Happy new book day, everyone! This week marks the six month anniversary of my Batman column here at Sourcerer, so I thought I would follow the themes of sixes and write up a little bit on what is known about Bruce Wayne’s six masters who trained him during his travels around the world before he became Batman. It took quite a bit of digging to find what information I have on these characters, and I have to include the disclaimer that some of my findings may no longer be canonical since the onset of the New 52. In fact, there are many possible masters out there who could be the six Batman himself admits to training under, and I will attempt to organize them by theme.
There is one master who is set in stone across all of continuity at this point, and that is Henri Ducard. Depending on which version of continuity you consult, however, Ducard is either a hard-edged French bounty hunter who taught the young Bruce Wayne detective skills, or a brutal French hit man who taught Bruce what he called the art of manhunting. Either way, Ducard is responsible for many of the detective skills Bruce Wayne acquires in his journey. On a side note, Liam Neeson originally introduces himself as Ducard when he first meets Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.
There are several other teachers that have been revealed during Scott Snyder’s run on Batman in the New 52, and those include a bank robber who taught Bruce tactical driving (Bruce knocks him unconscious and leaves him for the police after he learns all he can from him) and a trap master who taught Bruce aspects of escape artistry. In pre-New 52 continuity, much of the latter skill set, along with ventriloquism, sleight-of-hand, and stage showmanship, were taught to Bruce by magician Giovanni Zatara, father of Zatanna.
With advanced detective skills, Batmobile operation, and stage magic out of the way, there are still several skill sets to look through—namely the sciences, tracking abilities, and martial arts. Admittedly, it’s unclear who many of Bruce’s science teachers were, but there must have been several. He demonstrates advanced knowledge of forensic pathology, chemistry, and mechanical engineering, among many other disciplines. It is likely a lot of this knowledge was accumulated during Bruce’s time trying to find the right fit at a university.
In terms of tracking abilities, Bruce sought out a diverse array of instructors, including groups of tribesmen from South Africa. In the first volume of the original run of Legends of the Dark Knight, “Shaman,” a young Bruce Wayne travels to Alaska to study under a world-renowned hunter named Willie Doggett. It is also during his travels in Alaska that Bruce goes on a vision quest which helps set him on his later path in becoming Batman.
Batman’s martial arts masters are certainly many, and various iterations of his continuity list several standout examples. Included are Yoru-sensei of Japan (featured most prominently in Batman: The Animated Series), the immortal Master of the mystical city of Nanda Parbat, and Kirigi (a ninjutsu master retired to the mountains of North Korea for whatever reason). Older continuity also included such characters as boxer Ted Grant (also known as Wildcat) of the Justice Society of America, entities that no longer exist in the New 52.
Though it is unclear how much Bruce learned from him, Ra’s al Ghul must also be included in the list of martial artists Bruce Wayne encountered during his travels. Some stories, such as Batman Begins and the Arkham Origins video game, actually show Bruce being instructed by the League of Assassins/League of Shadows for a time before parting ways with them over ideological differences. Regardless, Bruce did encounter Talia al Ghul and father Damian during his journey, and it is likely he encountered and learned from Talia’s father. Some hints given as to Bruce’s New 52 past suggest this, so for the purposes of this post, Ra’s is one of Bruce’s six (or many more) masters.
That’s it for this week. What do you think of the information I was able to collect and relate? I’ll admit that thinking of all the various people Batman studied under was partly responsible for the idea that spawned my posts looking at real people with Batman as a critical lens. I hope to do more of those posts in the future.
In other news, this week is the 25th anniversary of the release of Tim Burton’s Batman film in 1989. Check out my recent review of it to see my thoughts on its relevance and how I feel it has held up over time. And don’t forget that this year is the 75th anniversary of Batman’s first appearance, the main reason this column even exists. Go out and support your local comic shops!
I want to thank you all for reading these posts for six months now. I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on Batman and have found some of this accumulated knowledge informative, even helpful. I’ll be back next week with more on the Caped Crusader.
My numerous comic picks for this week:
Batman Eternal #12
Batman Beyond Universe #11
Superman #32 (review forthcoming)
Sinestro #3 (review forthcoming)
Justice League #31
New Avengers #20
Uncanny Avengers #21
Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #6