Often, I hear the argument that Batman is beloved as a superhero because he has no super-powers.  Leaving aside the questionable nature of that claim (Batman is a genius-level intellect who has the unlimited funding to take five years to learn ninjitsu without worrying about needing a job) you have to wonder why other characters without any super-powers aren’t as beloved as the big bad Bat.  Is it the pointy hat?  The endless string of brightly colored cannon-fodder partners? Is it the car? I’ve heard that the chicks do dig it, although that may no longer be in continuity, since Val Kilmer said it.  When it comes to comics history, I can name a dozen heroes right off the top of my head who likewise possess no super-powers:

  • Karate Kid
  • Bronze Tiger
  • Night Thrasher
  • Judge Dredd
  • The Green Hornet
  • El Zorro
  • Pat Parker War Nurse
  • Frog-Man
  • Silver Sable
  • Judomaster
  • Polestar
  • 711.

(Didn’t even have to web-search it, thank you very much.)  So, why don’t we have half a dozen War Nurse monthly titles?

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is the terror that flaps in the night, as well as the carne asada still stuck between your molars after last week’s trip to Chipotle, asking: In 25 words or less, without using any variation on the phrase “has no powers”, what is it that makes Batman so special?  (Be sure to show your work!)

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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32 Comments

  1. March 13, 2013 at 11:40 am — Reply

    He is an insane instrument of vengeance with a compulsion to punch criminals rather than to effect societal reforms which might be more socially acceptable.

  2. M. Walsh
    March 13, 2013 at 11:45 am — Reply

    Fan-wanking, cash-cow, creator’s pet, Mary Sue.

  3. March 13, 2013 at 11:46 am — Reply

    Marketing :)

  4. JoeM
    March 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm — Reply

    Batman became popular when his parents died. With that backstory he stepped out of the pack of generic rich do-gooders and became an identifiable person.

  5. March 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm — Reply

    Adolescent revenge power fantasy.

    • gary
      March 13, 2013 at 2:54 pm — Reply

      YES. And because he’s “normal” power-wise, it allows people to more easily identify…

  6. kaptaran
    March 13, 2013 at 12:48 pm — Reply

    Everyone wants to know what happens when Richie Rich goes down the dark path of vengeance!

    Also bat-shark repellent

  7. March 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm — Reply

    Batman to Martian manhunter.
    “In my cave i have a rock woth millions of dollars, that I keep just for that other alien. For you – all I need is a dime for a box of matches.”

    Need I say more?

    • Frank
      March 13, 2013 at 3:33 pm — Reply

      This

  8. SmarkingOut Adam
    March 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm — Reply

    Schleichergasm

  9. March 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm — Reply

    Batman has the coolest toys. Simple as that.

  10. Elijah Williams
    March 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm — Reply

    HIS PARENTS ARE DEEEEEEEAAAAAAAD!

  11. Michael
    March 13, 2013 at 5:15 pm — Reply

    You even have to ask why he’s so popular?

    Because he’s Batman!

    • March 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm — Reply

      I do have to ask, hence the reason why I did. And that is not an answer, that is a syllogism. :)

  12. B.V.K.
    March 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm — Reply

    First, Polestar sounds like a super heroine and a super hero. Also, you could add Punisher and the Bat and (Oliver) Queen families to your list but I digress.

    To answer your question: Multiple iconic well done stories (Killing Joke, Long Halloween, Dark Knight Returns, Court of Owls, etc), a huge pop culture presence that many connect to, the BEST rogues gallery of ANY hero ever, Christopher Nolan and the car.

    • March 13, 2013 at 5:55 pm — Reply

      I don’t consider the Punisher to be a superhero, and Green Arrow seems a bit too on the nose. :)

  13. March 13, 2013 at 6:35 pm — Reply

    Batman is a spirit of justice. Bruce died when his parents were murdered, creating a revenant who lives so that others can be spared grief.

  14. slimeknight
    March 13, 2013 at 7:13 pm — Reply

    Awesome costume and gadgets. Same reason for iron man.

  15. Gary
    March 13, 2013 at 8:06 pm — Reply

    Saturation

  16. James
    March 13, 2013 at 9:04 pm — Reply

    Batman is a roundabout way to let kids think that they could achieve what Bruce could, they ignore the piles of money that this requires.

  17. March 13, 2013 at 9:58 pm — Reply

    He’s a man caught in limbo, unable to be the kid he was but unable to grow into a well-adjusted adult. He uses that place in limbo to devote himself to justice, because that’s all he has. Being the bat means he sacrifices his ability to rest and be normal in order to do what needs to be done.

  18. Ross
    March 13, 2013 at 11:39 pm — Reply

    Simple, Batman KNOWS

  19. Shush
    March 14, 2013 at 12:22 am — Reply

    What makes Batman so special? His PR management. He’s one of the few heroes that deliberately uses psychological warfare. He wants to be the boogeyman.

    That was my 25 answer response.

    Personally, my favorite Batman isn’t the spooky guy that has an uncontrollable urge to face-punch any mook within arm’s length. My favorite Batman is the one that is also Bruce Wayne being the philanthropist and trying to better the world through charity. The Batman that is shown to be more than an unreasonable jerk. Because being unreasonable and unable to compromise ALL the time is not smart and Batman is supposed to be smart.

    For me, the ninja training is kinda secondary to being a Sherlock Holmes MacGyver solving mysteries and escaping death traps. I would like to see Batman do a more detective work in any and all of his appearances, otherwise he might as well be one of the other ‘no superpower’ heroes. (A lot of them I do like.)

    • AllenBT
      March 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm — Reply

      Absolutely agree with you here. I don’t know that Batman is ever really shown to be out of control. He’s all about the preparation, calculation and planning. Several times he’s portrayed as not being the best all around hand to hand combatant. Instead he out maneuvers his opponent with tactics and strategic planning.

      A great take on that is in Batman Beyond, where age and injury have crippled his body, but with Terry as his surrogate he’s still able to make an impact.

  20. Beardomancer
    March 14, 2013 at 6:21 am — Reply

    I always show up to these a day late. Anyways. Batman is a great hero because despite everything set against him he’s determined to do the job. The end.

  21. AllenBT
    March 14, 2013 at 8:26 am — Reply

    His psychology. His inability to be happy or focus on anything other than is personal crusade. That obsession can make him compelling.

    Also, as a sidebar, I’m not sure he has a genius level intellect. He’s highly intelligent, but rarely the smartest guy in the room. At least in many interpretations, he consults with experts, has others research for him (the Computer, Alfred or Oracle) or buys what he needs. What he is though, is far and away the most prepared guy in the room.

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