There is an unashamedly hopeful voice at the back of my mind that wants to say ‘we are, all of us, superheroes’. And perhaps we could be, but we’re not, are we? In fact, the only only human who we might justifiably give that tag to is one Mr B. Wayne, and he’s a fictional character whose existence (despite the perhaps over-zealous beliefs of a few) is restricted firmly to paper and screens. But he also happens to be the long-time hero of Neuroscience and Kinesiology professor, ‘biomedical scholar’ and martial arts devotee, Dr. E. Paul Zehr. Being the target of such idolatry won’t wish him into being, of course, but Bruce’s one shared trait of human mortality and homo-sapien limits does add a shred of feasability to proceedings.
Zehr then, in what he himself describes as a dream piece of research – and what I describe as the singularly most ingenious and simultaneously bizarre book I’ve ever read, puts the very idea of whether Batman could exist up on a pedestal, and then considers with his entire rational arsenal whether the scientific spirit-level is square enough to support it. Throughout he does this by considering everything from biomechanical functions to fighting style, sleep patterns to body conditioning, dietary needs to genetic make-up, and all the while manages a semi-formal tone of the kind you might expect from a knowledgeable teacher who knows how to enthuse a classroom.
Not all the time, however: Zehr occasionally loses any charm to the necessary evils of science fact and it’s at these times readers may find themselves waning. I, for example, dropped the sciences from my education as soon as I could, because though a ravenous hunger for explanations of earthly things drove me, my progress was blocked by teaching I found hard to relate to. A quick warning then: if you are easily numbed by detailed but necessary scientific theories and lessons (some of which I was thrilled to find I remembered), Becoming Batman might not be for you.
Further, much to the disappointment of many a bat-fan, and to the false belief of my commuting compadres who probably thought me to be reading comics in hardback, Becoming Batman is neither comic related subject matter and occasional referenced panels aside nor will it teach you how to become Batman. What the book is devoted to, however, is exploring if the creation of ‘a Batman’ is possible, and it’s not a trivial consideration by any means. So, on the journey to find out, what type of industrial dye or paint Bruce uses on his apparel/vehicles is never discussed, and neither are the finer points of the day-to-day running of Wayne Enterprises while its company head goes caped-crusading Gotham-wide. Instead it is the potential making of the man that is considered
What we get out of this is a highly researched, very fairly reasoned and considerably factually-supported tome that not only discusses the potential for the most human of superheroes, also educates us in quite some depth about the limit of human existence and physical and mental prowess. That Dr. Zehr manages to add any style to his efforts (and let’s be fair, scientists aren’t known for their ‘suave’), is a credit to the man and a credit to his obvious enthusiasm for his work and interests. That one of those interests is Batman is definitely a boon to anyone who’s ever seriously considered if one such man could exist. It’s also certainly far less a boon to anyone wanting to be him.
Becoming Batman is available now.