One thing I noticed from the real-world aftermath of the Batman vs. Superman movie is a bit of a generational divide. In particular, I see a lot of younger (post-Gen-X) Batman fans have a huge problem with Bruce Wayne getting fooled by an Evil Scheme(tm) because "He's supposed to be The World's Greatest Detective".

This is typically said as if its the single most important defining canonical thing about Batman. What I find weird about that, is I don't think I'd ever heard that before. At least not seriously.

Now, I'm Gen-X myself, and Bats wasn't one of my comics, so my chief exposure to him was from watching Superfriends back in the 1970's, along with occasional reruns of the old live-action campy Adam West TV show.* I've seen some of the newer cartoon series, but haven't watched them all every week like I did with Superfriends when I was a kid.

In Superfriends, Batman did often act as an investigator, but he was constantly getting fooled by the bad guys. If he wasn't, shows would have been like 5 minutes long, because the Superfriends always trounced the bad guys in any stand-up fight. Dude tried, but frankly he kinda sucked, even with big computers with impressive blinking lights and pointlessly thrashing tape reels at his disposal. So seeing him getting fooled in BvS by Lex Luthor was not only not a big deal to me, but frankly expected.

He did have mad skills in the older TV series, but that never really held much water with me because "logic" and what happened there are basically in different universes.

So it seems to me a person's perception of the character changes based on what media version of Batman you've grown up with. Which makes me curious about a couple of things:

  • What media came up with the exact term "World's Greatest Detective"?
  • When did the popular media (eg: non-comics) start taking that so seriously?

* - Yes, I know, my generation sucks.

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    Just because he's the world's greatest detective doesn't mean he knows everything straight off the bat (no pun intended). His "detecting" skills are more a matter of actual crime scene investigation, from what I've seen. Although admittedly most of my experience with comic-book Batman comes from the Arkham video games. But in those he does crime scene reconstruction and stuff. Jul 6, 2016 at 14:33
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    @Valorum - Not being one of the world's greatest detectives myself, it took me a while to realize that your point was that in the picture he's depicted as being better at figuring out something than (presumably) Sherlock Holmes. At first I thought you were making a comment on the title of the Magazine. For us meer mortals, some text with a bare link might avoid a lot of confusion.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 6, 2016 at 14:35
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    @Valorum - FWIW, the date on that issue appears to be 1987, which is later than the two media versions I was raised on (mentioned above). Seems like the germ of an answer to me.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 6, 2016 at 14:37
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    Of all the mischaracherizations in that movie, I'd rank "Batman isn't quite as smart as he should be" fairly low.
    – Rogue Jedi
    Jul 7, 2016 at 2:48

2 Answers 2


I am unable to find the first instance of this title being applied to Batman. However, Batman refers to himself as "the world's greatest detective" in a comic from 1970, meaning that that was an aspect of his character when you were growing up.

Old DC comic

As you mentioned, the 60's Batman series had detective elements, as did the Batman film tetralogy. However, it seems the mid to late 2000's was when "the world's greatest detective" became an explicit and major part of his character.

The Batman (2004):

DC Origins (2004):

DC Origins

Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008):

Batman: The Braves and the Bold

Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009):

  • Great! Shame I can't upvote once more. I would point out that another way to phrase "mid to late 2000's" (the one my nearly 50yo brain latches onto) would be "in the last decade". :-)
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 6, 2016 at 23:13
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    I'm never sure if "mid to late 2000s" means 2050-2099 or 2500-2999.
    – user14111
    Jul 8, 2016 at 1:38
  • @RogueJedi en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000s Obviously, if you add the word "decade", that disambiguates it.
    – user14111
    Jul 8, 2016 at 2:07
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    @user14111 - Unless you think it likely the poster has a time machine, I'd think it would be pretty unambiguous.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 8, 2016 at 13:04

It sounds weird to most of us, but Batman as "dark" wasn't really a thing in the main stream until the Tim Burton Batman movie and then the subsequent Batman the Animated Series really put him over as he was in the comics which was as a detective. Before "Batman" (1989) he was always seen as a detective, but it was camp before that, because that's what comics were in the 60s, and before that he was more of a Zorro figure in pop culture, even though comics were more serious in the 30s and he was a detective then, but that was not mainstream at that time as far as I know. Also, it would have been hard to sell Batman as such with Sherlock Holmes and The Shadow as more popular, mainstream characters of the day.

  • Some comments on why the downvotes here? Not only might it help the answerer improve his answer(s), but it might help me as the person who asked the question.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 6, 2016 at 21:04
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    Not one of the downvoters, but this seems to be more of a comment than an answer. It doesn't seem to address the points in your question.
    – Politank-Z
    Jul 6, 2016 at 21:18
  • "When did the popular media (eg: non-comics) start taking that so seriously?" <- My answer is a direct answer to this. People who seem to look at Batman tag seems to not like my answers. Literally all downvotes are coming from Batman answers and My 2 questions in stargate. Who knows how people decide to up and downvote.
    – Durakken
    Jul 6, 2016 at 21:24
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    The 'When did the popular media (eg: non-comics) start taking that so seriously' specifically refers to the claim that Batman is the world's greatest detective. Your answer says when media started taking Batman seriously, but not when it started taking the claim that Batman is the world's greatest detective seriously - and the latter is what the question is about.
    – user867
    Jul 7, 2016 at 3:42
  • The 2 are synonimous. Batman has always been a detective. People only take the claim he's a seriously great detective when they take him serious
    – Durakken
    Jul 7, 2016 at 9:47

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