There are a few universal truths when it comes to Batman. The trauma of losing his parents as a child drove him to constantly try to eliminate crime in Gotham, his alter ego is a billionaire playboy, he is the world’s greatest detective, he doesn’t kill and he always finds time to meticulously shape all his equipment into bat form. Another major quality, that has been one of the driving forces leading up to his career as a superhero, has been his need for perfection. In order to fight crime and become a symbol of fear to criminals, Bruce needs to train and become the best at every skill that would help him fight the forces of evil. Anything less than perfection means that his failures can and will lead to innocent people getting hurt or it means the bad guy will never face justice (or so he thinks).
To achieve his goals, Bruce traveled the world for 10-15 years (this has varied over the years) training in every skill that might help him in the future. He has mastered almost all forms of martial arts, become an escape artist, honed his detective skills, stunt driving, chemistry, marksmanship, burglary, engineering, psychology, the list goes on. (Incidentally I would LOVE to read an ongoing comic series detailing the years of his training, get on it DC!). Even though Batman has learned meditation, spirituality, and human mysticism, one thing that he has not conquered is magic.
It is generally understood that if there is a skill to become proficient in, the Dark Knight has mastered it. So why not magic? Batman definitely recognizes magic as both a real and useful tool in defeating supernatural or otherworldly beings. In fact, he enlists the help of Zatanna and John Constantine whenever he goes up against a magic-based foe.
Some would say that since other heroes are expert magicians, there is no need for him to learn it himself. However, our caped crusader would never fully rely on some other hero completing a job for him. Even though Batman does not practice magic, he is no stranger to it. There have been instances in which he has managed to perform a spell or two when left with no other choice. The fact that Bruce would use an ability that requires a certain amount of skill and not perfect his expertise within that field shows that he intentionally does not dive deeper into the magic realm.
It would make sense that he would encounter enemies who are proficient in magical ways on a regular basis, so it would also make sense for him to add it to his skill repertoire. Plus we know of one godlike spit curl superhero that has a history of going rogue who also happens to be weak against magical energies. This seems to certainly be enough motive to learn so why hasn’t he?
Of course the real answer to this question is that if Batman learned magic, we would lose the Batman character we know and love. For this reason, it is very likely that writers will never make Batman the Sorcerer Supreme of the DC universe, which is a good thing. I, like many fans, love the character the way he is; using his physical and mental abilities to bring justice to the world. All I am saying is, this is a pretty big gap in his character that should have a solid explanation. So let’s examine a few justifications that are circulating the internet.
One theory that I am personally not a fan of is that Batman does not have a natural affinity to the mystic arts. To me this seems like a lazy way to offhandedly dismiss his lack of interest in magic. Not only would the Dark Knight see this as a personal challenge to overcome, he could always stock up on magically infused items and equipment that would make actual spell-casting unnecessary. Also, we see other characters in DC that are supposedly not magically inclined, for example, the before mentioned Constantine.
Other fans speculate that magic by its very nature is unpredictable and unstable while Batman prefers the reliability and control that technology offers him. I believe this idea is closer to the truth. Batman is definitely a control freak and plans everything to work in his favor 100% of the time. He prefers to rely on his wits and physical abilities to get the job done. However, this is not the case all the time. Technology also has its flaws and isn’t always reliable. Even a simple rifle can jam from time to time.
Also, it would fit within Batman’s personality that he would also view this as a challenge to overcome. I will grant that since the Caped Crusader has stated that magic is just a science that isn’t fully understood yet, he would have to devote an immense portion of time studying and fully realizing this mysterious science. Batman simply just doesn’t have the time, but Bruce Wayne did have the time during his years of training. Is there some untold story that turned him away from using magic? (Again, DC please!).
So if natural ability and the nature of magic aren’t the issue, what is it? My theory is a concept that is actually very familiar to Batman. Remember way back in the beginning of this long winded post when I briefly mentioned that Batman doesn’t kill? Well this is because if he were to ever mentally justify killing someone, Bruce knows himself well enough to know that it would be easier for him to justify the next murder. When you really take the time to examine this character under a bat-microscope, it becomes apparent that Batman is actually as disturbed as his villains and is the very definition of unhealthy obsessions. The difference between him and his enemies is that he recognizes his particular brand of crazy and keeps it under wraps. Putting it simply, Batman does not trust himself. If he were to kill once, he knows he wouldn’t be able to stop, hence his no kill rule. If Batman were to become a master magician he would have an incredible amount of power. Too much power, in fact. He knows that if he were to be imbued with unlimited magical abilities, he would go too far and never be able to uncross a very distinct line.
We actually have evidence of this too. In a few different story lines we see what happens when the Justice League decides to forego government control and take over as the government calling themselves the Justice Lords. Justice Lord Batman has no problem with the idea of world domination to protect the citizens of the world from themselves. This is a clear example of Batman having crossed a doorway that he does not come back from and mastery of the mystical arts is one of these doors that must remain closed to him.
I personally think that this brings a wonderful complexity to the Batman character. I have always questioned Batman’s choice to not kill but when you take into consideration that the only thing separating Batman from his rogue’s gallery is iron-clad will, he truly becomes the Dark Knight. He will always choose to opt-out of obtaining more power for the simple fact that he KNOWS that he could not control himself if he had it. Or maybe I am completely off-base and Batman will become a sorcerer’s apprentice at some point in the future. Only time will be able to tell, but until then, keep on theorizing!
Author: Erik Montgomery