That’s the headline I saw right before I left my house to appear on live television to talk about The Dark Knight Rises this morning. As the segment concluded I said that Batman represents the fantasy that one man can have a meaningful effect on random violence of this sort, and that the presence of the character in our culture can be reassuring. I was amazed to hear this come out of my mouth, since I do not at all believe the line that superheroes are our way of telling ourselves how much better we can be. And yet I know what I said to be true. When I was in college, a friend of mine was murdered. I’m exaggerating even as I type: She and I were friendly, but what she really was was the estranged ex-best friend of my then-current best friend, so to the extent that I thought or talked much about her before the night she was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant who is still at large today, those thoughts and words were negative. This didn’t help make her murder any easier to take. I don’t know if it made it harder. I know it made it weirder. How do you process the meaninglessness of murder in the face of the petty personal gripes and grievances it renders even more meaningless? For reasons I couldn’t articulate then, one of the ways to process it was to read The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and escape into the fantasy world of a man with a gaping wound for a psyche, who closes that wound by beating the world around it into the shape of the hole. After I read it I gave my treasured, dog-eared, beat-up copy — the one I was given as a gift in sixth grade by the one kid in my class who was already listening to PiL and getting blowjobs from eighth graders, the one he’d stolen from his older brother and been impressed with as he read it while taking a dump — to my friend, with an inscription I can’t remember other than that it positioned the book as a psychic pain reliever for what she was feeling. I still believe that to be true, as I believed it then; in neither case do or did I believe it because I think Batman is an inspiring example of hope to be emulated. The Batman fantasy is comforting because it is a fantasy. Reading about him or watching movies about him is a pleasant way of being reminded that the idea of a single man putting the world to rights is the stuff of movies and comic books, the stuff of make-believe. The real world has no Batman and never will. It will always be this way. Only when you let go of the hope that it can be something else can you come to terms with what it is rather than dashing your mind against the rocks of what it can never be.