E. Paul Zehr

 

On his book Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero

Cover Interview of May 27, 2009

In a nutshell

Becoming Batman is an examination of a superhero.  I was trying to answer a simple question: Is it actually possible for any human to attain the skills and abilities of Batman?  Batman is the perfect superhero about whom to ask this question as there is nothing supernatural about his abilities.  Batman is a man in disguise, with powers that seem within reach.  Because I am a professor who studies the control of movement, my lifelong passions place me in an expert position to attempt to search out and answer questions relating to the feasibility of a real-life superhero like Batman.

My main motivation behind writing the book was my passion for the popularization of science.  I think scientists should sometimes try the extra effort to translate science into terms that are accessible to the general public.  I have a background in kinesiology and neuroscience, many years training in martial arts and an interest in comic books.  In the “DC Universe,” Batman is the most highly trained and skilled in martial arts, and he is also a scientist.  So, I decided to write something about how the body works and responds to training using Batman as the metaphor for the pinnacle of human performance.  A key thing about Batman’s main mystique is that he is a human being who is “self made.”  This makes it seem that it might really be possible for Batman to exist.  So, I decided to explore and examine the actual scientific basis for this.

Becoming Batman provides the background for people to understand how their bodies work and how they respond to exercise and training.  In examining the possibility of a superhero, I explore the science of stress, exercise and injury using the life of one of pop culture’s biggest icons.  Becoming Batman also tries to challenge the mystique of the reality of Batman and is thus provocative.