I've always stood by my multi-layered argument for why Batman is the best and most interesting superhero, and today I added yet another layer to my stance on this issue: Batman is the most interesting and compelling superhero not just because of his own character, personality, and story; he is also the most interesting and compelling superhero because of the villains he faces.
This is because each villain acts as a mirror image of Batman's psyche and character. With fiends like the Joker and Mad Hatter, psychos like the Scarecrow and Riddler, and monsters like Bane and Killer Croc — to name a few but the extensive list of crazy and awesome Batman villains — we are not only seeing very interesting and unique villains wreak havoc on the world and act out certain personality traits in stunning and creative (some would say insane) ways, we are also encountering articulations of the very character, personality, and story traits of Batman himself. Which is to say, each villain represents a part of the whole Batman, and they show us what Batman could become if he gave into his deeper, less heroic qualities.
You know it to be true! At times, we see these various traits come out in those moments when he's starting to cross the line between being an agent of order who puts criminals in Arkham Asylum, to becoming an agent of chaos and fear who just might belong in Arkham Asylum instead.
And that, friends, is yet another reason why Batman is the best superhero.
Aside from this detail resulting in powerful stories, it also teaches us a great deal about creative work — whether that involves performance, marketing, innovation, worship, and so on — in that it tells us that every hero needs a villain to make it more interesting and complex; something to combat and be challenged by; someone to hold up a mirror to us and our work and say this is what you could become if you are not careful.
Sure, most brands, bands, and marketers don't like to think about their nemeses, let alone see aspects of themselves in them, but it's a valuable consideration to make when creating and sharing anything. So stop and ask, who is the villain that we are facing and what does this villain tell me about the world, myself, and what I'm making and/or sharing?
I mean, you can avoid asking the question if you like. But that only increases the likelihood of you becoming a villain in the end.