When the classic Batman: The Animated Series made it’s way to television in 1992, the Fox network’s standards and practices department apparently forbade nippleage, male or female. Thus, whenever we see Bruce Wayne in training mode sans shirt, he appears as a sad, nippleless freak. How strange and sad that a man mimicking the world’s only flying mammal would lack the very equipment that makes himself mammalian.
A few years later, after his own show had been canceled, Batman made an appearance on Superman: The Animated series. During this crossover, there is a scene where the Dark Knight confronts Shirtless Lex Luthor. Evidently, a few years makes a big difference in terms of what passes for permissible television, because the shirtless Luthor has nipples, bared for the world to see.
I have to believe that at that moment, Batman was jealous of Lex Luthor’s nipples. The exchange between the two enemies was clearly a subtextual battle of nipples. Luthor could sense Batman’s disfigurement, and used it against the Caped Crusader. Shamed, Batman allowed himself to be dominated by his benippled foe.
Later in the episode, Batman removes his shirt, to tend to a wound delivered by one of Luthor’s Evil Robots. The imagery of our hero’s nippleless torso, scarred by the creation of a man possessing something he could clearly never have, moved me in ways I didn’t know I could be moved. Clearly this story was not about two heroes with strikingly different methods who were forced to begrudgingly work together in order to defeat a common enemy. No, this was the story of of a broken man, made to feel less by his insurmountable handicap; forever hoping against hope, that the next enemy beaten would redeem himself, would somehow make him an equal to his nipple-having peers. This is deep, heady stuff for a children’s action cartoon, and I applaud the producers for tackling it.