With Batman vs. Superman hitting theaters, movie goers will be treated to Zack Snyder’s new take on the legendary caped crusader. Snyder, who reported last week that he’s currently working on a new adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, has often talked about drawing inspiration from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns when coming up with the direction for the sequel to his Superman origin story, Man of Steel. While The Dark Knight Returns is widely considered to be one of the most iconic books in the character’s fabled history, there is another Batman story I’d rather see on the big screen: The Story of the Berlin Batman.
Created by Paul Pope, a libertarian comic book writer also responsible for the critically acclaimed Batman: Year 100, Berlin Batman was an Elseworld tale published in 1998’s The Batman Chronicles #11. The story involves young Baruch Wane, a wealthy socialite, who is tipped off by the Nazi Komissar Garten that the police have just confiscated the library and works of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. As was the case in real life, Mises’s passionate advocacy against government intervention made von Mises one of the many Jewish intellectuals that placed high on Hitler’s enemy list.
It turns out Baruch Wane, who kept his own Jewish ethnicity secret after witnessing his parents murdered by an anti-semitic mob as a child, is not only familiar with Mises, but is a fan of his work. Donning his cape and cowl, the Berlin Batman swings through the night to the local train yard, finding the Komissar’s men busy loading up Mises’s works in a boxcar to ensure they never again see the light of day. Vowing that the Nazi’s will never “win the world through fear and repression,” Wane manages to destroy the train tracks in a desperate attempt to stall their efforts.
The comic ends with some recollections from Wane’s female aide, Robin. She notes that following the Nazi’s takeover of Austria, Mises was able to escape to the United States and continue his advocacy of freedom and peace.
Writing of Mises,
They slowed him down, but they couldn’t stop him. He continued to work on a book which was eventually published in ’49, called Human Action, now considered one of the great libertarian works of our times. Von Mises’ anti-authoritarian ideas were first a threat to the Nazi’s, then the Soviets, and to all increasingly regulatory governments in our own times. He was against socialism in all its many forms. He was an advocate of individual liberty, free speech, and free thinking … and so, should I add, was the Berlin Batman.
As far as I know, this is the only Batman story to feature a prominent economist — but it is fitting that Pope chose Mises. As I’ve written before, Mises lived an extraordinarily heroic life, with a personal narrative that has all the makings of its own summer blockbuster.
During WWI, Mises served as an artillery captain in the Austrian army, charged with holding off advancing Russian forces. After that, given the opportunity to serve as an economic adviser to the government, Mises refused to follow the lead of other prominent economists and go along with the government’s desire to grow their control over the economy. The result of standing on principle was for him to be sent back out into the deadly front lines, making it a miracle that Mises was not among the over 17 million casualties of The Great War.
Prior to the rise of Hitler, Mises established himself as the preeminent intellectual opponent of socialism. After being chased from Europe, he crafted the most important treatise on economics in human history, the aforementioned Human Action. In spite of being blackballed by most universities in post-New Deal America, he was able to keep alive the scholastic tradition of the Austrian school of economics in America. He was an unwavering champion of lassiez-faire capitalism, freedom, and peace. He is also the man that Ron Paul credits with being the inspiration for him to pursue a career in politics, where he dedicated himself to advocating the ideas of Mises and the Austrian school.
Ludwig von Mises was a man who lived according to his personal motto, Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito. — Do not give into evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it.
That’s a message that I think Batman himself would approve.