Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero by E. Paul Zehr
Let me preface this review with the fact that this is not a geeky treatise on all of Batman’s cool toys and tools of the trade. Instead, it’s a geeky treatise on the idea that Batman is one of the few superheroes who has trained to be a crime fighter, no otherworldly or radiation-granted powers. It’s a look at the physiology of what it would take to train to become as good as Batman. It’s a science book so if you’re looking for something else there are plenty of other books about that. If you have an interest in the human body and physiology (and a healthy interest in super heroes) you’ll enjoy this and Dr Zehr is the person to write this book. He is a professor of neuroscience and kinesiology as well as a martial artist and presumably a comic book fan. I got to meet the author briefly when he was the keynote speaker for the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society’s annual meeting this year.
Using copious references to various Batman comics from the golden Age until today, Zehr studies is it possible to train like Bruce Wayne did and what is truly possible in Batman’s world and what is pure comic book fantasy.
In part one, we look at Bruce Wayne before he starts training and there’s an introduction to the endocrine system (hormones) and its role in training. Also we meet Bob, a fictional twin brother for Bruce to illustrate what a more average person would be undergoing daily compared to the intense training Bruce undergoes. Part two looks at training the human body to do what Batman does. Part three examines the role of martial arts in Batman’s training. Part four is about the stresses of this sort of thing on the bones and muscles and what happens when we force ourselves to be nocturnal. Part five sums up whatever is left, probably where we see the most Bat-fallacies as this unit looks as what happens to the body when injured, especially in the lasting effects of multiple concussions and broken bones. Along with that are a comparison of male vs female trained warriors (i.e. Batgirl and Catwoman) and the effects of aging (how long could Batman remain Batman before he gets too old for the part).
Overall, it’s a lot of fun. I’m going to make it reading for fun for my students if they want to see physiology’s real world applications (if you want to call Batman that). It balances the science with lay terms that should be easy for people to read (but not being a lay person I could be overestimating that). If I had one quibble with it, it’s that the author does commit exclamation point abuse! There’s a nice fat appendix (including a Batman timeline) and bibliography. If you like science and comic books, give it a try.
Books: 34 Manga : 36