To my successor,
At the time that I’m writing this, I don’t know who you are. Could be you’re someone I’ve never met, or maybe you’ve been around since the beginning. Maybe you’re my twip younger brother. (Man, I hope not. Matty, close this letter right now. You can’t be Batman.) Maybe I’m an old man, like Wayne, and I’ve been training you from my chair in the cave, grumbling. Maybe I’m dead, and he’s watching over you the way he’s always watched over me.
Maybe you’re just some kid off the street, and you found the cave through blind luck the way I did. Maybe the Bat chose you.
However it happened, here you are, reading this letter. I’ve heard presidents leave notes when they leave office, and I could punch out any day without warning, so I figured I ought to write this all down now, while I’m thinking about it, and hide it in the cowl computer for the next guy or girl to find.
On the off chance that I outlive the old man and you never get to meet him, let me tell you a little about Bruce Wayne, the original Batman. He’s nuts. The guy is certifiably whacked. He’s stubborn, he’s cold, he’s a pain in the ass, and nothing is ever good enough for him. He’s also never wrong. He’s seen everything, faced down every sort of challenge you can imagine, and won. He’s fought gods.
The one thing he can’t fight, what’ll get him in the end, that’s time. The unbeatable creature of the night who used to wear this mask, and all the pointy-eared cowls that came before it? He’s an old man now, shriveled, hunchbacked, limping up and down the cave stairs every day on bones that sound like they’ll snap any minute. He never got married, never rode into the sunset toward a sweet happy ending, never even went out in a big blaze of glory like an action vid. The man just got old, wasting away alone in a big house, until one day some punk kid wandered into his home and brought him back to life.
If I ever did one worthwhile thing in my life so far, it was bringing Batman back into the world. And I don’t mean putting the costume on and fighting crime. Anybody could do that, and probably better than I have. But I was there, the right guy at the right place at the right time, to wake Bruce Wayne up. I was the troubled kid he couldn’t help but try to fix, his last shot at being a father, and maybe a better one this time. After all his other surrogate children and protégés turned their backs on him and his legacy, I was a chance to start over, to set things right.
He saved me too, Batman, the same way he’s saved everyone in this city at one point or another – he gave me hope. This thing of his, this idea he stitched into a costume, welded into armor, built into this sleek second skin you’re wearing now, he made it to scare people, to make screw-ups like me think twice about breaking the law. He told me once that he wanted to build a myth, to seem more than human in the eyes of the people of Gotham. But I don’t think that’s really how it works. Batman works because in the moment that you’re most terrified, the most hopeless in your life, he makes you believe that you can stand up and fight. You believe that because you know Batman is just a human being, like you, and Batman can do anything.
I guess that’s really what I’d most like to leave you with. I don’t know if we’ll ever meet, or what kind of world you’re going to face when it’s your turn to wear the mask. The only thing I know for sure, the thing that I need you to remember every time you suit up, is that as long as there’s a Batman, nothing is impossible.
Jordan Witt is a comic artist who lives just outside Washington, DC with the World’s Best Dog and may or may not own two Captain America shields. (She does.) Her webcomic, Scarred for Life, updates twice a week over at 52nddoor.com, and she talks a lot about Pacific Rim on her Twitter.
This concludes A Long Halloween, Deadshirt’s month-long celebration of Batman and his cast of supporting characters. Click here to explore more of our essays and artwork.