To many experts, the factors distinguishing a “superhero” from a “hero” are as clear as day; but to others, there seems to be a grey area. Thor – of course. Superman – well, it is in his name. Batman, however, is a little more controversial.
As Bill Palombi pointed out to other FiscalNoters, a Google search for “is batman a superhero?” returns over 20 million results. To Bill, the answer is obvious.
“Not only is he a superhero, but he is the best superhero,” he said definitively, ready for the uproar that followed.
Recently Bill shared his knowledge of the Batman story with the FiscalNote team during his ShowFN – a program which gives team members the opportunity to share their non-work passions in a casual environment.
Expounding on his assertion, Bill listed the traits of a superhero, citing Wikipedia:
- Extraordinary powers or abilities
- A strong moral code
- A sense of duty or responsibility
- A secret identity
- A distinctive costume
- An underlying motif or theme
- A secret, hidden base of operations
- A backstory
On backstory, Bill noted that the story of Batman is fundamentally different than any other superhero; and his lack of super ‘powers’ makes him “super awesome.” This is more so because he works outside of the judicial system, working as a vigilante while sticking to a moral code.
The judicial system comment caused a stir of debate amongst FiscalNoters in attendance. One brought up that few superheros work within the judicial system; to which Bill cited that the police ‘hunted’ Batman.
“James Bond works within the judicial system,” chimed another co-worker.
“James Bond is NOT a superhero,” Bill reminded the crowd, inciting more debate.
From here, Bill went through the actors who have portrayed Batman in popular television and cinema. Upon noting that the worst Batman was arguably George Clooney, a small contingent of FiscalNoters began chants of “Cloo-ney! Cloo-ney!” in the actor’s defense. Prepared for this, Bill immediately pulled up gross domestic revenue numbers, adjusted for inflation. Clooney’s “Batman & Robin” was comfortably last, with low critic ratings as well.
To Bill, Adam West and Christian Bale were the best representations of Batman, despite being drastically different in their approach. However, he noted, each series was a representation of American culture at that time – a feature true of Batman as a character throughout his existence.
The West television show was one of the first to be filmed and broadcast in color; thus the costumes and scenery were bright and reflective of the 1960s. For the Bale movies which take place in a post-9/11 world, the films reflect America’s uneasiness with government, the economy, and terrorism – resulting in a gritty, realistic trilogy.
Their lack of a partner in Robin is part of this realism, Bill says. For Batman to be a loner, he couldn’t have a strong camaraderie with another character.
To close, Bill offered a “forced metaphor,” claiming that Batman is the appropriate superhero for startup culture. Hear his short argument yourself: