Batman or The Batman

D.R. McElroy

Which is better?

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Batman character on rooftop at night with city skyline in the background.Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash

Of all the superheroes out there, Batman is definitely my favorite. He’s weird, he’s dark, he’s seriously screwed up — just like me.

But there’s a sticking point over whether he should be referred to as ‘Batman’ or as ‘The Batman’. To my knowledge, that debate has never really been resolved.

Consider the following:

‘Batman’ is a name, just like Superman or Wonder Woman. We never say “The Superman” or “The Wonder Woman”, so why is Batman sometimes referred to as “The Batman”?

True, it’s mostly criminals who refer to him in this manner. Putting the ‘The’ in front of his name makes him more of an icon than a real person — which is fitting for the aesthetic that Batman wants to set. He wants to be thought of as something almost supernatural, something other than human. This creates an even greater sense of dread in his enemies.

It’s also worth mentioning that a number of Batman’s foes themselves use the definite article (grammar term) before their names: The Penguin, The Riddler, The Joker. They are also trying to create something larger than life with those names. And they’ve succeeded.

In the Marvel Universe, ‘The Ironman’ is only used to refer to the suit itself, something separate from what it is when Tony Stark is inhabiting it. In fact, all of the suits are named like that: The Hulk-buster Armor, the Prometheum Armor, the Model (or Mark) LXXVIII (x)infinity Armor, and so on. But when Stark is wearing those suits, he’s simply ‘Ironman’.

In the movies

The movie titles always use the term “Batman” — unless they’re talking about an AKA such as “The Dark Knight” or “The Caped Crusader”. Superman is often referred to as “The Man of Steel” while Wonder Woman is occasionally referred to as “The Amazonian Goddess/Princess”, though that title isn’t something she embraces. Maybe that’s a sign of humility 😉

In the movies, the definite article is frequently reserved for villains. In fact, in the first Avengers movie, Captain America gives out deployment orders to the Avengers team members, concluding with the immortal words, “And, Hulk: SMASH!” He doesn’t address the Big Green as “The Hulk” and dropping the definite article from Hulk’s name serves to humanize him.

Some movie characters practically beg to have “the” before their names simply by virtue of how powerful they are. Steven Strange’s AKA is “The Sorcerer Supreme”, for example. But Wanda Maximoff is known as Scarlet Witch, though it seems natural that she should be elevated to THE Scarlet Witch as it certainly doesn’t seem like anyone could replace her in this role.

In the comics

If you're a fan of the original comic books, then you probably already know that when The Dark Knight made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 back in 1939 (!), he was named “The Batman” by creator Bob Kane.

Other comics creatures (sometimes not so heroic) may also use “the” (or have it assigned to them by others) to give them icon status: The Thing, The Collector, The Phantom, The Punisher…

Using “The” in front of Batman’s name, in my opinion, definitely moves him from mere mortal to myth or even legend status. And since most of his arch-nemeses refer to him as “The Batman”, that makes perfect sense.

What’s your take?

So, on which side of this debate do you fall? Batman or The Batman? Please leave your vote in the comments. And remember, your decision just might say something about you.

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D.R. McElroy is a published author, writer, and copy editor with 15 years professional experience. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and a Masters in Environmental Resources. A conservationist, naturalist, and environmental advocate, she spends her time writing nonfiction articles on a variety of topics, as well as writing books on contract for publishers. D.R. wants to build a community of people who love nature and wildlife as much as she does, and who want to help protect our resources for public use.

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