“He’s the most dangerous man in the galaxy“
– Superman, telling some Martians about Batman
A special edition of Badass of the Week by Ben Thompson
Batman is a crime-fighting vigilante ninja detective who dresses up in bullet-proof armor, wears a gigantic black cape, hides in the darkest corners of the city, and then sneak-attack face-kicks the world’s most sadistic criminal douchebags until every felon in the tri-state area is passed out unconscious in a Gotham City Prison complaining about how they’ve got concussions so bad that their brains are leaking out their noses. He’s one of comics’ most beloved, longest-running, and badass superheroes, an ultra-genius master of stealth and hand-to-hand combat, and a man so over-the-top hardcore that the mere mention of his name has been known to cause incontinence among the seedier members of human society.
For starters, Batman is the one of the world’s most successful superheroes – a fact that is especially notable in that he’s managed to somehow attain that lofty status despite the notable handicap that he does not seem to possess any kind of superhuman power whatsoever (unless of course you count being insanely rich as a superpower, but I would argue that having a lot of money doesn’t always necessarily mean that you are inherently awesome – for examples to illustrate this point, please watch ten minutes of any reality television program). He doesn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. He doesn’t morph into Truck Mode. He can’t fold F-14s in half with his mind or shoot magic fireball cupcakes out of his crotch whenever he opens the fly of his custom-fitted quartz codpiece. Hell, I don’t even think he can do that shit where David Copperfield saws some chick in half and then puts her back together again with magic/surgery. He’s just a regular guy who as a child, saw his parents get violently out-of-control murdered by street trash right in front of him, and who logically decided that the appropriate response to this was to devote the rest of his life to becoming a one-man wrecking ball of vigilante fucking justice. Without the assistance of Gamma Rays or Radioactive Spider bites, the larynx-collapsing, darkly-troubled billionaire known as Bruce Wayne honed his body into the ultimate instrument of criminal mutilation – and even though he’s been uncomfortably successful in his endless quest for revenge against Gotham City’s criminal element, in the end all this regular Joe has to go on is his own innate skill, whatever crazy motherfucking gadgets he can come up with, and the knowledge that no matter what happens to him he can always find solace in his infinite number of Italian sports cars, private jets, hot women, and Olympic-sized swimming pools his limitless funds can afford (i.e. all of them).
Now, this lack of mutant healing factor, X-ray heat vision, and go-go-Gadget legs is impressive not only because it means that Batman is the only member admitted into the Justice League of America who can’t bench press an automobile or rip concrete in half with his fists, but because this guy also routinely goes up against super-powered mega-freaks like Man-Bat, Killer Croc, and Clayface and pummels their skank asses into hair, mud, and/or scale-covered fail-sludge on a fairly regular basis using only his badass ninja face-punch skills and his innate ability to turn basically invisible any time there’s a shadow within three miles of his location. Sure, there are plenty of ordinary, run-of-the-mill homicidal, mostly-human insane criminal psychopaths like the Joker, Two-Face, and the Penguin in Batman’s rogues’ gallery of “people I’ve beaten the fuck out of like a hundred times”, but then again there’s also that time that the entire Justice League of America was kidnapped and tortured by shape-shifting Martians and Batman had to travel to Mars and single-handedly kick the holy living shit balls out of every living thing on the planet in order to rescue his friends. Honestly, in the end it really doesn’t matter what sadistic intergalactic hellspawn you throw at this guy – if that mandible-laden green demonkin monster doesn’t abide by the Gotham City Municipal Penal Code the God Damned Batman is going to drop down from the roof and flying roundhouse kick that motherfucker in the back of the head until its skull explodes out whatever orifice it uses for a mouth, and when he’s finished with that he’s going to go off and hook up with a vast assortment of beautiful women in the backseat of an armor-plated rocket car without giving the mostly-dead monster’s incarcerated ass a second thought.
Oh, and it’s worth noting that in the cases where the horrible evil villain happens to be a woman (such as the Catwoman or Poison Ivy), Batman first makes out with them (because it’s required for him to make out with every hot babe that appears in his comics), and THEN beats them to a pulp and throws them into a fucking Asylum so they can sit around in a straight jacket all day thinking about how dreamy the Batman is and how they can’t wait to get kicked in the head by him again.
But it’s not just super-villains this guy goes out and pummels/bangs. He’s also been known to take down a superhero or two during his day. Like, for instance one time there was this alternate universe where the Green Lantern was being a fucking jackoff, so the Batman bitch-slapped him like a red-headed orphan girl and then took pictures of himself teabagging the unconscious corpse. If you’re wondering how a regular dude can beat down a man who possesses the “Most Powerful Weapon in the Universe” (the Green Lantern’s definition of his ring, not Batman’s), it’s because the Green Lantern’s weakness used to be the color yellow, and Batman took advantage of that idiotic weakness by building a yellow room, feeding the Lantern some lemonade, and then caving his face in with a quirky-yet-stylish set of neon yellow Kevlar Bat-Gloves. Shit, even the mighty Superman knows to respect the fucking Dark Knight – the most impossibly-overpowered hero in comics entrusted Batman (and Batman alone) with a special Kryptonite ring, which is designed specifically to keep him Superman in check if he ever freaked out on Red Kryptonite/LSD, and beating down the “world’s strongest man” is a task Batman has somehow accomplished on more than one occasion. As if that’s not emasculating enough, Batman has not only figured out Superman’s secret identity, but he also once managed to hide from Superman in Gotham City – a feat that is made more impressive by the fact that Supes has that whole X-Ray vision / Super-Hearing / I’m Pretty Much Invincible thing going on all the time.
Off the top of my head I don’t think Batman ever beat down Wonder Woman, but he did hook up with her a couple times, which is, of course, awesome.
Despite being one of history’s longest-running numbered comics, going through more costume changes than Stevie Nicks (all of which are pretty badass, by the way… with the sole exception of that one version with the rubber nipples, which was just weird/uncomfortably erotic), and being portrayed by roughly every single actor in Hollywood, Batman continues to be one of the single most universally-loved superheroes ever created. I guess there’s just something about a ninja super-spy detective who dresses up like a bat and karate kicks motherfuckers with bullet-proof boots that really drives fanboys nuts. Maybe it’s how he’s all tortured by his dark past. Maybe it’s because he has more cool gadgets than James Bond without the whole “Being British” thing. Maybe it’s just because he can cave in anyone’s skull, anywhere, anytime, without warning, like right when they’re in the middle of making some speech about how they’ve just escaped with a dickload of money and Batman is a fucking idiot and POW WHAT THE FUCK I JUST GOT MY FACE SMASHED. Who knows. Whatever the case may be, this guy has been featured in roughly infinity plus one different comic books, TV series, movies, trading cards, and god-knows what else throughout the years, and with the exception of the Batman and Robin movie from the late 90s I would say that roughly every single fucking one of them was a towering work of literary/screenwriting genius writing that should be studied by future generations as a guidelines for how to be badass while still wearing a cape. Sure, people like to talk shit about that 1960s television series where Batman wore purple and spent a lot of time hanging out at the beach, but whenever I was home sick from school as a kid I’d watch that shit on TV Land, and it fucking rocked the ass of anything else on TV, so I refuse to hear any shit about Adam West, his sweet convertible, his BIFF-ing the fuck out of the Riddler’s cronies, or the hot beehive-haired babes in bikinis that seemed to appear with conspicuous regularity. I will hear no further discussion on the subject.
Batman’s powers not only come from his uncanny ability to essentially turn invisible at a moment’s notice (only to reappear seconds later with his fist exploding through the torso of some poor douchebag street thug like the monster from Alien), but from an endless arsenal of seemingly-useless gadgets that always find a way to be relevant at the exact right moments. He scales walls with a grappling hook gun, has ultralight wings that help him glide safely while BASE jumping off skyscrapers or throwing himself out of Batcopters, and has any number of smoke bombs, EMP weapons, Batarangs, ninja stars, lassos, handcuffs, tracking devices, ziplines, electronic countermeasures, tranquilizer darts, blowtorches, hand grenades, jet fighter aircraft, machinegun-equipped automobiles, and badass motorcycles readily available to him at any given time under nearly any circumstances. I’m not even kidding – this guy comes up with the most random bullshit at the most opportune times. Like, say Mr. Freeze busts out a Freeze Gun that encases the Commissioner in a block of ice. Well all of a sudden Batman shows up out of nowhere, whips out his fucking utility belt and pulls out a Bat-Space-Heater that’s able to immediately unfreeze the Commish in a matter of seconds. Why the hell does he carry the Bat-Heater around with him all the time? Because when you’re fighting the world’s deadliest assortment of sociopathic mega-arch-criminals, you’ve got to be prepared for shit like having to cut your buddy out of a six-inch block of Carbonite at a moment’s notice. It’s not like packing pepper spray and a nightstick here, folks. You’re not a friggin’ beat cop. You’re the World’s Greatest Detective. And in the end, that’s why you call in the Caped Crusader to solve a case – any time horrible shit is going down in Gotham you just have to fucking shine a huge light in the air and POW – the next thing you know Batman is jumping around dishing out asskickings like parking tickets to any masked criminal scumbag in his general vicinity.
In order to help him on his quest to become the ultimate one-man freight train of unstoppable heroic justice, Batman occasionally recruits some sidekicks – and even though none of them come close to Batman’s powers of sternum-collapsing awesomeness, we still kind of love them anyways. Bats’ main homedog Alfred is an English butler who knows the Batman’s secret identity and maintains the Batcave when Master Wayne is out kicking goons teeth-first into prison cells, and even though he can be a pretentious old bastard everybody is on board with him because they all secretly wish they had their own personal English butlers to follow them around and do menial bullshit tasks. The Boy Wonder, Robin, sleeps over a lot and wears shorts that are a little too high above the knee for my tastes, but that guy can still carry himself in a fight, and he rides a pretty sweet motorcycle, so he’s OK in my book. And even though Batgirl can be a little obnoxious and it’s vaguely incestuous when Batman makes out with her, we of course still put up with her because there are a lot of teenage boys out there who have a difficult time closing a comic book when the page it’s currently opened to features a disproportionately-large-breasted woman in a tight-fitting spandex costume.
Seriously, that’s just how Batman runs shit. He doesn’t ever back down from a battle, uses whatever he has at his disposal to rock evil a new asshole or two, and he doesn’t let anything slow him down, no matter what. Like one time he broke his fucking spine in half battling an evil Roid-raging musclehead professional wrestler, but when the man he appointed to succeed him as Batman started fucking it up big time, the O.G. Batman got his girlfriend to use her psychic powers to heal him from his incurable paralysis (a feat that cost the poor girl her sanity and ended up with Batman having to lock her in an asylum) and then kicked the shit out of him and took the Batman armor back. I guess there’s really only room in this universe for one Batman.
“Master Bruce, you need an escape plan.”
“Can’t have a back door. Might be tempted to use it.”
I wrote this piece while sitting at my booth at San Diego Comic-Con after realizing that I had forgotten to pack my laptop charger and had only ~45 minutes of battery life on my crappy old computer. As such, I had to use my pitifully low battery time solely to type this article into Word and email it to Boomtron.com, and did not have adequate time to perform any kind of Internet research on Batman. The entire piece was written from my own personal memory of Batman TV, movies, and comics (which is subject to error) and that of Mr. Thom Zahler, my booth-mate and the creator/writer/illustrator of IDW’s “Love and Capes” and Mr. Chris Sims, the resident Batman-ologist for Comics Alliance While some of the exact details of the piece might potentially be marginally incorrect, we are all firmly in agreement that Batman is fucking badass..
Ben Thompson graduated from Florida State University in 2002 with degrees in History and Political Science. He has run the popular website badassoftheweek.com since 2004, and has written humorous history-related columns for outlets such as Cracked, Fangoria, Penthouse, and the American Mustache Institute. His first book, BADASS: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live was published worldwide by HarperCollins in October 2009. A second book, titled BADASS: Birth of a Legend: Spine-Crushing Tales of the Most Merciless Gods, Heroes, Villains, and Mythical Beings Ever Envisioned, was released by the same publisher in March 2011.