Is Batman a Super Hero or not?

My friend and I have been continously debating this for some time.

I feel that Batman is not a super hero. He has no super abilities and cannot do anything super. He is assisted by many gadgets, and he saves alot of people, but so could any person with such an unlimited supply of capital. My friend says that he is a super hero for two reasons. 1.) He is in the League of Justice and 2.) Lex Luther is a supervillian and he doesn’t have any super powers, so Batman can be too.

I dispute his second point because I feel that the qualifications for a super hero are quite different than the qualifications for a super villian. What does SDMB community think?

Batman is the shit.

Thats where you’re wrong. He performs super human feats all the time.

But he doesn’t . Thats the thing. He does lots of good things. But anyone with that money could do it. That hardly makes him super. The only super power that I see batman has is the super ability to spend money.

I once stood behind Batman in line at McDonalds and I saw him super-size his french fries. That has to count for something.

What about Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain America, Mockingbird, Black Widow, Mach-3, etc., etc., etc.? Thems a lot of people to be demoted out of the super hero club.

Of course, none of this matters. People can call Batman a super hero if they want. It’s dandy if you don’t want to, but he’s done quite a few heroic things and that’s pretty durn super in my book.

It’s the costume and being accepted by the JLA as well as defeating villians who do have super powers, that earn him the title of *super * hero. It’s like someone getting a degree because of achievemnt rather than going to school. It still counts even though in a technical sense he has no “super” powers. He is a “superlative” hero, or as webster puts it.

Main Entry: 1su·per

1 a – used as a generalized term of approval <a super cook>
b : of high grade or quality
2 : very large or powerful <a super atomic bomb>
3 : **exhibiting the characteristics of its type to an extreme or excessive degree **<super secrecy>

You can see he meets the definition.

Shouldn’t this be in Cafe society??

In real life anyone, no matter how good shape they were in or how much money they had, would be killed within days of taking up Batman’s crime fighting lifestyle. Batman has the matial arts skills that come with decades of training but also the athletic ability of someone in their very early twenties. He has deep knowledge of a variety of fields each of which would take any one of us a lifetime to master. He has sci-fi gadgetry that doesn’t exist yet. Most importantly he has an omnipotent benevolent writer bending the laws of reality so that any bullet fired at him misses, he can recover fully and quickly from the most severe beatings and injuries, even when he’s fighting twelve goons no on lands a lucky blow to his head or pulls out a gun and shoots him in the back of the head, and he never trips on that damn cape.

First off, superhero is either a genre or a job description, not really a descriptor of someone’s abilities. In most comics, terms like “metahuman” are used for people with powers, be they good bad or neutral. Batman is not a metahuman, but he is a superhero.

To be a superhero, I’d say you have to meet the following criteria:

  1. Have above normal human abilities (be they actual powers, or just gadgets and amazing skills)
  2. Use them to fight evil and/or protect the innocent
  3. Have a distinctive costume or appearance.
  4. And a dual identity, if not an outright secret identity.

Batman meets all four counts. Don’t think he meets #1? YOU try jumping a dozen guys with guns while you wourself only have some smoke bombs and throwing knives. Sure, you *might *make it, but does the fact that Batman’s abilities are merely extremely improbable, rather than outright impossible really disqualify him?

Besides, unpowered martial artists and gandgeteers have been part of the superho genre since before it was a genre. The very fact that Batman is on the cover of Infinite Crisis #1 with Superman and Wonder Woman proves that he’s a superhero.

More interesting, I think, is the case of characters that seem borderline. Is James Bond a superhero? Is Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

IMHO, “super” should only refer to those with powers. I’m sure there’s a lot a grey area there though.

As Menocchio implies, first you have to define your terms. Agree with your friend as to the definition of a superhero and you’re almost there. Batman either fits with those criteria or he doesn’t.

Here’s the definition of superhero from American Heritage Dictionary

" A figure, especially in a comic strip or cartoon, endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime."

Hmm, superhuman, eh?

OK, here’s the definition of superhuman

“1. Above or beyond the human
2. Beyond ordinary or normal human ability, power, or experience”
Batman, by these definitions, is most definitely a superhero. Your friend wins, unless, of course, you can come up with an authority which defines superhero or superhuman in some other way.

No, Batman is not a superhero, although he is often mistaken for one, usually through no real fault of his own. Bob Kane’s original character was very clearly cast in the mold of pulp hero, along the lines of the Spider; an otherwise normal man who uses training and ingenuity to battle crime as a vigilante by playing on the fears of criminals. The only reason he’s considered a superhero is that he’s known to hang with superheroes on occasion, a state of affairs that I think benefits neither side measureably.

“Superhero” implies a character with some superhuman quality. Heroism alone does not count, or else Dick Tracy or the Spirit would count as a superhero. Even an abnormally high yet still human-level talent does not qualify, or Sherlock Holmes would count as as a superhero. Being a normal (albeit highly trained and motivated) human, Batman is not a superhero, and intentionally so. If he so desired, he could recast himself unambiguously in the superhero mold by constructing powered armor, learning magic, or exposing himself to bat herpes or something. But instead he makes do with a fairly circumscribed range of devices, most of which fit on his belt and none of which display any extraordinary qualities. So Batman seems content to remain within the pulp hero category.

Batman’s pulp hero status was marvelously depicted in the *Batman Begins * movie earlier this year. Unfortunately the modern comics incarnation is neither a superhero nor a pulp hero, but has been allowed to degenerate into an empty one-note character indistinguishable from his rogues’ gallery. The Joker is a lunatic who commits crimes with a playing card theme; the Penguin is a lunatic who is obsessed with birds. The Batman of today is a lunatic who believes himself to be a crimefighter and tries to act out this fantasy with extremely mixed success. However, he’s been doing it for so long that nobody thinks to question his ostensible ‘hero’ status. The character has ossified around the monomaniacal, paranoid loner depicted in Miller’s **Dark Knight ** and Ross’s Kingdom Come, even though these were supposed to represent the character pushed to and beyond extremes, not the normal state of affairs.

I’ve been following DC’s current *Infinite Crisis * event off and on, and I note that much of the brouhaha seems to center around the fact that Batman managed to allow his huge secret database on all other heroes slide out of his control. This is not the first time this has happened, either. I think the first time your secret plans to destroy your teammates fall into the wrong hands and nearly lead to the destruction of the JLA, some kind of “no-hire” clause should come into effect. I seem to recall that Snapper Carr got booted from the League for a similar infraction; Batman is the new Snapper Carr, only instead of snapping he constantly grunts “hhnh” like Rorschach. It has become increasingly apparent that no matter what happens, Batman will continue to behave in the same way, distrusting everyone, confiding in no one, and constantly stirring trouble. He is an active danger to the Justice League, as he plainly thinks it’s absolutely necessary to maintain contingency plans in case the League goes berserk or something. This sort of like a police officer who thinks it’s specifically his job to secretly place bombs in all the other police cars, just in case his fellow officers start abusing their authority in the future.

Batman is a nut.

Dah-dah-dah-dah-DAH-dah-dah! Moderator man! Moderator man!

Moving to Cafe Society.

I personally don’t think it’s contingent on whether or not he has powers per se. Bruce Wayne created a larger than life persona in Batman. As he says in Batman Begins: “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.”

That’s as good as superpowers in making a superhero, to me. Batman isn’t just a guy, he’s a symbol, an incarnation of various qualities. Superman is about truth, justice, forthrightness, and so on, while Batman embodies the darker side of truth and justice.

Tangentially, I think a good litmus test is to see whether or not a criminal gang would react to “____ is coming!” with “Oh shit!” or not. :smiley: The police? They can handle the police. Not Superman, Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.

I haven’t read comics sinceI was a kid,but Batman is more of a superhero than Hawkman (or Hawkgirl) who has just a crummy pair of wings or hank McCoy who is just a smart monkey

Exactly. What makes you a super hero isn’t super powers, it’s a super spirit that gives you that certain something which makes you destined for much greater things than us regular people. Anyone can go to the gym and lift weights, or take gymnastics, or learn to fence or use a bow, but a super hero will do all that and achieve olympic-level or better abilities. And when they get knocked down, they don’t quit. They pick themselves up, train even harder, and come back even stronger.

Take any super hero’s powers away (which has been done innumerable times) and they’ll still be a super hero, somehow, someway. Which I suppose, is why they eventually get their powers back, or gain new powers. They were always destined to be super heroes.

There were a series of legal actions that took place between DC & Marvel over the use of the word “superhero”.

The US Supreme court therefore defined what a superhero is"

Batman’s amazing intellect & astonishing skills, as well as his gadgets, clearly rank him as a superhero under this definition.

I’ve proposed that there ought to be recognized an obscure form of super-power called “super-competency”. It alllows an otherwise normal person to achieve one in a billion level skills at whatever endevour they turn their hand to. This would be supported by DC’s Godwave miniseries, in which even the non-powered heroes found themselves effected.

I think it would be alternately hilarious and poignant if DC or Marvel had a miniseries about someone who tries to become a costumed hero, and discovers just how unlikely and impossible it is for a “mere mortal”. They wouldn’t be a crackpot or an incompetent; on the contrary they could be the equivalent of an ex-Special Forces person working as a private detective/ bounty hunter/ freelance mercenary. but unlike say The Punisher, they would quickly have to be rescued by a real super hero from certain death.

Only if you’re extremely generous in your interpretation, I’d say. The above definition would also cover Sherlock Holmes, who in addition to his deductive acumen had extraordinary physical strength (though he hardly ever used it), hawklike powers of perception and a skill at disguise that bordered on shapeshifting; Doc Savage; Tarzan; Houdini; Ben Franklin; and Dick Tracy <-[two-way wrist radio!], to name only a few off the top of my head. Heck, even Lassie would count as a superhero under the Supreme Court’s definition. Lawsuits notwithstanding, given the history of the comics industry, I for one am loath to rely too heavily on the Washington, D.C. crowd to set the standards.

I seem to remember, on more than one occasion, ALFRED would dress up as Batman and save the day, exhibiting many if not all the qualities or abilities Batman himself is known for.

If any old dude can do it, it’s NOT super-heroism.

Your honor, I rest my case.

The problem with a definition of Super-hero that necissitates superhuman powers, or indeed, even normal competence, is that it excludes an entire subgenre of the nigh usless comedy superhero.

I mean, who would you rather have come to your resuce if you’re being held hostage by a crazed gunman: Batman or Bouncing Boy? Bouncing Boys has powers, just not, you know, terribly impressive ones. And he and his compatriots, the Legion of Super-Heroes, certainly consider themselves superheroes. It’s right there in the name.

I say again: Superhero is a genre and a job description, not an honorific. If you wear a flashy costume, have a flashy code name, and (attempt) to fight (usually equally flashy forms of) evil with feats of derring do, then you’re a superhero. You may not be terribly good at it, but that’s not really the qualification. Spider-Man gets his ass kicked all the time. Superman, hardly ever.

Sherlock Holmes is not a superhero because he lacks a dual ID and a costume. If he called himself “The Detective” and added a domino mask to the outfit, then he’d qualify. Especially if you fought more supervillains like Moriarty.