Superman vs. Batman vs. Spider-Man

The Superhero as Mirror of the Soul

“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?

Superman

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

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.

 

Spiderman

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!

 

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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Although the details of Superman’s life match up most closely with Jesus i.e. being sent by a father to sojourn with and supernaturally help humanity, his incarnation is shallow in comparison with Christ’s, who more intimately identifies with our frailties and sufferings.

    By the way, did you notice the similarity in the key revelations in last summer’s Superman Returns and The Da Vinci Code. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    😉

  2. Good insight! The illegitimate son of the Almighty One…. Very interesting. I wonder whether or where we’ll see that one again?

  3. In deed, the greatest blog entry I have ever read.

    I’m not just saying that as a Spidey fan or a Superman hater; it raises some great points about these three characters. Points I’ve generally known but never thought about in conjunction with each other.

  4. Thank you for the superlative praise! This is easily the blog entry that I’m most proud of. It all began as a super-nerdy conversation with my friend Dean about Superman vs. Batman as paradigms for ethics, but it grew into so much more. It’s a comforting thought that we can love superheros not merely because they’re entertaining, but because they reflect some aspect of truth.

  5. You’re as ignorant about these characters as Tarantino is. Superman did become Superman because Kal-El/Clark Kent was not born with powers.

    Here are some other differences :
    Contrary to Tarantino, it’s already been established that Batman considers himself to be Batman first. Bruce Wayne is the mask. Superman is the opposite. He’s Clark first, Superman second.

    And it is Batman who has time and again refused to kill his most dangerous enemies. He has refused to kill mass murderers like Joker. Superman, out of the two of them, who has killed before. He has executed when he found it to be absolutely necessary.

  6. As to the movie versions of our heroes, I stand corrected.

    However, Frank Miller might feel differently about your interpretation of Batman as a killer (cf., “The Dark Knight Returns”).

    “Ignorance” or different interpretations?

  7. […] an earlier post, I reflected on the differences between Batman, Superman, and Spider-man. At that time, I was of […]

  8. Batman is the most powerfukl one he could beat any one as super man and foolspidey can’t.

  9. MOI J AIME SUPERMAN ET SPIDERMAN

  10. Hassaan: spell-check.

    Jean Camille: Moi aussi.

  11. Nice post and blog, I am totally with you, Batman wins every time. I just started blogging again and one of the first things I did was look at Christ figures in film, with Batman being one of them. Thanks for your post.

    Peter

    • i think the point is the all three have flaws and make mistakes.Superman strives to be human when he does not even know what that means.

  12. Peter,
    Thank you. At least in terms of superhero movies, we live in great times.

    As per the comments on “Badass Jesus,” yours is the sanest comment I have had in a while. I really appreciate it. Whenever my life/work-induced blogging hiatus ends, I should have some new material to share, I hope.

    F.

  13. WRONG! Spidey wins! He webs Superman up with Kryponite inside and own Batman easy.

  14. Oh and . . . the symbiote suit gives Spidey the blood lust to kill. Alos, Spidey NEVER loses his powers. Going off one movie is pathetic and sad, you HAVE to use the comics. If neither of them knows each others ability Superman wins. If they do Spidey wins. Kryptonite destroys Superman and then Pete vs. Bruce?! HA! No amount of gadgets will save him, he will run out eventually and whatever he throws at pete can web to a wall. Pete wins.

  15. Spider man he can kill batman .batman the fool.and he can kill super man who’s a Allen who where’s pants

  16. Spiderman is the best among all.

  17. Nice article. I think that Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman are the “big three” of superheros. Superman is unbroken and heroic. Clark Kent is his disguise. Peter Parker constantly fights a battle within himself and comes out a hero. Spider-Man is his mask. Batman is dark and troubled. He is constantly pretending to be something that he’s. not. He gives the playboy act to hide his alter-ego. And during the night, he gives himself to fight injustice and save his city. Alfred and Rachel are the only ones who see him for who he truly is. But he can’t be himself. He has to be Batman. Bruce channels all of his hopes and fears into Batman. His rage and his terror. Himself. He doesn’t know who his is without it. Which is why I agree with what Rachel says at the end of Batman begins. Bruce Wayne is the mask. He is Batman.


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