Monday, June 17, 2013

17052--Sometimes You Just Have to Sing

You ever get a song in your head you can only seem to get off your mind by singing it?  Yeah, me neither.  What I did do was go to the theater recently to see Man of Steel.

Let's get a few things clear:
  1. I don't really set out to do movie reviews here.  You have your opinions.  I have mine.
  2. I only go to see very few movies at the theater for a few socio-economic reasons that I'll be happy to detail if you like.
  3. I think I had a third thing, but I don't remember what it was.

Anyway, Superman movies are usually going to get me into the theater because...well, my first flight efforts had me airborne off the dining room table at age three.  The launch platforms escalated from there till my parents (though they deny it to this day) made the cape my grandmother made me disappear.  My first comics were kid comics (literal funny books) and Superman.  When I was able, lots of old comics, kid comics, etc were sold or traded for more "Superman" comics...and "Superboy" and "Adventure" (starring either Superboy or Superboy and the Legion of Super-heroes).  I love superheroes, but I still haven't seen Iron Man 3 or Amazing Spiderman yet.  The point is, you make a Superman movie, go ahead and get a ticket ready for me.

This one really must've made an impact on me because I want to talk about it.  I don't want to tie-up Twitter and Facebook timelines with my blather.  This is where I'm supposed to blather.  If you've come here, you were looking for my blather.  So, here it is and don't blame me.  You came looking for it, after all.

I've been saying for a while that Superman needed a movie that wasn't putting him on a pedestal and showcasing his majesty, instead giving us a display of the power embodied in the world's greatest superhero.  I wanted to see him square off against some villain who wasn't Lex Luthor in bone-jarring fight scenes rather than ballet choreographies.  You don't rocket him at an opponent at mach five only to slow down for a jaw tap or a toe kick.  Man of Steel covered all that.  All the fighting that wasn't in Superman the Movie, Superman II, and Superman Returns (Bryan Singer's sequel/tribute to the other two) found its way into Man of Steel.  Superman gets to break a few sweats this time out, having multiple skirmishes against multiple Kryptonians and Kryptonian tech.  He gets to dig deep to bring out his hero.  It's the sort of challenge he needed.  Even Jor-El managed to get in a little action.  And he was a badass.  I've always considered him to be Krypton's non-artistic DaVinci.  This time, they also made him a little bit of a hippie, not too far from John Byrne's post-Crisis conception (Lara moreso), breaking the rules to have a kid the way he and Lara wanted, and then get him off-planet.  Plus, Jor-El got to put Born-to-be-a-general Zod on his ass, something Zod pretty much deserves whenever possible.  I suppose that means what we used to say at IBM was true: you can do anything you want on your last day.

Lara Lor-Van also came off as a bit of a hippie, which is something of a stretch for her.  Jor-El's always been an out-of-the-box thinker known to disagree with the Science Council on occasion, but Lara?  She was an astronaut and a rocket scientist, so her opening scene really seemed odd till Jor-El explained their anti-establishment ways.  I was watching and wondering why they didn't have a way to make her more comfortable till they explained that the couple was trying something that hadn't been done in centuries.

Anyway, great fights.  They were gritty, visceral and full of inertia.  You can feel the punches all the way in the cheap seats.  If Kryptonian biology possesses a super hormone equivalent to testosterone, Metropolis and Smallville (besides looking worse than the City of Townsville after a busy day for the Powerpuff Girls) are going to be thick with the scent of tough guys.  Better than putting him on a pedestal, he was shown as being able to earn the trust of the suspicious and paranoid and to inspire hope in the most desperate hearts.  These are qualities that make him our greatest hero, best of the best, willing to sacrifice himself for the people as well as fight for them.

He also has that big heart.  He's compassionate and self-sacrificing, making the hard choices rather than the easy ones.  What Would Superman Do?  The right thing.  I always trust that.  It also informs me to keep an eye on anyone who doesn't like Superman or says they can't relate to him because he's "too good".  If you feel like he's too good, then you know you can be better than you are.  He's inspiration, the ultimate role model.  I wish Zack Snyder could've understood that.

The Kryptonian technology and Krypton itself were distinctively stylish, sort of a melding of Byrne's post-Crisis Krypton and Gallifrey, shaped by the nanotech and ultra-physics of an ancient people who were squeezing all they could from their world but forgot to use their mastery of fundamental forces to renew and recycle.  Oh, it was so sad.  Krypton was dying and there was just no talking her leaders back from the precipice.  There's a Klingon adage that says "Only a fool fights in a burning house," but heeding advice was a low priority on doomsday.  Jor-El and Lara, were you the last of Krypton's abandoned wisdom?  I guess I'll look to sequels to see if our favorite farm boy is able to harness his lost world's technologies or pull any special surprises out of his nanotech fabricated super suit.

Like the fights, more Kryptonian survivors than in all the other films combined.  I wish I hadn't had to wait for the credits for all the names because you only put the characters they did in a film like this to thrill fans who know them.  If you're going to do that, find a way to name them in the film so I know who you're trying to show me.  Remembering that Faora Hu-Ul is a dangerous badass (second longest sentence in the phantom zone, folks) was something I was glad wasn't overlooked.  In the comics, she was a solo act.  People who grow to be serial killers usually are.  Faora was a man-hating sexual predator, practitioner of klurkor (Kryptonian unarmed combat) with mastery of horo-kanu (a martial style focusing on pressure point manipulation) and kept a freezer that would've put a scare into Jeffrey Dahmer.  On top of all that, her oft-forgotten psychic pain induction power doesn't contribute to her tolerating men who think themselves her equal or more, either.  Putting her in the military or teaming her with Zod, which has become popular, holds her back.  She's given Superman (and the other phantom zone felons) plenty of trouble on her own and is proud of it.

About the villains, let me also say this: Zod's head.  General Dru Zod (portrayed by Michael Shannon) has got a positively striking head.  I don't know how else to say it.  I just love it.  It's a great villain head.  In fact, it may be one of the best villain heads ever.  It looks like an angry block of stone sitting atop his mass of armored warrior.  He was also well-played.  Both he and Superman are going to pull emotion from an audience.

It's not perfect.  It's far from perfect.  I was a little disappointed that there was no one speaking Kryptonian.  Let's just say that it's overdue.  As arrogant as most of Zod's pack was, it would've made more sense than learning to gibber like a bunch of primitives they were planning to kill in a few minutes anyway.  Oh, that's right, the surviving Kryptonians intend to restore their lost civilization on Earth, but without the annoying part about sharing the world.  As if the genocide weren't bad enough, I don't know how they intended to succeed.  They made mention of Krypton's many colony attempts on other worlds that had all failed dismally without Krypton's support.  That 100% failure rate didn't seem to bother them, though, they were ready to make another stab at it here.  They were devoted to the party line instilled by genetic engineering and nurture, but practicing on Venus or Mars would've made more sense.

I wasn't thrilled with whatever they thought they were doing with the phantom zone, making Jor-El's cheap and easy system of incarceration into a complicated quantum mechanics ordeal that probably shouldn't have been experimented with near any home worlds.  It seems an interesting Kryptonian hobbyist project, but it just doesn't sit well with me as a "phantom zone".  Even when it was a flying crystal cage or mobile dimensional inversion (also wrong), it resulted in Zod holding Jor-El responsible for his banishment.  With Jor-El the developer of the projector (comics) and a member of the Science Council, he was directly connected with the extradimensional exile of every one of Krypton's worst.  Later, his son would draw their enmity by either continuing to keep them imprisoned or thwarting their escape attempts.  Worse still, Jor-El didn't find a realm of sunny beaches and lollipops.  Time in the zone isn't going to make anyone less crazy.  Regretful maybe, but not less crazy.

I could certainly have done without Superman failing to live up to his full heroic stature.  He has it for a bit, but then loses his grip on it.  By that, I mean that the most painful parts for me to watch came in his failure to protect so very many lives and then killing Zod.  He's Superman.  People may die, but not because he didn't try to save them and he certainly doesn't kill.  He makes the hard choices and uses the options his powers and intellect afford him to find another way.  The bad guys try to kill.  Superman opposes them.  Hollywood seems to get that on TV (good guys are falling all over themselves to not kill on TV), but not in the movies.  Stop taking shortcuts, especially with the superheroes.  Being a hero means something special and that's one thing that defines Superman.  He doesn't just go crazy and stop being Superman, especially not just because the director of the week can relate better to a character who kills than to a hero who doesn't.  There are reasons he's the outstanding, shining example.  Killing is not among these.

Speaking of crazy, I'm not crazy about all the monkeying with Superman's suit that's been going on for the last couple of decades.  I love the classic suit, but not having it here didn't hurt the film.  No one seems to know what to do with a secret ID anymore, though.  This film included, but it plays on both sides of the fence.  Clark seems to care a bit about it in regard to the world-at-large, but I also get the feeling that it became the worst-kept secret in Smallville.  For a minute, I was reminded of watching the TV series with people pressing for full disclosure of secrets that were none of their damned business.  Tediously cheap attempt at drama.  Learn to say "Thank you" and leave the guy alone; stop trying to kill the golden goose.  And do something about the teeth.  There are some folks, including some of the "perfect" Kryptonians, who have some...distracting teeth.  Either cast better, stop doing close-ups, fit them with prosthetics or CGI the damned things, but WOW.  I'm also pretty sure that it wasn't a political statement (Superman doesn't do those), but he takes a hilariously clear position on the domestic use of surveillance drones.  HA! 

Hollywood will make me happier if they stop making reboots.  I find them lazy and as annoying as the comic companies glutting their market with #1 issues.  We know our superheroes.  I probably won't see this one in the theater again, but I will get a home version eventually and I'm sure I'll watch it at least as much as Superman Returns (which isn't often, but every now and again).  If you've read this far, you should check it out, too.

Friday, June 14, 2013

17049--Child of Fire and Blood (Ch. 5)

The trouble starts over on the Theobroma page. I've decided to continue it out here with a few chapters for your perusal. Enjoy a taste of Tarakk prior to indulging in the whole novel. Feedback or questions on the world, its people, their gods or whatever are equally welcome.




Alone, King Tural ascended the hidden stairway that carried him from the den behind the throne dais up to a stone wall inscribed with ancient sigils. Putting thoughts of the festivities behind him, he raised a unique obsidian dagger and steeled himself before slicing open his left palm. Taking a final step forward, the monarch pressed his hand to the wall, moving it from one arcane symbol to the next. He solemnly recited each symbol’s name as he anointed it with his blood. Then, with the ninth, the wall faded and vanished.

Before the king, the Celestial Temple and the Circle of Nine stood revealed. King Tural felt a fluttering in his belly as he stepped into the presence of the wizard-priests. He noted that the air was cooler than he expected, then noticed the precipitation of tiny hailstones falling from one of the glowing clouds wafting across the room. Each hailstone burst as it tapped to the stone floor, exploding in a spray of colored light. Setting his awe of the temple aside, the monarch realized the magic users were oblivious to his arrival.
“I bring you salutations of the Crimson Throne,” King Tural said, looking about for any sign of acknowledgement. “Your regular Speaker, Chief Minister Araka, has died as a result of illness. A new Speaker has yet to be chosen, but we must converse. By the Blood Rite of Malechis, I bid you hear me.
“Tshan’casai, long-thought dormant and locked away, is loose in the world,” Tural explained. “It is in the hands of my son and I feel that he is in the thrall of its powers. You know the sword’s potential for danger is beyond measure. You must tell me some way in which it can be stopped. I am a warrior and king, but I am also a father and I do not wish to seek Lar Kwa’s end. Tell me there is some way to save us all from--”
“You demand much of minds so strained as theirs,” a familiar voice greeted the king from the doorway to his rear. “That is the way of a ruler, I suppose, always insistent upon having things work just the way you want them to. You have always sought to rule with the strength of your fathers.”
The troubled ruler faced his polished prince as he glided into the chamber with a comfortable pride. King Tural saw the persuasiveness of the charismatic image that draped his son as elegantly as the black silk cloak hanging from his shoulders. His shining gray eyes and practiced smile were crowned by neatly trimmed golden locks. The king was nearly entranced by the radiant confidence and winning beauty he projected. He struggled to resist the magic’s cloying influence, fighting to perceive his son beneath his persuasive aura.
“You know nothing of either the strength or the sacrifice,” Tural snarled, “needed to maintain crown, throne and kingdom.”
“My strength has come to me,” Lar Kwa said, stepping forward, “through other struggles beyond your experience.”
“What are you doing?” the monarch asked of his son as he entered. “You do not belong in this sacred space.”
“Belong? Of course, I belong,” Lar Kwa insisted, his unyielding smile clearly disturbing to his father. “You would know better if you could only hear the call as I do. I know, father, how loathsome you find the burden of sharing with me, but I won’t begrudge you that. I’m sure it comes from your warrior’s heart, so determined never to surrender anything.”
“You have drawn a bloody red line in the snow,” Tural said, his ire building, “and it is a challenge that will not go unmet.”
“Ultimately, you are a wise man. You will come to see that this is what must be. I am the divine instrument of inevitable change.”
“I will not allow you to have this kingdom,” Tural told his son. “You have fallen under an unnatural influence.”
“Certainly, father,” the younger man said. “I have opened myself to its glory. When I told you I could hear the call, what did you think I meant?”
“That you were losing your mind, of course,” King Tural replied.
“You have more of a sense of humor than I remembered, father,” Lar Kwa said. “You have grown weary, though, from your valiant struggles against the crises that have beset these lands. Like a pilot too long at the ship’s helm in a raging storm, it is your time to rest and let another see us to safe harbor. I am home now.”
“You are toying with forces beyond your understanding. I have entered this temple, come into the presence of the Nine, that I might seek their counsel. Your entry here--”
“Dear father,” Lar Kwa chuckled, “if you do get these ancient treasures to speak, I imagine I shall have a far better understanding of their words than you. There are things that happen to one’s mind when expanded by magic’s touch…” the prince said, tapping a finger to his own temple.
“Yes, the maddening that affects the human mind is well known,” King Tural said. “Relinquish that weapon and leave this temple. Tshan’casai gathers more magical power into itself than mortal hands should ever know. It will consume you and twist all the works you would achieve into ruin.”
“Those who would name this sublime beauty madness,” Lar Kwa said, drawing the golden, chisel-tip long sword, “are unable to comprehend what is seen beyond the shadows when others dare open themselves to realms beyond mundane experience. I understand so much more than ever before and have come to commune with the Nine, not in fear but to join with them in changing this world for the better. Their magics and mine will unite and you will see the beginning of a new age.”
With casual swiftness, the prince raised the golden two-handed sword overhead. The thick blade moved with near-weightless ease as Lar Kwa held it aloft and felt himself buoyed by the rush of its power. Beyond the brilliance of its golden, mirror-finish, the sword began to shine, bathing the gathered men in its dazzling light.
“Tshan’casai,” King Tural whispered, recoiling as he shielded his eyes.
“You see, remnants of your past are not to be carelessly discarded,” Lar Kwa said. “Observe.”
Without even a gesture, the wizard-priests began to move toward the prince, shuffling forward as though sleepwalking.
“See how they flock to me, father,” Lar Kwa said. “Thus will the masses of Alban gather. Those who embrace wisdom will pray to me and the salvation I offer. They will have the curse of plague lifted from them. My light will--”
“They are not all ill,” Tural reminded him. “Those loyal to the crown--”
“Will still be weak from hunger,” Lar Kwa said, his voice changing to one Tural did not recognize, powerful and daunting. “They will be weak and afraid, some may even hate you for it. Those souls, too, will I then claim, wherever the golden light finds purchase. You denied this power out of fear, deafened yourself to the sword’s call.”
“It lures you to destruction!” Tural lashed out, the back of his hand finding the prince’s cheek with a reflex that rekindled memories thought buried. “I command you to quit this path of folly!”
“I yield to it. It shares its power with me,” the prince countered, his voice once again his own, “parenting me in ways you never could. The embrace must not be denied. Your time is done and you must withdraw now, father. It is I who will lead us into the light. It is I who will guide us to the future that awaits.”
Almost involuntarily, Tural found himself awash in a strange calm as he backed toward the door of the Celestial Temple. Lar Kwa’s aura grew brighter, the light hurting Tural’s eyes. As he drew near the doorway, a line of hooded, robed men filed in past the king. Two of them carried a litter with a large golden orb supported between them.
Who? What? the baffled king wondered aloud.
Through the intense glow, Tural could see the newly arriving men gathering about Lar Kwa with the wizards of the Nine. In his confusion, he felt a strange tremor in his chest as the men of magic began to chant in a hypnotic rhythm.
Tural saw Lar Kwa raise his free hand as the chanting degenerated to a swirling soup of words in his mind. As the king felt his stomach and head attempting to trade places, he realized that he should have heeded his son’s urging to withdraw. Golden light obscured his vision. His ears were flooded with a chorus of voices, first from the Nine, then by additional tones that he both knew and did not know but all bringing him an unexpected level of peace. The voices chattered at him all at once, confusing him more and more as he tried to make any sense of them. How long his sensory miasma continued, he could not tell, but one voice finally broke through his fog and overpowered the din of all the others.

RUN! came the sharply intelligible intonation.
“Relinquish your burdens to me, father. I will take your mantle upon my shoulders and carry us forward in ways you could not,” Lar Kwa said. “I feel your uncertainty, but the embrace of the light will burn it all away and you will thank me later for this gift. Cry to the world that the gods bring a new day from above!”
King Tural’s gold silk cloak fell from his shoulders as he ran from the Celestial Temple. In confusion, he stumbled down the hidden stairs. Panic and adrenaline drove his pounding heart. His mind clouded, he could barely think, acting primarily on instinct.
Lar Kwa stood on the ring of onyx and gold as he looked down upon the assemblage gathered in the throne room. His eyes searched the edges of the crowd, making sure that his photojournalist Mischa had recorders trained upon him as he had ordered. With his father’s golden cloak replacing his own black one, the prince held an open hand out to the people below.
“Hear me, Alban! Plague has ravaged our people,” Lar Kwa called out, drawing the attention of the full assemblage at once, “defying medicine, magic and science, with utter disregard for quarantine or contact, geography, age or status. Fear has taken hold of hearts and minds, but no longer. Join with me and be free!”
He tightened his grip on Tshan’casai and thrust it overhead. The polished golden blade gleamed in the Celestial Temple’s unnatural light, adding to the magical glow that surrounded it. Much of the crowd gasped at the sight of the legendary weapon being openly brandished for the first time in decades. Most had never before seen Tshan’casai, having heard its name whispered only as legend. Hushed murmurs raced through the crowd.
With the ancient blade in hand, Lar Kwa stood above his people as a giant. In that transcendent moment, the shining prince held a pose that ignited memories of Mighty King Mokwa, taught to every Albani school child as the founder of the empire to which their proud nation once belonged. The surreal image reminiscent of the Father of Alban looking down upon them stirred hearts beyond reason, pushing an emotional swell of reverence through the crowd.
Many, including King Tural, could do nothing more than fall silent. Still regaining his senses, Tural was certain that he felt his heart skip a beat as a bizarre chill clawed at it fiercely. The monarch felt an unwelcome desperation as he took the hand of his queen and quickly led her away from the dais of the Crimson Throne.
“During my long journeys, I have awakened to the truth of my power! As I have returned to you with feasts in the face of famine,” Lar Kwa continued, “so too do I bring you the power to break the deadly grip of this plague! If your faith is strong, through me, the dawn shall see our people restored! Through the sword of my fathers, we shall be free of foreign oppression! No longer will we tolerate attempts to starve and control us! With the light of truth, we will drive them back to their homeland!”
The sword glowed like a sunbeam in his hand and Lar Kwa willed a shaft of golden light to shoot upward from Tshan’casai and through the faceted crystalline dome that topped the Celestial Temple. Almost instantly, black storm clouds gathered, swirling ominously about the golden beacon. Lightning flashed repeatedly above the palace, bringing the roar of thunder chasing the blinding bolts. More gasps and tense mumblings were drowned out by the building storm, but a chaotic shift of moods clearly swept the room.
“Blessings of the divine have showered upon me! Add me to your evening prayers this joyous Father’s Day,” Lar Kwa commanded, “for I come before you as the herald of ancient gods! Here will my hand draw down their matchless power! Pledge yourselves to our cause that your faith will see our people made whole! First Alban will heal and then march into the future, renewed! Follow me and our enemies will be swept before our might! The raging storm will warn all Tarakk to let none stand against us!”
A validating surge of applause swept the gala as the assembled guests felt themselves overwhelmed with irresistible emotion. For the first time in weeks, the Charis’colia had been given something more to sustain them than vague hope. His display of power and his confident promise brought Prince Lar Kwa the adulation he had longed for and, at that moment, the assurance that he was done with exile. His magical radiance buoyed his spirit as it shone down on the thousand eyes Lar Kwa felt upon him. He was unable to repress the laughter bubbling from within as he bathed the palace guests in his dazzling light. Spiraling ceaselessly, the storm began to warp around an increasingly calm eye centered upon Crown City even as its fury continued to build both beyond the city’s walls and in Lar Kwa’s soul.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

17046--Ignore Me and Behave Normally

Ignore me!  You may have the feeling that you're being watched.  Don't worry about it.  Pay no attention to the men behind the curtains.  They're doing their best to get to everyone.  It just happens to be your turn.

Yes, maybe it would make more sense to exercise their surveillance powers on those most likely to be involved in criminal activities.  This might mean doing actual investigative work and following logical leads, but sometimes the temptation is too great to just take a swing at the low-hanging fruit.  This means there's a stronger than nil statistical chance of violating the privacy of people without legitimate cause.

You want me to trust incomparable surveillance and intelligence gathering power in someone else's hands?  I'm willing to trust Santa and Superman (and maybe a few of his friends) with that sort of resource, but that's a pretty short list.  They each have a proven record, though, that proves their judgement can be trusted.

The illusion of "oversight" is fantasy.  The people who worm their way into government continue to prove that they will do what they can, in the name of expediency, to circumvent any oversight or control procedure we put in place.  This automatically means that we have lawbreakers (scofflaws, if you prefer) making assessments on the activities of anyone they choose to pay attention to.  Convenience and security are not worth the sacrifice of Freedom. 

Checks, balances and oversights are created with the intention of preventing abuses of powerful tools.  Government servants are taking it upon themselves to decide that they don't need the safety measures, opening the processes they're using to abuse.  Show us that no one has ever been wrongfully prosecuted by the IRS or the FBI or any police agency, or that no one has ever been harmed by the medical system and we'll talk.  Otherwise, safety measures are demanded for virtually every potentially dangerous product in our lives, why not surveillance/enforcement toys, too?

On top of all that, it seems that 69-year-old Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca, smuggler) was stopped in Denver by the TSA because of his suspicious cane.  Are they still looking for tall, old foreign guys?  Have they not heard that Osama Bin Laden was taken out of action?  Have they merely tipped their hand, revealing that they side with the Galactic Empire?  Well, like they say, we're not paranoid enough, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised that it happens on both sides of the line.  It'd be nice, though, if our government servants would remember that they work for us, which means we should all be on the same side of the line.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

17043--Mental Health for the Wealthy

Batman.  There, I said it.  The name carries a weight and imagery all its own.  Not all of the lore is absolutely consistent, but it has been entrusted to different creative hands across the character's many decades so that sort of thing has come to be expected.  Different aspects of the hero have been put in the spotlight at different times, making him something akin to the elephant described by five blind men.  He's a master of disguise.  He's a master of escapes.  He's a brilliant detective.  He's a crime fighter.  He's pretends to be a socialite playboy, but he's a philanthropist.  He's a crusading superhero out to make a world where no child ever again has to grow up without parents.  All these things are true and can all be seen as aspects of one man in the right light.

Among Batman's virtues, what I've heard spoken of as most appealing most often is that "he's just a man."  The meaning in that is that he holds appeal by not being superhuman.  That much is something I've noticed that his creative stewards have been careful to maintain.  That a man can drive himself by will and shape his form through diligent work to become as strong, studied, focused and prepared as any man could hope to be has brought him not only the ability to stand beside those who inherently possess greater capacities, but great respect.

While his many admirers may want to be him, the songs of his praise do not include the desire to repeat the tragic circumstances of the youth who watched his beloved parents murdered in front of him.  Needless to say, it's hardly the sort of thing anyone sane would invite upon their own person nor wish upon another.  If the double homicide and orphaning are deemed to have no appeal, despite being the spark that ignited Batman's war against crime, one must ask if the event is essential.  Would there still be a Batman without it?  As there aren't countless thousands finding themselves inspired to remake their own lives in the absence of such a redefining tragedy, we have to concede that such scarring plays some importance in motivation.  Sure, we have a few hundred people scattered about dressing in colorful tights and tactical gear to act as neighborhood watches, but while they may call themselves superheroes, they're just half-assing it compared to Batman.  All that obsession doesn't just come out of nowhere.  I imagine we'd also be hard-pressed to find a ten-year-old who watched his parents get murdered and not be further traumatized when we told him after the funeral that we were sending him off to the Shaolin monastery as the first step in a fifteen year globe-trotting training program.

One of the other essential pieces of the Batman puzzle also has to be the great wealth left to him by his dearly departed parents.  Some regard it as a super power in itself.  I consider it to be such an integral part of him, that it is not only a resource available to him, but a crucial part in his making.  Not only did his parents' wealth make them targets for robbery, but their son's subsequent inheritance of it is what allowed him to become the fully realized Batman.  Absent his wealth, he might've been just an enraged child suffering PTSD who made his way through public schools and foster care.  Upon adulthood, rather than travelling the world to seek training in the skills that would make him a superior crime fighter, he would find himself pressed to find work to support the basics of living.  Before long we have a bright young man with lackluster grades, plagued by nightmares, waking to cold sweats, thrust into wearying twelve-hour work days on odd shifts who barely wants to get out of bed.  His edge blunted, Batman would never have developed.  Wealth and its attendant life of privilege allowed him the luxury of brooding.  Somehow, it never included the psychological counseling that would've been pretty much automatic today.  I suppose no one mentioned that to Alfred way back when.  Perhaps it wasn't seen as the thing to do.  He was a boy.  Boys get told to "suck it up."  Alfred's a British butler, so he probably found a classier way to say it.  "Stiff upper lip, sir.  Have some more tea.  Scone?"  And then he has the nerve to nag his adult charge for becoming what he has become.

The Onion News Network did a very entertaining piece on a boy of about the right age who had recently seen his parents murdered.  They brought the boy onto a TV network morning show for a brief interview, then surprised him with his all-expenses paid trip around the world.  During the trip, he would spend the next dozen years with monks, combat masters, expert detectives, master thieves, etc., so that he could return as an adult to wage his war against crime in the memory of his deceased parents.  The youth was dragged from the set in confused protest to be taken to a waiting jet.  That kid has more of a chance at a "normal life" than Batman.

Sure there have been a lot of other people with murdered family members joining the war against crime, rather than riding a psychiatrist's couch, but who else has done it with the impact of Batman?  The Punisher?  Spider-man?  Element Lad?  Elektra?  Daredevil?  The Lone Ranger?  No, not even the cavalcade of Robins.  Whether on antidepressants or not, either way, the young master found himself screaming to thunderstorms at graveside and vowing oaths of vengeance.  That's mental healthcare only extreme wealth can buy.  That's OK, though, because Batman is what he's supposed to be.  If he'd gotten over it, he'd be healthy and "normal" and who wants to read the adventures of Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy philanthropist?  The same people who dress-up as him for Halloween.

Nobody, that's who.  Fire up the Bat-signal.