You would be hard pressed to find a better villain than the Joker. His mix of cunning, comedy and bottomless capacity for evil is a terrifying combination. Of all my favorite villains Joker is definitely in my top five. Why? Two words: He’s crazy.
But Jenn, this is a review of a book about Batman, not a love letter to the Joker. True, but the Joker being crazy is important to the context of the book.
Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight
I have great love for the Caped Crusader and (after an intro class in college) a fascination with psychology. So naturally the title just screams: ‘read me!’
Since his introduction in 1939 we have been captivated by the super hero with no super powers. Batman and Psychology explores the inner workings of the Dark Knight and the cast of characters that inhabit Gotham. Author Travis Langley is a professor of psychology at Henderson State University as well as a giant fan of the Batman. In the forward he explains the idea for the book spawned from the question “Is Batman Crazy?” He begins his quest to answer this question with basic psychology ideas and definitions and works up to larger complex concepts, much like a psychology 101 course. While being very informative, Langley does a good job of keeping the writing style fun and interesting so the reader does not get the feeling of reading a text-book.
Langley uses case studies of Gotham’s Rogues Gallery to illustrate his discussion points. Each case study attempts to diagnose the character in question which was one of my favorite parts. He fleshed out these case studies with quotes, excerpts, and character descriptions found throughout the vast number of Batman iterations.
The best part about this book is the way it makes you think about things in a different way. Above I mentioned that Joker is crazy and that is what makes him a great villain. However after reading Batman and Psychology using the word crazy to describe him is so generic and colloquial that it doesn’t really have any meaning. In contrast, using dissociative personality disorder is very specific and defined and makes the Joker even more interesting when we examine him with the clinical lens.
Is Penguin really obsessed with birds? Does Two Face have multiple personality disorder? How crazy is the Joker? You’ll have to read and find out.