We all know Superman as the ideal model for every superhero out there. A cultural phenomenon that has defined superhero conventions for years to come. However, one character is arguably the greatest and most culturally significant superhero that DC has ever put out. With a shining bat-symbol in the sky inspiring hope in a desolate city, this superhero is none other than our favourite Caped Crusader, the Batman.
No other superhero has evolved the comic art form and challenged our conventions more than Batman. While there are still plenty of critics, we think the World's Greatest Detective stands head and shoulders above all. In the words of Commissioner Jim Gordon, "He is not a hero. He is a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A Dark Knight." Here are three reasons that make the enigmatic Batman possibly the greatest superhero in DC's roster.
He represents the pinnacle of humanity
One of Batman's defining traits is that he is just a man, a mere mortal standing shoulder to shoulder with literal gods. This simple fact makes all his achievements and abilities feel all the more astonishing. Batman has rigorously trained himself to reach the pinnacle of human capabilities. Canonically, he is the most proficient hand-hand combatant in the entire DC multiverse. He can bench press over ten thousand pounds and packs some serious punch. The Caped Crusader is also a master in Criminology, Biochemistry, Engineering, and many other disciplines. He has genius-level intellect - enough to rival superheroes with superhuman abilities and earn the moniker of the "World's Greatest Detective".
A master tactician and strategist, the Batman has no equal in taking down foes with near-perfect plans. The superhero regularly uses his intellect and composure to come out on top. Raiyan Siddiqui, a Josephite and DC geek says, "Batman's composure and rational thinking is nothing short of extraordinary. He's the only one who tries to limit collateral damage when other heroes end up levelling entire cities." In Justice League Doom, Batman's meticulous contingency plans were stolen by Mirror Master and subsequently used to attempt murder on the entire Justice League. Even though the plans were modified, to think one man thought up ways to neutralise the strongest bunch of superheroes on the planet is nothing short of extraordinary. No wonder Superman dubbed him The Most Dangerous Man On Earth."
Whenever he's taking on foes larger than life itself, he always finds ways to adapt and keep up. In The Dark Knight Returns, Batman synthesised real kryptonite and created a suit capable of beating Superman - the strongest hero on the planet. He regularly battles and contains supervillains like Darkseid despite being a mere mortal. It is this fierce determination to improve that propels Batman above the rest. He has no superpowers, and his Achilles Heel is his mortality. Every ability he has is one he's worked for every day. Rafi Reza, a medical student and comic book connoisseur says, "Batman represents the pinnacle of humanity, and that's what makes him amazing. No powers, no superhuman abilities. He just trained and mastered everything like crazy." In a world among Gods, Batman is a shining beacon of hope of the power of humankind.
He is morally and psychologically incorruptible
No matter the story, no matter the threat, Batman's willpower never wavers. Having experienced loss and trauma from a petty criminal at a very young age, Batman has a near-supernatural ability to stay determined and motivated to fight evil. He has faced Scarecrow's fear gas multiple times, watched his beloved sidekicks suffer and die, tasted the bitter taste of failure, and gone through numerous hallucinations with his parents. Yet not once has his will to bring justice ever wavered. He has even created a backup personality if he succumbs to a psychological attack. Some may say he's obsessive. But in a corrupt city like Gotham, maybe that's just what everyone needs. In the end, he always does much more good than harm.
Batman's moral code to uphold justice and never take a life is one of the most defining traits of his character. Countless times he faced the choice to kill a villain for the greater good. Yet, he never took that decision. He never crossed that line. Batman doesn't want to play God. Even after regretting having not killed the Joker or being forced to pull the plug on Ra's Al Ghul's artificially extended life, Batman's code has still stood the test of time. In a world where the cycle of violence and hatred keeps getting worse, Batman ensures we don't cross the line. It's a principle that he enforces upon himself and everyone around him.
Compared to Superman or Wonder Woman, Batman doesn't have a super long lifespan. Yet his mortality strengthens his will. Rafi says, "His mortality is what makes him mentally infallible. Unlike Superman or Wonder Woman, he has a normal lifespan. That means he's that much more motivated to achieve his goals." In many stories, writers explored an alternate reality where every member of the Justice League turned rogue. But they could never envision Batman turning over to the evil side. Similarly, in Injustice: Gods Among Us, Superman ends up as a dictator in an alternate reality and fights with heroes from the original continuity. In both worlds, it's Batman that leads the insurgency.
He is grounded in reality
Every superhero has an origin story. But perhaps the most instantly recognisable origin story is that of the Dark Knight. Forced to watch his beloved parents die at the hands of a petty criminal, Bruce Wayne's transformation into Batman leaves an indelible mark on anyone who reads it. The power of this origin story lies in the fact that it can happen to anybody. Anyone can fall victim to an act of crime, changing their life forever. It's this banality of evil that makes Batman's origin story so relatable and realistic. Batman's fierce desire to prevent anyone else from having the same fate, to uphold justice as a core part of his identity, is far more grounded in reality. His motivations stemming from his obsessive-compulsive nature, past trauma, and mortality are far more believable and poignant than a superhero operating out of just goodwill.
The struggles that Batman faces may be small in scope compared to the rest of the DC multiverse. But they are just as powerful. That’s because they feel more real. Every single day, Batman faces questions regarding his looming mortality, the consequences of vigilante justice, and the collateral damage on those he holds dear to his heart. His band of villains, The Rogue's Gallery, is the most varied and complex set of supervillains in DC's history. Each of them challenges a core part of Batman's identity. Harvey Dent challenges his sense of justice in a cruel world, the Scarecrow forces him to face his fears of failure, and the Joker constantly tests his moral code to never kill. These realistic stories delivered in the gloomy backdrop of Gotham City never fails to excite or induce thought. And no matter how beat up he gets, the Dark Knight never gives up.
The bottom line
The Dark Knight may not be everyone's cup of tea. He's nowhere near the most powerful superhero on paper. And yet, he occupies a space in the superhero world that no one can or ever will. He remains a shining representation of the pinnacle of human ability and a powerful symbol of hope and resilience in the face of evil. He is dark, broody, stupidly rich, and has some of the flashiest gadgets you can imagine. He is painfully mortal without any superpowers. But there's one thing he has more than anyone: heart and willpower.