Batman is one of the most recognized and popular pop culture icons. Appearing on the page of Detective Comics #27 in 1939, the character has inspired numerous characters, franchises, and spin-offs over his 80+ year history. The character has displayed versatility, appearing in stories from multiple genres, including science fiction, noir, and fantasy and mediums far beyond his comic book origins. While there are volumes analyzing Batman through literary, philosophical, and psychological lenses, this volume is one of the first academic monographs to examine Batman through a theological and religious lens. Theology and Batman analyzes Batman and his world, specifically exploring the themes of theodicy and evil, ethics and morality, justice and vengeance, and the Divine Nature. Scholars will appreciate the breadth of material covered while Batman fans will appreciate the love for the character expressed through each chapter.
Matthew Brake (M.Div., Regent University; M.A. in philosophy and interdisciplinary studies, George Mason University) is the series editor for the Theology, Religion, and Pop Culture series from Lexington Books and Fortress Academic. He also serves as the co-editor (with A. David Lewis) for the Religion and Comics series from Claremont Press.
C.K. Robertson, Ph.D., is an Episcopal priest and professor, editor of the academic book series Studies in Episcopal and Anglican Theology, and a former board member and frequent guest editor of the Anglican Theological Review.
Introduction: Batman as a Focus of Theological Inquiry
C.K. Robertson, Ph.D., and Matthew Brake
Section One: Theodicy and Evil
1. The Karmic Tragedy of Bruce Wayne: Batman as Anti-Buddha
Wesley D. Cray
2. Suffering and Evil in the Book of Job and Batman: The Killing Joke
Francesco Del Bianco
3. Evil After Christianity: Joker (2019) as Post-Christian Theodicy
4. Beginning with Wickedness, or the Long Dark Knight of the Polis’ Soul
John C. McDowell
5. Batman Encounters Judaism and the Holocaust
Section Two: Ethics and Morality
6. “Fear of Faith” and Faith over Fear: Scarecrow as Emblem of a Purgatorial Gotham
Christina M. Knopf
7. Pride Goeth Before the Knightfall: Sabbath as Heroic Practice
8. Batman Forever: Morality and Narrative in Grant Morrison’s Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
9. The Bat-Bodhisattva: A Buddhist reading of our favorite (Anti)Hero
10. Batman’s Cardinal Virtues in Dark Knight Returns
Section Three: Justice and Vengeance
11. Reflections on Revolutionary Gotham: Sovereignty, Sacrifice, and Theological Fantasy in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy
12. No Saviors in Gotham: Black Liberation and Whiteness in Batman: The Cult
13. Vengeance, Justice, and Batman’s War on Crime
Randall M. Jensen
14. False Messiah and Real Devils: Batman and Girard on the Fate of Gotham Mimesis and the Messianic
15. Fighting for Righteousness: Batman’s Atonement
Section Four: Deities and the Divine
16. Morality, Epistemology, and How Batman Can Know That God Exists
17. How One Becomes What One Is: The Nietzschean Polytheology of Joker (2019)
Vernon W. Cisney
18. Dark Knight of the Soul: Reading Batman with Apophatic Theology
19. The Dark Knight and the Dark Side of God
Michael D. Nichols
20. God-Confusion in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Michael Anthony Novak
To have a book focus on the most famous superhero of recent decades is always a delight, but to have one that addresses that hero through the lens of theology is truly a gem. This study of the Batman will feed the mind and soul of students, scholars, theologians, and superhero aficionados alike. It is a fascinating read that dives deeply into the character of the Batman and his colorful nemeses to uncover latent theological, spiritual, and ethical truths behind their stories. This book will be a valuable asset to courses on theology or popular culture; indeed it will be a great addition to anyone’s library.
This book is delightfully engaging. I have not come across a volume that offers such a diverse and yet simultaneously cohesive treatment of Batman. The book manages breadth and depth that are truly representative, offering not just deep dives into the popular franchise but practical insights of relevance to our historical moment. While there is no way to cover every possible story from such a long-running franchise to which so many different authorial and directorial visions have contributed, the representative coverage is excellent and will make this book a standard reference for academics as well as clergy and others who want to offer substantive engagement with the theological insights that can be gleaned from popular culture.
Theology and Batman is a must read in these seemingly apocalyptic times in which many now recognize both authentic weakness in the hero/heroine and authentic strength in the villain. Our apocalypses reveal the hero/heroine and villain in a fluidity that can no longer be overlooked. Bravo to the authors and editors of this book!