Though he lacks superpowers, or perhaps because he lacks superpowers, Batman has always been my favorite superhero. Whereas Superman relies on brute strength and near invulnerability, The Dark Knight has little more than his brain, his well-conditioned body and a handful of gadgets.
Instead of putting on tights and fighting crime as a way to use some sort of magical powers, Batman dons his cape and cowl in the interest of justice and as a way of dealing with the brutal murder of his parents. Not only does Gotham's mythical hero lack superpowers, he always fights at a disadvantage because he refuses to kill - a creed that his opponents don't adhere to.
Superman basically had no choice of career. When you can fly, lift a house over your head and shoot lasers out of your eyes, it's pretty hard to live a regular life. The Man of Steel got to pick between being good and being evil, but he really had no option to simply be a normal person.
Batman, however, is not only a normal person, but a normal person with an incredibly privileged life who could have taken it easy. After his parents get shot, he could have simply spent a tiny fraction of his considerable fortune to hire others to track down their killer. Bruce Wayne could have had his own justice, his own revenge, and then returned to the life of a wealthy playboy.
Instead, Wayne chooses to remember the pain of losing his family and in some ways relive it every day. He sacrificed a life of leisure and in many ways a life at all, to dedicate himself to trying to make sure that no little boy ever stands crying over his parents as they bleed to death in the streets.
Of course, the real tragedy of Batman's mythical quest is that no one man, no matter how well-trained or how dedicated can stem the forces of evil. While Batman can make positive inroads, the sheer volume of evil means that no matter how many bad guys Batman locks up, there will always be ones he can't stop in time.
The story of Batman teaches us that tragedy can either crush you or give you purpose. As America saw when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, a disaster makes some people better and drives others towards depravity.
We've seen it time and time again throughout history as during every crisis people have a choice to stand aside, take advantage of the situation or devote themselves to helping others. In essence, some of us become looters, others cower in our houses and just a handful of us become heroes.
How we respond to crisis can define us as individuals and it most certainly shows the world who we truly are. Choosing heroism certainly takes a lot of courage and it often comes without reward. During Katrina we were bombarded with images of people looting and celebrities showing up for photo ops showing how much they cared. We rarely saw footage of the regular folks who risked their own lives to help their neighbors, friends and strangers.
Batman may not exist, at least the way Hollywood shows him, but in some ways anyone who sacrifices for others with no thought of personal gain represents what the Caped Crusader stands for. These folks may not prowl the night in a menacing costume or drive a tricked out car, but they are heroes all the same.
Daniel Kline's work appears in over 100 papers weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.