- Posted by Johanna on February 4, 2007 at 11:25 am
- Category: Books and Prose
- CREDITS: by Cary A. Friedman
- PUBLISHER: Compass Books; $13.95 US
This slim book follows in the mold of such classics as The Gospel According to Peanuts — philosophical life lessons inspired by the comics.
It’s a lightweight book, especially considering the subject matter. It’s only 112 pages, and the first 30 consist of Acknowledgments, Preface, Foreword, Introduction, and numerous quotes of praise from former and current comic big names. That’s an awful lot of material to set up what’s a pretty simple concept. The author wants us to know, though, that he’s a rabbi and a chaplain with experience in prisons, with law enforcement, and at the FBI Academy. I would have rather let the material speak for itself, with all the information about the author left for afterwards.
I had a very hard time getting into the book. The 18 short chapters (some only two pages) resemble a daily homily, along the lines of a children’s sermon or a life lesson with some kind of tie to a Batman panel. Subjects include living through tragedy, the importance of family, willpower, hard work, studying… expected topics, given the character.
It’s all very basic, told in prose of a similar style. I suspect that I’m too familiar with Batman and writings about him to be an ideal target for this book, since I didn’t find anything new here. I also have resistance to the idea of using the character as any kind of spiritual role model. That’s what Batman can and should be, I agree, but it’s not what he is any longer, and a comic reader has to ignore the current portrayal of the tortured hero to engage with the lessons here, which sometimes contradict or radically simplify the modern creative approach.
I also can’t take seriously comparing Batman to Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr. I suppose I’ve lost my younger optimism when it comes to well-known superheroes. Today, to me they’re most often exhausted symbols, overused and self-contradictory to the point where they’re no longer suitable as role models. I appreciate those who aren’t so jaded; they’ll find more to enjoy in this validation of their inspirations.
Sample pages can be read at the book’s website. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)