Every comic book fan knows about the classic Batman stories like The Killing Joke or The Dark Knight Returns. However there’s another classic that is more elusive. Batman Ego dives into the complex mind of Bruce Wayne and reveals his motive for (possibly) having a split personality. It also has art in the style of the animated series, which people seem to enjoy on and off the television screen.
The story takes place three years into his life as Batman. He is still struggling to be accepted, and questions his motives. It starts with Batman injured from being stabbed with a knife. He had just intervened from The Joker’s attack during a charity ball that led to the death of 27 people and the theft of 400 thousand dollars. After witnessing a criminal shoot himself to escape his remorse, Batman makes a comparison to his own life. He thinks about how Dr Hugo Strange diagnosed Batman with having both schizophrenia and a split personality. He also remembers the mayor of Gotham saying that Batman is a total headcase. He blames himself for what happened to the criminal and sobs uncontrollably. For a moment, he quits and says that he can’t do it anymore. He feels at peace for the first time in twenty years, which implies that, since he was a child when his parents were killed, that he is probably in his late twenties when the story is told.
Suddenly, while in the Batcave, he hallucinates about his other half, the part that represents fear. It is personified in the form of a bat monster, similar to the way Batman’s outfit is portrayed. He thinks the hallucination could be the result of his morbid introspection or losing two pints of blood. Admittedly nameless, the hallucination says that he is the very heart of Bruce, and that during Bruce’s youth he would lay dormant until the Christmas day when Bruce received a Zorro doll. It also was the same year that Bruce’s father, Thomas, gave his mother Martha a pearl necklace. This necklace is symbolic of the death of Bruce’s parents, since the necklace brakes during the mugging.
Since the day Bruce’s parents were killed, the hallucination claims that Bruce prefers to call it Batman. This follows Hugo Strange’s theory of Bruce having schizophrenia and a split personality. The hallucination goes on to mock Bruce and his pitiful attempt to have Robin be his companion. Bruce is also reminded that his crusade led to a more extreme kind of criminal. He is also reminded that The Joker was a creation of his own actions, indirectly the cause of many deaths by Joker’s hand.
In this graphic novel Batman Ego, the hallucination goes on to point out how his so-called life as Bruce Wayne is a series of meaningless relationships with men and women that don’t pan out or have any meaning. The character suggests that Bruce should intentionally split his personality so that, when Batman, he can do what has to be done and kill when necessary. Bruce refuses, as he thinks that it would make him monstrous. He also refuses to kill his Batman persona, as it would be like suicide.
Near the end of the Batman Ego story, the hallucination makes an agreement with Bruce that it will have to live with knowing that, although a terrifying symbol to the underworld, Batman is also a symbol of hope to the good people of the city, and there won’t be any killing. What makes this graphic novel so interesting is that it has many layers to it. For example, it shows an early time in Batman’s crusade, but also shows Batman’s participation in The Joker’s origin, as well as how the villain Two-Face became corrupt. Most of all though, the story is a peek inside Batman’s mind and helps explain why he became Batman to begin with. If you were smart, you would grab this right now and read it from cover to cover.