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What Explains The Popularity Of Batman T Shirts?

sublimated image Batman Rainy Roof tops background

There's no question that for someone who started as a comic book character, Batman is a very popular guy - you could even credibly argue he's become a role model for kids and adults alike. But that by itself does not explain why he's become so deeply engrained in our culture or why so many of us wear Batman t shirts. The explanation stems from the fact that he's a bit more than just another superhero, plus the superb marketing of licensed Batman merchandise.

Batman Classic Logo

If you do a search for "superheroes" you'll find a list that includes a large majority of characters who are defined by their unique access to extraordinary super powers. Here's a highlighted list of the most well known popular superheroes from a Google search:

Top 20 Superheroes Of All Time
  • #8: Green Lantern. ...
  • #7: Captain America. ...
  • #6: Wonder Woman. ...
  • #5: Iron Man. ...
  • #4: Wolverine. ...
  • #3: Superman. ...
  • #2: Spider-Man. ...
  • #1: Batman. It was a tough decision, but taking the top spot is the Dark Knight.

All but one on this list rely on supernatural abilites granted to them by gods, freak accidents, devices, technology, or other magical interference that empower them with skills that no normal human can ever hope to attain. They then use these powers to fight evil, often the enemies of society or mankind, and by doing so become heroes in the eyes of their fans. And all have become household names by virtue of their exposure in comics, film, tv and other media.


Bill Finger’s illustration of Batman
Detective Comics #27  (the 1st cover) May 1939.

But note well 2 important aspects of this list. The first is that Batman, AKA the Dark Knight, is the #1 Superhero Of All Time. And we suspect this exceptional popularity is the result of the other unique fact that makes him much more relatable to mortals: he has no super powers. Granted, his secret identity, Bruce Wayne, is super wealthy, but he's still just a rich guy who trained for years to become very fit and skilled in combat. His strength is due only to determination and training - he's definietly not super human, and so his powers are eminently relatable.

Another explanation for his popularity stems from his motivation. As a child, Bruce Wayne witnessed the murder of both his parents on the streets of Gotham. He then turned his victimization into a quest to become a crime fighter in his own neighborhood. So he's a hometown boy who rose up against very high odds to fight for the common good. After the loss of his parents, he endured a self imposed ordeal - years of rigorous and exhaustive training starting in Tibet where he trained in martial arts and sword fighting under Shaolin monks. His training took him to Norway, Africa, France, and eventually the Himalayas where he trained with Shihan Matsuda, who taught him to fight with the katana. His self motivated drive and devotion to his purpose are admirable traits that contributed to his obsessive preparation to confront the criminals of Gotham. By the time he revealed himself as Batman he had honed his skill sets to become the force majeure we know him to be, admired by all.

Obviously, a crime fighter is a hero we can all respect. But more than someone who fights for the little guy, Batman's sense of justice and the dermination to attain it is something that exists beyond the realm of his adventures. References are made to one's inner Batman as a way of identifying with these qualities, whether it's the approach to learning, the ethics of business, or daily life. Determination is a quality respected by all, and when that determination is focused on an admirable goal, success may be seen as a more likely outcome.

Batman The Animated Series

Everyone wants Batman to have their backs. "What would Batman do?" is a question often asked when confronted with a seemingly onerous task. The qualities Batman personifies are those with universal appeal. This helps explain the popularity of Batman t shirts, worn by everyone from educators and scientists, to resistance protestors battling for justice on the streets against tyrants. And although many kids may have Batman shirts just because they are cool, there's a good reason other than the design on the shirt why they are so cool

Unlike other superheroes, Batman has no super powers. He doesn't need them.

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