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Reviewed by Java Davis for Readers' Favorite
I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to kill their Batman, so I was anxious to find out. How to Kill Your Batman, by Kenneth Rogers, is the author’s third book on the subject of male survivors of child sexual abuse. He is also black, although he quickly points out that all male survivors can benefit from his experience and thorough research on the subject. The main point in all of Kenneth’s books is that male survivors of child sexual abuse, including black men, are not alone. This is where Batman comes into the picture. In our culture, men are expected to be their own superheroes; strong, confident, stony, and ass-kicking. Part of the shame of the survivor is that, as children, they were not man enough to defend themselves, and they are embarrassed by their own weakness. Not talking about the experiences or allowing some emotional vulnerability is another way that men automatically try to cope. Wrong answer.
Kenneth Rogers quotes extensively from the Batman comics, using the quotes to illustrate how Batman’s character was formed when he was 10 years old, watching his parents die after being murdered in the street. Bruce Wayne’s powerlessness was his lifelong shame, and he tries constantly to live up to the strong male ideal. This is the Batman that needs killing in the hearts of survivors. Kenneth’s point here is that no one can maintain the hypervigilance and emotionlessness of either a superhero or a supervillain; a survivor can actually go in either direction. The Batman series also contains stories of women who become superheroes and supervillains having experienced many of the same types of childhood traumas. In this regard, all of these adults have remained children in their hearts and minds. They’ve defined their entire lives with those painful and embarrassing childhood moments. I wasn’t familiar with almost all of these Batman stories and was surprised by the quantity of and character interactions in the stories. How to Kill Your Batman is also a lesson in the comic book culture. The author very generously tells his own story, which helps to set the tone for this book, which is ultimately about letting go of childhood, killing the Batman, and finally reaching adulthood, at whatever age he might be.