Who would win in a fight? Batman or some really powerful meta-being? It’s a question that has plagued mankind since an old Bruce Wayne plugged himself into the Gotham power grid and punched Superman a whole bunch in The Dark Knight Returns. Bruce came out the other end of that fight on top, and we were left to wonder, what other super-person could “regular old human” Batman defeat?
First, we need to ask ourselves, what is Batman? He is our window into how tragedy can spark heroism. The trauma Bruce endured and channeled into unwavering bravery and resolve demonstrates the indomitable spirit of humankind. Most of all, Batman is our proxy for human excellence. Wealth, determination, preparedness, strength and courage. Bruce Wayne embodies all we as a species aspire to be. In a crisis, Batman is the one we all hope we can find the strength to be. Ready for anything and fueled by will, and probably some crazy potent Batman-themed energy drink.
As a giant comic book nerd, my primary source of escapism is a good DC story. The writers spin epic yarns of a pantheon of gods doing endless battle. Good vs. evil on a cosmic scale. Costumed deities are protecting mankind from other, equally costumed devils. Within these monumental clashes between super-powered beings, there is a man. A billionaire cloaked in black (or gray, or blue depending on your preferred costume) with his face hidden behind the cowl of the Batman.
How bonkers is that? Batman, a mere mortal, stands side-by-side with unbreakable men and women as they collide with the likes of Mongul, Darkseid, the Anti-Monitor and a host of other scary ass villains. Many times, people cite “Prep Time” (Preparation Time) as the reason Batman could defeat literally everything, but the reasoning goes a little deeper than that. Armed with his intellect, combat training and a metric buttload (a proven mathematical measurement) of gadgets, the Dark Knight battles the forces of evil no matter the size or the scope. And he always wins.
Throughout Batman's epic history, each new writer has added a bit more to the lore of our very not superhuman hero Batman. Think of all he has accomplished with his human body and mind. He has survived battles with the lord of Apokolips, Darkseid. He defeated his own dark counterparts in Dark Nights: Metal. He’s stood toe-to-toe with Superman, who is a god in his own right. Batman not only survived, but won that fight. How would you explain a mortal man fist-fighting an unstoppable ultra-being who is literally powered by a star? Prep time you say? Come on.
Do you want to know what I think? Batman wins because we, as humans, need to succeed. Batman is all of us. We hope that no matter the obstacle in our path, we will persevere. We simply must come out on top, and Batman is no different. Does it matter that Darkseid never misses with his Omega Beams? Nope. When Batman is involved, maybe those beams aren't as accurate as you remember. Would a giant murderous crocodile man fear the likes of any normal man or woman? Probably not, but Batman isn't normal.
Bruce is a trained ninja from his time in the League of Shadows. He has honed his body to peak physical perfection through vigorous training. The physical strength and endurance of the Dark Knight are well above those of normal men and women. He takes a beating and always operates at his best. Bats is also a master detective, allowing him to decipher complex problems quickly. His genius-level intellect enables him to strategize and plan for any outcome. His specific strategies drive gods to victory. He's also filthy, stinking rich. That helps a lot.
How long do you think it would take you or me to become the Caped Crusader? It would take nonstop training from a very young age, not to mention very little sleep and the most robust coffee known to man. Maybe you could reach peak physical condition, but if you are in the gym all the time, when do you have time to study forensics? If you are the top of your military tactics class (is that even a thing?), would you have the brain capacity to learn how to build and maintain a bat-shaped stealth fighter?
Bless you, if you could. The point is, there are only so many hours in the day, and our human form has limits we wish to exceed. It’s why we cheer for athletes at the top of their game or celebrate grand achievements in medicine. We yearn to be amazing.
Now, I know what you are thinking, "Batman isn't a real person." Yes, we are all aware. But in the context of the stories he is in, he is portrayed as the tip of the hero spear. The most powerful people in the universe seek him out to get him on their team. He's part of DC’s Trinity, along with Superman, the unbreakable flying god, and Wonder Woman, another god, but with a see-through jet. That speaks volumes for the rich kid with a cowl.
We are told Batman has no superpowers, but he kind of does. His power is he is capable of doing the impossible. Whether that's punching out evildoers, outthinking the greatest minds, or merely entertaining multiple generations of people with his tales of glory. Batman is the lens by which we see humanity. Capable of anything and always ready to win at a moment’s notice.
His cars are pretty cool too.
Carl Waldron writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Follow him on Twitter at @mrcarlwaldron.