By George Stahl
You would probably say that 80 years old is a little advanced in years for a guy to be fighting bad guys. Especially if they have names like Riddler, Joker, Mr. Freeze and Cat Woman. Well, then if you think that, why don’t you tell him the next time you see him? Just be careful, he might have one of those cool gadgets with him and really do a number on you, maybe even leave you hanging upside down by your buster browns.
It’s just two years before the United States was brought into WWII, and the situation in Europe was getting way too out of hand; it was only a matter of time before the Americans got involved. At the same time, for whatever reason, the youth of America were fascinated by superhero-type characters. One of the most famous and most often imitated was a guy named Superman. The alter ego of Clark Kent, or in this guy’s case, it’s probably the other way around. It was this Kryptonian that the boys of America wanted to be. That is until, just a few months after his debut in the comics, another guy, with an even weirder, vague backstory came rolling into Metropolis.
On this day in 1939, Bruce Wayne got a bat in his belfry, and he decided that Gotham needed another superhero, one that could take care of the seedy underworld while Superman was fighting international madmen, and saving the world. Bruce only wanted to save New York, and maybe a nearby state or two. Unlike Clark, a farm boy from the Midwest, with hardly a dime to his name, Bruce was a wealthy, New York billionaire, and he was willing to put his money where his mouth was.
So, when Bruce decides he wants to put himself out on a limb, he needs a way to hide his face. He opts for a whole mask, a cowl and a killer black cape. For some reason, Bruce decided that taking off his eyeglasses and dumping a tube of Brill Cream in his hair just wouldn’t be enough for him.
When Bruce came onto the scene, he appeared in the 27th edition of Detective Comics and was billed as The Amazing and Unique Adventures of the Batman! Amazing, yes. Unique? How so? For one thing, he lacks any super power to set him above mortal man. He is mortal man. He can’t fly, he can’t walk through walls, and he can’t outrun a speeding bullet. Wow, that’s a lot of can’t for a guy who seems to be invincible.
Another thing about Batman, he doesn’t have an extraordinary interplanetary connection to another world. He’s an Earth guy, and only an Earth guy. Despite Superman having a family in the Midwest, Batman is a real home-grown hero. Even Captain America was enhanced. Batman, not so much. He’s just a poor, rich orphaned kid with a mansion and billions of dollars to help him fight crime.
Tony Stark has a suit, Thor has a hammer, and the Guardians of the Galaxy have Groot. Batman has Alfred. The aging butler who seems to have an uncanny intuition when it comes to his ward. The closest thing Batman has to powers is his elaborate computer system in the Bat Cave and his toys.
When The Batman first appeared, he was a little different from what we see today. In his debut, Batman was already an established crime fighting, masked, cape man who scurried around the city like a bat, under the cover of darkness looking for the man who killed his parents. Other than that, the public back then knew very little else about him, other than he was Bruce Wayne when he wasn’t dressed for Halloween. In his quest to find the man he wanted, he made enemies with another charismatic guy on the other side of justice known as The Joker. That was his grand entrance into the world of comic books and onto the shelves of little American boys everywhere.
He evolved over the years, as did his story, his quest and his purpose. The crowd he hung with grew too. Robin came into his life, along with a dog named of course, Bat Hound. Enemies started coming out of nowhere, and before you could say “guano,” the Bat World was heavily populated. Then he was drafted to help stop the Nazis.
Through all of this, the changes, the challenges and the defeat of the Nazis, Batman never showed signs of any super powers. He was just an average, American billionaire guy who knew right from wrong and who occasionally allowed the lines to be blurred for the common good. Take away his utility belt, the Bat Cave, cowl and mask, and you have…the guy next door. The one who mows his lawn, takes his wife to the movies, and his kids to school. Some of them have left that lifestyle to fight for the rest of us overseas. Superheroes.
In this world of Avengers, Guardians, and Supermen (or what’s left of them after Endgame) the ones who are the real heroes are the ones you see every day, trying to make a living, to be good people and to raise a good family. They are the men and women in the armed services and those who protect and serve us here at home.
If they put on black cape, mask and tights after hours, I don’t know, and don’t care. During the time they are needed to, they do their jobs and they do them well. They are here for you and me.
They are you and me. Some of them, like Batman may even be 80 years old, and like Batman, they do not have super powers. They are armed with, integrity, open-mindedness, courage, and faith.
They are today’s Avengers.