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#45 – The Batman Handbook

August 30, 2007

i want to be bigger, stronger, drive a faster carThere are few joys purer than browsing at the bookstore and noticing something called The Batman Handbook: The Ultimate Training Manual on sale for $5. Once I stopped gigging maniacally, I opened the book and saw the first survival tip if offered: “Stay out of places with names like ‘Crime Alley’.” After reading that, there’s no way I could not own this book; paying for it was simply a technicality at this point.

The Batman Handbook is, quite literally, a guide to everything you need to know to become Batman. With the exception of how to make that tricky first billion dollars, everything else is included: How To Build A Batcave, How To Drive The Batmobile On Two Wheels, How To Win A Coin Toss, Essential Last-Minute Excuses (in case of Bat-Signal, of course). The author, Scott Beatty, clearly put a ridiculous amount of research into this one, and kudos to him for it. Bonus points for a few long-overdue digs at Superman in Chuck Dixon‘s foreword: “Go ahead and ask yourself: ‘What would Batman do?’ If you have this book, you’ll know. Otherwise, you’re taking your chances – unless you can get your mommy and daddy to pack you into a spaceship and shoot your ass to a planet where you can bend steel with your bare hands.” Snap.

This is pretty much the ultimate case of What You See Is What You Get. I’m sure you already know, based on just the words The Batman Handbook, whether or not you want to read it. So, in lieu of a review, here’s a piece I wrote last term while procrastinating writing a paper, which I think illustrates that this Ultimate Training Manual will probably be a terrible influence on me:

On Law School and Batmen

Between readings, assignments, looking for an articling position, and getting ready for exams, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my decision to come to law school. This is dangerous, because I inevitably start looking to all the people who have dropped out and gone on to success: Al Gore, Demetri Martin, Batman. Actually, I’m mostly just looking at Batman.

See, I remember reading a comic about Batman’s origin years ago, and I can still recall one part vividly. Bruce Wayne enrolled in law school after finishing college, to try and fight crime through the legal system. His Crim Law prof gives him a fact pattern: two kids steal a car and go joyriding. The passenger decides he wants out and tells the driver to stop, but before he can they hit and kill a pedestrian. Bruce’s prof asks him what he would charge the passenger with, and Bruce replies that he would be guilty of stealing the car, but not of manslaughter. The prof tells him that both kids would be found equally guilty in the killing. Bruce: “But is that justice?” Prof: “No, Mr. Wayne, it’s the law.”

So he drops out and becomes Batman. And that’s worked out pretty well for him.

This got me thinking, what am I doing going through this insane three year program, when I can just copy Batman? Everything law school has to teach me, he can teach me way more effectively. For example:

Evidence Law: It always comes in the form of brightly coloured clues/riddles. Half the time, criminals leave a picture of themselves at the scene, or a literal calling card. They’re basically handing you confessions. Evidence Law is almost too easy.

Tort Law: For a vigilante, Batman is surprisingly untroubled by tort law. I guess if you wear a mask and skulk around on rooftops, you can punch anybody you want and jump through skylights all day without worrying about actions in tort. Also easy.

Criminal Law: Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot. There is literally nothing else you need to know about Criminal Law.

Family Law: It is definitely okay to adopt a series of 13 year old boys, and if any of them are killed you can just go get a new one.

Contract, Property, Business Organizations: I’m not actually sure what Batman has taught me about these, but come on. Wayne Enterprises is worth like a billion dollars. They’ve got to explain all about that stuff somewhere in the comics, otherwise it wouldn’t make any sense.

Constitutional Law: Batman seems to be pretty okay with the Charter, except for ss. 8, 9, 10, and 11. Batman HATES s. 11.

Professional Conduct: “You want to get nuts? Come on! Let’s get nuts!” Michael Keaton, Batman, 1989.

Trial Practice: In Gotham City, every trial ends with somebody getting shot, or taken hostage, or having acid thrown in their face and giving up a promising career as a District Attorney to become a homicidal, schizophrenic supervillain. So I guess the lesson here is “Don’t go to trial”, which is the first thing they teach you in Civil Procedure anyway.

Civil Procedure: Pretty overrated. Batman always just takes guys right to jail after he beats them up, and that seems to work out fine for him.

Intellectual Property: “Batman” is a registered trademark of DC Comics. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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