Science of becoming Batman

E. Paul Zehr has a book coming out in October called Becoming Batman: The Possibility of A Superhero, about the physical and mental training one would need to become a superhero without any supernatural powers. Zehr, a professor of kinesiology and neuroscience at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, is also a karate expert. Over at Scientific American, JR Minkel interviews Zehr about how one might train as the Dark Knight. From SciAm:
Batmanzehrrrr What's most plausible about portrayals of Batman's skills? You could train somebody to be a tremendous athlete and to have a significant martial arts background, and also to use some of the gear that he has, which requires a lot of physical prowess. Most of what you see there is feasible to the extent that somebody could be trained to that extreme. We're seeing that kind of thing in less than a month in the Olympics.

What's less realistic? A great example is in the movies where Batman is fighting multiple opponents and all of a sudden he's taking on 10 people. If you just estimate how fast somebody could punch and kick, and how many times you could hit one person in a second, you wind up with numbers like five or six. This doesn't mean you could fight four or five people. But it's also hard for four or five people to simultaneously attack somebody, because they get in each other's way. More realistic is a couple of attackers.
Batman and science (Scientific American), Pre-order Becoming Batman (Amazon)


  1. Also when you hit someone it’s really hard to make it sound like “SPLATT!” and “ZZONK!”.

  2. In your face, Mom! I always knew I could be a Real Life Superhero!! I think I will have to buy a few copies for the local RLS group we have here…

  3. I have no idea if the book is good or not, but if I may judge it by the cover for a moment… I don’t like it. I imagine that the publisher couldn’t get proper licensing from DC to use the likeness of Batman, so they just plopped a clip art strongman on there. Overall it’s a terribly dull design. I would’ve forgone using Batman specifically… I’d have designed a similar, generic hero to use for examples; that would open up some interesting design and illustration possibilities. “Captain Everyman” or something.

    This reminds me of a Simpsons science book that I saw that didn’t have permission to use Simpsons likenesses – so instead, they used a crude, sloppy, Simpsons-esque drawing on the cover. It makes me nauseous to look at it!

  4. what’s important about Batman is not his “physical prowess” or “his gear” it’s his intelligence gathering capabilities…in other words spying. Batman knows more about the activities in Gotham City than “Vise-President” Dick “Dick Head” Cheney.

  5. I’m assuming you’re being facetious, Antinous.

    If that’s the case, tell me, have you ever seen a movie that you didn’t like? Were you hesitant to say so because you hadn’t made a movie yourself?

    However, I do think I’m in a reasonable position to judge: I’ve been drawing and illustrating just about my whole life, and that I make my living as a graphic designer. I’m pretty sure I could knock out a better layout in a few hours. But I’m not trying to tout my own skills, just pointing out a lousy design.

  6. @Chronophobe: A lot of smaller publishers cut costs with lousy cover designs, and that always seemed like foot marksmanship to me – I mean, the old saw notwithstanding, this is just going to give the impression that it’s a third-rate book, even if the content is really good. – bias disclosure: I’m a print designer ;) – This reminds me of seemingly every textbook I ever had in college that looked like it was designed in Corel Draw by someone’s niece. The book, however, looks like it would be fun to read, if not to gaze upon.

  7. @CHRONOPHOBE (#4), Oh my. You ruined my day with that Simpsons-esque book cover. Yikes.

  8. Although Batman rocks… Superman is the best superhero of all time. Between all the different people who have played superman, they all rock. But i think i will buy this book and ad to making myself secure.

  9. #4,

    actually the illustration is pretty close to Bob Kane’s original awkward rendering of Bruce wayne in Detective Comics #27, The Bat Man’s initial appearance, where he is seen exercising with those old solid iron dumbells. Instead of being bad, it’s a subtle ‘homage.’

  10. #10,

    a bit of doggerel heard at Antioch College, circa 1964…

    You can’t get to Heaven with Superman
    ’cause the Lord is a Batman fan.

  11. Forget Batman, Alfred was the one with the super powers. Not only does he care for that enormous mansion all by himself apparently, he also takes care of the Batcave, does first aid on his employer as needed and still finds time to act as Bruce Wayne’s chauffeur. He must have done his butler training on Krypton.

  12. The problem with multiple attackers is that their combined strength goes up by the SQUARE of the number of attackers – not linearly. (This is “Lancaster’s Law” – named after the guy who analysed WWII battles and showed it wasn’t just theoretical )

    This means that if you are outnumbered 10:1 you actually need to be A HUNDRED times as good to have an even chance of winning. (The theory is pretty straight forward – every time you attack your ‘N’ opponents, your attack is diluted ‘N’. Every time they attack, they can make ‘N’ attacks in the same time you can make 1. Hence, N*N.

    This has interesting consequences in modern warfare as well … if you have a choice between ‘cheapo’ fighter aircraft or ‘deluxe’ figher aircraft, which is more effective?

    If the deluxe ones are 10 times as effective, and only 5 times the price, you have the option of buying 50 cheapo fighers to 10 good ones.

    The problem is that in a battle, Lancaster’s Law indicates that the ‘ten times as good’ force of 10 fighers will only have a fighting strength of 1000 (10*10*10) whereas the 50 cheapo ones will have a strength of 2500 (50*50).

    ie: It is better to have less effective weapons and forces if you can have more of them.


  13. The thing is, there’s no other conclusion than that Batman DOES have powers. The only thing stopping him from being consider a powered superhero is DC’s unwavering “Lol no, he’s just peak human” stance. Batman kicks through two-foot-thick trees. He’s lifted collapsed buildings. He benches 600 pounds.

    Take ONE of the upper level Batman feats, and there’s probably at least one person in history who’s done it (the dude that lifted the helicopter comes to mind). But Batman consistently pulls off ridiculous feats.

    There’s also the attitude of “you can do anything if you just keep training.” Physical limits don’t exist in Batman’s world; it really is possible to just train enough at karate to beat Superman.

  14. What about having a powered exoskeleton built into the armour? It’s never been mentioned, but that is perhaps his secret power :D

    #14 Mac, perhaps Lancaster’s Law assumes a common level of technology or skill. I’m wanting to draw a comparison using Vietnam era fighter planes (US v Russian), however perhaps a problem with that is that the Russian/North Vietnamese planes were also shackled to ground controllers.

    In terms of physical altercations, there is physically only so much space multiple attackers can use when fighting one person. If you have a well-trained martial arts expert, you can probably send a blow to each in-close attacker with decent speed if they insist on using standard attacks (punches/kicks). However if they simply use numbers properly and crowd in, using the people behind them to prevent them from falling over and being willing to take punishment, they can simply form a human wall and crush the inner person.

    A key ability of a lone fighter (IMO) is to be able to separate from combat with a particular group of enemies and engage specific enemies by choice. Choosing your battleground is a key tenant of just about any fighting style or combat philosophy. If you can force your attackers to advance via limited paths or in limited numbers, you reduce the number of people attacking you at one time, obviously an important goal.

    So I guess Lancaster’s Law is true for any specific situation, but you need to define attackers properly, those attacking at one specific instant or overall number of enemies.

  15. I’ll have to remember the term “Lancaster’s law”, it sounds so much classier than “Zerg rush”.

  16. Hmmm…I happen to own a book called The Batman Handbook: The Ultimate Training Guide by Scott Beatty. Absolutely love the book and all the information and instruction it gives from what to learn from specific books, from what types of people, and from specific types of training. To me it is a very realistic book if you were to become a superhero. Being female, it would be hard for me to become another Bat’man’, but I would want to be something as close to him as possible. And just as soon as I win the lottery, I will be sure to do that too.

    Here is the link to buy the book for those interested in possibly signing on as my sidekick one day.

    I feel I have probably given too much information today. If you do see a new superhero emerge in the US, you may want to check back here to see if I’m still posting. *winks*

    As for the new book, I will have to read it to see if compares with the one I have already come to enjoy so much. It will take a lot for it to be better than the one already out there with so many details and information though.

  17. this is why Batman is not a “super” hero. he has no “super” powers. he has ABILITIES that other people could have if they spent the time training and had the money for the equipment. Obviously, DC takes these abilities a little beyond what a real person could do but we see that in action films all the time (for example, Bruce Willis’ character in the Die Hard movies). No super powers = not a SUPER hero. QED

  18. Does the book show how to become a zillionaire? ‘Cause that’s my favorite of Bat-man’s super powers.

  19. the real trick would be to suddenly appear where crimes are happening! pick-pockets and roving street gangs dont just ‘appear’ out of nowhere like they do in the movies. you would have to be real lucky or carrying a portable police radio to be ‘on the scene’ of a crime in time.
    after about a week of this, even the most gung-ho of would-be superheroes would get bored and give up.

  20. #16 Ocker

    I would have to disagree with your assessment on your physical fight of 10 vs 1. No matter how the terrain favored you over anyone else the idea is that the odds are truly against you. I have studied martial arts for 5 years now and there is no way I could ever dream on taking on 3 people at once no matter how good my punches/targets were. Yes, the idea of what one should do when facing multiple opponents is there but as the quote goes: “No Plan ever survives past the first encounter with the enemy”.

    Even if you had them all coming at you in a line to where they could only “engage” you one at a time. You would have to disable every attacker on the first shot or else they will still swarm you. Even then you have to worry about where they are landing. You also have to look at the energy levels of yourself vs 10 people. Can you dance and constant precise punches for the entire fight? That alone is going to be your downfall.

    I don’t think a specific situation has anything to do with reasoning Lancaster’s law. Not to be rude, its just my opinion.

  21. Lancaster’s Law! and the plane example. These laws only hold true in a theoretical perfectly balanced world or vaccuum. For the plane example, what about the skill and ability of each pilot and what role does that play? Perhaps a country will to buy expensive planes also trains good pilots while ‘Cheapo’ country throws in 19 year old hacks to fly their cheapo planes. Maybe the cheapo plane is cheap because it relies on an inexpensive essential component. What if that component fails at 100 times the rate of the expensive plane component. How does this factor into the Lancaster Law. What about coordination and logistics associated with that? Can 250 planes attacking at once really remain coordinated enough not to damage each other. Thus comes in the law of deminishing returns. In a hand to hand combat situation, what about terrain? What role does position on the ‘battle’ field play and can one person or few people hold a certain position better than a larger number, think of the battle the Spartans fought against the Persians. Surely by the law you quote that shouldn’t have even lasted 30 seconds much less several days. I think this law is bogus because it is trumped by so many other factors that become more important in the end.

  22. To Chevan,

    If you’re referring to how Batman ‘beat up’ Superman (see: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns), it wasn’t just his martial arts mastery that allowed him to do so, it was the strategy with which he approached the fight. Basically, via a creative use of Kryptonite (as we all know – Superman’s weakness… Batman has no such weakness unless he’s severely allergic to peanut butter which would in and of itself make for some really amusing stories… ahem, sorry, sidetracked) brought Superman down quite a few notches from being ‘Super’. It was this cunning pre-emptive dissection of the battle & preparation that allowed Bats to get the upper hand.

    Like the man said – “I want you to remember Clark… I want you to remember the one man that beat you… “

  23. to CHRONOPHOBE – ever heard of that old saying to not judge a book by its cover? come on! it’s not like it’s artwork you’re going to hang on the wall. jeez, who cares what the cover looks like? you’re supposed to read what’s INSIDE, not stare at the cover. or maybe that’s what you have books for…

  24. Chronophobe,

    the porpose of a book is not it’s design, but what is in the book. i personaly don’t think i’d buy a cover without a book inside, but i would buy a book without a cover. this cover may not be exciting, and yes it could have been better designed, but would you honestly not pick up a book with great potential just because it’s cover wasn’t what it could be?

  25. Mac,

    Lancaster’s law would not apply to Batman. It’s apples and oranges. What I mean is 1 tank vs 10 men, the tank wins. Batman (especially with his gadgets) is a greater threat than 1 man.

    The flaw with a real world superhero is that without a massive support system, you would be found by law enforcement & imprisoned. Example, we can’t find Bin Laden (no I’m not calling him a hero, but he thinks he is a vigilante for Islam) because he is being helped by locals. Imagine he came out once a month to a highly populated area to execute a plan, he would be caught.

  26. I am living the American dream as a superhero! I am “The Couch Potato.” I lay on the couch all day in my underwear watching TV crime whenever and where ever it may happen while eating Cheetos and drinking soda. I am able to pass gas in four notes and three different smells. Able to obtain high scores on all shooter games.

    I have posted this anonymously to maintain my secret identity.

  27. In regards to Lancaster’s Law as applied to close combat, consider the battle of thermopylae as recorded by Herodotus, (and loosely portrayed in the movie 300).

    ocker3 provided a reasonable explination of this concept.

  28. They forgot Batman’s #1 super power. HOW COULD THEY! Batman is rich, he has the super power to have a bottomless checking account, with that kinda of dough forget the training just build a exo-skeleton robot suit and rock on.

  29. To TheDarkCloak:

    I think Chevan was referring to how Karate Kid, a hero with no intrinsic superpowers, was able to get into the Legion of Superheroes, a group which requires its members to have at least on intrinsic (and cool) superpower, simply by being good enough at martial arts to put Superboy into a headlock.

  30. #19

    I think the great Bruce Lee could do it. He’s very quick and has endurance and stamina. He can also deliver crushing one hit blows via punch or kick. He has the intelligence of a Batman. He knows pressure points and weak points throughout the human body.

  31. #20-

    He’s allergic to peanut butter? Nice. XD

    Since Batman is human, he has flaws. If Superman manipulated his human flaws, superman could win. His one weakness of Kryptonite was to prevent him from being an unrealistic perfect character. (not that a superhuman alien man is realistic)

    So now I’m wondering about that xD

  32. Sorry, I’m with Chronophobe. I am also a graphic designer and whether you like to think you do or not: MOST people judge books by their covers. Which is why Chronophobe and I are in the business we’re in. People are drawn to things that are visually appealing: i.e. good design.

    Second: #13 NANUQ: You almost made me pee my pants, HILARIOUS! And spot on!

  33. @ The Dark Cloak

    Everything you said is true, but the Dark Knight Returns is written far better than most Batman stories. In DKR, it takes Batman 10 yrs of planning, and a large sum of money to beat up a severely weakened Superman. And even then it damn near killed him. In your average BM story, BM is just far stronger than everyone (both mentally and physically), and knows everything the artist and writer working on the story knows instantaneously, doing things that are implausible even for godlike characters in that universe. Finally, in DC, a lot of people are just written badly. Even if Superman is just of “average” intelligence, he’s of average intelligence BY KRYPTONIAN STANDARDS. One would think that Superman would be able to get a lot more done than he does simply through the power of using his average brain at near light speed, an advantage that Batman or any human doesn’t have (we get 40Hz a second out of our brain, look it up). One would also think that by now Superman would figure out a way to line his cape and costume with lead or carbon or something to absorb Kryptonite radiation, or to redshift out of the spectrum of Kryptonite.

  34. What a crock, only morons would waste money on this book, why would you even try to take on half a dozen thugs with your bare hands, when you are going to get the crap kicked of you, I don’t care how tough you might be.
    Easier to just shoot them.

  35. the guy who posted the thing about superman being the best….. well lets face it superman is probably the best/worst hero ever….he’s a boyscout. Would never do anything wrong to bring someone to justice. In that essence he is the most lame hero ever. Batman on the other hand is the hero born out of tradgedy, the one who hangs the rules on the wall for target practice. KICK ASS BATMAN

  36. I’m just glad to know we have scientists spending their valuable time working on stuff like this.

  37. I dunno. One of Batman’s big powers is his image. Most bad guys know they’re outclassed and are hesitant. So while if they attack him in concert maybe they’d swarm him, everybody tends to wait a bit for everybody else to swarm him and come in last, which means that Batman gets to take on his opponents one at a time.

    At least, that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

  38. Lancaster’s Square Law has a number of problems with it when you attempt to apply it to modern warfare. Lancaster’s Laws (Linear and Square) only discuss atrition of forces in straight infantry versus infantry combat and does not address technological warfare (artillery, armor, air support) and assumes that both forces share equivalent technology, training, and skills. Likewise it assumes a straight 1:1 kill ratio, meaning that each soldier will kill 1 enemy before before being killed in turn. The analogy above about lots of cheap fighters versus a few high-tech fighters is simply incorrect. Technology, training, and skill are all what are called “Force Multipliers” and it is a concept that is central to current US Warfighter doctrine. The United States does not have the ability to field the largest (in terms of sheer numbers) military in the world, however, the US Military is one of the most technologically advanced and highly trained forces in the world. These advantages allow US forces to consistently engage numerically superior forces and defeat them. Consider the firefight in Mogadishu immortalized in Black Hawk Down. The US Rangers and Delta Force shooters on the ground were unbeleivably outnumbered. If you hold strictly to Lancaster’s Square Law then there was no possible way that the US forces could have survived the engagement. In fact, they not only survived but mauled the Somali opposition forces. The US forces had a number of advantages that negated Lancaster’s Square Law. One, they were engaged primarily in defense throughout the bulk of the engagement. Two, they were organized and coordinated so they fought as a coherant group. Three, they benefited from fire and intelligence support from off-site forces. Four, they had a decided technological and training advantage. Mogadishu is only one fairly recent example but there are dozens of others. The Romans defeat of Boudica and her forces in AD 60-61 is an even better example as these were two predominantly infantry forces and while the Romans did have a technological advantage it was not as dramatic as the US versus the Somolis. What the Romans had in spades, however, was training. Gaius Paulinus was outnumbered more than 20:1. According to Lancaster’s Square Law that would mean that each Roman soldier (not all were Legionaires) would have to be the equal to 400 Britons. According to reports 10,000 Romans faced 230,000 Britons and suffered 400 casualties. The Britons, however, are reported to have lost nearly 80,000 people in the fighting. That is a 200:1 kill ratio with swords and spears. Lancaster’s Laws have their place but not in modern military strategic or tactical theory.

  39. Superman??? Come on. The chump is ok but Batman is the smartest there is. Who else has devised a way to bring every single super-hero to their collective knees w/o breaking a sweat?

  40. Oops. I just pulled my reference material. It is properly titled Lanchester not Lancaster. I didn’t think Lancaster sounded right but I couldn’t quite remember. Mea Culpa. Please replace any Lancaster reference in any of the posts above with Lanchester. Those of you doing searches on your favorite search engines will also have better luck using Lanchester. Frederick Lanchester, an english engineer known more for making cars, put forth his laws 1916 during World War One not WWII. These differential equations are together known as the Lanchester Power Laws.

  41. Lancaster’s Law notwithstanding, from a practical field-appplication standpoint, I can attest to overcoming six attackers in a single encounter via a series of kicks, strikes and throws that rendered the attackers unable and unwilling to continue. Admittedly, I was stronger, faster, and more martially skilled than my attackers, a gang of street punks, but the “pile ’em on” rule of Lancaster did not apply in this case. My opinion is that a skilled fighter can easily engage and defeat multiple attacker in many cases.

  42. Little Green Amphibious Monster #33

    Thank you so much, I was about to type just that. Lancesters law (or whatever it’s called) has several holes in it. There are many, many, many instances in history where a numerically smaller force took on a numerically larger force. (The Alamo, Alexander the Great fighting the Persians, The Spartans fighting the Persians)

    I believe one of the differences is that a person with greater fighting knowledge and strategy was fighting someone with inferior fighting knowledge and strategy. Also The Alamo was in a fortress able to volley shots at their enemy, and the Spartans were able to force their enemies into a narrow point to fight and the Spartans killed thousands upon thousands of enemies; and I’m not talking about the movie either.

    Batman fighting 4 or 5 guys at once is like any 4 or 5 guys posting here taking on a olympic level martial arts master with lots of hi-tech equipment. One, he is more skilled, two, he has better weapons and equipment, and three, he is smarter than most the people he fights.

  43. mh… interesting… coz i’ve trainned in ninjitsu and tai-chi, and yes i knew it was possible for anyone with skills and a lil effort can become a super hero… but with todays technology its not that easy to remain hidden. You’ll blow cover very easily, unless… well… :) i can’t tell you this coz… well… never mind.

  44. Okay, I just had to comment. The writer was right about one thing, it is *Very* difficult for a large group of people to hit on one person so it’s very plausible to get into a fight with up to 10 people (I used to attend kajukenbo and our sensei would have us each go up one against the class which was about 15 people on any given day) and walk away relatively unhurt. The ficticious Batman’s chances are even greater cause his costume is composed of a flexible, light body armor. Anyhow, long story short, as long as the criminals aren’t trying to shoot you (which is plausible cause they don’t want to accidently hit their boys) Batman-ing is totally do-able.

  45. The idea of a plausible “caped crusader” is all well and good–but a real-life, honest-to-goodness, kevlar-underwear toting boy scout who doesn’t use guns or even kill people? Likely, a short-lived career. Not only that, but he/she will likely have made little impact on an actual, million-plus person city. An even more unbelieveable prospect is that a single person will be able to do much against hundreds, even thousands of organized criminals. Even Batman’s highly-trained contingent wouldn’t be able to do any serious damage against the Mafia (Italian or Russian), drug lords, gangs, corrupt police departments, AND hundreds or thousands of small-timers. More likely, a real “superhero” would be military-trained, willing to use guns and to kill, and would only take on a city’s criminal underworld with a unit at least ten- or twenty-strong.

  46. The point with multiple attackers versus terrain/environment is a valid one. The Lanc. also fails to take into consideration the physical condition of the attackers. Most intense physical altercations last for 15-45 seconds between 2 persons, generally speaking. (I have to state as a fact, though: In the streets, ANYTHING can happen. Anything.) If you have a greater number of attackers that are in poor condition (no cardio, no tactical training, no skills) it is feasible, and almost a sure outcome that a skilled, conditioned, and experienced fighter in CQC could take out a numberically greater force. (It is impossible to attack anyone for a great amount of time if all you do to prepare is smoke Luckys and drink beer.) If, say you have 6 attackers versus one, if the attackers are weak on their cardio, poor on their tactics, and overweight, an skilled and prepared lone fighter would simply engage/disengage the greater attack threat until the odds favored him/her, and use of tactics, knowledge of the area, ( a HUGE adventage) fighting skills(training)
    and conditioning would prove the difference. You cant attack anyone if you can’t catch your breath, and after 1-2 minutes, you can forget about the adrenaline rush.

    The fly in the ointment, though, is that the streets contain the entire gamut of personal physical threat, from fists to AK-47s. Any
    weapons thrown into the mix, and the whole
    equation is invalid; it then simply becomes a matter of who had the bigger better weapon, and who used it first. Short of a personal, portable
    force field or a velocity absorption/diffusion energy field, that is. Which I just happen to selling the plans to for only 39.95 + shipping and handling…lol ;-)

    1. the nugget,

      Welcome to BoingBoing. Please read the Moderation Policy in gray just above Recent Comments.

  47. I believe that the entire idea of actually becoming a hero to the level of Batman can be attained, yet I think that most can agree that the majority of Bruce’s transition to Batman not only incuded extreme athletic training, acquisition of state-of-the-art gadgets and discipline, but also his drive. Nothing motivates him more than the memory of his parents’ murder.

    In Frank Miller’s graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns”, the story begins with Bruce retired from crimefighting, yet crime is rampant in Gotham. It isn’t until later in the novel that we see that the haunting of his parents caused him to return as Batman. To those who have read (enjoyed) the novel, you notice how he mentions that he should be a complete physical wreck, yet donning the cape and cowel makes him feel young again.
    Though its easy to say intelligence, physical training and gadgets may make a super hero, I believe that an important component to that would be motivation. Being an avid fan of Batman, I think these are one of the reasons why Bat-fans detest heroes like Superman (protecting humanity just to do it? right…. I’m surprised he hasn’t abused some of his power yet) and enjoy heroes like Spiderman (a hero who had never materialised if it wasn’t for his Uncle Ben’s murder).

    Again, its only my opinion and I’m actually looking forward to anyone wanting to discuss this further.

  48. Batman and Superman are fictional characters. There is no way to rationalize which is better. What they can and can’t do, or who they can or can’t bit is determined by the writers and creators of the DC Comics. Their abilities and weaknesses are determined by the writes to make for more compelling story. To me all this bickering over who’s better, smarter, or stronger or whatever else is pointless.

    Secondly, I have to agree with those that said the the cover is important. We are a visual people. We shop with our eyes first. Regardless of the contents the packaging is the first impression that the shopper makes. Although I don’t think that this particular cover is bad, it is important to have good packaging for your merchandises. By the way I’m not a designer or in sales or anything along those lines. It’s just my observation.

    Peace Out!

  49. In practicing to be a super hero, don’t forget you have to nail down the quotes! If you’re going to be batman for instance, you must have a flare for the obvious and present it in a witty fashion.

    Remember Robin, always look both ways. – Batman

    Better three hours too soon than a minute too late. – Batman

    It’s sometimes difficult to think clearly when you’re strapped to a printing press. – Batman

    This is torture, at its most bizarre and terrible. – Batman

    If you can’t spend it, money’s just a lot of worthless paper, isn’t it? – Batman

  50. I’m not fictional, but this whole book and all these comments are really touching… thanks! You guys are the best.

  51. In a stick fighting class I once took, the instructor set up various one-to-many scenarios, ranging from everyone in the class randomly attacking one person, to prior coordination of tactics with the “mob”. I imagine this is the sort of thing that any decent “reality” based martial arts class would do.

    Basically if the solitary person a) has training in one-to-many combat, b) has some kind of physical advantage (i.e. a weapon like a stick), and c) has an advantage of terrein (backed into a corner, surprise attack from above etc), they at least stand a chance.

    As a teenager I once was in a fight with three people. I came out of it with a few bruises. One of my opponents was out for the count. Another had some nice gravel burns. The third backed off. I’m no superhero, and I’m not inordinately stronger or faster than the next guy. I have some very basic martial arts instruction, and a willingness to do anything necessary to survive.

  52. This is a dumb thesis..Batman is basically a really smart ninja..Just look at Stephen Hayes, his wife, Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi or other Ninjutsu practitioners and see how they can take on as many opponents as Batman. The thing that makes Batman even more interesting besides being a good ninja is how he can practically be on the edge of insanity, with such deep psychological issues, yet keep an absolute focus using his detective, scientific, technological, and martial arts skills in order to solve/fight crime thereby helping police and other crime fighters do their jobs, if not do them way better.

  53. In regards to the cover, I think it’s probably meant to appeal to Bat-Geeks like me who would readily recognize the “homage” to Bob Kane’s art. Although I like it, I agree that it could use something more.

    I have trained in martial arts for thirty years and I’ve been instructing for about half that. The disciplines that I’ve studied have been of many cultures but primarily Japanese, and some are coincidentally referenced in many Batman stories. Although I appreciate the scientific principle mentioned above in regards to Lancaster’s Law (not familiar with it) I have to respectfully disagree based on what’s presented.

    If Bruce Wayne had studied the samurai and ninja disciplines as in the comics, he would have studied combat strategy on many levels. In regards to multiple attackers, strategy in movement is key above strength, using the energy of the attack against the attacker(s). Also in shielding one’s self with one attacker against another. With proper application, this will work whether one or all attack at once. There are many aspects to the combat situation to study, consider, and apply.

    Batman has always been my favorite comic character for the simple fact that he is just a man. I would prefer him not to be insanely wealthy, but I suppose he would have to do without the fancy gadgetry and have to rely on more crude implements of crime fighting. He would also not have much time for training and education if he had to actually work.

    As a child I trained hard and worked hard in school. I always wanted to be Batman, but the truth is, it’s just a comic book. No matter how hard someone trains and devotes themselves to the pursuit of higher learning, no one can be Batman. If just anyone could be Batman, the comic book wouldn’t be very entertaining, would it?

    I just have to be satisfied with being a cop.

  54. Excellent stream of thoughts on reality and theory of fighting. As someone who trains with multiple martial arts weapons and started a bit later in life I would it is really tough to become proficient in a variety skills and weapons. It takes many, many hours per day just to maintian and improve across a myriad of martial skills. What always burns me is that the hero goes to some hideaway, learns it all and suddenly never needs practice again(at least rarely shown in movies). But I also agree Alfred must be a superhero also or at least nearly the perfect spouse! car mechanic, computer genius, great cook….

  55. So there we have it – all you need is some intense training, a sharp mind, and 20 billion dollars in the bank. And as we all know, rich geeks who can design and afford all that tech are NOTORIOUSLY awesome athletes.
    Easy as proverbial pie!

  56. RavenTechno

    Wow, its intresting everything that a book like this can bring out.

    To #37: While DKR was a wonderfuly writen story, you have to remember that Batman did a job on Superman durning “Hush”.

    #56: Marvel has gone down hill also with there comics.

  57. I’m a huge Batman fan,and I know it’s possibe to be like him.I’m a black belt in karate,and I know how to fight.I fought 3 men at once,and beat them all.The main thing Batman has is money.That’s how he got his education and traveled the world to learn martial arts.I hope you people that if you people read the comics for as long as I have,that he knows 5 different types.I wanna see if anyone knows them.

  58. As a person who worked unarmed in the back of an overcrowded, Southern, city jail back in the 80’s (with a population greater than some federal prisons), I can tell you that it is possible to engage multiple attackers and win, if they are criminals. Most criminals are bullies and cowards. If they are afraid of you, they will avoid direct combat. I am short and unassuming in stature. However, after sending the fourth person to the ER and thereafter to Intensive Care, when a throwdown went down, the prisoners avoided engagement with me. Fear is the key. If they are afraid of you, then you have already won. To ensure my personal survival, I made sure they feared me and what I would do to them.

  59. It would be fun to see the labels TOINK! WOOSH! SPLAAAT! KAPOW! whenever I punch someone. This is the best thing that somebody will ever do aside from just plain power punches..Nobody did this yet in boxing–

  60. RE: Multiple Attckers

    There are many martial arts that teach engaging endless numbers of attackers, Krav Maga comes to mind. The greatest obstacle is to have a discipline mind.

  61. I would like to address two issues. The first issue is the theory behind multiple attackers. Uh for those of you with your calculators out and your pen and pad writing down equations…please stop now. Unless you have trained in martial arts for many years or have actually engaged multiple attackers at once like I have, you have NO idea what your talking about. I am not saying I can or anyone including Batman can take on ten people at once. I try to avoid confrontation at all cost as most well trained and educated martial artist would. With proper training over time(not overnight) it will become second nature to engage multiple opponents at once. You must understand that no fight is the same, or choreographed as they are in the movies. It is a dangerous, chaotic and stressful situation. The body does crazy things when the mind has to calculate an aggressive situation such as a bar fight for example. YOU in the grand scheme of things are more dangerous than opponents 1,2,3,4 or five, when you can say to yourself “I have the right to do whatever I want to these guys because more than one person is a deadly weapon.” It will certainly hold in court, and you’ll be screwed regardless if you don’t engage standing there holding a darn calculator with equations plugged in. While several men want to take your wallet or hurt your family.

    Second: Batman is a far greater character than Superman. He is human, so we can better relate to him. Than some pansy in tights who gets hurt by green crystals…gimme a break. Yes, Batman has a past, he has phobias, obsessive compulsive disorders. Yes,Batman is not the first of his kind, or the only one. Others have been training for centuries to do what he does (besides fly around tall buildings). They are called martial artist, his main style in particular is ninjitsu. Although Batman is a fictional character, his creator as well as others throughout our history of entertainment have taken elements of the Martial arts world and wielded into something of their own. That is what makes him such a fantastic character, because we can relate to him, whether if it is a weakness or strength he is more believable and more interesting than someone who can be hurt by nothing.

    (I feel like writing a book now)

    Lord Goda

  62. I have a comment about the Lanchester thing. If I understand it correctly, it means that for one guy to take out two attackers simultaneously, he must be four times as effective as either of them; to take out three guys, nine times as effective.

    Having various “bonuses” such as training, equipment, experience, strength, tactics, drive, and psychology can also multiply the effectiveness of a single man or army. Now, don’t ask me to do math, it’s just common sense.

    Batman has all of those bonuses, and assuming that only up to three guys can attack him at once, because of the space they take, he probably is nine times as effective as any one goon.

    For the Spartans, they used tactics and terrain to minimize the number of enemies they fight at once, giving them an overwhelming advantage in training, equipment, etc.

    Training and tactics allow you to engage fewer foes at once, while strength and training increase your power against those you do face, quickly reducing their numbers. Of course, this doesn’t take in to account “cheating” like bringing a gun to a fist-fight or artillery to a gunfight. Or does it?

    Anyway, that’s my four cents worth.

  63. Most people are very well acquainted with the skills of Batman, but did you ever consider the vast amount of training that Batman would have done to achieve his extreme apex of human excellence?

    Most people, you and me, would have become very disillusioned at some point in the training. For example: Why do I keep this exhaustive training going when I have more money than Bill Gates and I could be living the good life with a lot less headache and where I can just by my security.

    I am guessing that Bruce Wayne was a prodigy of crime fighting and the death of parents was the catalyst that set him on the path of what we know as the Dark Knight.

    As far as fighting numerous opponents at once, a man by the name of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of the Martial art called Aikido. He was the ultimate when it came to battling multiple opponents. His ability to maneuver himself into positions that made his opponents be at their least effective and then as he dispatched each assailant, he would continuously move, proving and aged fact that a moving target is much harder to zero in on than a static target. Batman would have studied this practice.

    Along with his physical skills, Batman is the culmination of Sherlock Holms, Isaac Newton, and Plato when it comes to mental strength of thought. If you can harness this mental capacity, you truly are a superhero. Where other super heroes have a superior intellect in their own right, Batman always seems to be a step or two ahead of them. The same goes along with Batman’s super villains. The more abstract the villain, the more difficult apprehending the villain, ie: The Joker.

    In summation, Batman is the ultimate human that has honed his physical and mental skills to a razors edge. There are many super heroes, and villains, that are more physically powerful than Batman, but none are any smarter. Any villain, or super hero, that might turn on Batman and want to do him harm or even kill him had better do the latter, because if you beat the Batman once and leave him alive, he WILL figure out a way to beat you the second time they meet. He has proven this time and time again.

  64. What have we got here tonight, the boingboing fight club? Whoooooo! I sure didn’t think an absurd comic book character that runs around dressed like a bat would bring out this level of pugnacity among the geeks and the nerds (I’m a word nerd).

    Just for that, I’m gonna tell you a story…

    I went to a karate demonstration back in the day, before martial arts caught on in America, at the old Venice beach pavilion. I had wrestled as an amateur and I was curious about this new thing. A young guy from L.A. brought four guys from his club to put on a display. And what a display it was! Jumping and bouncing around, breaking boards and bricks, chopping and kicking, and numerous hand-to-hand ‘fights’ with one guy, then another, then two. They were beautiful. Great choreography. Then he said to us, the audience, “Here’s what you do when you’re really outnumbered,” and the four other guys advanced on him. “Remember this now,” he yelled — and jumped off the stage and ran like hell up the aisle. Yeah, funny, but that’s not the punch line. Here’s the punch line:

    His name was Bruce Lee.

  65. Hey all,

    Following links about that book coming out brought me to this site and reading some of your posts (though some of you had really strong or funny points) made me start an account just to respond to this string of posts. So, in a way, thank you I think….now, on to the Batman dilemma…

  66. Ok guys, my turn…

    The book dilemma;
    Well, while I agree with some of you that a book involving Batman deserves a more flattering cover design…I think it may not be such a bad idea in terms of not drawing kids to it and possibly getting some bad ideas about the “all they have to do to become Batman” theme. Don’t get me wrong here, I look forward to the book, have always been a big Batman fan (my favorite) and am not sure that I, at twenty five years old may not get a few bad ideas from it >:) , but it having been written by a scientist for what I am thinking are more scientific interests rather than fanboy/girl interests like you or I, it serves it’s purpose…(though just a well built shadow outline with a cape minus the ears may have not hurt nobody…)

  67. The “Great Bat” debate;

    I think some of you have made some good points, but have gone a little extreme. Even without the money, I think a Batman-caliber-hero is possible….albeit highly unlikely. Hang in there with me, I’d rather just mention a few points leaving it to the owner’s who posted them since I’d rather not scroll up and down every time.
    Somebody mentioned how Batman is always there when a crime takes place…well, of course he’s not. No man can be everywhere at once…not even with super speed (like the almighty Superman that some of you hold so dear), BUT I do think that we only see the high points of the night. Why would any comic,movie,cartoon etc., show us the bathroom break or the parts where there is nothing happening and he is just milling around…doesn’t make for very good material.
    With a stretch of imaginiation though, I do see it feasible to recognize the “problem areas” or the worst parts of town and set up patrols or “hot routes” accordingly. Being in the areas with the highest crime rates does increase your probability of finding a crime to stop, yes? It may not be the same route every night and there might be times when the “fish aren’t biting” so to speak, but it seems reasonable I think. You can go on most polic websites (at least for major cities) and bring up the crime profiles by area of previous years. A little bit of strategic planning and analysis could go a long way….

  68. The Great Bat Debate (part 2….that’s right, think sequel!)

    Fighting multiple opponents;

    There are a lot of factors to consider, some physical, some mental and some lucky, but theorems about combat analysis?….hmmm….reputed strategies from supposed martial arts gurus….hmmm…. (not that I don’t believe some of you, but at last one of you is not being honest or stretching the truth to back your theory…at least one).
    Let’s talk about the psychological edge…I don’t even think I need to go too deep here aside from saying that Batman’s reputation precedes him. If you go into a fight thinking that your opponent is stronger than you….or a mythologcal being bordering supernatural, invincible, etc. or that you have very little chance of winning….well, you have lost before the first punch is thrown. There are plenty of basic books out there about ninjitsu (sorry if the spelling is not perfect) that mention something along the lines of a ninja thriving on fear and gaining the psychological “upper hand” regardless of whether it is done with smoke and mirrors or Rhas Al Ghul’s “parlor tricks”. The ends in this case, justifies the means. I am no martial arts expert, no psychologist, but I have had an occurence where a guy twice my size has backed down from a fight when he threw a fake punch, stopping just short of my face and I didn’t so much as flinch…just held my best “I’m gonna wreck you” look that I had. Was I scared? Heck yea, did he end up walking away though, “backing down” as one might put it? heck yea. The psychological aspect is everything and I don’t think too many people (aside from the true lunatics) could walk up to Batman with clenched fists and not feel their confidence waiver. Fighting multiple enemies isvery possible, BUT !!!! I will agree with some fo you on one point. Can multiple enemies be fought by one man? yes. Can he do it without injuring or killing anyone? That is the real stretch in my opinion. Anybody (if willing and viscious enough) with a little luck, can punch one guy in the throat, kick another man’s kneecap in the wrong direction and punch another right below his chest (the zyphoid process I think it’s called or maybe the solar plexus….I’m no doctor) and knock the air out of him. Whalla! You just disabled three men in about three seconds. Not good enough? How about a punch to the nose, watering up a man’s eyes (temporarily blinding him), pulling another man’s elbow down onto your shoulder from a thrown punch and kicking another man in the groin?? Again, whalla! three men down in three to five seconds. You could pick out examples all day people, theoretically, they work. Evrything is theoretical until proven…everything that is impossible remains labeled as such until it is accomplished. This counts of couse on a lot of variables, most of which are likely to not go your way, but it is possible and the most conditioned man stands the best chance of recognizing and taking advantage of the opportunities.

  69. Lanchester’s Law only works if everyone can hit everyone else. All the counterexamples posted in this thread are instances where everyone can’t hit everyone else–the tank beats the infantry because they don’t all have antitank guns, fortresses hold off huge armies because the huge army can’t fully deploy, and lone advanced martial artists beat 6 people by taking them on one by one.

    (Assuming no ranged weapons and an open field, the way to do the last one is to circle at range. Either you get to the end of the line, damage one, and retreat (rinse, repeat) or they foul eachother trying to keep up with your turning. As long as you’re on the outside of the circle, you can force a 1-on-1 fight at least for one blow, which is all you need if your objective is to slow the guy down*).

    *Kick his knee out, bash his head in, knock the wind out of him…all you need is to make him not a threat for long enough to do the same to his friends. Since everything’s a target, and he’ll leave -something- open, it’s a lot easier than if you have to land a killing blow.

  70. The Great Bat Debate (part 3..uh-oh….who smells trilogy!?!)

    Some of you mentioned that achieving the mental acuity and physical prowess of the Batman is impossible…nothing is impossible. If men can train to the extent of being able to pull semi tractor trailers and boy geniuses can play several chess games simultaneously against experts and win…nothing is impossible. Would it take an amazing amount of training? Sure. Could it be done in a few years? No. It might take twenty years to achieve only the majority of strategic, mental, physical, combat, detective, reflexive, psychological advantages/skills that Batman has, BUT, to it’s core, it is possible. I think it is that possibility that makes Batman such an attractive hero because although most of us are not millionaire ninjas…in the back of our minds, he does not seem like such a stretch.

    Disclaimer; before some of you start screaming and pointing fingers, remember something; I know that I am nobody. I am not a master strategist, martial arts master, psychologist, ninja or streetbrawling legend. I’m just a guy with an opinion (though a very long winded one). This has always been one of my favorite debates and some of it ties to beliefs that I hold true in my own life. I am sorry for the many parts and if I have come off arrogant, but I have had time to fine tune this argument with good friends who share a passion for hope, heroes, comics and movies. Thank you all for taking the time to read all of what I put forth here as I took the time to catch up on everyone else’s posts in about an hour or so after finding this thread. Any particular points someone would like to debate more thoroughly; I’m open minded and welcome the challenge.

    “Hope is a good thing Red, maybe the best of things.”
    -Andy Dufrane circa the Shawshank Redemption
    “Nothing is impossible Mario, unlikely, improbable, but never impossible.”
    -Luigi circa The Super Mario Brothers

    “If you make yourself more thAn a man… and they can’t stop you, you become something else entirely…”
    “Which is?”
    “A legend, Mr. Wayne.”

  71. Hello everyone. I love superheroes, and always have since childhood. I’ve always wanted to be that action hero, or superhero in the movies that have come out in the last 30 years or so. I now, dress up in superhero/action hero costumes to fundraise for charities at work. That is about as close as I can ever get to being one. I run a whole lot and am very strong.
    The discussion about one person taking on four or five attackers should not be an issue. Every martial art since the beginning of time has trained students for that. It is certainly plausible, considering factors and circumstances.
    A taekwondo master once told me after class, “When you see somebody getting hurt or mugged, you step in to help that person. When you see that that person has a stick, you can still help the person in need. When you see somebody with a knife, you decide, whether you want to help or not. When you see somebody with a gun, you do nothing, or run.”
    I have to spoil things, I guess, and don’t mean to do so. When we see superheroes, or action heroes in movies, we want to believe that that could happen, or even that we have the potential to be like that.
    The reality, as I see it, is that Batman would not be fighting in a dojo, or even in a daylight battle field of war. He would be fighting on the streets, where rules do not apply, and where criminals have guns and other armed weapons. How do you fend off five guys who each have a gun, and they are pointing those loaded guns at you? Martial arts or physical training do not help here. Unless, you have a full suit of bullet- proof armor from head to toe. I am not just talking about a bullet-proof vest. How will you not get shot in the head, or in the legs? And how conducive would all of that heavy attire be to moving quickly, and moving in the air?
    Batman would need a gun, but that is not his style. And sooner or later, he is going to get shot by an evil person, whether it be in the eye, or in the foot.
    In the movies, you see him flying in to a scene with a cape. Now, I’m no aviation or weapons/gadget expert, but how could that be possible. You would have to be a multi-millionare to afford the armor suit and all of the gadgets. Then, if you are trying to swing from a building, what if one gadget goes wrong and fails, even after it has been working for a year or more. The real-life Batman would fall. You have to know the bulidings, in the dark, and know the contours of the every landscape, even if you have never been in that area before.
    What makes comic books and superhero movies so fascinating, is that we want to believe that it could happen, but we have to keep in mind that it is fictitious, and separate that from what we could do in the real world. Along the lines of what another person posted earlier, if every master of martial arts who could afford all of Batman’s gadgets, actually became Batman, then Batman would not be so fascinating anymore.

    Peace be with you.

  72. Chronophobe et al.: For Johns Hopkins University Press, that is a zippy cover design.

  73. the fact is that no matter how much calculating you do, there is no way anyone can tell when a random crime is about to occur. if they can then we could work vegas.
    i suppose a potential ‘batman’ could go to a bad neighborhood and ‘hide in the shadows’ and wait until they see a gang of thugs walk by. then they would have to follow them without getting noticed. that might be easy at night, but hard for a guy who’s padded in a body armoured suit packed full of gadgets. the batman would have to follow and wait and wait until a crime was committed, IF ever at all. and if they were lucky enough then they could have the opportunity to jump out of the shadows like they do in movies and comic books and save the day (or night). but even then, a lot of crimes occur between fueding drug dealers or gangs and such. rarely is there a damsel in distress. i dont remember spiderman ever saving a drug dealer from another. who would want to?
    the batman would have to spend hours and hours in their souped-up suit, climbing building after building (again without getting noticed) probably sweating hard in the summer, waiting for a crime. if they did manage to save someone, it wouldnt take long before the cops would track them down. they dont like vigilantes.
    anyone rich enough, in shape enough and smart enough to actually be the batman would never want to spend hours and hours of their time hiding in the shadows and waiting, waiting, waiting, even if they did have a vendetta against criminals. after about a week of waiting in shadows with nothing happening, they would eventually get a portable police radio, only to arrive at the crimes when the cops are already there, or very close to being there (in which case they would be arrested or would have to swing away on the bat-grappling hook which im sure fails just as much as it works).
    in all that time the rich, smart and in-shape batman would probably figure out ways to reduce crime more effectively and non-violently by spending his/her money on educating kids or whatever instead of all the gadgets and continuous working-out, traning and playing the crime roulette-wheel.

  74. even with millions of dollars it would take years and years of designing, developing, testing, perfecting and building just half of batmans high-tech equipment. he would probably have to hire outside contractors, and do it anonymously (in order to keep his secret identity). and as soon as he used one of them, it would be on the news all over the world, and would the contractor still keep their mouth(s) shut?..
    as soon as the military saw that built-in bat wings (that actually worked) were a possibility they would immediately try to develop them, which leads to – why hasnt the military invented anything like batman has? why dont soldiers have things they can whip out of their uniform, push a button which would shoot a cable into the nearest building ledge and be able to pull them up and away instantly? probably because the technology is just not possible, even with wayne’s billions. we are light-years away from some of that stuff. back in the 60’s people thought we would have artificial intelligence with computers by now. we arent even close.

  75. To Buddy;
    Haha, that’s pretty good. Nice to have a fan. You are appreciated kind sir. I love post 77, that’s classic.

  76. Okay. Well, if you allow someone to have guns (Or even a sword!), then there is definitely the possibility of having a Batman style hero out there.

    Except you know, with guns. One man with combat knowledge, body armor and a decent weapon can take on a much greater number of lesser trained enemies. And if he has an automatic weapon/explosives, well, the possiblities are quite dramatic. I posit a V for Vendetta style hero, rather than Batman.

    I mean, look at Private Military Companies (Mercenaries) today. A group of 300 paid 4.3 million can pacify, or at least eliminate entire armies. (African..armies.)

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