“Excuse me, while I geek-out on you,” as Dean would say. This essay is for a chosen few, but chances are, if you’re still reading, you’re one of them.
This is not a classic fistfight between the three most popular superheroes. The outcome of that would be obvious. Batman would win, because he would wait until Superman had trashed Spidey (see attribute #1, below), then he’d wail on Superman with Wayne Enterprise’s stash of kryptonite (attribute #2). Neither is this a match-up of DC vs. Marvel. I won’t even go there.
My question: which of these superheroes is a better reflection of human nature?
To say that Superman is invincible and powerful would be an understatement. He’s practically omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He is also all-loving. He refuses to kill his archenemy because, well, everyone deserves a fifth chance. The man has no dark side, and not so much as a character flaw, unless you count his decision to be nerdy at his day job or the fact that he is simply too good. Superman doesn’t remind me of me, he reminds me of Jesus. Did I mention that he’s an alien? Sorry, Man of Steel, I like you but you are not like me.
Batman is the opposite of Superman on almost every level. He is completely devoid of any super power. However, he is made super by two attributes (see application above). Attribute #1: Batman is possessed of the “will to power” (Nietzsche). He ruthless and occasionally psycho in his drive to do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals. He has embraced his dark side. Attribute #2: Bruce Wayne is obscenely rich and can purchase whatever technology and training necessary to kick maximum ass. Sorry, Dark Knight, but I’m too poor, too soft, and too sane to walk in your shoes.
Enter Spider-man. He’s not very super. His personality is all wrong. Sure he has the powers, but he occasionally loses them in a fit of insecurity and self-doubt (Spider-Man 2). Or he attempts to augment them by embracing evil powers from outer-space (Spider-Man 3). He is in love, but he consistently fails to do what it takes to woo, win, and keep Mary Jane. He might succeed for a time, but he immediately botches it in the next movie. He ends up killing most of the bad guys he faces, but it’s usually on accident. The first one wasn’t, but that has haunted him ever since. He has unique gifts, which he is uncertain how to use and often neglects, but gifts nonetheless. He is a man at variance with himself, darkness and light conflicting within him. Peter Parker reminds me of me.
In conclusion, Tarantino’s thoughts on superheroes, spoken through Bill in Kill Bill Vol. 2: “Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.”
Clark Kent is the image of Peter Parker. And they wonder why everyone loves Spider-man!