It’s panels like these that are the reason that I can’t hate Damian. I know that he’s a lot of things, and a lot of those things are horrible. He’s violent, he lacks empathy, he’s arrogant and rude and he’s also sexist as hell (which I blame on writers, because that attitude appeared literally out of nowhere but I’ll save that rant for another day). But he’s also a ten-year-old child who wants more than anything for someone to love him and to value him and look at him and be proud, something that all kids want, and I just can’t write him off as a “whiny little bastard” and all of the other horrible things I see him called.
I mean look at how Damain grew up. He was trained from birth as an assassin; the only time he got approval was when he hurt or killed people or did things generally assumed to be “bad” to anyone not an assassin. But the League believes that there’s nothing wrong with killing people, and that’s the environment that Damian grew up in. And for all intents and purposes, Damian is a very advanced warrior for his age, which instilled in him a huge ego - I am special, I have all of this skill, I am important, I am worth something because everyone tells me I’m meant to beBatman one day. But at the same time, he doesn’t have anyone who really loveshim, at least not in his own eyes. He knows his grandfather doesn’t - Ra’s refers to him as “it” and tried to possess his body and destroy his soul in the process. He really feels - rightly or not - that his mother abandoned him and that his father, who he thought for sure would embrace him because they are blood related, rejected him; these are the people who are supposed to love him no matter what, but neither of them are around to raise him and neither of them want him. Damian thinks he’s a little adult but he’s not; he’s still ten, and ten-year-olds (and hell even 50-year-olds) want their parents’ love and approval more than anything else in the world (if my parents don’t love me, who the hell will? What is so wrong with me that they don’t want me no matter how hard I work or how much I try to get them to love me?)
And then you take his parents’ perceived rejection and you combine that with Damian being thrown into a world where literally everything is upside down, and it’s no wonder that he’s the way that he is. All of the ideals that he’s based his life on are suddenly wrong - you can’t kill, you have to try not to hurt anyone too badly, you have to respect everyone, you have to genuinely care about people, you have to learn to work together - and he has no idea at all how to deal with it. He flounders for quite a bit, mostly because he doesn’t want to change but also because he has no solid foundation at all. He doesn’t have a support system, he has only himself, because he won’t let anyone in and because he refuses to even acknowledge that he needs anyone to love him when he really, really does. He feels literally alone, and instead of reacting like a normal child would, he lashes out, with his temper and his arrogance and his condescension, because that’s the only way he knows to cope. He’s gotten a lot better, thanks to Dick, but I saw Damian’s struggles and I couldn’t hate him, I just felt terrible for him, because he’s so ill-equipped to deal with the world he’s in now and it’s just sad, because no child should ever be put into that position.
I don’t excuse a lot of the things Damian does because they need to be corrected. I know that. I know that if someone like Dick doesn’t step in and try to show Damian how to actually interact with the world and the people in it, Damian will have huge issues. He’ll probably very likely end up being dangerous if he can’t change; can you imagine if he did become Batman with his attitude?
I don’t mean he should change completely, of course; if he turned into a Dick clone or a Bruce clone then he wouldn’t be Damian anymore and I love a lot of what Damian is. He doesn’t deserves to be written off as a lost cause because he’s still only a kid and he came from a horribly shitty background and it will take time for him to get past that and relearn things. He still has so much time to change, and changing a life’s worth of lessons won’t happen overnight. And it won’t happen unless he’s got the right people trying to guide him. I think that Dick was doing a pretty good job and I hope Bruce can do a good job, too. But he still deserves the chance to try; he might mess up a lot and he might not ever be like Dick, but he’s come a long way already and I believe that he has a shot at being a great superhero one day, as long as he tries and as long as he’s given a chance and the right person to teach him (and really to love him.)
All of this.