What do you think are the core elements that make him such an enduring character?
<duh>He is always prepared.</duh>
In seriousness, it’s because he’s human. While he has great physical skill and loads of resources, he has to rely on his intelligence (and, yes, ability to predict and prepare) to overcome threats, especially when you get into the Justice League stuff and he’s facing metahuman threats. That appeals to a lot of people.
His rogue gallery is also a huge draw.
He’s a billionaire playboy.
He kicks the shit out of bad guys. Not just supervillans, but also common thugs. Where Spiderman would web them up and leave them for the police, Batman beats the shit out of them which is what a lot of people would rather see happen.
He’s a benevolent vigilante.
Great villains, definitely. The only others who came close (but not close enough) were Spider-Man and The Flash (Barry Allen). Usually a superhero has one or two memorable villains (e.g., Superman has Luthor, Braniac, and a bunch of so-so minor adversaries).
Batman has The Joker, Two-Face, the Riddler, Catwoman, The Penguin, Ra’s al Ghul, Bane, The Scarecrow, along with several others.
The secondary reason is that he’s dark. The angsty and brooding of the ultraserious Dark Knight is immensely popular; just about every comic book character since its inception has tried in one way or another to imitate it. (It got pretty ridiculous when they did it for Captain Marvel – trashing the character in order to make him angsty.)
And, of course, the fact that he is human. No one can imagine himself as suddenly becoming Superman or Spider-Man, but with work, you could become the Batman.
I blame Marvel for all the angstiness in superhero comics, starting with Spider-man.
I think these are the main draws of the character but I would say that his ‘simple mortal’ aspect - as it were - is the more interesting of the two.
As for his grimness, I feel it makes him a more tragic figure. It represents that he not only lost much before he became Batman but that he has to sacrifice much continuously as Batman. It also represents the toll he takes in a life fighting some rather brutal villains. It always seemed rather odd that other heroes like Spider-Man and Superman always had the same temperament and positive personality in spite of the things they had to do and see.
I think this hits on two of the main reasons. It combines two fantasies of most guys. One, being a wealthy playboy by day, and two, taking out your frustrations about crime vigilante style at night. And doing it covertly is a plus.
I think a big part of his appeal is that he is not a ‘superhero’, but that he is barely a hero. He is a good guy, and very principled, but Bruce Wayne chose to get down and dirty and fight the villains on their own turf. He is one of the archetypical anti-heroes, and the character made the explicit choice to be so.
His costume and tactics are not meant to inspire others - but to invoke fear. He does not aspire to be a role model for others, but to be another creature of the night, of the shadows. His goal is not just to bring to criminals to justice, but to make them feel the fear and pain (literally when possible) that the criminals inflict on their victims.
This is something I think most comic book writers tend to forget when developing characters. Why did a character chose* that* persona? Why are they wearing* that* costume? Bob Kane nailed it in one, and most of his successor writers have always used that template. Frank Miller understood it perfectly, which is party why* The Dark Knight Returns* was such a success. It went straight to the roots of the Batman persona as the anti-hero. (And helped return Batman to those roots after the campiness of the 60’s, exemplified by the TV show.)
The number one reason why Batman is Batman is that he is a super hero without super powers. He gets by with his mortal human capabilities supplemented by all of his gadget weapons (but no guns!) and those Bat-transports. Number two reason is his dark, vigilante side – he is driven by a traumatic event that killed his parents. Number three reason is, well, he’s Bats. How can you not like someone dressed like a Bat fighting crime?
Agnostic Pagan covered it very well. My answer is story. Batman has the most interesting, visceral, and dramatic origin story in the world of superheroes. It’s been beaten to death, but the reason for that is that it’s such a good story, every writer wants a crack at it.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that everything else about the character is top notch, costume, city, villains, etc.
I think on reason for his continued success is that in many ways, he’s the epitome of a very American style of hero – the lone honest man.
The Batman shows again and again that against all odds, in a city rife with crime, faced with a city government and criminal justice system that are incompetent at best, and often corrupt, one lone obsessive billionaire can make a difference.
And there’s a correlary to this: when it’s a Batman solo story, the human element makes it relateable and makes the danger more “real.”
When he’s paired up with other DC superheroes, it makes him the underdog – and everybody loves the underdog.
This is true. Batman’s reasons for being a hero are more relatable than Superman’s. I mean, most of us, if somehow given godlike powers, would frankly not bother helping others; we wouldn’t see a need. But Batman seems realistically selfish.
“That bastard killed my mommy and daddy right in front of me, and the useless police never even arrested him. I’m going to kick his ass six ways to Sunday if I ever find him, and while I’m looking I’m going to kick the ass of every other sumbitch in town like him. And I’m not gonna fuck around with a badge, either.”
Immature and vengeful though it is, it’s more relatable than Superman’s pure, disinterested benevolence. (Though I rather like depictions of Supes that show him as having a terrible case of survivor’s guilt, which depiction dates from at least the mid-70s.)
It’s specifically that he doesn’t really have many necessary core elements. As a character, Batman is incredibly versatile, which is why he’s so enduring.
30’s pulp-y Batman, goofy 50’s Dick Sprang Batman, 60’s Adam West Batman, 70’s James Bond-y Neal Adams Batman, gritty 80’s Frank Miller Batman, Tim Burton’s late-80’s art deco take, and modern-day Grant Morrison post-modern pop-art Batman are all equally valid takes on the character. Superman and Spider-Man don’t have that versatility. No other character does, really.
There isn’t really any other comic book hero who works just as well in something like Dark Knight Returns as he does in Batman: Brave and the Bold. When creators try it with other characters, the result is often silly or pointless (see: Spider-Man: Reign).
Superman is the only other character who comes close to being able to operate in as many types of stories as Batman does without seeming totally out of place.
He has a Utility Belt.
Lots of good answers here, but I would also add that there’s a very slight hint of insanity in the things he does. The two most recent movies (and some of the comics, I’m sure, though admittedly I’ve never read them) imply this very thing–what kind of nut would dress up in a costume and stalk the streets at night looking for trouble? It gives his character another flaw, and an extra dark edge, in that it makes him not so different from the very people he’s seeking to stop.
What makes Batman so enduring?
Sheer stubbornness on the part of his trademark holders to push him in every child’s face with every new generation.
The Penguin? The Scarecrow? Bane? Don’t be ridiculous. If those antagonists were attached to a character that wasn’t arbitrary decided to be “cool,” no one would care. And I remember when Batman was an uncool dude in pantyhose.
It’s marketing, period.