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Bruce Wayne vs. Bill Gates:  Who's the Hero?

We blew it, Barry! We spent our whole careers looking in the wrong direction! I hunted down muggers and burglars while the real monsters took power unopposed!

Bruce Wayne, admitting he didn't do all he could to oppose evil and injustice, in DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN #2


Correspondent Ron starts a discussion
>> This is not a setup for something. This is just me being a fanboy. <<

Yeah, right, Mr. Contentious. <g>

>> If you were to do the whole masked vigilante thing, what would your M.O. be? <<

Take off the mask and fight other kinds of problems besides street crime, for starters.

>> Would you target specific "types" of criminals or would you just try to right wrongs as they came? <<

Think about the assumptions in this question. Righting wrongs as they come—i.e., being reactive rather than proactive—is the definition of a lame, half-assed approach. As for targeting criminals of any kind, who says that's the best use of someone's time or energy or abilities?

Bill Gates is transforming the world by 1) using his brains to create world-changing technology and 2) donating hundreds of millions of dollars to social causes. Bruce Wayne is keeping one city free of crime while ignoring crime everywhere else in the USA and the world (except in his occasional Justice League forays). Who's doing more to improve the world? A: Bill Gates, hands down.

>> What would you do once you caught them? <<

Caught who? Oh, you mean street criminals? If I were to catch them, I'd use my Bruce Wayne-millions to set up programs with a proven track record of rehabilitating criminals. Give them a high-school education and some job skills—things like that. Why would I want to pay $20,000 a year to warehouse them in prison? No reason I can think of.


The debate continues....
>> Would you completely ignore street crime? <<

I wouldn't tackle it directly. I'd work on the underlying social issues and address it indirectly.

>> If not, wouldn't you want to hide your identity to keep murderers, child molesters, and rapists from targeting your loved ones after they inevitably got back out on the streets? <<

Do these criminals target the chief of police, the district attorney, or the attorney general? Probably not. Depending on my powers, I wouldn't lay hands on criminals myself. A Bruce Wayne type at the head of a mega-organization need never deal with criminals firsthand. He might be thought of as a simple philanthropist, or hold his position anonymously.

>> But, Bruce Wayne's protecting innocents from criminals in his small and manageable field and thus, contributing to improving the world in his way. If those are his goals and he's meeting them, what's the problem? << His goals are a waste of his talents and resources. If he's made a conscious decision to waste his talents and resources...well, okay, I guess that's his prerogative. The question is whether he'd admit it—or whether he's even aware of it.

While Lex Luthor has used similar talents and resources to get elected President of the US, Bruce Wayne is still fighting muggers and bank robbers. Bruce can pat himself on the back all he wants for stopping the Mad Hatter or whoever, but Luthor is in a position to end wars and hunger and poverty. Again, using the same or similar talents and resources.

At the end of his life, if Bruce thought he did the best he could, he'd be lying to himself. He he could've been a Rockefeller or a Carnegie, a Bill Gates or a Lex Luthor. Instead, he spent his life as a glorified Punisher.

>> I guess Bill Gates has "better morals" than Bruce. <<

Yep. If Gates is contributing to health programs in Africa, as I think he is, he's saved more lives than the crimebusting Batman has.


The debate continues....
>> His goals are a waste of his talents and resources.

One could say the same about you and yours. <<

One could say it, but one would be wrong. What great talents and resources do you think I have that I'm not employing? How should I be employing them?

>> The question is whether he'd admit it

Would you? <<

Yes, but I'm not wasting my talents and resources, so the question is moot.

>> He's using the presidential office to further his own illegal and immoral schemes, right? <<

Probably. I'm not reading the Superman books. Point is, Luthor was able to get himself elected. He now has the power to do good or evil on a global scale. Bruce Wayne has the same potential as Luthor or a real-world Bill Gates, but he's fighting muggers.

>> Right. It's his small and manageable field. You're familiar with that concept, aren't you? <<

Wayne has enough talents and resources to do more than handle a small, manageable field. His businesses are probably complex multinational corporations. If so, they're already as hard to manage as some small countries.

Yet he's running them. So if he can handle them, why not run his evil-fighting business the same way? Why not think globally in this area as well as the others?

>> Hardly. If the president of the US had that much power, there'd truly BE no more wars and poverty, because any and/or all presidents before him would've already done it. <<

Luthor is in a position to try to end them, at least. He or any president could take great steps toward ending them if he truly wanted to. But most presidents care more about pandering to special interests and getting reelected than actually solving the world's problems. You don't get far putting the "little people" ahead of rich, powerful corporations and contributors.

>> Lex Luthor is the president but there are still wars and poverty in the DC universe. Why? <<

Bad comic-book writers or editors with limited imaginations.

>> He did something, whereas others may have done nothing. The fact that he made any effort at all to help people is commendable. <<

Right, so I'll give him a pat on the back. He didn't do as much as even an average police officer, who may thwart several crimes a day. But yes, he did more than a school crossing guard or nightclub bouncer. <g>

Should heroes do it Rob's way?
>> Just because he doesn't do it the way YOU think he should is no reason to belittle his efforts. <<

He hasn't done anything to stop wars or poverty or hunger. That's a fact, not an opinion. Whether someone considers the fact belittling doesn't change the fact.

>> He also could've been a rich playboy that couldn't give two shits less about the poor, weak, or infirm. He could've become an alcoholic or drug abuser. He could've become some sick, reclisive, child molester. <<

Great. I give him full credit for being better than an average citizen. He took a couple boys under his wing, paid his taxes, and gave lots of money to charity. He's done about as much for society as your average multimillionaire.

>> Funny how, in the past, you've used Batman as an example of how a hero should act to prove how bad the Punisher is and then turn around and use the Punisher to bring Batman down a level in a completely different argument. <<

Different contexts, different arguments, different results. I'll grant that Batman is doing a lot more to help society than the Punisher is.

>> Too bad heroism -- TRUE heroism -- isn't about numbers and productivity. <<

True heroism is about doing the best you can. Are you seriously arguing that Wayne couldn't do more for the world's problems, with his almost unlimited resources, if he chose to?

>> It's not about "who saves more," it's about making an effort, no matter how small. <<

It's about making a heroic effort that stretches your talents and resources to the limits. Wayne isn't doing that.

>> Does a fireman who saved seven people on 9/11 have "better morals" than a cop or volunteer who saved only two? <<

If the cop who saved two could've saved seven...yes.

>> Does Ozymandias have better morals than Rorschach? Why? Good luck with your answer, Captain Productive!! <<

Possibly. Morals depend on your frame of reference—what you take as a given. But I'm pretty sure saving seven lives is better than saving two if all other things are equal.


The debate continues (1/30/03)....
>> What differentiates you from Bruce Wayne? <<

Lots of things. He's a millionaire, I'm not. He's a world-class athlete, I'm not. He's a fictional character, I'm not.

>> The first two things that spring to mind are (a) an incredible intellect and (b) a sense of dedication and/or drive that a lot of people don't have. <<

Who says I'm not employing them? How do you think I win every argument with the people who e-mail me. Through luck? How did I get to 1,000 pages on my website if not through dedication and drive?

>> As far as I know, all you're really you're publishing a comic book and running a website in the hopes of eliminating stereotypes and spreading your message of a multicutlural perspective. Is there anything else? <<

My regular freelance work: writing materials for Pechanga.Net, Corante.com, and other clients.

>> If so, wouldn't you say that that's wasting your talents and resources when compared to what you could be doing? <<

No! These are the things I'm best qualified to do.

>> Are you really, though, in light of what I asked you above? <<

What you asked wasn't much of a challenge. It basically amounted to "Are you really?" I'm already convinced I'm really not wasting my talents and resources, so you'll have to dig deeper than that.

>> I can't really credit someone who achieves great things in the name of evil -- even though I don't like to throw that word around. <<

Would Luthor say he was evil? Would Saddam Hussein? Would George W. Bush? Which one is planning to invade a country, perhaps nuke it, and kill lots of people?

>> But in the end, we know what he's more than likely going to do. <<

Luthor appeared in SUICIDE SQUAD. He apparently signed off on the Squad's activities, and the Squad saved the world at least once. So Luthor has done at least some good.

Batman...saving the world?
>> When he's not rescuing kidnapped children, battling superhuman adversaries normal citizens can't handle, or saving the world with the JLA. <<

In the grand scheme of things, rescuing kidnapped children isn't much more difficult than fighting muggers. For every superhuman menace Batman battles in the JLA, he probably battles 10 or 20 ordinary criminals in his own books. "Fighting muggers" is a good generalization of what he does. It's how he spends much of his time.

>> Isn't that what he does with the JLA? <<

Not exactly. My discussion of the seminal moment in GREEN LANTERN #76 covers this point exactly. Check it out at The Seminal Moment in GREEN LANTERN #76.

>> But he WON'T. He's Lex Luthor. <<

But Bruce Wayne could in Luthor's position. So why doesn't he try to achieve the same clout and use it for good instead of evil?

>> Wow!! Somewhere in this debate, I actually found something that I am in TOTAL AGREEMENT with you on. Your above statement is one of the many reasons I don't vote in the presidential elections, never have, and never will. <<

Not voting will never solve anything. Voting may not solve anything either, but it's one vote closer to solving things than not voting is.

>> Or, they're so GOOD at writing and editing Lex, that they know he wouldn't waste his time trying to better the world. His personal agenda comes first. They're staying true to his established character and personality. <<

Doing the job to the best of his abilities while plundering the world on the side would be a smarter strategy. That would keep the superheroes off his back and earn him reelection. Then he could plunder four more years.

Several comics have shown that being powerful and ruling the world isn't all it's cracked up to be. For instance, the "Emperor Doom" graphic novel and the THUNDERBOLTS storyline featuring Zemo's semi-reform. Good comic-book writers and editors realize the typical scenario—power-mad villain seeks world dominance—is stupid and unrealistic.

>> Nor does he HAVE to. Remember, he's not obligated to do anything at all, yet he does. <<

And I'm not obligated to say Wayne is more than a third-rate "hero" who is letting people die and not living up to his potential.

Effort = achievement?
>> And what he does, he devotes himself 110%. <<

An alcoholic devotes himself to getting drunk 110%. That's hardly the measure of greatness.

>> He's done FAR more than your average multimillionaire. <<

How, by stopping muggers? I don't think so.

>> What about the series of beating after beating after beating he's taken in an attempt to make the streets safe -- at least in Gotham City -- for normal, everyday people? Every scar, burn, bullet wound, broken back he suffered was so that someone else wouldn't have to. <<

He's brave but foolish. Using his money to fund a city-wide security force—or simply multiplying the police force times 10 or 20—would save many more lives while avoiding injuries to himself.

>> So, while he's off bringing rice to some small village in Ethiopia, who's saving the individuals with faces and names? <<

Individual villagers in Ethiopia have names and faces too. That's kind of the crux of your problem here. Bill Gates is concerned about Ethiopians because he's real and knows they're real. Bruce Wayne isn't and doesn't.

>> The more a hero focuses on the BIG problems, the "world issues," the more he or she is turning his or her back on the little guy, the individual. <<

The more he focuses on the big problems, the more lives he saves. End of story.

>> While he's off stopping hunger and war, who's keeping the Joker from torturing Comissioner Gordon in a fun house? Who's keeping Killer Croc from abducting small children? Who's stopping the Riddler or Penguin from hatching their next plot? The cops? I think not. If they could, there wouldn't be a need for a Batman or Spider-Man. <<

While Batman is doing all these things, who's stopping Osama Bin Laden from killing 3,000 Americans, all of whom had names and faces? Who's keeping millions of African AIDS patients, all of whom have names and faces, from dying? Etc.

You don't have much of an argument here. A life is a life. More lives are worth more than fewer lives by definition.

As far as I can tell, all you're saying is that a nearby American is worth more than several distant Ethiopians. That may be your philosophy, but every major religion would say you were wrong.

True heroism defined
>> True heroism is about doing the best you can.

And he is. In his small and manageable field. Just like you. <<

No, true heroism is about doing the best you can, period. That's why I ended that statement with a period rather than qualifying it with a qualifying phrase. Bruce Wayne isn't doing the best he can, as shown by Lex Luthor in the DC Universe and Bill Gates in the real universe.

>> Are you seriously arguing that Wayne couldn't do more for the world's problems

Of course he could. Everyone could. I could, for Christ's sake. <<

If he could do more, then he isn't doing all he can. He isn't doing his best. As I just said. Point proved, case closed.

>> If he chose to. He chooses not to, apparently. <<

Right, because he's not that much of a hero.

>> BUT, rather than knock someone down for what they're NOT doing, I credit him for what he IS doing, even though he doesn't have to. <<

So I gather.

>> It's about making a heroic effort that stretches your talents and resources to the limits. Wayne isn't doing that.

Not it's not. At all. No one's ever put a limit or quota on heroism, nor should they. <<

Sure they have. I did it in my last message. If you can save seven lives but save only two, where someone else in the same position would've saved all seven, that other person is the hero. You've let five people die when you didn't have to. You may call that heroic, but I call it criminally negligent. According to the law, you can be put in jail for letting people die through negligent behavior.

>> Way to duck the question. <<

Thanks, except I didn't duck it. I gave my sincere answer.

The Ozymandias scenario
>> Working in his small and manageable field, Rorschach probably saved maybe a few hundred people.

Ozymandias, using logic and thinking globally, KILLED more people than Rorschach probably ever saved in ONE NIGHT, but the result was that he saved billions. <<

"Logic" would imply his solution was the only one that would work. Let's look at some alternatives. For instance, with all his resources, Ozymandias could've created superpowered strike teams, disabled the control centers in the US and USSR, and prevented a nuclear exchange that way. It might not have worked, but he didn't even consider it, as far as we know.

Instead, he materialized a monster in the middle of Manhattan. In WATCHMEN's phony comic-book world, that caused the world's people to throw down their weapons and unite. In the real world, it's possible our enemies would've taken advantage of our weakness and struck.

Busiek's Kang-War was more realistic in that regard. When Kang offered them power, lots of people took his side against the rest of the world.

Several comic-book stories have shown nations quarreling rather than uniting when something alien fell to earth. That reaction seems highly plausible to me. We'll probably never know...but the point is, Ozymandias didn't know either. He may have deluded himself into believing he was using logic, but all he was doing was making an educated guess. With the emphasis on guess.

>> So, again I ask, who has better morals? <<

It depends.

>> Your answer, if you've got the guts to actually tackle this one, ought to read better than WATCHMEN itself! <<

It depends on the odds of Ozymandias's gamble working. Those odds are impossible to calculate for a one-time situation.

>> I'd love to be present to watch you tell a cop or fireman who saved two lives that. In front of a cop or fireman who saved seven. Just to see what would happen. <<

I'd love to see you tell the families of the five who died that the cops or firemen could've saved them but didn't. Let's hope you don't work for the city, since these families will probably sue. And they may well win, since the cops or firemen didn't do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

>> Hell, I might wind up having to save ONE! <G> <<

It's simple math: Saving seven lives is better than saving two if all other things are equal. Who's gonna get upset over a simple math equation?


The debate continues (2/14/03)....
>> I take it the "real monsters" he's referring to are criminals in the government. Criminals like Lex Luthor, whose drive and ambition you championed. Oops. <<

Apparently you didn't understand my point. It was that any rich person—Bill Gates OR Lex Luthor—could wield enormous power on a global scale. I was using Luthor as an example of someone who had done what Bruce Wayne could do.

If you can't grasp the idea of a fictional example, let's limit ourselves to real-world examples of wealthy politicians. Bush Sr. and Jr. Calif. Senator Dianne Feinstein and dozens of other millionaire senators and representatives. Nelson Rockefeller, once governor of New York. Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City. Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles. Et al.

If Bruce Wayne wants to clean up crime in Gotham City, why doesn't he run for mayor? You think he can do more to fight crime by swinging around on a rope at midnight than he could by doubling the size of the police force and implementing new crimefighting policies and technologies? The very idea is ridiculous.

>> I don't see any mention of starving children, vaccines, or multicultural perspectives in there. <<

It was a one-line quote. For dramatic purposes, you don't have characters explicate what they mean in detail. I'm a writer, so trust me on that one.

But what do you think the "monsters" were doing that made them so monstrous? Robbing banks? Raping women in alleyways? No. DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN made it clear they were controlling government, business, and the media and robbing people of their freedom worldwide.

I and everyone who read the series understood what the quote referred to. The context made it clear. If you didn't understand what Bruce Wayne meant, that's your problem.

Related links
Why doesn't Green Lantern eliminate evil?
The seminal moment in GREEN LANTERN #76
Culture and Comics Need Multicultural Perspective 2000

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