be psychotic. I believe him as Batman the neurotic and compulsive.

In my very first issue when I took over the book on an ongoing basis, there’s the scene that introduces Lucius Fox, where Lucius comes in at the end of the day to discuss some important business. And Bruce is talking to him but at the same time he’s sitting at his desk with his back to Lucius, looking out the window, and he watches the sun go down. In the middle of the conversation, when the sun disappears, he says, “Sorry, I’ve got things to do. We’ll talk tomorrow,” and leaves. It’s night. It’s time for the Batman. He’s compulsive. He’s not crazy. Although I suppose compulsive’s crazy too.
I'd say Bruce Wayne shouldn't be written as crazy, and it sure didn't help in the long term. There were instances here and there - as early as the mid-80s - where Batman was depicted doing some questionable things, but the bewildering obsession with turning him into a vicious control freak became more common at least a decade later, the apparent result from too much influence by the Dark Knight Returns. Today, it still doesn't look like they're trying to shed that poor approach. But why would anyone think Batman is truly a psycho, or worse, why would they want him to remain scripted that way? I hope Wein understands that successive editorial boards are responsible for this mess.

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Wein is right. "Psychotic" means symptoms of a very severe disorder. It can include hallucinations and/or violent behavior. It is what people mean when they refer to someone as "crazy" or "a lunatic."

"Neurotic" can mean symptoms like anxiety, depression, obsession, or nervousness. The patient does not hallucinate, and does not lose touch with reality.

So Batman could be neurotic, but, in the Bronze Age and earlier, he was not psychotic.

In comics these days, however, everyone and everything has to be taken to extremes. Today's version of Batman is crazier, and more of a menace to society, than most of the villains.

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