Like the Man of Steel himself, I’m taking this debate from the perspective of talking people down from a fight before going in fists first.So, if you arrived at this article hoping for an argument about who would actually win, well uh, sorry, I guess? I firmly believe that pitting these two characters against one another is stupid, and I also believe that calling Superman a “God,” a “Jesus metaphor,” or simply “boring” to prove why you don’t like him entirely misses the point of why he exists, and the way he’s been made on page and on screen for all these years.
Superman is a character that once resonated with his readership more than any other. He’s more than just an orphan boy from Kansas. He’s more than a Big Blue Boy Scout. Superman is not from here, and by “here” I don’t mean America, I mean planet Earth. Like many of his readers, Kal-El himself is an immigrant, but is also among the last of his race and heritage of Krypton, welcomed to his new home on Earth with open arms. The identity of Clark Kent is his disguise, but his altruistic upbringing by his father sets the stage for the man he became when he moved to the big city.
Superman is a symbol, and when portrayed the right way is not just a shoddy Jesus parallel. He is supposed to be representative of the absolute best of what humanity is capable of. The fascinating part of his character is his humanity through all the excessive displays of superpowers. He doesn’t use his strength and ice breath to save people because it makes him feel good, but to inspire hope and give second chances. Despite his true home being millions of lightyears away, Superman is someone who is proud of the planet he lives on and the people who live on it, and does everything possible with each millisecond he is capable of to give the world a chance to get itself back up on its feet. This is his motive almost to a fault.
Clark Kent is a man that never believes he’s been able to do enough. His self-deprecation comes from his sense of duty to the world that has taken him in. A minuscule mistake can cost a life, and it’s cemented into his conscience.
One of the most praised Superman comics, “Peace on Earth,” depicts this idea as he spends his Christmas attempting to solve world hunger. Due to the evils of the world taking advantage of his generosity, however, this wasn’t a possibility. The effort was simply too big for just one man. Even Superman can’t be at his best working alone. As a set of powers, and as a character, Superman functions thousands of times better as a leader of the Justice League.
The growing dislike of Superman over the years is understandable as the world has become more and more confusing and dangerous and its people more jaded. It’s no wonder that people take more of a liking to Batman.
The Dark Knight conquers the fear and darkness that sits inside all of us by using it against the most despicable evils. The pumping up of these two characters entering a cage match in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (wow I really hate that title) recycles the age old debate of who would win in a fight, but is causing most people to forget that, as members of the Justice League, Superman and Batman are yin and yang to one another. Between their views on society, on executing justice and on making Earth safe, these characters are two sides of the same coin. Because of this, I think that even bothering to argue who would win in a fight is pointless. Even if I wanted to try, I’m not going to write thousands of words about the cost of Kryptonite, the power of Earth’s yellow sun and the limits of Bruce Wayne’s bank account when there are plenty of other people out there who have accumulated amazing research on it. Hell, Screw Attack broke down how Superman could defeat Goku from Dragonball Z, and because the internet is so adamant about taking Superman down a peg, they did it twice.
I haven’t seen Batman v Superman, so I don’t know how he will be portrayed in the movie, but assuming he’s relatively the same as he was in Man of Steel, a movie that I loathed, it’s a strange way to have these two characters meet for the first time. Pulling mainly from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns from the very beginning, even when it was announced during Comic Con 2013, Batman in this film is “wiser and world weary.” If he’s anything like in the book, he’s both physically and spiritually broken after the death of Robin by the hands of the Joker and years of retiring the cowl. Ironically this is a more experienced Batman essentially going up against a Sophomore Year Superman.
In this DC Cinematic Universe, we’re witnessing the beginning of Superman’s career in heroics. I was one of the people who hated the movie, but more because I thought it had a really dumb plot, akin to one of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, where instead, most criticize it for its interpretation of the characters. However, in retrospect I find that I can poke some holes in a lot of people’s problems when nitpicking of Man of Steel…
First and foremost, a lot of people’s problems with the film arose from Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. I find that Costner did a fantastic job with the scenes he was given, but the already overlong film didn’t allow for enough screen time for Clark’s most important father figure. The entire idea that Superman is representative of the good soul of humanity is built in his relationship with his adopted father.
Most viewers refer to when Kent Senior suggests that Clark should have maybe let some kids die instead of exposing his powers. In hindsight, people jumped on that moment a bit too harshly. This film tried to be a contemporary telling of these characters and therefore making them more honest. Jonathan Kent is having an honest moment with his son by saying he doesn’t know absolutely everything. He doesn’t have all the answers like every child thinks their dad might, but what he does know for certain rings true with every version of Jonathan Kent, in that he knows his son is intended for a greatness he doesn’t even understand.
However, the scene that did infuriate me the most in Man of Steel was the death of Jonathan Kent. This is a scene that is more often supposed to be a nuanced, moral lesson for Clark: his father has a heart attack and Clark comes to a realization in a moment of grief that there’s nothing even he could do to stop it. In Man of Steel this is turned into a bombastic action scene involving a tornado that is absolutely contrived and therefore meaningless, all boiling down to the fact that Jonathan Kent had a limp and wouldn’t allow Clark to save him because he couldn’t let a handful of people see him jog to save his father.
In regards to the amount of destruction Superman took part in causing in the final act of Man of Steel, I was one of the many who was infuriated by it when I walked out of the theater. Superman is supposed to be a character that is willing to save anyone he can in the midst of an attack. How could he possibly allow Zod to destroy X number of people and still have the nerve to kiss Lois Lane in a crater that probably has somebody’s ashes in it? The strange thing is, I didn’t think about this differently until I saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2. You’re going to have to bear with me for a moment.
When I saw the first Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield, I was one of those people that didn’t like the script’s interpretation of Peter Parker. People found him to be whiny and arrogant, and his relationship with his Uncle Ben was more angsty than we’d ever seen before. Whether you liked him or hated him in the role, Garfield’s Peter Parker was a millennial. It wasn’t until seeing the sequel in 2014 that I realized, “This character has grown a lot in two movies.” Between the beginning of the first Amazing Spider-Man and the end of the second, I came to the realization that in Sony’s own crazy messed up way, we actually got to see Peter Parker grow as a person and learn from his mistakes. It just happened to be over the course of two mediocre movies. While the Amazing Spider-Man franchise never panned out, this was implementing the kind of attention to character writing that is usually put into episodic TV writing, except the film industry had decided to take notes from that in building these massive superhero franchises.
My point in regards to Man of Steel is to consider that his fight with General Zod is his first attempt to defend the Earth from an alien attack. His style of fighting here isn’t out of negligence, but inexperience. We know from the trailers for Batman v Superman that this is huge problem for the people of Metropolis, and that both Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne have their own agenda in regards to Superman’s heroic attempts. It just may be possible, if this movie turns out to be good, that Superman will be the honorable, overly conscious character I had described before by it’s conclusion, experiencing that magic dash called “Character Growth” and just in time for the forming of the Justice League for the first time ever on film, and we really need that. The more the world becomes dreary and dark, the more we need to see figures of hope in our popular culture, but even more so we need to see the likes of these drastically different characters working together for a greater good.
Despite all the joking, I am looking forward to seeing Batman v Superman as much as everyone else is, but will obviously be going in on Thursday night to take it for what it is: a movie. It will be cool to see all these characters together on screen for sure, but I don’t have too much confidence in Snyder as anything other than exclusively visual filmmaker. But, just like people said about Watchmen back when that came out, it seems that he was very “ambitious” with BvS: Dawn of Justice, and that could be a worse thing to take away from a film as big as this. Right?
Batman v Superman comes out this Friday, March 21. Let us know in the comments who you think will, should or could win in this cinematic bout!