- Apr 22, 2004
Even if ya think there is a more superiour super hero than these two choices, the point of this meaningful quiz/poll is to debate just these two guys.
A Superman zealot explores a curious cultural divide
By Julia Keller
Tribune cultural critic
Published June 21, 2005
Enough, already. Enough with the brooding towers of Gotham City and its dusky canyons of stone and steel and glass, its night-haunted streets, its cold spires im-paling the indigo sky.
Enough with the guy in the mask who soothes his poor orphan's heart by muscling around in a sports car that gets scandalously low gas mileage.
Enough, I say, with Batman.
It is time for discerning and conscientious citizens to rise up and boldly state the truth: Superman is better.
I know that last week's release of "Batman Begins" has made the title character once again ascendant in the pantheon of super heroes, his two-syllable moniker -- Batman-BatmanBatman -- chanted in theater lobbies nationwide. (Such a gauche and inelegant sound when compared with the sibilant hiss of Superman.)
I know that in terms of cinematic representation, Batman's way out in front.
But I don't care. I am reckless. I say it once more: Superman beats Batman, hands down.
And what better time than now -- as "Batman Begins" woos critics and audiences -- to explore why some people love Batman while others are true to Superman?
In the pop-culture world, this debate marks a fundamental divide. It's like a rock split in two by a lightning bolt: One chunk represents the Batman people. And the other chunk is the Superman people.
Without question, Batman rates much higher on the hip-ness scale. I faced this unfortunate truth long ago. When someone would yammer on about Batman, I would shyly murmur, "Yeah, well, but Superman's OK too," which was as far as I dared go in bucking the dominant paradigm.
This sentiment was often greeted with hoots, snorts, catcalls, put-downs. Superman? Why, Superman is so ....... earnest. So uncomplicated. So free of enticing ambiguity or sophisticated contradictions.
Superman is bright and cheerful and justice-loving. Batman is dark and nuanced and deeply conflicted.
Superman can't help but be super. Super powers coast in his blood; they're as permanent as the wave in his forelock. Batman, however, selected his fate. He chose to transform himself into a crime-fighter, to acquire a cool car, to stock his basement with fancy technology.
Batman can quit. Superman can't. Superman is still super, no matter what. Batman has to get up every morning and decide if this is the day he stops being Batman.
Superman -- as a character in the Quentin Tarantino film "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" (2004) notes -- must deny his amazing powers in the everyday world, hiding his spectacular abilities beneath the drab suit and ineptitude of Clark Kent. Batman, however, moves in the opposite direction: His disguise is to assume the mantle of hero, hiding not his powers but his ordinariness -- an ordinariness that he thwarts with souped-up doodads.
Superman fans are much more interested in what's innate, in genetics, in the destiny that twines in the barber pole of our DNA. Batman fans, on the other hand, are obsessed with self-creation and identity formation.
The essence of Superman's appeal: How to live with your gifts? But with Batman, the question is: How to transcend your origins?
Superman is about being; Batman is about becoming.
Superman hails from a faraway place -- the planet Krypton -- yet seems familiar. Batman arose from a close and familiar place -- you might have gone to high school with that handsome devil, Bruce Wayne -- yet seems like an alien creature.
In terms of artistic representations, Batman fans have a lot more to brag about. The movies based on their hero are much cooler
The Superman movies are campy and silly; they seem to be mocking themselves. They turn Superman (played gamely but ineffectually by Christopher Reeve) into a big Boy Scout, a handsome buffoon. Not only do bullets bounce off his chest -- so, too, do any darts of irony or self-awareness.
Batman, however, has been allowed to evolve into a fascinating character on movie screens and in the many graphic novels that continue to re-tell his story. Yet the score may be evening a bit; recent graphic novels such as "It's a Bird... " (Vertigo, 2004) by Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen are quirky, eloquent, even moving recapitulations of the Superman myth.
So there's hope for Superman -- hope that he might emerge from the long twilight of Batman's pop-culture shadow.
In the meantime, those who love Batman will root for their guy, and the Superman fans will pull for theirs, and each side will remain convinced that the other side is a bunch of losers who wouldn't know a decent superhero if he crashed right through the sliding-glass patio door at suppertime.
Batman people -- I pity you. But I'll never understand you.
- - -
If you love Superman . . .
YOUR FAVORITE COLORS ARE . . . Bright, bold, and primary
YOU TRAVEL . . . Alone
YOU REVERE . . . Strength, grace
YOU BELIEVE IN . . . Truth and justice
YOUR FAVORITE GADGET IS . . . None. Who needs gadgets?
YOU THINK HOLLYWOOD . . . Doesn't understand purity of heart or nobility of purpose.
YOU ARE . . . Shallow but sincere
YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF DAY IS . . . Morning
If you love Batman . . .
YOUR FAVORITE COLORS ARE . . .Muted, muddy, and murky
YOU TRAVEL . . . With a sidekick
YOU REVERE . . . Intelligence, canniness
YOU BELIEVE IN . . . Vengeance and skullduggery
YOUR FAVORITE GADGET IS . . .Everything. Gadgets rock!
YOU THINK HOLLYWOOD . . . Gets it.
YOU ARE . . . Deep and ironic
YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF DAY IS . . . Midnight