There are two versions of America. In one version, we liberate the world by spreading freedom and hope everywhere. This America is Superman. The other version of America works in the shadows. Covert operations, back channel deals—whatever is necessary even if it is morally wrong. This America is Batman.
I had a college professor layout this dual vision of the U.S. as the reason we are so drawn to these two heroes. I wanted to explore these ideologies further. Especially with Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice set to premiere this month.
I turned to my resident superhero expert, Patrick. Known to his Twitter followers as @ManofTomorrow01, Patrick is my superhero vendor. He introduced me to Justice League 8 and convinced me to watch Arrow. I’m a novice in the comic book world. Patrick brings a deep knowledge about the battle between his hero Superman and my guy, Batman.
This conversation is accessible to everyone—not just superhero fanatics.
DK: Hey Patrick, so right off the bat, I’m guessing that you’re the most excited of anyone I know for the upcoming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie. I feel like I know from Twitter that you saw Man of Steel 60 times. On the debate between the two, you would prefer to be Superman, right? How come?
Patrick: Superman has always been my favorite superhero, ever since I watched a VHS tape at my grandmother’s house with the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons on it. Back then, I loved him because he could jump over a building and punch through a wall.
But when I started watching the 90s animated series he appealed to me because he was such a nice, normal person and was kind to everyone. Clark Kent really became a hero, and I admired him for being this guy that had infinite power, but he still wanted to be a journalist and a normal guy.
That’s pretty much where it went for me, I liked him because he always hoped for something better, for himself and for other people and believed people wanted to do the right thing.
It’s why my first tattoo was “hope” in Kryptonian.
DK: I first became a Batman fan when I was really young watching old episodes of the Adam West Batman show. It was only watching it years later that I realized it was a comedy. From that point forward, I have always loved the idea of a superhero without powers, but gadgets, intellect and stealth.
“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it.”
What do you think about the idea put forth at the end of the Dark Knight? In our society today, would we be better served with a hero like Superman or Batman?
Patrick: I loved the 60’s Adam West show! I loved the Dark Knight, and I think today, a hero like Batman might be more practical or tolerable, because I can imagine so much opposition to Superman due to his strength, being an alien, and how so many people would consider those things as reasons not to trust him.
Batman wouldn’t necessarily be that accepted either, but I think people are happy when justice is retributive, and to me, Batman is more about that than Superman. Making the bad guys pay, preying on their fear, and possibly making them “feel” it, since he generally is depicted as willing to dish out more pain than Superman is comfortable with.
But, my bias showing, I think someone like Superman who is willing to be out in the open and help people and remain humble, and hopeful, pushing for a more inclusive society and “seeing the best” in everyone is what we would need today.
My best friend (and Batman fanatic) has always said that in any Batman vs. Superman encounter that puts their ideologies against one another, it always better serves the story for Superman’s to win.
DK: Is it interesting to you that Batman vs. Superman is setting up the opposite scenario of Ironman vs. Captain America? Batman (Dark Knight) wants to control Superman (White Knight), while Iron Man (Dark Knight) wants to control Captain America (White Knight)? I think it says a lot about where we are with these mythic storylines that this question is popping up in two different franchises.
Patrick: It’s definitely funny that they both come out in the same year. I can’t remember when Captain America: Civil War was announced relative to Batman v Superman (I think the BvS comic con announcement was first) but it’s just a weird stroke of luck they both decided to do the same type of story.
I think Iron Man is definitely, like Batman, the more pragmatic between he and Captain America. It’s interesting how popular Cap is given his “boy scout” nature and the old fashioned, or naive, ideals he champions. It’s just like Sherman, but I hear a lot of dislike for Superman because of those reasons, whereas people love Cap.
I would say if I had to connect it to current events, it is timely to question these hopeful ideas, because I don’t think many people see them as working or having a place in the world as it is. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel film in my opinion because it really started looking at how Cap could function in a post-9/11, post-Edward Snowden world.
Batman represents that suspicion, and skepticism, where he doesn’t trust Superman’s power and strength, or his ability to seemingly be anywhere and see anything.
But I also don’t see Superman as representative of gov’t surveillance or extraordinary rendition, but I think that’s Batman’s perception of him, leading into Batman vs. Superman.
DK: One of the problems I’ve always had with Superman is seeing his human qualities. He kind of falls into the label of, “what does he have to complain about?” A label people sometimes throw on athletes.
I get that Superman’s an alien who lost his entire planet, but it seems easier to relate to Batman’s past. Superman can turn back time. He has only one weakness. He chooses to be Clark Kent. How should we find sympathy for Superman?
Patrick: I totally get that. It makes sense that people see his power and wonder, “how could his life be difficult?”
And really, Batman’s past is so horrible solely because his parents were killed in front of him. But outside of that, he grew up extremely privileged, with endless wealth. I think they both had difficult circumstances growing up, Bruce’s just feels more immediately traumatic, since Clark was a baby when he lost his parents, that doesn’t haunt him like Bruce.
I never felt sorry for Superman, per se, but more admiration with how he chooses to use the abilities he has. I feel the opposite way Tarantino explains Superman in Kill Bill. Instead of seeing the human race as weak and pathetic, he would rather live his everyday life as a regular human.
People might say, “if I had Superman’s abilities I wouldn’t have to work,” or “I’d be an athlete with millions of dollars” etc. But that speaks more to how they would want profit, whereas Superman only wants a normal life where he’s accepted and can help people as a journalist and as Superman.
DK: And that seems to be the draw of Superman. It reminds me of the of the line from the trailer, “you don’t owe this world a thing, you never did.”
Superman chooses to help the world, even when it doesn’t help him back or support him. How far do you think that can go in the movie? Any predictions? What would you most like to see happen in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice?
Patrick: They’ve definitely taken directions that caused me to raise some eyebrows. I didn’t like him killing Zod in Man of Steel. In the trailers it does kind of seem like he’s trying to project some authority, when he tells Batman to stop doing what he’s doing.
I think people will be surprised by the movie, in that maybe they don’t fight as much as we think. It seems like they have one scrum, but then that’s it. I expect them to kind of test each other out before the fight with Batman in his armor.
Doomsday is an interesting way to give them something to fight, especially with Wonder Woman in the mix.
I think Batman will level the playing field with Kryptonite somehow. And I expect Wonder Woman to be the one that brings them together. That’s my hope, at least.
I’d really like to see Superman learn from Man of Steel, I was kind of shocked with all the destruction, so I’m hoping by now he’s more practiced at helping get people out of harm’s way when fighting someone like Doomsday.
DK: Thanks so much for doing this Patrick! We’ll have to do this again after the movie comes out. If you were going to recommend one Superman story I should check out, what would it be?
Patrick: No problem! And definitely, my bff is coming into town to see it, we plan on marathoning it like we did The Dark Knight lol.
I would go with either Superman for All Seasons, or All Star Superman. In my opinion, All Star is the best Superman story I’ve ever read. Got all 12 issues framed on my wall. But both are easy to get into because they don’t fit into any overarching canon or series.