Batman Vs. Superman: The Definitive Superhero Debate

26 07 2012

The following post was originally an article on This or That, but was lost that one time they forgot to back up their server and it crashed and everything was terrible. In light of The Dark Knight Rises and the upcoming Superman reboot, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this issue.

Vs.

Every once in a while a debate comes along with such profound cultural importance that it shakes Internet message boards to their very core. Kirk vs. Picard. Lord of the Rings vs. Harry Potter. Smurfs vs. Snorks. There is one debate that towers above all others, though, and with new movies on the way representing each side of the issue, now more than ever that question needs to be answered. Who is the better superhero: Batman or Superman?

When it comes to superheroes, nobody else comes close to the widespread, mainstream appeal of these two characters. If you’re a Marvel fanboy then you might argue for Spiderman or the X-Men, but come on. Let’s be reasonable here. Batman and Superman have been allies and enemies for decades now, and between the two of them they’ve had arguably the most iconic and lucrative superhero films of all time. One of them is a troubled vigilante who prowls the streets at night looking for evildoers. The other is a corn-fed pretty boy who flies around in tights and claims truth, justice, and the American way as his motives for do-goodery. So which one of them is the best of all time? Here are some points to consider before you make up your mind:

Origins

Batman: Bruce Wayne was just your average, everyday rich kid on his way home from the local cinema when his parents were shot dead in cold blood in front of his very eyes. From that day forward he had naught but vengeance in his over-privileged little heart. He used a combination of fierce determination and a near-endless supply of money to become one ass-kicking dude dressed in an animal costume.

Superman: Kal-El was just your average, everyday rich kid whose parents could afford to rocket him into space when their home planet of Krypton was on the verge of physical collapse. So they did it, and he ended up on Earth. Once there, the rays of our yellow sun gave him the powers of a god and he used those powers to protect the little guy and really tick off bald egomaniacs.

Advantage: Batman. Superman was just too young to be properly traumatized by his parents’ deaths.

Young Bruce Wayne

Super Powers

Batman: Batman doesn’t have any super powers and he doesn’t need them. He has a fierce intellect, a chiseled physique, and more toys than F.A.O. Schwarz. Don’t think that’s enough? Ask any of the countless supervillains he’s handed out a beatdown to if they think he needs the powers of flight and/or X-ray vision. I’ll bet they say no.

Superman: This guy has just about every superpower you could think of. Faster than a speeding bullet? More powerful than a locomotive? Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, which seems kind of pointless considering he can just fly over them instead? Super hearing? Heat vision? He has all of that and more! And you know what? It’s just silly. Every time old Supes is in a bind, they seem to invent yet another superpower to get him out of it. That’s makes for lazy writing and, frankly, lazy superheroing.

Advantage: Superman, I guess, but it’s still lazy.

Eye lasers!

Weaknesses

Batman: There are many things which could cause an untimely demise for the Caped Crusader. For instance: a shotgun blast to the face. Also: getting stabbed in the face or hit with a blunt object in the face. What I’m getting at is all that fancy body armor he wears still leaves part of his face uncovered. He is also vulnerable to something called the Omega Sanction, which sounds incredibly lame and we will discuss it more in a bit.

Superman: Everyone knows Superman is vulnerable to Kryptonite. Specifically, green Kryptonite. There are other colors of Kryptonite, but what they do depends on who’s writing the story and if I were to list all their effects then that would increase the word count of this article by approximately five billion. Suffice to say, if you’re going to fight the dude then for the sake of consistency and ease of use just stick with the green stuff.

Advantage: Count the number of times Batman has been shot in the face and now count the number of times Superman has been exposed to Kryptonite. Batman wins this one.

Pocket full of Kryptonite

Costumes

Batman: The man is dressed as a bat… and it’s awesome. Why does dressing like a bat look so cool? Well, it doesn’t unless you have a superb sense of style. Luckily, Bruce Wayne has exactly that. He knows that criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, and he uses that to his advantage by looking like someone who is just crazy enough to beat you within an inch of your life.

Superman: You have to give props to Superman for wearing red, yellow and blue spandex and still looking surprisingly good. His is perhaps the most iconic of all costumes, often imitated and frequently parodied. His real costume, though, is his Clark Kent disguise, and that’s where he falls short. The man hides his identity by parting his hair on the other side and slapping on a pair of glasses. Apparently his superpowers include blinding people to the obvious?

Advantage: The goddamn Batman.

Stylin'

Secret lairs

Batman: The Batcave must smell pretty bad. It’s dark, dank, and most likely full of bat guano. It is, however, the perfect hideout for a brooding vigilante such as Batman. It’s all the toys that make the Batcave so cool, though. It’s like a museum of ass-whooping, and Batman is the curator.

Superman: The Fortress of Solitude wins the award for coolest name, but it turns out it has that name for a reason. It’s cold, sparsely furnished, and just not a particularly fun-looking place. No one is ever going to want to hang out with you there, which I guess is fine if you’re some superjerk who thinks you’re sooooo much better than everybody else.

Advantage: Batman again.

The Batcave

Arch-nemeses

Batman: There is no other supervillain in the annals of comic book history as singularly awesome and frightening as the Joker. He’s not in it for the money. He doesn’t aspire to world domination. He just wants to make people’s lives miserable, and that applies to Batman more than anyone. He kills one of the Robins by brutally beating him with a crowbar and then blowing him up. He paralyzes Batgirl by shooting her in the spine and then tortures her father (Commissioner Gordon) and tries to drive him insane. He is as unpredictable as he is psychotic, and that’s what makes him such a formidable opponent.

Superman: Like the Joker, Lex Luthor would go to just about any length to show up his arch-rival. He hates Superman for his power and intellect, and that hatred drives him to do some pretty extreme things. For instance: he once became President of the United States.  And sure he almost got Earth completely annihilated while he was in office, but really what President since the beginning of the Cold War era hasn’t done that once or twice?

Advantage: Batman, no contest.

Boners.

Sidekicks

Batman: Most sidekicks are just kind of silly. Not so for Robin, the Boy Wonder. Whether you’re talking about Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, or, maybe even Tim Drake I suppose, they all have their own complex back stories and host of emotional and psychological issues.

Superman: The closest Superman ever had to a sidekick was Krypto the Superdog. I love dogs as much as the next guy, but… come on. No one should make a dog wear a cape.

Advantage: Yeah, it’s Batman.

Laid an egg.

Best Movies

Batman: You might think I would name The Dark Knight Returns or even The Dark Knight Rises as the best Batman movie of all time. WRONG! The best Batman movie of all time is the one that has this scene in it:

Superman: As far as Superman movies go, the only one really worth talking about is the first movie with Christopher Reeves. After that they just kind of got worse and worse with each sequel. Then there was that one Bryan Singer directed which was about eleven hours long and had about as much action as a lecture on semiotics.

Advantage: Adam West.

In category after category, Batman comes out ahead. But I’m sure he’d be magnanimous about it.

Batman & Superman: BFFs!

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