Since the inception of Gilgamesh, the concept of the epic hero has developed and become a staple in many different forms and genres through all various forms of media. One of the most prominent forms to include the concept of the epic hero is that of comic books– many of the stories within the realm of comics contain protagonists which are very characteristic of the epic hero model. Over the years, famous superheroes such as Batman have developed and become synonymous with this model. Thus, as a result, there are many similarities which can be drawn between characters such as Gilgamesh and Batman and the stories which are told about these individuals and their pursuits.
Batman as a character is largely a cultural hero within the context of the world that he exists. The hero himself is well-known throughout the city that he protects and the fictional world itself, much like Gilgamesh in the world that he inhabits. (Ziolkowski, 2011) As a result, much of the exploits of these characters embody and typify a term that was originally coined by psychologist Joseph Campbell, which is known as the Mono myth narrative. This pattern is evident in essentially all stories involving heroes, but most prominent in stories such as Batman and The Epic of Gilgamesh. (Gardner, 2007) Despite their different motivations (Bruce Wayne’s to protect Gotham City and Gilgamesh to escape the effects of death), the two are essentially against extremely formidable and often overwhelming circumstances and odds.(Gardner, 2007)
Batman’s character is fighting viciously against the effects and consequences of human corruption and Gilgamesh fights against the inevitability of mortality. Both of these concepts and enemies are largely reflective of society and humanity and typify the symbolic connotations of epic heroes and stories. (Gardner, 2007) Furthermore, in a sense, Bruce Wayne was motivated by the sense of mortality that accompanied the death of his parents and can be seen as having experienced similar conditions to that of Gilgamesh to pursue the heroics that he did. Much like other epic heroes, these men are rife with their own intrinsic, moral struggles.
Even in ancient times, heroes of legend and lore had characteristic flaws and Gilgamesh is no different. As a result of the desire that Gilgamesh has to achieve immortality and defeat the circumstances of death, his actions lead him to murder the keeper of Cedar Woods, and furthermore to deny the consistent advances of the Goddess in the story and in turn slay the bull that she deemed sacred. (Gardner, 2007) His prideful and violent tendencies develop from his obsession with defeating and overcoming the effects of death. This causes many conflicts within the context of his story and represent many tragic flaws pertaining to the character himself.(Gardner, 2007)
In a sense, Batman exhibits these tendencies but in a different way. One of the primary aspects of Batman’s character is his deep obsession with not killing anyone. As a result of his parents’ death, he is bound to uphold justice in a sense which doesn’t permit him to kill anyone. While this can be seen as a noble cause, it is also exemplary of a tragic flaw that Batman possesses. (Ziolkowski, 2011) Because of his inability to kill anyone, many sociopathic enemies such as the iconic Joker are able to run rampant through the city of Gotham, waging war and causing terror regardless of the effects they have because they eventually are capable of escaping whatever scenarios to which Batman puts them.(Ziolkowski, 2011)
Furthermore, Batman’s character and Gilgamesh’s character can be seen as similar in regards to the circumstances that surrounded their birth and their eventual becoming of the heroes that they were destined to become. In epic stories, the heroes are often imbued with superhuman characteristics that define their character and are often ordained or selected by the gods or fate to become greatness. In Gilgamesh’s case, he received courage and beauty from two ancient gods known as Adad and Shamash and subsequently became two-thirds of a god as a result. (Gardner, 2007) He is able to exude bravery and strength, much like Batman’s character. Batman, on the other hand, is granted other characteristics from fate that define his successes. Primarily, he is the successor to the ludicrously wealthy Wayne Enterprises, which allows him to fund his forays into crime fighting. He also possesses the tenacity and braveness that Gilgamesh has but also has uncanny perceptions and intelligence on the side. (Ziolkowski, 2011)
Batman and Gilgamesh also experience much loss and tragedy in the pursuit of their goals and to reach the ultimate success of their mission that they feel so dedicated to achieving. (Ziolkowski, 2011) This journey often brings many sidekicks and assistants, which is evident by Batman’s Robin, Jim Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth. Gilgamesh is aided by Enkidu and the power that is bestowed upon him by Aruru. (Gardner, 2007) Furthermore, each character has arch-enemies which often attempt to stop or thwart their goals. Batman’s include the Joker, Two-Face and Scarecrow while Gilgamesh’s are the Bull of Heaven, Ishtar and Humbaba.
In conclusion, the nature of the characters such as Gilgamesh defined a generation of of heroes and tales that have continued through to today. (Ziolkowski, 2011) This is evident in the comparisons which can be drawn between characters such as Batman, who exemplifies many of the characteristics that are evident in both the type of hero that he is and the series of events which transpire in the journey that he commits to achieving his goals.
- Gardner, Lyn (2007). “Gilgamesh”. Guardian.
- Ziolkowski, Theodore (2011). Gilgamesh Among Us: Modern Encounters With the Ancient Epic, Cornell University. Print.