No, Batman isn't the coolest person in comics. Consider: Batman is a little nutty. There are tons of stories where Batman is portrayed as an uptight dude who doesn't understand the kids and their loud music. He just turned himself into a corporation. Batman's sidekicks have included a dog in a cowl.
But also, comics have plenty of other characters who are cooler than Bruce. Here are 10 of them. Feel free to come up with your own nominations for comic book characters cooler than Batman in the comments — or if you believe that absolutely nobody is cooler than Bats, we'd love to hear why you think that, too.
10) Dr. Strange
He lives in a Brownstone in Greenwich Village, which is always being destroyed by mystical forces and rebuilt, over and over again. He's just as comfortable teaming up with the Hulk, Silver Surfer and Submariner as he is joining the Avengers. He's suave and totally poised, and he can rock a ridiculous big red cloak. Nothing fazes him, from Lovecraftian horrors to the weirdest extradimensional absurdities. Dr. Strange just cocks an eyebrow and keeps on going.
John Gaunt is a mercenary and detective in the city of Cynosure, at the nexus of dimensions. He manages to keep his footing in a city where the laws of physics and the nature of reality change depending which neighborhood you're in, which is pretty impressive. He's a scarred veteran of the Demon Wars, who no longer believes in anything except standing up for his friends. He owns his own bar, where just about every comics character comes and drinks — and his sidekicks include an alcoholic lizard named Bob. He'll kick your ass as soon as look at you.
She's our favorite fake ninja, who takes down international conspiracies and major supervillains while making it up as she goes along. As Douglas Wolk explains to us, "Whisper is cooler [than Batman] because she is a ninja and a superhero despite not wanting to be a superhero and not even being sure exactly what a ninja is."
7) Jakita Wagner, Planetary
The first of two Warren Ellis characters on this list, Jakita Wagner is the daughter of the legendary Century Baby Lord Blackstock. She doesn't appear to age, but still has a low boredom threshold. And in one crossover story, she actually fights Batman to a standstill and then makes fun of his fetishy costume.
6) Margarita Luisa "Maggie" Chascarrillo, Love and Rockets
Part of a sometimes very realistic universe that veers into magical realism, the occult, superheroes and weird science fiction stuff on occasion, Maggie starts off as a "prosolar mechanic" who specializes in rocket and robot repair. Later, she becomes an apartment complex manager in L.A. — but she never loses her love for the stories of Space Queen, and she always understands the healing power of comics. Maggie is a survivor, who never stops kicking ass even she's dealing with depression and heartbreak.
5) Bigby Wolf from Fables
The Sheriff of Fabletown is a detective and a problem-solver, but also a major tough guy who can turn into a ginormous wolf. He's got a kickass wife, he fought Nazis, and he's defeated the North Wind in combat.
4) Adele Blanc-Sec
She's a writer in pre-World War I Paris, which automatically makes her cool. But also, she faces down mad scientists, reanimated Egyptian mummies, sects of demon worshippers, and tons of other weird creatures. She's not afraid to shoot guns, drink the hard stuff, or smoke like a man. She spent World War I in cryogenic suspension and then rocked the 1920s. When giant tentacles appear in the River Seine, she's who you want on the scene.
When Batman got his spine broken, he put on a fake mustache and a fake British accent, and went around the world looking for Shondra Kinsolving, a magical negro who fixed Bruce's spine using her special healing powers. When Barbara Gordon got her spine broken, she became something more than just a female version of Batman — she became one of the most important heroes in the DC Universe: Oracle. Sharpening her super-hacker skills, Oracle becomes the linchpin of the hero community while running her own Birds of Prey team. She's capable of kicking your ass without ever leaving her wheelchair. (I know, now she's back to being Batgirl, but while she was Oracle, she was cooler than Batman.)
2) John Constantine
He's like the rougher, trenchcoat-wearing version of Dr. Strange — a mystic badass who combines the "noir detective" archetype (complete with trenchcoat) with the "tough magician" archetype. He's endlessly cynical, snarky and not somebody you want to screw around with. He's capable of manipulating anyone, even Swamp Thing and some of the DCU's biggest heroes, when the stakes are high enough. He even smokes in the Batmobile.
1) Spider Jerusalem
The hero of Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem is a gonzo journalist who speaks truth (and sometimes just the word "fuck" over and over again) to power. He takes on evil politicians and weird conspiracies, without ever selling out too much. He'd probably do a lot worse than smoke in the Batmobile.
Thanks to Douglas Wolk, Robert Clough, Cyriaque Lamar, Annalee Newitz, Keith Veronese and Lauren Davis for the input!