A Hero Can Be Anyone: Reflections on the Loss of a Batman

You may have seen a sad news story about Lenny B. Robinson, a Maryland man who impersonated Batman to bring joy into the lives of children. Many referred to him as “The Route 29 Batman,” as he could often be seeing driving his Batmobile down this road, including when the police pulled him over and the moment was caught in a video that became viral. Several other news source have properly eulogized him, but I found it worth pausing to consider this legacy.

Lenny B. Robinson, at his home. Photo from The Washington Post, by Jonathan Newton.
Lenny B. Robinson, at his home. Photo from The Washington Post, by Jonathan Newton.

A few years ago, I wrote about the phenomenon of men in our world dressing as the hero of Gotham. I suggested that perhaps the greatest thing that makes someone Batman is tragedy, citing specifically the example of Zoltan Nohari, a man living in poverty, hoping to help the police in Slovakia.

But pondering the death of Robinson, I wondered if Batman’s defining characteristic is the exact thing that Robinson brought into the world: hope.  Continue reading “A Hero Can Be Anyone: Reflections on the Loss of a Batman”

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Bruce Wayne’s Privilege, and the Realities of Batman Incorporated

A 26 year old impoverished Slovakian man named Zoltan Kohari lives in an abandoned building, wearing a Batman costume he made himself.  He hopes to help the police and recently was the subject of series of photos published by Reuters.

Police in Brazil have officially hired a 50 year old Batman impersonator to fight crime  and to serve as a figure of hope and justice, particularly for children in poor neighborhoods.

A street performer in Toronto walks around in a full Batman costume, shouting “WHERE ARE THEY?” at startled passersby.

Perhaps this is most reminiscent of the moment when Bruce Wayne told Alfred, “That’s not exactly what I had in mind when I said I wanted to inspire people” about the gun-carrying Batman copycats roaming Gotham in The Dark Knight.  Or maybe it closer parallels the efforts made by Bruce Wayne to franchise the Batman name and logo in the Batman Incorporated comics series.

Batman doesn’t use guns.

The question is, who can be Batman?  Is it only the wealthiest, the strongest, the smartest?  If those were the qualities required, surely it would not be any of the three men currently dressing as Batman.  Zoltan Kohari does not have the money, resources, or skills of the Wayne heir.  Andre Luiz Pinheiro does not have the youth (bringing up the obvious comparison to Frank Miller’s depiction of an aging Wayne) and, unlike Batman, he has the cooperation of the police. The Toronto Batman does not have any real drive beyond a sense of humor. Continue reading “Bruce Wayne’s Privilege, and the Realities of Batman Incorporated”