It starts the same way every time… You and your friends are sitting around having a good time talking comics, and then someone inevitably says, “Well sure ____________ is strong, but he couldn’t beat _____________ in a fight.”
IT’S ON! Emotions skyrocket, fists go up, tables are overturned, and the debate rages like a swirling maelstrom consuming all who come within earshot. Dear friends are at each other’s throats making blood oaths and offering to sacrifice their first born to get their points across. Then suddenly from the middle of the fray there is one champion who rises to the occasion and quiets the savage hoard of fanboys. The violent storm is calmed when these few words are spoken: “Batman wins.” There is an uneasiness… a tension amongst the crowd. The silence in the ranks is ravenous. No one will challenge the contender. Not one.
Today it all changes. Today we put an end to the madness. Today we break the cycle of falsehood that has long robbed fanboys of their voice. Today the world will see the truth of who Batman really is instead of the lie his fans have made him into.
I am not trolling, and I am not hating on the Dark Knight. It is not the Batman who is on trial today, but it is his following of misinformed and overstating bullies. No one needs to hide from the fans of Caped Crusader anymore.
I do feel that I should say before I go any further that I am a tremendous Batman fan. But I am intending to draw a distinction between two types of fans. I am among those who love and respect the character for how incredibly well written and thought out his story is. But there is another kind. There are those with the secret handshake who worship the Bat-cult and shun the whole of humanity for the heresy of not acknowledging Batman’s unrivaled supremacy. These fans are giving all of us a bad name. So if you are a member of the cult, and you know who you are, this article is for you.
Now what exactly is the problem? Well, it’s rather simple actually. The ultra Bat-fans are guilty of the same thing that everyone in the world is guilty of at one point or another. Everyone omits what they don’t like, and the Bat-fans are no different. Everyone looks at what they adore through rose colored lenses.
Think about it: if you like Agents of Shield you are willing to overlook (and maybe even forget entirely) any number of issues the series definitely has. You simply don’t care about the flaws. But you still have to accept the fact that the show is not perfect.
So what are the Bat-fans doing? I’ll tell you… they are stacking the deck. Bat-fans will tell you that Batman always wins because he is always prepared. They will use references like The Dark Knight Returns or JLA: Tower of Babel to make their case. Here are my thoughts on both of those arguments.
In Tower of Babel, Batman has made a contingency plan for the Justice League. He made a weapon that could take out each member of the League should they turn on the rest. It is the ultimate failsafe, and of course it gets stolen. When the villain makes his move he is able to immobilize all of the Justice League and gain a significant advantage. However great that story makes Batman out to be, it is missing a few solid points that keep it from being evidence of Batman's all-surpassing reign. For one, the villain has a great number of minions who carry out the failsafe in unison. This way no one member of the JLA has a chance to warn the rest. Whatever else Batman may be he is still just one man. Even with his perfect contingency plan I am not at all convinced he is capable of taking out all of the Justice League by himself at once. Further more I think he would be hard pressed to carry out a few of the tasks. Take the Flash for example. The failsafe for the Flash was a special vibrating bullet. But I am not so confident that Batman could shoot the Flash in the first place. To top it all off, at the end Superman asks Batman what the contingency plan is for him. Batman simply replies, "the Justice League." And that really is about as humble as he gets. But it does establish an important principle: Even with all the weapons Batman made to stop the JLA members he is still not confident that he could be successful against the whole League.
Now in The Dark Knight Returns, Batman took years to make a specific weapon capable of taking out Superman. It was essentially a watered down mixture of Kryptonite that crippled Superman at the end of a grueling bout. Admittedly Batman is not an his best in this fight, but neither is Superman. While Batman is recovering from multiple stab wounds inflicted by the Joker (thug life, anyone?), Superman is recovering from absorbing the blast of a nuclear weapon detonating at point blank. What this story does well is depict the great lengths to which Batman will go to win. What the story doesn’t do is show what lengths Superman would go to if he was desperate to win. What does that look like? Well, have you ever heard of the Elite? In a rather fascinating story called Superman vs the Elite the Blue Boy Scout is forced to fight dirty. In the final face off in this story Superman wins by shooting his heat vision into the eyes of his opponent and cutting his brain as with a scalpel. He instantly took away his adversaries’ super powers. That’s Superman at his absolute edge. Now I ask… does Batman have a chance in that fight? Not even close.
But there is still more to this argument to uncover. Batman is simply NOT always prepared. There is more than one comic book that shows him in this vulnerable state where he has no plan and no backup. The most important one that the crazed Bat-fans need to be reminded of is Knightfall, the original face off between Batman and Bane. In this story arch Bane comes up with a plan to defeat Batman. He releases the inmates of Arkham Asylum forcing Batman to round them up. Once Batman is completely worn down from playing bats and robbers he returns to Wayne Manor only to find the hulking Bane waiting eagerly for him. Oh yeah, then Bane breaks his back. We learn two lessons from this encounter:
1) It is impossible for Batman to prepare for every scenario.
2) It is impossible for Batman to win in every scenario.
I honestly don’t think you need more arguments beyond that. Everything hangs from the hope that Batman will be prepared. Heck, if you gave Batman 20,000,000 years to prepare I bet he could probably come up with a way to defeat Galactus. But that’s just it… Batman doesn’t have 20,000,000 years does he? No. And even if he did, would you also give that same amount of time to Galactus so he could prepare? Of course you wouldn’t, because he isn’t Batman.
So in finishing let me say this. My two favorite superheroes are Batman and Superman. I really don’t like to choose between the two, but if I had to I would probably choose Supes because I tend to lean more towards optimism rather than pessimism. I really love the two of them. Batman is a powerful member of the duo and the ensemble. There are some who say he isn’t a real superhero because he has no super powers. I disagree. Not having super powers does not disqualify him, but it is the greatest qualifier. It is no coincidence that Batman is possibly the most favored superhero in the world. He overcomes greater odds than all others. His climb is steeper and his burden heavier. He belongs at the top with the best. He belongs on a throne amongst the greatest superheroes, but it has to be his throne. And his throne is vulnerable.
Please don’t ever try to ruin Batman by making him invincible or invulnerable.
Hurry up Batman v Superman! Is it dawn yet?