Zack Snyder Continues to Insist That a Batman That Won’t Kill Is ‘Irrelevant’

It’s one of the oldest debates in the character’s 85-year history: should Batman kill people in his quest to safeguard Gotham City? Although time and time again Batman’s darkness has pushed and pulled the character to pretty rough precipices, at least one defining creator continues to be steadfastly be on the side of Bat-murder: Zack Snyder.

Are Fans Tired of Marvel and DC? Superhero Fatigue at NYCC 2023

“Batman can’t kill is canon. And I’m like, ‘Okay, the first thing I wanna do when you say that is I wanna see what happens,’” Snyder recently noted, speaking on Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. “And they go, ‘Well, don’t put him in a situation where he has to kill someone’.”

“You’re protecting your god in a weird way, right? You’re making your god irrelevant if he can’t be in that situation. He has to now deal with that. If he does do that what does that mean,” Snyder continued. “What does it tell you, does he stand up to it? Does he survive that as a god? As your god, can Batman survive that?”

Briefly putting aside Snyder’s notion of godhood and Batman—a character arguably defined, in a lot of ways, by his explicit mortality next to the heroes he finds himself working with—this is far from the first time that Snyder has advocated for a Batman that has to accept the grim calculus of death in his fight against crime. In 2019 the writer/director famously told people to “wake the fuck up” if they thought Batman could exist without murdering people; Snyder cited his obsession with Watchmen growing up as what sparked his deconstructionist bent. It’s also of course important to note the context in which Snyder is saying this now.

He’s speaking to Joe Rogan, the right-wing provocateur talk show host who has built a persona and media empire off conspiracy theories, misinformation, and a presentation of faux-machismo that this sort of framing is best suited to: the kind of person who sees Batman as peak masculinity, peak physical performance and intellect, cold and reserved and always logically five steps ahead, willing and able to break his opponents into submission mentally and physically—and yes, even kill them. Batman as the ideal of Godhood and the Joe Rogan Experience go hand in hand.

It’s just that, as it has remained since Snyder said it so loudly five years ago, it’s rarely ever the most interesting version of Batman you can do. Deconstructionist and valid? Absolutely! But interesting? Much less so. Batman’s darkness, and his weaponization of fear, is a theatricality as intrinsic and vital to the character as any kind of edgy brutality or explicit violence is. Batman is Bruce Wayne’s performance, a target—complete with a bright yellow-and-black x-marks-the-spot right over his very heart—for the criminals he hates, one so potent and over the top that they cannot help but be drawn to it instead of targeting those without the power to defend themselves. An exaggerated mirror, amplified through the precise framing and presentation that Bruce’s meticulously planned strategies allow him. A Batman so cold and reserved to accept the animus of murder rubs against this idea because Batman isn’t cold and reserved at his best—he is open and roiling in a sea of emotions, sadness, grief, rage, but all that is a scream: a scream for his enemies to look at him and no one else, and to look at what they made him do.

That is why Batman is still around, and evolving, and compelling after 85 years of untold stories across almost as many mediums. It’s also why Snyder’s iteration of the character, and his steadfast belief in such a deconstructionist vision of Batman, can co-exist with all that—and in turn still remain a much less intriguing vision for the character, whoever Snyder is telling about it.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.