First and foremost Batman is a hero. He has a rigid set of morals, and he routinely places himself in danger for the sake of other people and saves countless lives not only on earth, but assisted in saving the whole of the DC multiverse on occasion. Examples of his clearly heroic qualities are; in Detective Comics #1, he chooses to save a little girl over catching his arch nemesis, the Joker, who he has a personal vendetta against, another is in The Dark Knight Returns where he inspires the people of Gotham, leading by example as the city is attacked. However can he be defined as a Superhero? Some would suggest the a lack of superhuman physical abilities or traits is what defines a superhero, which is an easy misconception to make, considering more conventional superheros like The Hulk or The Flash have obvious physical abnormalities. I however would argue that you can further and more accurately classify a superhero based on other essential and often overlooked criteria that really outline the fundamentals of the superhero status.
First of all, what is a superhero? What sets them apart from others? The word superhero was first used in the 1900s, when comic book heros were becoming popular, this gives us important context for the term, not just any hero can be a superhero, they must exist in a world where their real life fans would recognize them as a larger than life hero. For example: Harry Potter isn’t a superhero but Dr. Strange is. This is purely because one exists in a superhero universe and the other does not. Batman is among the most prominent figures in superhero comics placing him in a strong running for a superhero status and that their creator decides whether or not their character is a superhero . It is vital to note that the creators of Batman, DC comics, has stated that he is a superhero consistently. A quote from their website says “Batman is proof you don’t need superpowers to be a superhero”. DC is certainly a credible authority. It is them who helped define the classic superhero. Them saying that Batman is indeed a superhero should really take the highest authority given their status as the creator.
Using more objective authorities: the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a superhero as
Definition 1 “a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also :an exceptionally skillful or successful person”
Dictonary.com also defines superhero as
Definition 2 “a hero, especially in children's comic books and television cartoons, possessing extraordinary*, often magical powers.” *Extraordinary- Going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary
As you can see a universally accepted authoritative dictionary and therefore the english language as a whole wherein the term superhero derives from, first defines a superhero to include a fictional hero that is an exceptionally skillful or successful person. Batman is undoubtedly successful in what he does. He is a multi-billionaire and has a vast array of knowledge on building gadgets that more than compensate for his lack of abnormal physical qualities; a prime example being his brilliant synthesization of red kryptonite, a substance that acts contrary to green kryptonite, Batman was able to rationalize that he could overpower superman to the point that he snaps; the synthesization and Superman’s destruction was something Ra’s al Ghul, a powerful being with other obvious superpowers, was unable to do by himself in the Tower of Babel storyline, a story that I will reference often as it portrays Batman's power in direct comparison to other accepted superheros. Batman has in fact been listed as one of the top 5 most intelligent people in the DC world. Batman has even been shown to best most every other conventional superhero in his universe, which should should even place him even a notch above the average superhero. Batman has also transcended multiple supervillains that conventional superheros were powerless to stop. This is evident in Batman’s defeat of Darkseid, one of the most powerful being in the DC universe, in the confrontation Batman mortally wounds Darkseid with a radion bullet allowing himself and the rest of his superhero team, the Justice League, -in which he is the founder thereof- destroy Darkseid. There are no convincing arguments that definition #1 of a superhero doesn’t apply to Batman.
In definition 2 extraordinary talents are stressed. Extraordinary means incredible but not outside the realm of nonfictional possibility, simply above what is customary, and Batman is clearly not customary even by standards of other superheros. He does thing that a regular human being cannot do, with or without Batman’s wealth. Applying this second test of superhero, it cannot be ignored that Batman possess extraordinary physical talents such as acrobatics, master martial artist, weapon proficiency, stealth, and marksmanship. But Batman’s truly extraordinary powers lie in his cognition with skills of deduction, intellect and foresight. Batman’s preparedness and foresight borderlines precognition, which is undoubtedly a superpower no matter how one personally defines superhero. When these skills are combined with his already peak physical condition and skills, he is truly a force to be reckoned with. Batman’s super genius and incredible foresightedness is predominantly displayed in Tower of Babel storyline, as well as the variant storylines from it, in it we see that Batman has a master plan prepared to defeat virtually the entire JLA (Justice League Alternate Universe), if he thinks they are stepping out of line. Additionally, his plan works, making Batman not only a powerful superhero but possibly the most successful super-villain in this alternate DC verse. Super-villains, it should be noted as in the case of figures like The Joker or Doctor Doom, are considered super based on 1) the scale of their misdemeanors and 2) the fact that they battle a superheros counterpart. If one’s definition of super is based on the scale of his heroic traits as it does in the case of the supervillain counterpart, Batman would definitely qualify for his part in, on occasion, saving the whole of the DC multiverse in multiple other comics.
I would draw attention to Batman equipment, much of which he made mostly himself using his formidable technological knowledge. Using this equipment he is able to compensate for his lack of more traditional physical powers; Batman has also on occasion used magical, supernatural, or extraterrestrial weapons that he obtained himself. He got his equipment not from a freak accident but from his own self exertion; he is self-sufficient. To those who are objective to the fact that Batman is unrelatable due to his exceptional wealth putting him in the top 1%, I would clarify the issue by asking; does his use of his wealth not justify his wealth, and furthermore, does he not deserve his wealth? Batman uses his wealth to create materials and advance his knowledge, used to enhance his performance in stopping innocents from getting hurt; which is his priority further confirming his hero status. Truly heroic qualities, even super heroic qualities. Batman is not the only superhero to wield immense wealth and cognition as powers, fellow confirmed superheroes such as Professor X use their cognitive, not physical, abilities to fight or commit crime.
The thing that I would consider to be the most inspiring or heroic part about Batman is his relatability. He is on the surface a regular guy who is super by means of his own hard work. He pushed passed crippling loss to protect other people and if that doesn’t make a person super, I don’t know what does. Batman is a favourite of the public in this way, landing him on many Top Ten Superhero lists, key word being superhero. The fans, those who build up these characters, have, as a majority, dubbed Batman to be a superhero, he is afterall in the same league as superheroes, in comics and movies. To deny that Batman is a superhero in this sense would be denying the reality that he is an aspirational role-model to many people who might be less inspired by the superheroes who were given their powers with no real conscious effort or by another method that is in someway unattainable to them. So go ahead and crush the dreams of a generation because of your own narrow-minded, uninformed decision. Because maybe Batman is a superhero to them.
To summarize, a superhero can be defined in many other ways, a supernatural physical power, a hero to a wide group, someone with exceptional skills, a positive role model, or going above and beyond normal human limits. Batman can qualify for many if not all of these criteria which leads to the unequivocal conclusion that Batman is indeed a superhero and fully measures up to this title. As we open our eyes to the broader definition of superheros we may make a more concise understanding to the nature of these fictional characters that have come to be enjoyed world round.