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Brief Introduction: I did this paper a while back for a mythology class. I did it on Batman and the Monomyth. I ended up making a C on the paper due to Grammatical errors that were present. There are some inaccuracies concerning the Batman legend. Part of the problem was I went with an amalgamation of the stories out there (various movies, cartoons, etc.) and some things I just plain got wrong. So here’s some fun: The person who spots the most inaccuracies will get a prize. Maybe a copy of one of my bargain bin comics. I will decide later. Also if you all enjoy articles that do more analysis of characters, tell me and I will. I enjoy the stuff but not sure how it will fair. Submit your entries in either the comment section below or email them to me at: email@example.com
Note: This article is posted as it was sent to the teacher with grammar mistakes still present.
The American Super Hero and the Monomyth
The American comic book is often called the source for the mythology of America. It is only natural for the media to be called the main source of mythology when you consider the main genre of comic books is the Super Hero story. The world of the super hero is often characterized as a world where death is just a passing thought, as the hero (and villain) will not stay dead for long. It is a world where men can fly, women can unleash supersonic screams, and children can flip semi trucks with the power of their mind. This world is a mythological world and the heroes of this world often fit into Campbell’s Monomyth.
The American super hero, Batman is an excellent example of the American super hero and how it fits the monomyth presented by Campbell. Batman’s journey began at a very young age when, as Bruce Wayne, he witnessed his parents’ death at the hand of a mugger. At that moment Bruce became a different person. When he reached his teenage years Bruce, the successor of the massive Wayne fortune and Wayne Enterprises, decided to begin a quest at which he will be able to avenge his parents’ death. At his side throughout his journey was his loyal butler Alfred, who had to assume the role of the father figure for Bruce and became his guide throughout his quest.
The quest began when Bruce and Alfred left on a ship from Gotham City harbor and casted off to the Asia continent. When Bruce arrived in Asia he entered the training of the League of Assassins. The League was known around the world for the silent and brutal tactics used to enforce the will of the highest bidder. Bruce willingly began his transformation from the meek trust fund kid into a precision killing machine.
During his tenure under the league Bruce was assigned several tasks to prove his worth to the league. He achieved all the tasks but one, he refused to kill anyone. During these trials Bruce meets Talia al Ghul, daughter of the leader of the League. Bruce fell deeply in love with the young assassin but she often tempted Bruce into killing her father and assuming control of the League. Bruce still held true to his convictions of not killing and turned away Talia, despite his feelings for her.
One of the final tasks Bruce was told to undergo was the task of isolating himself in a cave, inhale the fumes of a burning hallucinogenic flower, and face his own fears. His greatest fear turned out to be disappointing his parents by failing to avenge their deaths. Bruce overcame the fear and no longer was Bruce Wayne but Batman (He was not truly Batman in name, but he assumed the mindset and personality that would become known as Batman). This is when Bruce began his final training.
The final training for Bruce was to kill a fellow member of the league. Bruce still held to his conviction like before and refused to do so. The leader of the League did not take well to this and attacked Bruce. Seeing as he is now fully prepared to avenge his parents’ death, Bruce fought the leader and won. Instead of finishing the leader off, Bruce escaped from the League’s HQ and made his way back home to Gotham.
In Gotham, Bruce tried to use his training to fight crime but soon learned that he failed to intimidate the criminals and his tactics relied on this intimidation. One night after failing to stop the criminals, Bruce witnessed a bat flying into the window. This became the moment when Bruce known that he would have to take the form of a feared figure and he choose the bat as it is a creature of the night. Bruce then assumed the dual identity of Batman, the trained skilled fighter, and Bruce Wayne, the trust fund kid, as a way to achieve his goal to eventually rid the city of crime and avenge his parent’s death.
The story of Batman on the surface sounds like a revenge story but you can analyze it further and see how it fits the Campbell’s Monomyth. Starting with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents it becomes apparent how it fits the journey. The death of the parents represents for Bruce the call to adventure. Campbell states “The awakening of self…But whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grad of life, the call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration—a rite or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth.” (Campbell 51). The death of the parent’s of Bruce marked a turning point in Bruce’s life. He lost his childhood and vowed to avenge their deaths. He sacrificed his childhood to his goals and began to train his mind long before he began training his body for the quest ahead.
Bruce’s ultimate goal was to earn the ability to avenge his parents’ death. The person to aide him on his goal was his loyal butler, Alfred. This was in a way was Bruce’s supernatural aid. Alfred served as his mentor and the earliest trainer to Bruce. “For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure…who provide the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass” (Campbell 69). These “Dragon Forces” was the training Bruce was slated to face. Alfred was the earliest to provide him with the most basic training that Bruce needed to survive the difficult training process. It could be said that the training was Bruce’s amulet to face the training, which itself represents a dragon force.
Campbell’s’ monomyth states that the hero must cross the first threshold into the mythological world before he can begin his journey. “With the personifications of his destiny to guide and aide him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the “threshold guardian” at the entrance to the zone of magnified power.” (Campbell 77). Bruce Wayne’s crossing of the first threshold was the voyage across the pacific to the land of Asia. The threshold guardian was the threshold itself. The voyage across the turbulent waters of the Pacific is a dangerous trip. If you are not caught in a storm, you are hit by min-tsunami waves, or you run the risk of running into modern day pirates that ride the coast looking for targets. Bruce must face the ocean if he is to ever begin his training. He must literally cross the threshold guardian in order to continue his quest.
The academy where Bruce received training functions as his “Belly of the whale” and is the location where he began to destroy the identity of “Bruce Wayne” and building the identity of “Batman.” Campbell states that, “This Popular motif gives emphasis to the lesson that the passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation.”(Campbell 91). Bruce must undergo the training the academy provides in order to become the hero he desires. The academy is where Bruce begins his initiation and starts his road of trials.
The road of trials is represented in the Batman origin by the tasks assigned to him by the League of Assassins. The tasks range from the simple fetch quest to the killing of a man. Bruce succeeds in his quest but fails at one task, killing. Bruce refused to kill anyone as that would force someone to endure the pain he felt when his parents were murdered. The trials show that Bruce is not fully ready to avenge his family. Bruce learns that he will have to avenge their deaths in another fashion. The trials provided by the League are not only trials Bruce must undergo in order to receive further training, they also present a trial of conscious for the hero. Bruce must decide what type of hero he wants to be. Does he want to be on the same level as the petty crook that took his parents and initiated his quests, or does he want to be the hero that rises above the world and let the system sort out the criminals? Bruce decides to be the hero that works alongside the system instead of outside it, for to be outside the system you are a criminal and no worse than a mugger on the streets.
In Bruce’s life women function as a temptress though are often disguised as the goddess. Talia was the first temptress in Bruce’s life. Talia tried to sway Bruce to break his vow of not killing and in turn deviate from his quest. He would become the tyrant instead of the hero.
Bruce has to confront his father and mother and atone with them. He does not truly meat his parent but he must confront haunting visions of his family and overcome his fear. Campbell on Atonement with the father, “Atonement consists in no more that the abandonment of that self-generated double monster – the dragon thought to be God (superego) and the dragon thought to be Sin (repressed id). But this requires an abandonment of the attachment to ego itself, and that is what is difficult.” (Campbell 130). Bruce has to learn to let go of his fear if he is ever to instill fear into his opponents. It is at this moment Bruce sheds his old life and becomes Batman. He is no longer his old self and now serves the greater good.
With his transformation Bruce obtains the ultimate boon he seeks, the training to avenge his parents. In order to make it out of the escape Bruce must fight the leader of the League. This battle represents the magical flight from the mythological world.
Once Bruce enters the city after his training, he must overcome the difference between the worlds. This is his return threshold. He overcomes this threshold when he assumes the mantle of Batman. The mantle allows him to live in his mythological world as Batman and in the real world as Bruce Wayne.
For more information on The Hero With A Thousand Faces- check it out at your local library or get it on Amazon.com