This item was originally published on December 7th, 2010 at Fast Company.
Yes, I read comics. (I just wanted to get that out of the way before the eye-rolling and snorting starts.) For those of you who don’t, let me catch you up: they still publish Batman comics, Bruce Wayne is still Batman, sort of, and he still lives in Gotham City. In the most recent storyline, writer Grant Morrison has Bruce Wayne confess he has been personally financing the Batman’s war on crime, and that in his capacity as Bat-benefactor, Wayne will be expanding the operation on a global scale–Batman, Inc.
“We’ve sidetracked the media that he has actually been financing Batman all these years,” Morrison explained of the long arc he’s written that has seen the Dark Knight plunge through time and space and have his mantle taken up by former Robin Dick Grayson. “He is the man behind the Batman, but he is not Batman.”
In doing so, Wayne is free to take his crime fighting international by building what Morrison calls a “global, international army of Batmen. Batman in China, Batman in Japan, Batman in Russia. Expanding the Batman brand to areas where he really hasn’t been before.”
Of course, as a naming geek and comics geek, I couldn’t leave this alone. Batman around the world? What is that going to look like?
I’m not talking about Batman comics, of course. They’ve been publishing those everywhere in the world for years. In fact, it’s fun to see the names for Batman in other languages:
- Japan: バットマン Battoman
- India: Batman
- Brazil: Batman
- France: L’Homme-Chauve-Souris (literally Bat Man)
- China: 亻(man) + 蝠 (bat) 蝙蝠俠
- Spain: Batman
- Russia: Бэтмен
- Mexico: Batman (Spider-man is El Hombre Arana–but Batman is Batman. Go figure)
- Middle East باتمان (Batman)
- Italy: Uomo Pipistrello (literally Bat Man)
So maybe Batman will just continue to be Batman around the world, since his comics are selling pretty well. But I also wonder if bats have the same meaning in other cultures. Batman is Batman because bats represent darkness, mystery, special powers, and silent attack; people also associate all bats with one particular type of bat, the vampire bat, and tend to view them as scary and creepy. Batman as a metaphor wouldn’t really work if bats were viewed as good-luck symbols.
So, given Batman’s global expansion, should he still be a bat-man? Next time I’ll look at the meanings of bats in non-U.S. cultures, and suggest some alternate animals for Bruce Wayne to emulate. In the meantime, your suggestions are welcome!