Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sure, Batman is totally realistic.

He's just a regular dude like me.

Invariably, whenever someone says that Batman is his/her favorite superhero, they give some version of the above statement as the main reason. These are usually the same people that say that picking Superman as your favorite is a cop-out because he's all-powerful and has virtually no chance of being defeated. Furthermore, these haters will claim he didn't earn his powers but simply obtained them by coming to our planet.

No, Batman is not an alien that derives his power from our solar system's yellow sun (Superman). He wasn't given a seemingly all-powerful tool limited only by the user's will and imagination, either (Green Lantern). He was also never in a freak accident that left him with superpowers (Flash, Hulk), and he's not the product of a genetic mutation (X-Men).

 He's just a regular dude just like the rest of us, which means any of us, with enough resources and extreme dedication, could be just like him.

Yeah, he's perfectly normal.
Are you kidding me?

The only thing that makes Batman human is his human DNA. Don't get me wrong, I think Batman is beyond cool (even cooler than Billy Dee), but he's no more relatable, nor his status obtainable, to the average human than Superman.

I won't say that no one could ever be like Batman, but the chances are smaller than minute. In fact, E. Paul Zehr's book, Becoming Batman, discusses the very idea of becoming the Caped Crusader. I haven't read the book, but I did read an interview Zehr did in which he talked about becoming Batman. I recommend reading the article, but I'll summarize the main points below.
  • A Batman illustrator named Neal Adams said that Batman would medal in every event in the Olympics. Zehr logically says that no real person can be "Olympic medal good" at everything, but if he/she wanted to be Batman he/she would have to be exceptionally good in a lot of different areas.
  • The most plausible thing about Batman, according to Zehr is that someone could be trained to be an exceptional athlete, a master of martial-arts, and an expert in gadgetry.
  • Unfortunately, by Zehr's estimation, that training would probably take 15-18 years, due to the expertise required to be Batman (he can't afford to lose, and he has to know how to incapacitate someone without killing them)
  • A well-trained person can probably only fight 3-5 people at a time, not 8-10 like Batman does.
  • A person has to sleep. You can't be Bruce Wayne and Batman and expect to stay healthy for any serious amount of time.
  • You also couldn't fight every night. A real human body can't recuperate in mere hours from harsh fighting night after night.
  • If you managed to become Batman, you'd probably only have about 3 years to remain Batman. Again, all that fighting would take its toll.
Based on Zehr's assertions, and assuming that humans peak physically between ages 25 and 35, a person would probably need to start training between ages 10 and 15 to have any hope of reaching the skill level required to be Batman and then have enough time to actually be him.

Now remember, Batman can't lose. If he does he probably dies, or at the very least a lot of other people do. Also, he never kills. That means the required training isn't some "2 hours a day, 3 days a week" program. It's an "8 hours a day, 5 to 7 days a week highly-specialized" program. In other words, someone trying to become Batman would have make that pursuit the sole focus of their life. Last time I checked, training to be a superhero doesn't pay the bills.

That brings us to another issue. Bruce Wayne (Batman's true identity) is a billionaire. Forbes estimates him to be worth over $6 billion, in fact. He can afford to be Batman. You can't.

Going back to Zehr, he stated at the end of the interview that the best way to estimate the number of people who could possibly become Batman would be to multiply the percentage of billionaires in the world by the percentage of people that become Olympic decathletes. In March 2011, there were 1210 billionaires in the world. In the 2008 Olympics, 40 men competed in the decathlon. Based on a population of 6 billion, for simplicity's sake, that's .00000020167% and .0000000067%, respectively (the true percentages would actually be a lot smaller, since the world's population is closer to 7 billion). If you multiply those numbers together, you get a .000000000000001351189% chance of someone actually having the means and ability to become Batman. That's way less than 1 out of 6 billion.

In other words, becoming Batman is all but impossible. While he may not have superpowers per se, he's been given all that he needs (beyond amazing athletic ability, staunch determination and focus, and endless resources) and more to succeed, just like Superman. Sure, he had to train to become what he is, but the fact that he became and maintains what he is proves my point.

Am I saying Batman is lame? Of course, not. Batman is the polar opposite of lame. I'm simply saying that Batman's existence is no more reasonable than Superman's, and that one shouldn't praise Batman's realism while hating on Superman's lack thereof.

Thanks for reading.


  1. "I'm Batman" :) he is awesome.

  2. You didn't warn me to turn my nerd shield on high before I read it.

    That being said, this is an extremely well argued and researched article. Geeky question for you: Does Batman build all of his own stuff? Seems like that would be just slightly south of impossible as well.

  3. According to Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne built his own Batarangs, while he got the rest of his stuff elsewhere. The cowl came from two different companies, while the rest of it (suit, car, gadgets) came from Wayne Industries weapons division, and more specifically, Lucious Fox. I'm not sure how it works in the comics. (I do give props to Christopher Nolan for making Batman's gadgets and their creation at least plausible.)

    I thought about including arguments about his gadgets and other issues (such as his mental strength/borderline insanity), but the nerd factor was already way up there. Plus, I'd probably still be writing the article.

  4. One other option: You are trying to throw everyone off the scent because you are actually Batman.