Becoming Batman an Achievable Goal, Researcher Says

Christian Bale as the Dark Knight
Batman: The Dark Knight

Excerpted from Dark Knight Shift: Why Batman Could Exist—But Not for Long by J.R. Minkel:

Batman is the most down-to-earth of all the superheroes. He has no special powers from being born on a distant world, or bitten by a radioactive spider. All that protects him from the Joker and other Gotham City villains are his wits and a physique shaped by years of training—combined with the vast fortune to reach his maximum potential and augment himself with Batmobiles, Batcables and other Bat-goodies, of course.

Becoming Batman

To investigate whether someone like Bruce Wayne could physically transform himself into a one-man wrecking crew, turned to E. Paul Zehr, associate professor of kinesiology and neuroscience at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and a 26-year practitioner of Chito-Ryu karate-do. Zehr’s book, Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero, is due out in October 2008.

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 Beijing 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.

How long would Bruce Wayne have to train to become Batman?
In some of the timelines you see in the comics, the backstory is he goes away for five years—some it’s three to five years, or eight years, or 12 years. In terms of the physical changes (strength and conditioning), that’s happening fairly quickly. We’re talking three to five years. In terms of the physical skills to be able to defend himself against all these opponents all the time, I would benchmark that at 10 to 12 years. Probably the most reality-based representation of Batman and his training was in Batman Begins.

[continued at Scientific American]

Christian Bale as the Dark Knight

Excerpted from Being Batman by David M. Ewalt:

OK, so he also has a couple billion dollars. Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, is an old-money heir and the owner of Wayne Enterprises, a massive international-technology conglomerate. In our Forbes Fictional Fifteen, we estimated his net worth at $6.3 billion. If he were a real guy, he’d be the 28th richest person in America, right behind News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch.

Wayne uses his riches and corporate connections to equip himself with the latest and greatest in military hardware, and uses those tools to help him fight villains like the Joker, the Riddler, and Ra’s Al Ghul.

But you don’t have to be a billionaire to become a caped crusader. Using commercially available training, technology and domestic help, the average guy could conceivably equip himself to become a real-world superhero, provided he’s got at least a couple million to spare.

What would it cost to become a real-world Dark Knight?

The Training
Cost: $30,000

You’d better be ready to defend yourself if you plan to take on all the thugs and super-villains that call Gotham home.

In Batman Begins, young Bruce Wayne goes to Tibet on the mother of all study-abroad trips, and ends up learning the martial arts from a group of vigilante ninjas called the League of Shadows. But similar training is available to those not lucky enough to get plucked out of obscurity by Liam Neeson.

A good place to start would be an internship at the birthplace of kung fu, the Shaolin Temple in Henan, China. One month of training at the prestigious Tagou school costs about $740, including a private room and training with a personal coach. It’ll take a while to get good enough to stop the Joker’s worst thugs, though, so count on spending at least three years and about 30 grand for the trip.

The Suit
Cost: $1,585

Batman’s suit is a modified piece of infantry armor built by the applied sciences division of Wayne Enterprises. It’s waterproof, bulletproof, knife-proof and temperature-regulating. Paired with an impact-resistant, graphite-composite cowl and spiked ninja-style gauntlets, it allows Batman to protect himself against everything from swords to machine guns. Wayne Enterprises also supplies Batman with his cape, a specially designed nylon-derivative fabric that stiffens when hit with an electric charge, allowing Batman to use it as a glider. All this doesn’t come cheap. In Batman Begins, Wayne’s told that the armor alone costs $300,000.

Real-world superhero wanna-bes will have to go with a much more prosaic solution. We recommend a lightweight ProMAX OTV bulletproof jacket, which will cover your arms and torso for only $1,085.

[continued at Forbes Magazine]

What do you think? How much money, time, and effort would be required to become Batman?


  1. From the time she was five, Zora had recurring dreams in which she was a 6’5″ warrior queen who could fly and shoot lightning from her hands. She made a list of all the skills she would need to master if she wanted to actually become the superhero she dreamed of being. Sample items: martial arts, evasive driving and bomb diffusion. She actually checked off most things on the list… and then had a run-in with the CIA.
    [continued at This American Life]

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