Sirens sounded in my head when a church friend of mine said he was a “DC fan and a Marvel Fan.”
I immediately doubted. My internal self was basically saying: “Are you kidding me? How can anyone love DC? Marvel is amazing! Isn’t DC a collection of over-powered, boring characters? It’s impossible to love DC as much as Marvel!”
Now all you DC fans can wipe the sweat from your brow because The DCAU (DC Animated Universe) definitely proved me wrong (that and the Dark Knight Trilogy). I began to realize that DC had some stuff going for it. Also, enfisis on HAD. (Ben Affleck’s recent “Batman” especially is not worth talking about.)
I believe the DCAU ultimately captured the essence of what Superman and Batman (DC’s most famous characters) were always meant to be. Since the DCAU accomplished it’s characters so well, it is one of the best areas to compare DC characters, especially it’s most popular: Superman and Batman.
Who was better: Batman or Superman? If you’ve known me for at least a little while you already know my answer, but it is true to say that because of the DCAU I enjoyed both these characters more than I ever had (Perhaps with the exception of their Lego Movie versions 🤗). This will not be an analysis of who would win in a fistfight, but rather who is the better hero because what truly wins our hearts is always the better character, not just the better fighter. While this won’t apply exclusively to the DCAU it will draw from it.
Spoiler warning for the DCAU!
Let’s start out by talking about possibly the most famous superhero in history: Superman.
My Grandma said she loved Superman as a little girl. I can see why Superman was her hero. He is strong and has a very righteous heart. The bad guys don’t stand a chance. Not to mention, it was incredibly satisfying to see DCAU’s version punch Darkseid into oblivion at the end of Justice League Unlimited.
And that’s what Superman is. He is super to be super. He is the hero you can always count on. He is super so that kids don’t have to feel like bad guys win all the time. He is basically the most superhero a superhero can get.
But… because he is so super there is a point where he can become somewhat un-relatable. The bigger questions start coming out. Superman is good, but why is he good? To be good? Because it is the (very cliche) “right thing to do?” There doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer to these questions. Superman is great and that is why.
This is where the difference in Batman comes in.
Now for most, Batman does not inspire the same sense of awe that Superman does. He’s not “everyone’s hero.” Batman doesn’t have an ounce of the capability Superman does… but he can handle a lot.
Let me tell you two stories:
- There once was a boy. His parents died when their home planet was destroyed, but they managed to save him, just a baby at the time, and send him to earth. He was adopted and raised on a little farm with good-hearted adoptive parents. He grew up and became loved by almost everyone. He was determined to fight for what was right and was usually victorious, making the world a better place.
- There once was a boy. His parents were murdered in front of him. The boy blamed himself, forcing him to grow up quickly. He vowed to avenge their death so that others may not go through what he did. To cover up his new and true identity that came with his most profound feelings, he put on a persona, living at constant war with himself, determined, despite any hardship, to enforce justice in a dark world.
I’m sure you know who is who here. Notice I did not mention them being superheroes at all. I carved out the entire superhero aspect and boiled it down to possible basic story skeletons. Notice that Superman’s story is much less intriguing without the superhero aspect, while Batman’s story remains quite interesting. Superman is interesting because he is a Superhero. Batman is interesting because he has a lot of trauma.
I mentioned Batman’s identity because it is not just about his suit and nightly crime-fighting sprees. It is not even mostly about that. Batman’s identity goes deeper psychologically. The ideals and convictions of Batman are the true Bruce Wayne, while the outward Bruce Wayne (self-righteous, sometimes irresponsible, rich dude) is his true mask. Even with the mask on he scarcely shows his true self to others.
Superman isn’t hiding his true values when he is Clark Kent. Clark is just his outward disguise so people don’t suspect he is Superman, which the use of a disguise for most superheroes.
Batman isn’t a good superhero. In fact, he’s not even super. At the core, he’s a good character, and a good character is a relatable one. He cares about others, not because he was born some sort of ultra kind guy, but because he understands hardship. Most great characters take action when life hits them down. That’s what Batman does.
Superman is a superhero. He is amazing. He is super helpful. He is all we wish we could be. Superman though, is not like us very much. He is there to be our superhero, but not as often our fellow struggler, and even then his threats tend to be only surface level. When he does encounter something that deals with his fundamental character, he is definitely at the hight of interest, but it seems there is never something that continually weighs on Superman’s shoulders. He is Superman. He has it together. That’s why some may call him overpowered, not just because he has “too much power” but because it seems impossible for him to lose hardly ever. We all know “the good guy who has a good life and has next to zero problems” can get annoying. Basically, Superman is not an underdog.
Batman fails more, yet he still keeps pushing himself.
When we usually think of superheroes we think of characters with astonishing capabilities, but are those really the most super of heroes to us, or are true heroes people fail and who don’t succeed unless they keep trying with determination till they do?
Any great superhero character must first be simply a great character.
Batman’s essence better accomplishes this. The DCAU gave Superman about as much flaws and relatability they could without changing his primary character (and he was definitely at his best during those times), but it still wasn’t to the same degree as Batman. While the story of Superman is a comforting bedtime fantasy about victory, the tale of Batman is a depiction of brokenness and hanging on to convictions despite the world’s pounding calamities. (This is part of the reason I don’t like Ben Affleck’s Batman: A Batman who doesn’t hesitate to pick up a gun and blast a bunch of guys isn’t Batman. Batman’s number one rule has always been to not kill.)
To finish off PLEASE treat yourself to this hilarious Studio C sketch, which shows the bothersome aspect of overpowering superheroes:
Maybe you have different thoughts! Who do you think is the better superhero? Why? Thank you so much for reading! Bye, for now, everyone!
P.S.For all those who follow my doll blog, as of now, my it is temporarily down. I might not be able to get it up for at least a little while, which is real bummer, but I’ll try.