Batman and Black Panther are alike in a number of ways. Some might even say they mirror each other in their respective comic book universes. They’ve both got penchants for strong-arm tactics, exit strategies, brooding, and black clothing. Neither has immediately obvious powers (if any at all). Prima facie, both seem kind of ordinary next to their more idealistic, square-chinned teammates, some of whom have yet to see any decent movies made about them (namely Superman and Thor). For that matter, the Panther and the Bat are both obsessive about power — its upper bounds, its constitutionality, and in whose hands it belongs. Each is spurred on by defining elements of childhood trauma. (Although Black Panther, as a child, exacted revenge by taking his father’s killer’s right hand, pretty much right then and there; in the New 52, Bruce Wayne doesn’t get around to confronting Joe Chill until the age of 18.)
Both are very smart; both do a lot of blank staring across conference tables while dumber people talk. Both have one big weakness: thundering hubris. You get it.
But Batman and Black Panther also differ in a number of ways. For instance, everyone — in the fictional world, that is — knows that Black Panther’s real name is T’Challa, Chieftain of the Panther Clan, Warrior King of the African nation-state of Wakanda. The 11th issue of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet positioned Wakanda as a kind of constitutional monarchy, so it’s probably easiest to understand the Black Panther as a ceremonial figurehead now. Like if Queen Elizabeth fought crime under the mononym "Queen."
That eccentric billionaire Bruce Wayne spends his evenings dangling henchmen off of rooftops as Batman should be a similarly open secret, what with only half of his face being covered. Somehow, no one in Gotham has put two and two together.
Batman: Year 100 — Paul Pope’s macabre take on Batman set 32 years in the future — centers on this exact thing. A quick detour to 2039: Privacy has been all but stamped out by psychic police and holographic caller ID, so Batman safeguards his secret identity by doing things like blowing up entire crime labs to obfuscate a single blood sample, dosing people with psychotropic drugs, and wearing ceramic vampire teeth. (He also wears lace-up paratrooper combat boots; Robin is a slovenly mechanic with a hoop earring; Oracle is a misty-eyed teenager — it’s bizarre, darkly realistic, and well worth $20.)
There are many, many versions of Batman, as there have been many, many writers who have taken on the character. With the exception of Peter Tomasi turning him into a god, the hero’s core principles are usually the same: über-knowledgeable, handy with the mitts, absolutely terrible at parties. This is how he was situated within the larger DC Extended Universe by last year’s Batman v Superman. And incidentally, this is also how Black Panther was marketed in Captain America: Civil War for his upcoming (and awesome-looking) solo film, which is a painful, agonizing seven months away.
To while away that inhumanely long period of time between now and February 2018, I propose that we do what fans have always done while waiting for things to happen: argue over hypotheticals. And so I ask: Who would win in a fight, Batman or Black Panther?
I have an answer, and it is a good answer arrived at through reasoning that was also good, not to mention deductive, scientific, empirical, without flaw, all that good stuff. Let’s begin with some important questions.
They’re both smart, but which is *smarter*?
(As I mentioned before, in the Darkseid War arc of the Justice League comics, Peter Tomasi imbued Batman with the powers of precognition, teleportation, and telepathy, which is weird and cool but cheating and not canon. Also, I’m pretty sure the "God of Knowledge" wrinkle isn’t popping up on the big screen in the near future. So Batman, God of Knowledge, is excluded from this thought experiment.)
Batman is generally understood to have an IQ just shy of 200 and random-access mastery of myriad subjects, from ballistics to botany. He invented most of his gadgets, which include just about everything short of a gun. He can also do nifty stuff like make 10 minutes’ worth of oxygen last for an hour with controlled breathing and scan his memories like Deckard using that 6-inch TV in Blade Runner. These bio-memory life hacks are almost always explained away by money, sabbaticals in the Himalayas, or just accepted as things Batman does because he’s Batman, "The World’s Greatest Detective."
But while Batman is supposed to be one of the smartest people on earth, Black Panther is one of the smartest people in the known Marvel Universe. He has a genius-level IQ and a PhD in physics from Oxford, yes, but he’s also part of the Illuminati*.
*The one Tony Stark (Iron Man) cobbled together to save the multiverse from assured destruction whenever the need should arise, which turned out to be often. To be clear, this isn’t the Illuminati that Jay-Z and Rick Ross and Lady Gaga are supposed to be in. Sorry, "JAY-Z."
Advantage: Black Panther
Yes, this does matter:
And it’s pretty simple, too. Bruce Wayne, majority owner of Wayne Enterprises, is the richest person in Gotham. T’Challa, again, is king of Wakanda, the richest and most technologically advanced nation in the world. But if you want numbers: In 2013, Forbes estimated Wayne’s net worth at $9.2 billion. He could crash the Batwing and buy six more just like it. He has I could always buy another one, or six money. That was good for third place in Time’s ranking of richest superheroes.
Where was Black Panther in that same ranking, you ask? First, with a net worth of $90.7 trillion. If he suddenly decides he wants to be unbanked, the global economy goes into free fall. (This actually happened during the Christopher Priest run of Black Panther in the 1990s.) He could buy the whole world and still have money left over for equatorial frozen-sea-front property on Mars.
Advantage: Black Panther
Whose suit is tighter?
As in, like, "more fly," not — OK, anyway:
Yeah. It’s made of vibranium, which is the same ultra-durable, responsive alien metal that Captain America’s shield is made out of. It absorbs energy and stops bullets, plus it’s got retractable adamantium cat claws. It also has those silver shards along the collarbone that remind me of the snake chain Kendrick Lamar was wearing in the "Humble." video for some reason.
Different iterations of Batman’s getup have run the gamut from latex to weird, nipple-y chestplates to carbon fiber plates to a full-on mech Batsuit, and none of them have had silver shards. Or adamantium claws.
Advantage: Black Panther
Who’s faced greater opponents?
OK, so this one’s tough, because while both have a reputation for felling foes more formidable than themselves, Batman beat the brakes off of Superman while reminding Superman that he didn’t have to go easy on him. This is to say that the way their fight went down in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was not at all how it happened in Batman v Superman; I’ve been upset about this for a solid year. There was no kryptonite-tipped pike (though there was a kryptonite bonding agent); they didn’t resolve questions of oversight and answerability by realizing that their moms’ names were both Martha. The Dark Knight Returns Part 2, a closer, animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, obviously gets this more right:
Batman fakes his death after this, moves underground, and stops returning everyone’s calls. Goals.
*No* powers? Really?
Well, that’s not entirely true. Black Panther, as a matter of tradition, ate this vibranium-mutated heart-shaped herb that allowed him to "commune with the Panther God." For our purposes that means super-soldier-serum-like strength and agility, all senses dialed to 12, the ability to see in total darkness, and also, KING OF THE DEAD.
Batman, on the other hand, has the powers of deduction.
Advantage: Black Panther
So Black Panther would definitely win in a fight, then?
Oh Christ yes. If it were a best-of-seven series, Batman might take a game off of Black Panther but only because the league (that’s me) couldn’t have a sweep in the finals. I said earlier that Batman used a kryptonite bonding agent and a mech suit to fold Superman like a lawn chair, and that was true. But here’s the thing: Black Panther put the devil on his ass and then ripped said devil’s heart out with his bare hands, all in about five seconds. (The devil is technically called "Mephisto" in the Marvel Universe, but that’s really just licensing.)
So the answer is absolutely Black Panther, and as you can see, it wouldn’t even be close.