In the Weekly Standard, political science professor Travis D. Smith has written a response piece to Jonathan Last’s Standard essay on the virtues of Batman as a hero of our (and all) time. Smith counters that in fact it is Spider-Man who embodies the noble spirit of the classically liberal order, and is more accessible than Batman as well.
But this discussion either ignores or underplays the single most important feature of the Batman canon, without which it cannot be properly understood: that Batman and his villains are human. This is not incidental to the storytelling of Gotham City’s travails. Other superhero stories may begin as modern political parables, but they immediately morph into something else entirely. X-Men, for example, may be an obvious retelling of the Civil Rights era, as Last noted, but it proceeds along classic comic lines: superhuman good guys fight superhuman bad guys. Batman is completely different in this respect. The stories follow the human paths on which they set out, offering far more value as a vehicle to telling our own story. On Batman’s lack of superhuman powers, in contrast to his favored Spider-Man (and just about every other superhero), Smith writes: