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Whether he’s your favourite superhero or whether you roll your eyes every time you see his name it’s difficult to deny that the caped crusader of Gotham city resonates with a vast number of the populace. But there are more reasons than just the regular “he’s just a man with no powers” argument.
10. "He's just a man."
Batman being a mere mortal man is probably the most overused and I believe the weakest argument for why he’s a relatable and engaging character (but that will be discussed further into the list). This makes him relatable to us simply because we the readers also have no superpowers, this makes it easy for us to visualise ourselves as Batman and at the same time become invested in his story, because he is simply a man right? Unlike most other superhero members in the DC universe Batman actually has to try and try a lot harder than most other characters. If Superman was to go up against a member of Batman’s rogue gallery such as Bane he would be able to win without breaking a sweat due to his super strength as well as all his other abilities. This would also account for characters such as: Martian Manhunter, who has similar abilities to Superman; The Flash who could easily blindside Bane; Wonder Woman, again due to super strength; Green Lantern (literally any of them) who can just use their ring to create constructs to aid in the fight against him (and that’s just mentioning a few). But Batman can’t face super-powered enemies in the same manner as his Justice League teammates can. At the very least, he needs to plan an attack ahead of time, be tactical, and workout all the possible variables in order to make sure this plan succeeds. In short, he has to work harder for his victories.
9. He was one of the first.
Batman is one of the oldest comic book characters around. In fact, he’s been around for over 75 years, debuting in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. It’s no doubt that the character or at the very least his symbol is one of the most recognisable symbols around going along with other well-known superhero symbols such as Superman and Spider-Man (for the Marvel fans out there). With the amount of exposure the characters have gotten, it can be difficult not to be engaged by him and intrigued by his only going story. Batman is a massive symbol of pop culture and has been for some time appearing in numerous animated movies, live-action movies, TV shows, etc.
8. The Symbol of the Bat
Although the symbol of the bat has gone through numerous changes and iterations it can be easily assumed that any symbol that resembles a bat can and will be associated with the Dark Knight himself. The symbol represents a normal man standing up for what he believes is right, it’s a symbol of power and determination and a symbol that many people including myself wear on a regular basis. Just as Bruce Wayne says in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins when Bruce is travelling back to Gotham and trying to figure his new identity out:
Bruce Wayne: “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I'm flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed—but as a symbol... as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.”
Alfred Pennyworth: “What symbol?”
Bruce Wayne: “Something elemental, something terrifying.”
The symbol can inspire us to become something bigger than ourselves, give us our own sense of power and courage that maybe we couldn’t have without it.
7. The Picture of Male Masculinity
Kind of related to the last point here but this time it’s about how the character is perceived rather than the symbol. Batman is a character that we know has trained for years to reach the peak of fitness, he’s dominant he’s charming, he’s successful he has the stereotypical look of the macho man. Although he fulfills a stereotype, it can still be argued he’s the kind of character that woman would want (excluding his psychological problems and how he spends his nights) and other men would aspire to be.
6. He's been through tragedy.
Granted this is a point that applies to most comic superheroes and is usually used as a tool to humanise the character, we’ve all been through some sort of tragedy in life but to see a character go through as much as he has and still move forward is for lack of a better word inspiring. He watched his parents be brutally gunned down in front of him as a child, a madman murdered his protégé and partner Jason Todd, the same madman also shot and paralysed another of his allies Barbara Gordon, Batman has seen the ones he cares about and loves be hurt and killed and still moves forward just like that famous quote from Rocky Balboa: “But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.” Batman pulling through and moving forward gives us as the reader inspiration and hope that maybe we can move forward too.
5. He’s overcome his own fears.
Another inspiring point again here and a more modern one too, now it’s easy to assume most people that are aware of Batman aren’t aware of him from reading Batman’s many comic book titles, in fact, it can be assumed that more of the casual audience is mainly aware of him from his numerous films. This isn’t about how a bat flew through the window and landed on a bust of Bruce’s father and that’s how he came up with the Batman persona, no, this is about Bruce’s fear of bats that is shown in media such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. In Batman Begins, Bruce as a child falls from a well into a cave where he is then set about by a swarm of bats. Bruce then develops of a phobia of them due to this traumatic incident, in fact (and I’m just referring to the movie here), this phobia is the reason Bruce wanted to leave the opera, leading to them being in the alley and, in turn, leading to the death of his parents. Now, this doesn’t make the murder of his parents Bruce’s fault, but that doesn’t mean he’ll see it that way.
But the fact that Bruce chooses to be a bat, the thing he fears most shows he’s overcoming his own fear by becoming them, and then projecting his fear onto every criminal and villain in Gotham City:
Alfred Pennyworth: “Why bats, Master Wayne?”
Bruce Wayne: “Bats frighten me. It's time my enemies shared my dread.”
This is shown in the movie again when Bruce first enters the cave, the same gave where he first gained is phobia and is once again set upon by the bats but this time he doesn’t cower, Bruce stands to accept his fear and is finally willing to embrace it, he accepts his fear, he accepts the bats and in turn as they fly and circle around him, they accept him to. Who wouldn’t want to fully conquer there fears as Bruce did in that cave?
4. He has complicated relationships.
Again another point that can apply to many comic book characters but just through general knowledge it’s obvious that batman’s relationships in particular with women is very complicated. Through multiple forms of media, it’s easy to see Bruce has an eye for women with a bit of bad streak, examples of this are the sometimes hero sometimes villain Catwoman, this relationship is portrayed in comics, the amazing 1990s animated series and movies, in particular, The Dark Knight Rises. The mother of his child Damien and daughter of eco-terrorist and league of assassins’ leader Ra’s al Ghul. Andrea Beaumont, also known as the murderous Phantasm from the 1993 animated feature (the movie is over 20 years old, I think we can ignore that spoiler), and even Ten, the youngest member of the future incarnation of the Royal Flush Gang (yes, that’s from Batman Beyond where Terry McGinnis is the bat and not Bruce but that still counts!).
Batman’s relationships aren’t straightforward. In fact, it can be argued they’re more toxic if anything. This is relatable to us because being human is complicated, we have complicated relationships, and Batman reflects this fact unlike some other superheroes. Relationships in some ways can be a daily struggle, after all, you can’t help who you like, right? So to see a character such as Batman who spends his nights jumping from rooftop to rooftop fighting criminals can be comforting to us as the reader knowing that these characters that we look up to go through the same things that we do.
3. He's half-hero, half-villain.
Let’s be honest here Batman may be a hero but he’s done his fair share of villainous things in his time, sometimes to get what he wants like information, the way he interrogates criminals is a general example but for a more specific one look no further than the 2008 movie The Dark Knight. In the Joker interrogation scene before Batman even breathes a word to the Joker he slams his head off the desk. But he only does these things when the time is of the essence right? NOPE. Look at Batman Inc. where Batman faces a villain known as Lord Death Man, a meta-human villain that can feel pain but cannot die, so how does Batman defeat this foe after he goes on a killing spree in Japan? He launches him into space. Yes, Lord Death Man can’t die… but he sure can suffocate over and over again. What about back in Batman #420 when Batman faced KGBeast where the Bat lures the part cyborg assassin into a sewer where Batman locks the villain into a room and simply leaves him there presumably to starve to death and, unlike Lord Death Man KGBeast, can die.
So why does this make Batman relatable I hear you ask?
Well here’s the thing, some of us don’t like heroes that are effectively boy scouts such as Superman and Captain America, they’re well-loved yes but sometimes we want a little more grit in our heroes, these examples above show Batman doing villainous things but at the very least in his mind it’s the best option he’ll cross certain lines other heroes won't. Lord Death Man wasn’t going to stop his murderous spree and seeing as he can’t die Batman did what he believed to be right to save lives even if he did make the villain suffer a fate worse than death. On terms of KGBeast, this is a villain that was sent to assassinate US leaders and a villain that up until their final encounter had beaten Batman at every turn, again doing something villainous for the greater good and save lives. It shows a hero that will do what he has to, and in our own lives, we all have to do things we don’t want to but know we have to in order for the greater good. Granted most of us don’t have to deal with decisions like this, our decisions could be just going to that dinner with your girlfriend and her parents even though you don’t want to in order to keep her happy and avoid arguments. Or, for a more extreme setting example, what about a soldier deployed into a war where he and his unit are being fired upon by the enemy? That soldier may not want to kill, but they still might because it will help keep his unit safe, it will save lives. Seeing a hero make tough decisions big or small can be comforting because we all have tough decisions to make at some time or another.
2. He's his own worst enemy.
It’s safe to say we all do things we regret, stupid things. There’s a time where we as individuals do things without properly thinking that can lead bad situations to worse ones, in truth we are all our own worst enemies. Maybe we self-sabotage ourselves, we don’t manage our expectations, take too much for granted, doubt ourselves and over analyse, but this is the same for Batman too.
Like other points, Batman may do things like this on a more grandiose scale but the similarities are still there. In numerous incarnations of the caped crusader, we can see that Batman blames himself for his parents’ death, for not being able to do something, once again linking back to Batman Begins while sat in the police station he talks about how things could have been different if he hadn’t gotten scared. He blames himself for the death of Jason Todd and in the animated movie Batman: Under The Red Hood blames himself for what Jason became now that he had been resurrected. This is shown in a touching scene between Bruce and Alfred:
“Then I got him killed. My partner. My soldier. My fault. I own that. I'll carry that like everything else. But now there's this. He's taken everything I've ever taught him and turned it on me. It's a hell of my making, Alfred.”
Just like us, he is his own worst critic and that’s a trait not many other heroes show. We all blame ourselves for things that aren’t actually our fault but blame ourselves anyway and seeing a character such as Batman do this makes the readers connect with him on a deeper level than some other comic-based characters.
1. He represents the human dream.
Bruce travelled the world mastering numerous different fighting styles from different teachers as well as learning the art of stealth and reconnaissance, he trained his mind and even attended numerous different universities in various subjects and as Batman is known as one of the greatest minds in the world. He was even known to train his mind to the point where he was able to develop a photographic memory. He developed his body to reach its maximum potential. Basically, Batman isn’t normal, he is a peak, the top of human potential, doesn’t seem so relatable now does it?
But that’s not my point, he’s relatable in a way that’s connected these points, but isn’t one that’s as simple as he’s human that has no powers (This is the reason I said the just a man was a weak argument).
For most of us when we’re young, we are told repeatedly by parents, teachers, other family members, etc. that if we put our mind to it we can achieve anything that we can be anything we want to be. Batman is the realization of this idea. Discount his parent’s death and the actual path the character decided to take but never the less batman is the epitome of putting your mind to something and being able to achieve anything, that is why Batman is so relatable he represents our hopes and dreams and the character itself can act as hope or potential proof that these dreams can be realized.