Batman Vs. Sherlock Holmes: Who Is The Better Detective?

06/23/2015 01:20 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2016
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Who is a better detective, Batman or Sherlock Holmes?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Answer by Mark Hughes, Lifelong comics reader & collector. Has written about comics for years at Forbes & Batman-On-Film.

I'd argue that Batman is the better detective, for a few reasons.

First, Batman's skills have been demonstrated in the context of very complex modern cases with larger "casts" of suspects, bigger and more varied motives, and in which villains have a great deal more sophisticated means of deception at their disposal.

The latter point might lead you to say, "Ah, but the sophistication of means of deception is matched by Batman having access to more modern equipment, which Holmes lacked." True, but that leads to my second point: Batman has to have the addition of far greater scientific and forensic skills to deal with and assess the much larger body of information he has to work with due to the greater degree of sophistication in the villains' methods.

Next, consider that Holmes in fact has a very myopic, intentionally limited skill set. He expressly avoids knowledge that is not in his view directly applicable to his detective work and which doesn't interest him. The number of fields in which Holmes is proficient pales in comparison to the fields in which Batman is among the world's foremost experts.

Moreover, many of Holmes' scientific pursuits and beliefs are based on falsehoods about biology and science. Fans may say his beliefs represented the best knowledge of his time even if mistaken, but that means he often made mistaken assumptions and reached mistaken conclusions, so in judging him as a detective we cannot simply ignore this based on the notion "he thought it was true."

Holmes appeared in about 60 stories total, including short stories and novels. Batman has appeared in thousands. Thus the sheer volume of casework, accuracy, and detail is much greater for Batman as well.

It's not entirely fair, but since we are comparing the two head-to-head we must take into consideration that Batman's cases frequently include magic, monsters, and other overt supernatural elements; and aliens, sci-fi creatures, and outer-space travel, thus requiring a much higher level of knowledge and ability to apply his knowledge to any given situation.

This translates into a key point in understanding why the comparison is not really a fair one -- each man is a great detective within the context of the time period he works in, and within the limitations inherent in that context. Holmes was a detective long ago, in a limited environment and at a time of comparatively limited scientific understanding. Batman by contrast has been in local, national, global, and intergalactic stories with modern and advanced science that is far more reliable and detailed.

This is all why I think we can say Batman seems to be clearly the better detective, but the comparison is flawed because it ignores context and the limitations with which Holmes was forced to work. Holmes' achievements can be said to be quite excellent in light of those limitations, even if the simple comparison gives Batman the edge. Had Holmes existed in today's world, or Batman in Holmes' period, I suspect they'd be considered equals in most regards.

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