The vigilante, dark, brooding Caped Crusader, or the alien, ethical Man of Steel? The same question has been debated between comic fans since Batman joined Superman in the DC Comics Universe in 1939. There are six major themes that fans argue when considering Batman or Superman:
When considering powers, Superman undoubtedly beats Batman, simply because without the money billionaire Bruce Wayne has, he would just be a man in a bat suit running around. Superman’s abilities include superhuman strength, speed, senses, endurance, and longevity, as well as flight, heat vision, freezing breath, and x-ray vision.
In contrast, Batman relies on his keen mind, advanced technology, and master martial art skills to defeat his enemies. Without the money from his trust fund, Bruce Wayne would never have been able to afford his vigilante activities, thereby making him ineffective or inactive.
Batman far outweighs Superman as a character that readers can relate to. Powers aside, Batman’s character flaws and more realistic storylines make the character easy for readers to empathize with and understand. Superman often comes off as a “do-gooder,” and many of his plotlines involve using brute force to get out of situations. Batman, on the other hand, usually gives off an isolated, brooding personality that is more understanding given the situation he has placed himself in.
Batman portrays real human flaws and often makes mistakes when handling his vigilante alter ego. He uses a motivation and a profound sense of justice, to almost insane amounts, in order to carry on his nightly activities. Superman’s personality almost seems unreachable to readers, due to his overwhelming sense of goodness that most would agree does not showcase the darkness hidden in every human mind.
Batman undoubtedly beats Superman with the diverse, extensive range of the rogue’s gallery. The Joker, Batman’s archenemy, may be the most feared supervillain in any comic series, due to his chaotic approach to criminality and seemingly lack of care in any sort of goals, like money or power. The Joker is such an important character to the Caped Crusader’s universe, as he provides the complete antithesis to Batman: complete disregard for killing and ethics, and a rejection of all authority or justice.
Batman’s world also includes antiheroes such as Cat Woman, whose ever-changing storylines pit her somewhere in the gray area rather than a stark black and white, good guy versus bad guy narrative found in Superman’s comics. Superman’s arch-enemy Lex Luthor is always pitted as the “bad guy” with none of the real depth or interesting backgrounds that Batman’s villains seem to have.
Finally, the backgrounds Batman provides its villains make them even more compelling and exciting to read. The fall-from-grace plotline of Two-Face to the radical belief system of Poison Ivy give the Dark Knight’s villains more dimension, as well as make it harder for the reader to simply see the universe in a one-way avenue of good versus evil.
Superman mostly works alone for the majority of his alternate plotlines, but he does have partnerships with Supergirl and Superboy later on in his adaptations. Neither Supergirl nor Superboy are very popular among readers, with Wizard Magazine ranking them 153rd and 196th out of the Top 200 comic book characters of all time, respectively.
Contrastingly, Batman’s sidekicks of Robin/Dick Grayson and Batgirl/Barbara Gordon are typically adapted and well-liked throughout their media and comic depictions. Many Batman movies and television shows feature a Robin, mainly due to the character’s popularity and to show a softer side to Bruce Wayne. Both Batgirl and Robin rank much higher than Superman’s sidekicks, taking the spots of 37th and 68th on Wizard’s list, respectively.
Both Batman and Superman battle the weakness of having to live virtually two separate lives. Batman confronts this weakness by avoiding all human interaction save for his butler, Alfred, and a few companions such as Dick Grayson and Lucius Fox. The separation from society gives the storyline an insight into loneliness, brooding, and dark themes of human behavior.
Contrastingly, Superman battles the weakness by alternating between Clark Kent – nerd, unintelligent, and meek – to the beloved and adored Superman. The seemingly split personalities create a sense of instability for the character.
Superman also has the one major weakness of Kryptonite. Since he is virtually indestructible, his vulnerability to such a substance makes his storyline that much more unbelievable and a bit campy, whereas Batman fights off numerous other weaknesses, such as his own mortality, the pressure of being hunted by the Gotham Police Force, and his own obsession with turning a rotting city around.
The City of Metropolis most likely defeats the City of Gotham, simply based on portrayals in film, comics, and other media. Metropolis often showcases a glowing, vibrant, prosperous city, whereas Gotham is a city shrouded in darkness, crime, and despair. Frank Miller, the author of the comic book series The Dark Knight Returns, has said, “Metropolis is New York in the daytime while Gotham City is New York at night.”
Who Is the Better Hero?
The various factors surrounding the controversy could fill sets of encyclopedia with who is ultimately the better hero. Both Superman and Batman have qualities that make them great, making it hard to decide between the two. The upcoming film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, released March 25, 2016, will hopefully shed some light on the divisive debate.
Pledge your allegiance to the cause: Are you Team Batman or Team Superman? Who will win the epic battle, the Dark Knight or the Man of Steel?