It’s time for a new Batman movie, one that will probably shatter all sorts of box office records, so I figure it’s also time to drum up a bunch of angry controversy by disagreeing with one of the fundamental principles of Batman’s character. Grab your sticks and marshmallows, and watch the flames rise!
When you ask most people about the basic tenets of Batman, in particular what his powers are, the generally given answer is that he has none. Batman is an ordinary human, which makes him special amongst the pantheon of DC heroes. He’s proof that a man can walk amongst the gods, and that humans do matter in a world of aliens and super-science and mythological entities. But when we look a little closer, that facade begins to crack a bit, and it becomes apparent that Batman is every bit as powered as the rest of them, just in a different way.
Let’s examine the stuff Batman can do. Batman, in no particular order, is a master of dozens of martial arts, skilled in just about every scientific discipline, the world’s greatest detective, a crack pilot, driver, and sailor, a computer hacker, an escape artist, so stealthy he can practically vanish from plain sight, an extremely savvy businessman, the inventor of many unique and advanced pieces of technology, a master strategist, multi-lingual, and a master of disguise. Plus, he almost never sleeps. And that’s just the stuff I can think of! While I fully admit no individual thing on that list is impossible, someone who could equal Batman in even one of those areas, let alone two or three, would be an absolutely exceptional person, likely a hero, world champion, or leading expert. The sheer number of lifetimes it would take to accumulate the skills and knowledge Batman possesses is pretty staggering in and of itself. The fact that he is able to do all of it, and accumulate new skills seemingly on the fly, is Batman’s true power. Everything a human can do, Batman can do better. Even though he represents the pinnacle of human achievement, Batman must be able to learn at blinding speed and have natural aptitudes for everything, which points to him having unnatural levels of intelligence as well as being a physical genius. I’ll admit I haven’t met every person in the world, but no person I’ve ever met has won the genetic lottery on his level, or come anywhere close.
Perhaps compared to the ability to fly, or run at super-speed, or lift a mountain, this seems a bit mundane, but if you look at other heroes, they tend to have ordinary levels of skill sets. Superman’s an accomplished writer and journalist. Wonder Woman is a skilled diplomat and melee fighter. Green Lantern is an ace pilot and the Flash is a brilliant forensic scientist. Like most of us, they’re good at a few things and average or lousy at everything else. Not Batman. He’s great at everything, and even if he’s not the absolute best, he’s usually in the top five. I can’t think of much at all he’s bad at (except maybe empathy, and even that varies from story to story). If someone with Batman’s drive and potential existed, they would probably find themselves ruling the world in pretty short order.
None of this is to say it’s a flaw in Batman or the like. I wouldn’t want him any other way. It’s just important to realize that becoming Batman is just about as far out of the average person’s league as becoming Superman is. He is a superhero for a reason after all.
As a final thought, it seems as though a lot of people are aware that Batman has no superhuman abilities and say as much, but if I was a criminal living in Gotham City, that would not be my assumption. “He stops like half the muggings in the city while they’re happening. That dude’s clairvoyant! Lock him in a safe and wrap him in chains and he’s out in under a minute. Holy crap, he can teleport too! Blink slow enough while you’re talking to him and he vanishes. Clearly he can turn invisible! He gets shot and stabbed all the time but he’s back on his feet in days, sometimes hours. Yeah, Batman regenerates. And who knows what the hell else he can do? Screw this, I’m moving to Metropolis.”