It’s time to take another look at the guy under Batman’s cowl.
The Dark Knight gets the comic-book title treatment in movies and all the pop-culture adoration, yet it’s his civilian identity of Bruce Wayne who just might be as cool a character, sans cape and gadgetry.
“A hero is someone who always does what’s right, no matter what — even when it’s challenging, even when he makes a personal sacrifice, even when he has no personal gain at all. And that’s who Bruce Wayne is,” says David Mazouz, 15, who plays a young version of the famous orphan and future Caped Crusader on TV’s “Gotham” (Fox, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET/PT).
Upcoming episodes are key to kid Bruce’s story as he confronts his parents’ murderer — one example of how the man is getting more of a focus these days than the Bat. And in director Zack Snyder’s new movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (in theaters March 25), Ben Affleck stars as an older Bruce who watches in horror as a battle involving Superman brings down buildings and hurts people around him, and with grim determination decides this alien Man of Steel needs to be stopped.
“He’s confronted with a question of what is the point of his mission when he has to face the fact that there is a Superman alive in the world,” says Affleck. The 43-year-old actor plays Bruce as almost Batman’s masked alter ego, “the philanthropist playboy as another way to feed the hole that he feels of emptiness inside him, just as much as going out and fighting bad guys at night.”
Adds Snyder: “(The character) wears it well. He’s as confident in his mask as Bruce Wayne as his real persona of Batman.”
Since both jumped off the comic-book pages of Detective Comics No. 27 in 1939, the dual identities have satisfied a certain amount of adolescent wish fulfillment for fans in various entertainment genres, according to Glen Weldon, author of The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture (out March 22).
“Batman is the idealized vision of American masculinity as envisioned by narrow-chested boys who got their lunch money stolen a lot. He’s who they want to be: He’s laconic, he’s incredibly muscular,” Weldon says. “Bruce Wayne speaks to their need to look good in a tux.”
While comic books have focused on the Dark Knight’s adventures for decades, the age extremes of “Gotham” and “Batman v Superman” allow a chance to look at “the bell curve of his career when he’s hampered by inexperience at the very beginning and age at the very end,” Weldon says. “That means the stakes rise.”
When comparing Bruce Wayne’s dual identities, “Gotham” executive producer John Stephens finds the superhero side a little unassailable.
“Once he puts on the cowl, it’s sometimes hard to reach through there to the human being inside,” Stephens says. “But when you have Bruce Wayne, you actually get to see the human being, (and) you get to see him make the choices about who he’s going to be when he becomes Batman.”