Sociology, Department of


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Kort‐Butler, Lisa A. “Batman’s Animated Brain(s).” Paper presented to the Batman in Popular Culture Conference, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH. April 12, 2019.


Copyright 2019 Lisa Kort-Butler.

Images from DC Comics are reproduced under fair use ("commentary & criticism").


Much of the analysis of Batman’s brain – whether by scholars, writers, or other comic characters – focuses on his psychological make‐up. That is, what makes Bruce Wayne psychologically motivated to be The Batman? His childhood trauma is often poised as the answer, the tireless pursuit of “justice” in an attempt to regain control from the trauma of his parents’ murders (Sanna 2015). The same could be said for his nemeses. Madness, psychopathy, and insanity are centered in the corrupted minds of Gotham’s ghastliest, some of whom have also had psychological or physical traumas (Langley 2012; Lytle 2008). A psychological reading of the Bat‐ Universe is much of its pop culture and academic appeal. Advances in neuroscience allow for another reading. Childhood trauma certainly has lasting psychological impacts; this trauma also has physiological impacts on the brain (Johnson and Blum 2012; Perry 2002). Likewise, severe blunt force trauma to the head has major implications for the brain, and we are learning more about the physical and psychological risks from repeated physical trauma to the head (Schwartz, Jodis, Breen, and Parker 2019; Williams et al. 2018). What is more, the threat of toxins (used by villains and against others in the Batuniverse) is reflected in the science of psychotropic medications on brain functions (Schaefer et al. 2014), in the neurological damage associated with sustained substance use (Tamrazi and Almast 2012), and in environmental hazards (Lanphear 2015). In other words, chemicals alter the brain for good and for ill. Advances in neuroscience also create tensions between the positive directions for health and healing, and the looming threat of technology consuming the self and free will (Grubler 2017; Vieira da Cunha and Relvas 2017)