Batman and Superman: Comparing Two Iconic Superheroes
In March of 2016, DC fans will be getting a Batman and Superman movie titled Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It will be Starring Henry Cavill as Superman, and Ben Affleck as Batman.The film is the starting off point for the potential DC cinematic universe. It is exciting to think that the fans are finally getting to see two of the most iconic comic book characters of all time, in the same film.While Marvel has already crossed over a lot of their superheroes with the film The Avengers, audiences has not yet seen how DC will portray their characters in a cinematic universe. What DC is doing differently is instead of Batman and Superman teaming up at first, they will instead be at each other’s throats. It is interesting that they would take this approach when premiering these two characters on the big screen for the first time.
What is it about Batman facing off against Superman that really gets people excited, besides the fact their both iconic super-heroes duking it out? While they are teammates, the depictions of Batman and Superman’s friendship vary from writer to writer. Sometimes they are working side by side, trying to prevent their villains and vilenesses from destroying a city and or universe. Other times, they take two different sides on an issue, and they argue their points until they eventually fight it out. Because of all these different interpretations, it can be hard to narrow down where they stand regarding their relationship. Do they actually hate each other,or are they just friends that get on each others nerves sometimes?
The most common statement usually said about Batman and Superman is how they are completely opposite of each other.Superman is from the planet of Krypton, and has powers are unlike anything anyone has ever seen. In the golden age, Superman was written as the simple true blooded heroes with amazing powers. Then in the 70’s writers like Elliot Maggin, Curt Swan, John Byrne, and even Alan Moore started to focus more on his ideology, and not just his powers. They explored may interesting concepts with Superman, including what he represents to his country, and the rest of the world. He is the embodiment of America, yet he does not pick sides when dealing with other countries. With his extraordinary powers, he has the opportunity to actually create world peace, by showing the world an alternative to war and destruction. He is not just catch missiles and fight giant robots; he also stands in front of podiums, and trying to ague his point of view. Superman essentially represents something that is severely lacking in even our own government; a voice of reason. Presidents and politicians in general try to implement world peace, but contrasting politics and ideologies with other countries weigh down the chance of a perfect world.
Superman continuously tries to help every noble person he can, and in doing so, puts the entire world on his shoulder. While kryptonite can kill him, his true weakness is trying to make everyone in the world happy, and taking on way too much responsibility for a world that isn’t even his own. Even though some citizens love Superman, he also has a lot of people who hate him; they see him as a threat to the world. The citizens feel Superman holds too much power, and the fact that he works with the government makes him look like part of the problem, not the solution. Even though Superman wants to be on everyone’s side, it just proves that trying to please everyone in the world is impossible. Lastly, Superman also has to remember to use his power in limited amounts. Unless he is fighting Darkseid or Doomsday, he cannot lose control of his massive strength, or he could easily break someone’s neck just by flicking them.
Batman in the golden age of comics had a serious tone, but in the 50’s, he started to be portrayed more child friendly. Then in the 70’s, writer Dennis 0′ Neil and artist Neal Adams brought him back to his more serious roots. Then Frank Miller gave us The Dark Knight Returns and then Alan Moore afterwords wrote The Killing Joke. Both told the character in a more dark and adult way, which has never really been done before. Unlike Superman, who has the whole world on his shoulder, Batman has only one city that depends on him. Batman may save the world from time to time, but his attentions primarily remain in Gotham City. He cares little for politics, and he works outside the law as a vigilante crime fighter. Since he is merely human, he only uses his technology, fighting skill and intellect to defeat his enemies.
Batman symbolizes the common citizen, tying to survive in a superhero dominated world. Him being human does not make him weaker than his Justice League comrades, but actually the most capable of all them. In the story Tower of Babel written by Mark Waid, Batman has secretly planned out a way to defeat all his fellow Leaguers, if they ever become out of control.That demonstrates an important factor of Batman, that being he is very paranoid. He doesn’t trust people so easily, and it causes him to work alone, for the most part. In the famous comic Death in the Family, Jason Todd, the second Robin, was killed by he Joker by being beaten to death with a crowbar. It show that Batman takes a huge risk when taking a side kick under his wing. He only cares that the psychopaths are locked away, so no other child will be orphaned like he was. Superman is too busy saving the world, so Batman needs to focus on street level crime. He knows he cannot do it alone, so he has mentors different Robins and Batgirls throughout the years.
Despite how different Batman and Superman are, they do make the world a better place in their own ways. They have a similar moral code that even the greatest of heroes find hard to stick by: that is to never kill an enemy, no matter how bad their path of distraction. Superman does not kill because his powers are so advanced, he can find ways around killing his opponents. He a true boy-scout, because a common motto Superman continuously states to people is that his powers do not put him above the law; he is not judge, jury, or executioner. In reality, the death penalty is seen as the only way to deal with a criminal or terrorist, before they can hurt more people, but Superman shows why this mindset cannot work. He symbolizes how we can find better alternatives to deal with enemies, besides kill them. We as a society just need to be willing to find it.
Batman does not kill because if he did, he would be no better than the criminals he takes down. He may scare criminals to the point they need therapy, but killing criminals would be crossing the line. Batman is basically crazy, yet he is not a menace to Gotham; it would be scary to think what would happen if he was The Joker level of insanity. One would think Batman and Superman would be commended for not taking lives, but instead are seen as weak. This is not because the citizens of their world are necessarily bloodthirsty, but because they are mostly concerned for the safety of the citizens. There is only so many times Superman can put villains into prison, and Arkham Asylum feels like a revolving door for psychopaths. The citizens want world peace by killing all the enemies that threaten their way of living; oh the irony.
While this shows where their ideologies stand, it does not answer how they feel about each other. As previously said, the depiction of Batman and Superman’s relationship varies from writer to writer. There is the World Finest comics back in the 50’s, in which Batman And Superman would team up to stop crime. There is also the comic book Batman Superman: Public Enemies, where Batman and Superman are hunted by all their super-hero comrades, under orders by President Luthor. They both work together and their camaraderie shows they have a well established friendship. Superman even refers to Batman as his best friend in the story. So there are plenty of stories were the two of them are friends, but what about the stories when they are fighting with each other? When anyone mentions Batman and Superman battling each other, there is one specific storyline that often pops into comic book fan’s head’s first.
The Dark Knight Returns
Before he became a rambling writer that wrote all his women characters as either hookers or sexualized objects, Frank Miller wrote one of the greatest and most iconic Graphic Novels of all time: The Dark Knight Rises. It was certainly not the first dark Batman storyline to be written. However, It was the first Batman story to be told in a completely different way. It was a great example of an elseworld story: a story that does not apply into the character(s) continuity, and is primarily made to write a ‘what if ‘ scenario. In this case, Miller explores the idea of what would happen if Batman grew old. In the story, Batman has been in retirement for a long time after the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. In his absence, Gotham City has gone to hell, and is being ran by a belligerent gang called the Mutants. Batman sees that the city needs him, so he decides to bring justice back to his city, and shortly after receives assistance from a new female Robin. Not only does Batman have to worry about the Mutants, but also The Joker and even Superman, who has become a puppet of the American Government.
This version of Batman is more unique than the typical portrayal of Batman because of how ruthless he has become. He does not kill his enemies, but he might as well because he leaves them in a condition that they will never recover from, physically and mentally. Batman is old,and does not have the fighting skill he once had. He has become more desperate when it comes to defeating criminals, even resorting to using a gun to injure a criminal. Batman, the man who saw his parents gunned down as a child, is now resigned to a pistol. That is important to keep in mind when reading this story. The reader needs to take how Frank Miller depicts Batman and Superman with a grain of salt. For one, Miller treats Batman as this anti-authority figure, when really that is a bit of an exaggeration of the character. While Batman tries to keep his nose out of politics, he still works with blue-blooded cops. This is because he and the cops want to help the city become a better place.
Then there is the way Miller depicts Superman. Keep in mind when reading this story that Frank Miller hates Superman as a character, and that makes him a little biased. Something about Superman being the boy scout does not appeal to Miller, so once again, he sort of exaggerates the character. Superman now fights only for the American military, and is used to destroy planes and war heads from other countries. First, it is already established that Superman does not pick sides when it come to war, even though he is proud of being American. Secondly, the big factor of Superman is that HE DOES NOT KILL! Superman is too smart and too independent to follow every order of the government; he is a leader, not a soldier. In short, Miller loves Batman, but hates Supermen
Some may wonder why this comic book is so well-remembered, considering the fact that Miller’s view-point of the characters is very one-sided? It is simply because this is the first real-time Batman and Superman have ever fought. No one was under mind control; this was a real fight between two heroes with conflicting views. The fight also ingrained into our memories that Batman can still go toe to toe with Supermen. Before this comic, the idea of Batman fighting Superman was preposterous. However, give Batman a mechanically armored suit and a shard of Kryptonite, and he’s able to make the Man of Steel a little less invincible.
The graphic novel is still a great read, with excellent political commentary, and a ballsy Batman story to tell, even today. With that said, the depiction of Batman and Superman’s friendship is very one-sided; leaning more towards Batman. There is another infamous DC elseworld story with a similar plot, but a completely different way of telling the story.
The best way to describe Kingdom Come is imagine The Dark Knight Returns, but without all the cynicism. Created by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, the story is told in the style of the golden age of comics. The golden age of comics was a simple time in comics, in which the heroes we there to simply stop the bad guys and to save the day. In this story, they set up that golden age feel, but simply apply it in a real world setting. In this Graphic Novel, The Joker Kills a majority of people in the Daily Planet, Including Lois Lane, and instead of being haled off to prison once again, he is killed by a new meta-human named Magog. Superman tries to convict Magog of the murder, but most of the citizens want Magog to keep patrolling the world as a super-hero, while Superman reluctantly goes into retirement. Now all of the classic super-heroes are old and retired from crime-fighting, and the world is overrun with rambunctious meta-humans acting as “heroes.” After Kansas is destroyed after a meta-human fight, Superman has had enough of the recklessness, and reforms the Justice League.
While The Dark Knight Returns was Batman’s story, Kingdom Come is Superman’s story and his struggle to keep a better world. It is no longer the villains Superman has to worry about, but the super-heroes in general. His ideology of not killing is really better in the end, and story tells the reader why. Now every superhero is killing all the villains they see, and in doing so has created a chaotic way of living, as they care little about casualties and mass distraction. All Superman wants is the humans and the meta-humans to get along, and neither side is seeing a middle ground. It is either the meta-humans need to go entirely, or humans need to get out-of-the-way and to just let them fight. Out of anyone in this chaotic world, Superman is the primary voice of reason the world needs.
Batman is also in the story, but he is not villainized to make Superman look better in comparison; Batman just deals with the meta-humans in his own way. Batman has nearly broken every bone in his body, and needs an exoskeleton just to simply walk. After his mansion was destroyed by Bane and Two-Face when Batman had his identity revealed, he how lingers in the bat cave, and his robotic bat-knights patrol Gotham City for him. Batman is not the antagonist of book, but he has sort of crossed a line with practically ruling Gotham City, so no further crimes can be committed. While Superman represents the meta-humans, Batman represents the normal humans, who are all too often caught in the crossfire of meta-human battles. He sees Superman as weak, because he stayed and protected the world while Superman basically left the world behind.
Kingdom Come perfectly demonstrates how Batman and Superman clearly have conflicting sides, although both those sides stem from the same problem. When Superman is pleading for Batman’s help by the 3rd act of the book, he basically sums up their relationship perfectly.
“The deliberate taking of human–even super-human life goes against every belief I have–and that you have. That’s the one thing we’ve always had in common. It’s what made us what we are. More than anyone in this world, when you scratch everything else away from Batman, your left with someone who doesn’t want to see anybody die”
In other words, Batman and Superman are the only real two superheroes that relate with not taking people’s lives. Not simply because of the fact that they do not want to kill, but also the internal struggle of never resorting to kill just because it is the easy way out. Kingdom Come is essentially how heroes need to help citizens rather than rule over them like self-proclaimed gods, and deep down both Batman and Superman understand that perfectly.
As much fun as is to see Batman and Superman butt heads with each other, when you get right down to it, they really only want the same thing in the end. Superman wants to prevent the whole world from killing each other, and Batman wants the world to be rid of punks with guns, while not stooping to their level. Even in the comics when they are fighting each other, there is still a sign of respect for one another. With that said, it seems like people more associate Batman and Superman fighting each other, which is why Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is being made. It is not bad to see these two fight on the big screen, but if they don’t come to an understanding by the end of the film, then they would have lost the meaning of their relationship. This is concerning because Zach Snyder has said he has been taking a lot of inspiration from The Dark Knight Returns. As stated in this article, That comic portrayed Batman as the undisputed right-minded, while Superman is portrayed as a dog of the military. Let’s hope that Snyder takes liberties when taking inspiration from Frank Miller. There is a reason these two characters have been ingrained as the most iconic superheroes of all time. One way or another, they both represent how we can better ourselves in a violent and at times unreasonable society.
Here is hoping that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will be awesome.
Waid, Mark.Ross, Alex.Kingdom Come. DC Comics. New York, NY:1996
Miller,Frank.The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics. New York, NY:1986
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