What did Batman and Einstein have in common?
The Dark Knight and the Father of Relativity were both superheroes in their own right.
On Sept. 17, bookstores and comic shops around the world will celebrate an unusual but undeniably fun holiday: Batman Day. This third annual nationwide event marks the 77th continuous year of publication of Batman comics, making it the perfect occasion to celebrate both the Dark Knight Detective and his real-life counterpart, Albert Einstein, the Father of Relativity.
Confused? Don’t be. It turns out that the Caped Crusader and the world’s most famous physicist have more in common than you might think.
No, Albert Einstein didn’t vow to fight crime after a tragic childhood, and Bruce Wayne didn’t develop startling new theories that upended the world of science. That much is true.
But Albert Einstein’s real life – the remnants of which are stored at his archives in Israel – and Batman’s fictional biography have more than a few parallels. Similarly, the two larger-than-life characters also resonate with people in remarkably similar ways.
Let’s take a look at the details first. Both men are characterized as having powerful minds well above the norm. Batman’s IQ is frequently cited at 192, 32 points higher than Einstein's IQ of 160. Batman may also have the edge when it comes to muscles, but it’s truly his intellect that drives him.
Gail Simone is the writer of such Batman-related comics as "Batgirl" and "Birds of Prey" and the TV show "Batman: The Brave and the Bold." We caught up with her and other comic book aficionados at the Rose City Comic Con in Portland, Oregon, this past weekend. “[Batman] has an obsession with science and technology that helps him become a detective,” she tells From The Grapevine. "Bruce Wayne may have never developed a world-shaking science along the lines of the theory of relativity, but he did manage to condense an entire CSI lab into his belt, so there’s that."
Einstein and Bruce Wayne were both socialites, mingling with others at galas, awards dinners and the like. Both men also traveled extensively during their early years – Batman to the U.S., Korea and France and Einstein to the U.S. and throughout Europe. It was time that allowed them each to find themselves, says writer James Robinson, who has written for both "Batman" and "Detective Comics." During this time, as well as later in their real-life and fictional careers, they both displayed “a single-mindedness of vision,” says Matt Wagner, who has written and illustrated numerous Batman stories over the past two decades. Nothing, he says, allowed either man to stray from their pursuits of their work.
Beyond all of this, though, perhaps the biggest parallel between Albert Einstein and Batman lies in how, over the decades, they have resonated with people and worked their way into the public consciousness. Einstein is considered one of history’s most famous people. “Einstein's face is the most recognizable face worldwide,” says Hanoch Gutfreund, a physicist at Hebrew University in Israel, a school Einstein helped establish. Meanwhile, Batman is one of the few fictional characters who are recognized in almost every corner of the globe.
That, no doubt, is in part due to their iconic images – Einstein’s shock of white hair and Batman’s black cowl and cape – which can be seen side-by-side in the pages of DC Challenge #6. Published in 1986, that issue is the only time the two characters have every officially crossed paths (although an Einstein lookalike named Professor Overbeck appeared in a few episodes of the 1966 Batman TV show).
But it’s also deeper than that simple iconography, says Paul Gulacy, the veteran comics artist who has illustrated numerous Batman adventures. “These are both individuals who make an impression on people in a humanitarian and familiar way,” he says. “They attempt to change things and achieve positive results.”
That, then, is the true connection between Batman and Albert Einstein: they both serve as the embodiment of a hero, whether it’s a physicist or a detective dressed like a bat. And that's the reason they'll both be remembered.
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