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For the longest time, writers have had a fascination with what happens when Superman goes bad. A rather popular website was started partially on the basis of chronicling many of these poorly thought-out moments that were conceived in the older days of comic books - back when no one ever thought of calling the best of them 'graphic novels', because the only thing novel about them was their novelty.

Words don't express just how gauche this is.
- Courtesy of -

There are a lot of reasons for this. Humans have long had a fascination for the concept of falling into evil. The most famous examples are Lucifer in Christianity and Iblis in Islam, but virtually every demon in Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism could also be seen as manifestations of this trope; reincarnation means that virtually all fell into those forms for their misdeeds. A large part of the appeal of the modern show Breaking Bad is owed to its unique conceit of entirely being about the protagonist's fall into unsympathetic evil, from banal and sympathetic directions.

We also have a fascination with moral opposites, ranging from the Anti-Christ, to the Star Trek Mirror Universe, Luke and Anakin, and the recent canonization of The Good Romney, Mitt's dad. Opposites may not necessarily attract, but they are certainly attractive to our eyes.

With Superman as one of the most recognizable and iconic symbols of good in the history of the world, it should come at no surprise that there has been an awful lot of exploration of what should happen if he went bad. Multiple critically-acclaimed pieces of work have been performed on this conceit; The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller revolves in large part around Superman as a government stooge; Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar is about the Man of Steel being raised by the historical man of steel, Josef Stalin (no really, that's what his made-up last name means); and DC's Infinite Crisis had as its Big Bad Evil Guy an immature and insane alternate reality Superboy, driven mad by an imperfect world.

DKR is actually the only time I can recall Miller not doing this to a woman.
- Courtesy of -

Frequently, I run into people who believe this represents the only interesting aspect of the character; I had a long discussion with a very anti-authoritarian friend in the Green Party wherein he frequently labeled Superman as fascist. Batman, he contended, was a better example to live by. To him, Superman is at best unnatural and boring. It's certainly a fact that Batman is - by far - the more marketable hero.

But is it the Clark Kents of the world that we need to be afraid of and the Bruce Waynes that we need to be idolizing?

While I personally find Batman to be a very interesting character, I also believe it to be troubling the way that we culturally endorse and idolize him. The problems with The Dark Knight Rises (and indeed, the entire Nolan Trilogy) as a fascist piece of work are well-known, but it's unsettling that this realization came as a shock to anyone familiar with the general character of Batman.

He's the perfect Republican self-made man. His parents left him on the small end of rich (a very minor help in the long run, as Mitt Romney can tell you! Yes, sarcasm), but the escalation of Wayne Enterprises to the largest company in the DC Universe is all on him. He's also mastered 127 martial arts (I wish I was kidding), and has the equivalent of multiple post-graduate degrees in multiple fields. He acts as Judge and Jury, rooting out problems that no one believes exists and breaking the rules to get the untouchable. His only mandate comes from himself, and it's a mandate motivated primarily by rage and sorrow, emotions which don't leave room for clarity. At least he doesn't torture when he interrogates... unless you consider being confronted in a dark alley, by a physically intimidating man, who you know only through the fearful rumors he cultivates, and then either physically assaulted or partially dropped from long heights, to be torturous.

Don't know why you might think that. And let's not really get into the endangerment of children as he indoctrinates them to act and think like he does. He's even started his own privately-run franchise of Batman, called Batman Incorporated, in which he privately funds vigilantes around the world to use the exact same techniques which he does. Whether through fiscal or physical power, Bruce Wayne is the one-stop shop for fixing every problem around the world.

The problem is not that we have fictional characters like him, or even that we find something admirable about them. There are a lot of popular fictional characters who, strictly speaking, would make society much worse if people aspired to act like them rather than like Wayne. What I find troublesome is that unlike these other characters, Batman is held up as an ideal; the negatives of his crusade are primarily painted as negatives to his own mental health, and not the problematic course that it presents to those he tries to help.

And really, what kind of world is it when guards can't enjoy chocolate? That fiend!

Meanwhile, we disparage or fear Superman in the modern climate.

Superman didn't earn his power. There's never any pretense that he did. Which is why, thirty years before Stan Lee coined the phrase, "With great power comes great responsibility," he was out there trying to save people anyway. He is the ultimate immigrant, who received little from his new home and gave so much more to it. Superman follows the law; Lex Luthor became President, and Superman didn't do anything to stop him besides give out blistering journalistic articles as Clark Kent. Because democracy. A punch in the right place can't be allowed to stop that, even when people make the wrong decision.

Superman operates on checks and balances. You think I'm kidding, but in most continuities, Bruce has a piece of Kryptonite - and Superman trusted him with it in order for people to have a way to stop Clark when he goes too far. Because he believes that absolute power corrupts absolutely. He knows he has to understand that he does not have absolute power, and that the people have to understand that, or everything goes to hell.

Not all captions are funny.

Originally posted to ConfusedSkyes on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 05:24 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Frank Miller comic was funny (9+ / 0-)

    My comic buying was in the era  of 1969-1979 during the Denny O'Neill era of writing Batman so I am just a little disappointed with the even "darker" turn Batman has taken since the mid 1980s.  When O'Neill was writing we had stories which dealt with social issues in a much more humane way.  We had stories about poverty, social work, hell there was even a famous comic concerning Green Arrow's sidekick being a heroin addict.  Turning to Superman, people should check out and deconstruct the narrative of a Lois Lane comic entitled "Black like Me" where Superman turns Lois into an African-American for a day so she can write a Pulitzer prize winning story about African-American life.

    Thanks for the change of pace.  It is depressing to keep fighting the same culture war battles for my entire life, to read of the mendacity of CEO's in the carbon based sector of the economy, or to read of the latest class war Republican economic policies, or the eagerness of centrist Democrats to enact austerity measures.

  •  Obama is more like Supes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ConfusedSkyes, Chrisfs

    Particularly the Supes of the last 10 years or so.

    People keep saying he's a fascist, but they are clearly not paying attention.

    The only exception to this is the Supes in Kingdom Come, and that Superman has undergone a lot of difficulties.

    For those of you who prefer Bartlett to Obama, re-watch the West Wing. For those who prefer Clinton, re-watch old news videos.

    by Ptolemy on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 07:29:09 AM PDT

  •  Law school ruins comics (5+ / 0-)

    There was a great Spiderman bonus comic a few years back, just five pages of this retired NYPD officer complaining about the "Spiderman Defense." Apparently 95% of the criminals Spiderman captures or fights simply argue that Spiderman robbed the bank and then framed them for it. Without Spiderman to testify, it almost always works and they drop the charges at arraignment.

    I used to love me some Batman, but he is essentially an end run around Bill of Rights protections, and he glorifies their violation much like 24 glorified torture. Luckily no GOP never tried to justify violating privacy rights by arguing that Batman did it, or i wouldn't be able to suspend disbelief anymore.

    •  Even before law school (0+ / 0-)

      I never enjoyed Spider-man, or Daredevil, or Batman comics all that much.  All the street-level heroes going after run-of-the-mill thugs and back robbers just seemed boring at best, and oppressive overkill at worst.  I never really bought into "the cops and the courts are helpless" meme (hence my current career), so I really didn't find much drama in reading those types of comics. (I've recently come to regret that a bit after reading the Daredevil "Born Again" storyline).

      I always loved the X-Men - a group of outcasts hated and feared by the world around them who still try to make the world a better place.  And I never had any moral qualms about them beating up on bigots.  I also always enjoyed comics and storylines about galactic-level events or would-be world conquerors.  But a guy who can lift a tank beating up a bank robber? No thanks.

      •  Well the paranoid angle on X-Men (0+ / 0-)

        Is that Magneto and Professor X were never enemies, they both secretly agreed to foster teams of mutants and train them to be highly functioning paramilitary units in anticipation of a future war against homo sapiens. Which would mean those bigots were right and they were fighting against mutant Blackwater Inc.

        I love Joss Whedon's Amazing X-Men series. That man can write superheros.

        Snarka snarka snarka!

        by Hunter Huxley on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 10:53:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  An even scarier angle (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Is the quasi-Randian/Incredibles angle:  that homo superior is truly superior, and that anti-mutant prejudice more closely resembles socialistic attempts to suppress achievement and merit than any parallel to racism, homophobia, etc.

          Of course, neither philosophy holds up well in the actual continuity of the X-books themselves.  Professor X is a jerk in a lot of ways, but neither of the above are the reasons.

    •  Uh, I have heard them do that. (0+ / 0-)

      If I googled for it, I'm sure I could find some more like that.  Batman doesn't read them their rights.  He kicks their ass.

      •  Not as prominently as 24 justified torture (0+ / 0-)

        I haven't heard any S Ct justices bringing up Batman, and they're the ones making new law on those subjects. But i do remember Jack Bauer being used to justify torture on national news,  and now I can't watch that show. Possibly there is a correlation.

        Snarka snarka snarka!

        by Hunter Huxley on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:12:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Batman could and did kick Superman's Ass, so (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ontheleftcoast, mamamorgaine

    Just sayin...

  •  Those "evil" supermen have literally been there (5+ / 0-)

    from the beginning.  Superman's first appearance, in The Reign of the Superman, saw him cast as a villain, corrupted by his power.

    I agree with you 100% about the fascist overtones to recent interpretations of Batman, but I do think that he's a far more interesting character than Superman, precisely because the Nietzschian aspects of the character are so often ignored or suppressed.  With Batman, there's always the possibility that the villians are really heros.  Our notions of what constitutes right, wrong, truth and justice are problematized.  Because Superman is entirely "good", there is no room for his villains to be anything other than entirely evil.  It's just not very interesting.  Superman only confirms what we already know / believe.

    I'm interested to see the new Superman movie.  Frankly, though, I think that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was 10x more interesting and "true" than all of the previous Superman films.  "These... are not the hammer."

    To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

    by sneakers563 on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 08:53:02 AM PDT

    •  Mmm... (3+ / 0-)

      "The title character of this story is a telepathic villain, rather than a physically powerful hero."

      Slightly different. :P

      As a person, Batman is far more interesting. I agree. I don't think that Superman's villains have to be entirely evil, but those are usually when he's at his best; they allow us to cast him in mythical lights of man struggling against a hostile fate. Despite being a Superman fan, I've long felt that he should not really have a solo title, because the average Superman story is going to be very constrained in what it can do.

      I hold concern for the fact that I see people holding up for emulation and adulation the unhinged man (who's more fortunate in his start to life than people usually are willing to acknowledge) who can do everything, than the grounded one who helps just because it is the right thing to do.

      •  Oh sure, they re-worked the character (2+ / 0-)

        and ultimately went the other way.  My only point is that those issues were on the minds of the creators from the very beginning.

        I totally agree with your last paragraph.  I really enjoyed the recent Batman films despite not liking the protagonist at all.  What I really appreciated was that there's room to judge the the characters based on their actions, rather than having them be heros or villains simply by definition.  It certainly gives a lot more room for character depth.  Compare that with The Avengers, for instance.  What was Loki's motivation?  Apparently it was because he was evil.  Why was attacking the Earth necessary?  I have no idea.  Why was the Black Widow character included?  Because she looks like Scarlett Johansson.  Meh.

        To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

        by sneakers563 on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 09:31:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  To get Loki, you had to watch Thor. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angry artist, JanetT in MD

          In that movie, right around the time I was commenting, "Eh, B-, Loki's just being evil for no reason," they actually showed the reason and shot it up to a B+. Not because it was all that deep, but because they played the long game in revealing his motivation.

          It definitely made Avengers weaker, though. I didn't feel Loki was that great a villain for it (for starters, he looks like a git in that outfit), and while I felt their take on Black Widow was fine, I had no idea what the hell Hawkeye was doing in the movie. He was thrown in, in a very "sure, why not?" nod to comics. Those are great, except only when they're brief references.

          Then again, I think any team-up movie is always going to be at a disadvantage the first time around. By comparison, even with the frequent mythology they were referencing from S:TAS, the start of Justice League was still a little weak and the show didn't really get its ground until Season 2. If Whedon stays in charge of the property, I will be more concerned about Avengers getting too dense for its own good.

          •  Whedon is the best thing to happen to Marvel (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ConfusedSkyes, JanetT in MD, burlydee

            in a while. First off after the success of his re-write of Captain America and his direction of Avengers, he now has carte blanche to oversee the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. So there is no way he isn't going to direct Avengers 2, or not be heavily involved in Ant-Man, Guardians of the Universe, or the Thor and Cap sequels.

            But trust me, that's a good thing: there's absolutely no reason to worry that the next Avengers will be "too dense for it's own good."

            Whedon told SFX how he would handle the “Go bigger” policy when it comes to blockbuster sequels:

            “By not trying to [go bigger]. By being smaller. More personal, more painful. By being the next thing that should happen to these characters, and not just a rehash of what seemed to work the first time. By having a theme that is completely fresh and organic to itself.”

          •  Thor and Avengers #1 were set-ups for Avengers #2. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angry artist

            They've been preparing a confrontation with Thanos since the fleeting glimpse of the Infinity Gauntlet in Odin's weapons locker.  Hopefully they won't blow this one - I've been disappointed with the cinematic portrayals of cosmic baddies like Phoenix and Galactus (favorite characters of mine) so far.

        •  The MCU Loki is most sympathetic take on him. Ever (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Moody Loner, lcj98, JanetT in MD

          ConfusedSkyes is right, you have to see Thor to get Loki. (MCU=Marvel Cinematic Universe, all the films are connected threads). Loki's motivation is that he is jealous of his father's love for his brother. Can't get much more of a sympathetic, human and less "evil" motivation than that.

          In Thor, Loki allies with the "evil" Frost Giants and lets them sneak into Asgard to murder his father, Odin.  Then at the end, when Odin is about the murdered, Loki kills the Frost Giant. He set the whole thing up just so he could save his father's life and get a chance at being the hero (instead of Thor) for once.

          There's also some race identity issues - tinges of Hitler-esque hypocrisy (turns out Loki is really an adopted Frost Giant, but then tries to genocidally wipe them all out in one stroke).

          But again, Loki's main motivations are his desire to step out from his brother's shadow, be the hero for once, earn his father's love, and not feel like a monster. If you ask me, those are the best damn character motivations for a super-villain in ANY comic book movie made to date. Ever.

        •  Nolan's villains actually pretty shallow (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ConfusedSkyes, idbecrazyif

          What exactly is human or sympathetic about Nolan's villains? Nothing. Morally ambiguous sometimes, perhaps. But they all operate out of a belief in a philosophy, nothing more. They certainly don't act out of any human, emotional, or relatable motivations.

          There are only two villains in the whole trilogy if you think about it. #1 League of Shadows = Scarecrow, Ra's and Talia al Ghul, Bane. #2 'the anarchists' = Joker, Two Face.

          #1 League of shadows is an organization that believes it is responsible for purging corrupt cities like forest fires create room for new growth. Great, maybe not a totally "evil" raison d'être, but definitely not a human, sympathetic or emotional one. (yeah yeah I know Talia is avenging Ra's, Bane is in love with Talia, blah blah, it all happens off screen and is explained in one monologue/flash back. It has no real emotional resonance.)

          #2 The Joker has no raison d'être other than to sew chaos and anarchy which he defends (rather eloquently) as simply being un-hypocritical and 'ahead of the curve.' Again, not "evil" because this is simply a philosophy. You are free to agree or disagree. His personal traumas that led him to embrace the philosophy are never explained. (which admittedly make him more scary and mysterious, but definitely not sympathetic.) As for Dent/Two Face, (who is definitely the most human of the villains in the series) the Joker simply murders his girlfriend and somehow uses his anger to get him to adopt his own philosophy of anarchy (albeit in the somewhat more simplistic form of chaos=fairness). So yes, even though Dent is motivated to adopt the philosophy out of anger over his loss, he commits all of his murders because of his belief in an abstract philosophy.

          Thus ends my treatise that Loki is actually a much more 'realistic' and 'better' villain than ANY of Nolan's, despite the fact that Loki is a demi-god who travels on a rainbow bridge, and all of Nolan's villains wear suits and use guns instead of superpowers.

          •  I agree with you, in fact it is even cemented (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            angry artist

            During those final moments in The Avengers when Loki finally relents...arguably having the snot beat out of him by The Hulk...and asks "So how about that drink?"

            He right then and there, despite being a demi god, is more human and humanly closeness than anything in the DC universe so far.

            I had hopes for Superman Returns, it fell flat in the third act though. Most likely because they lost a director mid ship, but such things happen in Hollywood.

            I will say this of the upcoming Superman film. I can guarantee this, with Zack at the helm and Nolan producing you can assure this in the bank. The movie will at a very minimum be visually stunning.

            --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

            by idbecrazyif on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:44:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I have no problem with the Joker's motivations (0+ / 0-)

            in The Dark Knight b/c they are consistent with modern interpretations of the Joker's motivations - to cause pain and anarchy for the sake of pain and anarchy.  The Joker's motivations and origins have never been clear, but over the last 25 years I would say he has gotten more psychotic and less based in normal human emotions.  

    •  S&S were riffing on Wylie's "Gladiator" (1930) (0+ / 0-)

      which was an early and more or less "realistic" exploration of the problems that someone with Brick-type superpowers (super-strength and invulnerability) would be likely to have. Wylie made noises about suing in 1940, but seems to have been persuaded that he didn't have a strong enough case.

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 11:16:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I disagree to some extent (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanetT in MD

      I think supes is a much deeper character personally. Batman addresses larger social issues while Superman address very personal moral questions.

      Remember, he dresses at Clark Kent to blend in. He WANTS to be us and we should all really ask...why?

      Why would an alien from another world with near limitless power want to be such a frail and fragile being? What does this incredibly powerful being see in us that he would want to emulate day in and day out?

      That should give pause to anyone analyzing the character and indeed I think the upcoming movie and its trailer surmise it perfectly.

      "You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders." -Jor-El

      --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

      by idbecrazyif on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:54:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Superman only works as an alien (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ontheleftcoast, lcj98, burlydee

    No one knows a real human being who is totally devoid of greed, lust, or hatred.  The supes in the superman animated series and jla u was interesting to me because it explored a supes that had human impulses.  Then again the fucking batman and green arrow were more compelling because they questioned whether they were helping or harming humanity by simply existing.

  •  What I would find fascinating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    would be to analyze superheroes in context.
    Superman and Batman were created in the late 1930's - gangsters, Nazis, and the Depression.
    Superman was the logical extreme of the "Doc Savage" (there were earlier characters, but I use DS because he is remembered) school, characters who strived for popularity by equating great morality with great ability and deeds - wish fulfillment based on "if only I had the power without the temptation". Contrast that with the hopelessness of the Depression and the blatant immorality of the Nazis.
    Batman came out of "The Shadow" - in the depression criminals were perceived as having an overwhelming advantage - acting out of desperation and without morality - as opposed to police, who needed moral restraint to be legitimate and therefore had to allow the criminals to "get off the first shot". Batman's wish fulfillment was "if only there was someone who didn't have to play by the rules, but was always right".
    Most superhero comics began in the war and were targeted for soldiers.
    Superman's publisher was almost run out of business because it was a money laundering front for Louis Lepke.
    The Dark Knight was written during the Reagan administration.

    I sympathize with that sort of interpretation. In my secret identity as a mild mannered, glasses wearing, (once) dark haired taxi permit holder I am a parasite - I take money from taxi drivers so that I don't have to work myself. I had no choice but to accept that role - if I refused the permit literally the next person in line would have taken it, and I would have lost my home and died of exposure for an empty principle. I dream of finding a way to use the benefits of that permit to do the world some good.

  •  Green Arrow and Bats work well as a dyad (3+ / 0-)

    Bats is ok with his wealth, because of his vigilante noblisse oblige.

    Ollie practically renounces his wealth on a regular basis, and makes sure to take down a few corporatists now and then.

    Whenever GA is in the picture, Bats or GL seem less authoritarian.

    For those of you who prefer Bartlett to Obama, re-watch the West Wing. For those who prefer Clinton, re-watch old news videos.

    by Ptolemy on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 11:29:10 AM PDT

  •  upcoming Green Arrow show? (0+ / 0-)

    I'm wondering how the new Green Arrow television show will be handled. With the insane popularity of Nolan's Batman, I am half expecting them to just ape that and make him a standard vigilante.

    If they stay true to the comics, he will be the anti-Batman, and a very outspoken progressive voice. Working within the law, in direct opposition to Batman's Dirty Harry attitude.

    And of course if that happens, Rush and Faux News talking heads will explode. Sure-fire proof of liberal hollywood propaganda. Just like the Bane/Bain comparison. (they of course will conveniently ignore the character's long pre-television history.)


    •  Green Arrow makes absolutely no sense to me. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Never, ever did.  He's good with a bow and arrow?  Big fucking deal.  The other superheroes must pity him.  "Can I hang out with you?  I'm really good with a bow and arrow and I have a spandex costume!"

      •  At least he has a real weapon. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angry artist

        Most of the time Batman has kind of sharp awkward boomerang-shuriken combinations.

      •  Can't single him out for spandex (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Ok, all superheroes have "spandex costumes." But actually, Green Arrow has one of the least spandex-y costumes in DC, compared to Supes and Green Lantern for example. His original costume he looks like a straight up copy of robin-hood. Now he wears a hood. Other than Green lantern is basically the only superhero to sport a secondary color. You gotta give him points for that (so sick of red yellow and blue all the time) And one of the few super heroes with facial hair!!

        Of course in reality being the world's best archer wouldn't be that threatening, but this is comics. Although there is an appeal to superheroes who have to 'rough it' with no powers (cough, cough, Batman.)  But I think you just need a little imagination. I mean, what's so great about the Flash, he can just run fast.

        But the best thing about Green Arrow is that he is a stalwart progressive!

      •  Pity Aquaman (0+ / 0-)

        "Hey but guys, I can talk to fish!"

        --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

        by idbecrazyif on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:39:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Could Be Worse (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          From one of Jabootu's snark Superfriends recaps:

          As I watched the trio arrive at the swamp, I realized I was being overly kind when I commented earlier about how useless Hawkman’s presence was. In fact, he actually represents a detriment to his teammates. Superman, of course, can fly at super-speed. Black Vulcan, presumably, can travel at the speed of lightning. Meanwhile, what can Hawkman’s top speed be? A couple of hundred miles an hour? (To be generous.) For these two, having Hawkman come along must be like bringing one’s three year brother with you, forcing you to slow down to a crawl so that he doesn’t get left behind....

          ...appallingly this means he’s even lamer than Aquaman. At least the latter has a couple of unique abilities, and is in theory handy to have around if going underwater is involved. Moreover, if one of goldfish in the Hall of Justice aquarium is ailing, hell, he can just ask it what’s up.

          On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

          by stevemb on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 04:58:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That was worth the chuckle (0+ / 0-)

            When I had an aquarium I always joked "Man I wish Aquaman was here"

            --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

            by idbecrazyif on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 08:53:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  well done (0+ / 0-)

    very insightful read.

    "Kossacks are held to a higher standard. Like Hebrew National hot dogs." - blueaardvark

    by louisev on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 11:48:26 AM PDT

  •  Reginald D Hunter says F Batman (funny) (0+ / 0-)
  •  the greater power is scarier by default (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angry artist

    There's the literary value of deconstruction, but there's also the simple fact that Evil Batman simply can't pose the same threat as Evil Superman could.  Evil Superman would be at or near the top of the supervillain scale - all but immortal and omnipotent - while Evil Batman probably wouldn't be any more dangerous than the villains he usually faces, most of which are human and could be defeated even without Batman.

    The fear is rooted in the fact that Superman merely decides not to rule us with an iron fist or wipe us all out because he can.  He's the only one who can really control him; if he went evil, or just rogue, there's nothing anyone could do to stop him from killing whomever he thought deserved it and terrorizing the rest into submission.  It's less a fear of Superman himself than of our own impotence.

    Batman couldn't do that even if he wanted to.

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 12:02:20 PM PDT

  •  What about Tony Stark? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ConfusedSkyes, idbecrazyif

    Disclaimer: I've never really been into comics. My exposure to the Marvel universe is entirely through the movies and a few animated TV series.

    Tony Stark is Bruce Wayne without the angst. Now, on one hand, I think the idea that one guy in an automated flying suit could end the war in Afghanistan and usher in world peace is absurd on its face. But accepting the character as he's portrayed in the movies...

    Tony Stark does good because he enjoys being the center of attention and being admired. He wouldn't use his inventions for personal gain because people wouldn't like him if he did that. (Speaking of Robert Downey Jr.'s character, and having absolutely no knowledge of how Iron Man was portrayed in print.) He refuses to turn his inventions over to the U.S. government because then someone else would be getting credit (i.e., "I am Iron Man.")

    Do you find Iron Man less threatening than Batman?

    As for Superman, I'm among those who believe he's a boring character. I could never maintain any interest in Smallville because there seemed to be one plot for all the episodes: A meteorite gives someone power and Clark Kent goes after them to stop them, but someone brings out the Kryptonite, then Chloe saves the day. Lex Luthor was a lot more interesting as a character than Clark Kent's pretty-boy boy scout, because there was always a hint that he had a choice and might actually choose good over evil. Clark Kent is good because he's good and that's all there is it.

    Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

    by elsaf on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 02:26:19 PM PDT

    •  I think emulating Tony Stark would be even more... (0+ / 0-)

      problematic than emulating Batman, especially movie Stark, though comic Stark has more than his fair share of issues. The difference there, I'd say, is that Stark is not only unrepentantly a jerk - the audience knows he's being a dumb fratnerd and that he's flouting moral standards, not exemplifying them. No one ever walked out of the Iron Man movies thinking that Tony Stark would be a great role model for their kids.

      There is some general risk from the fact that he's a very likable and highly irresponsible character, but that's the minimal, background level risk that has to be taken with virtually any fiction.

      Please don't mention Smallville. That show had some promise, but it squandered it by about the third season. The Luthors were the only good part of that show, and I say that as someone who is normally not a huge fan of Lex as Superman's chief big bad.

    •  Tony Stark is the personification of ego (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      burlydee, angry artist

      He is literally ego unhinged, it is just that his suit allows him to sharpen his ego to a fine point of purpose. Chaotic good would be the best description for the alignment of Stark.

      But we're comparing universes really though, Marvel has some very dramatic differences between DC. Very often almost every character in Marvel has some deep character flaw that is overcome or mitigated because of the powers granted to them.

      DC on the other hand? They have literal Gods amongst their ranks, as does Marvel but in this instance players like Thor for instance still have to kow tow to Odin for instance. It's because of this there is less focus on the personal narrative of moral flaws and more focus on the grand scheme moral questions.

      DC has been mired trying to change that within the last 20 years though, we see this with the reinvention of Batman starting with the Keaton movies.

      --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

      by idbecrazyif on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:38:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Kind of amazing how DC allowed Miller to trash ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... Superman, who by far and away was their flagship character in the early 1980s, in order to make Batman appear more hip and bad-ass.

    Miller hates the hell out of Superman -- anytime Superman appears in a Miller story he is portrayed as a dupe, a dope, a pawn of authoritarian power figures who of course must be outdueled by the crafty street-smart Batman.

    •  Supes in Dark Knight Returns (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The view of Clark in The Dark Knight Returns as a big blue Boy Scout, always ready to say yes to a man in a uniform, is the view we get from Bruce; but remember, Bruce is also a bitter old man.  In a couple places, Miller also gives us Superman's point of view.

      Clark in Dark Knight Returns is not stupid, nor is he a dupe.  He allows himself to be used by the Powers That Be, as part of a Faustian bargain that lets him continue to save lives when he can and try to keep the world from Armaggeddon, within the limits that have been imposed on him.  Most of the other heroes of his generation have given up and retreated when the people turned against them.  Even Bruce went into retirement.  Clark stuck with it.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 05:59:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Only after seeing Watchmen the movie (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        did I realize how much Miller cribbed from Alan Moore.

        "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

        by CFAmick on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:57:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, I think... (0+ / 0-)

          ... I think Dark Knight Returns came out a little bit before Watchmen did.  But Watchmen did further develop themes Alan Moore was playing with in his earlier works for WARRIOR magazine, such as "Marvelman/Miracleman", before he came to DC.

          "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

          by quarkstomper on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 02:13:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Batman Year One - One of the Greatest (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Illinibeatle, burlydee

    I think this has a better perspective on where Batman fits than many other pieces. It is also greater than Miller's other works (BTW, Gordon's wife in it is not a prostitute AFAIK)

    The Gotham City of Year One has no order besides survival of the fittest and of the strongest. It is a society that may pay lip service to the constitution but is in fact a full on oligarchy. Might makes right, money = power and, of course, speech.

    The purpose of Batman in this sort of world is to eventually blow up much of the system - on both sides - so it can begin anew.

    While I agree about the fascist elements present in much of Batman, especially post-Miller, I think there are other story lines that are much less so and often better for it. I am thinking of stories like Year One and No Man's Land.

    If you believe that ALL criticism of Israel is antisemitic, you're an idiot.
    If you believe that NONE of the criticism of Israel is antisemitic, you're a fool.
    If you call EVERYONE who criticizes Israel antisemitic, you're just an a$$hole

    by A Gutin Daf on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 03:34:04 PM PDT

  •  New Deal Superman and Latte Liberal Wayne (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've read some critics who say that the very early Superman was in some ways a personification of the New Deal, swooping in to save the little guy from bankers and racketeers.

    He kind of varies depending on who's writing him, but sometimes Superman worries about staying grounded, and not forgetting the people he's supposed to be protecting.  A year or so ago, there was a storyline in which Superman feels he's lost touch and decides he's going to walk from one end of the country to the other, as a way to renew his connection with the people of "flyover country" (which, when you're Superman, is pretty much everybody).

    In the early '70s, when Denny O'Neil was writing Batman, he emphased the philanthropic side of Bruce Wayne and established the Wayne Foundation.  In O'Neil's version, Bruce Wayne was the poster child for White Liberal Guilt.By night, he would beat up crooks as Batman, but by day, as Wayne, he would put his fortune into trying to fix the societal problems that created the crime.

    I once tried writing a piece on the question of whether or not super-heroes were intrinsicly conservative or liberal.  I never got very far, because I never was able to organize my own thoughts; but I wrote to a handful of comics professionals to get their opinions.  Most of them politely declined, but comics writer Mike Grell, who has done a number of excellent comics including WARLORD, JON SABLE FREELANCE and GREEN ARROW: THE LONGBOW HUNTERS offered this analysis:

    "Liberal super-hero = Green Arrow written by Denny O'Neil.
    Conservative super-hero = Green Arrow written by me."

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:12:20 PM PDT

  •  We Reinvent Superheroes All The Time (0+ / 0-)

    Reimagine them, repurpose them.

    There's a story told by Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan in which he notes the professor of tactical engineering (IIRC) who gave the same final exam every year at the Barrayaran Military Academy  because while the questions remained the same, the answers kept changing.

    Power and responsibility - the eternal juggling act.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:39:00 PM PDT

  •  I don't think Superman is capable of going (0+ / 0-)

    bad. It is the world around him that is corruptible and compromised.

    To write an "evil" Superman is to miss the purpose of Superman. Not that it hasn't been accomplished or critically acclaimed, but I don't think it's interesting.

    "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

    by CFAmick on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:56:02 PM PDT

    •  the recent DC animated (0+ / 0-)

      Superman Vs the Elite addresses what modern writers would consider supe's childish attitudes of good/evil. the climax shows Superman explaining his choices in a jaw-dropping manner. Good stuff.

      If only Michael Phelps hadn't smoked that pot...imagine what he could have accomplished with motivation and good lung capacity.

      by papa monzano on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 07:56:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  lex (0+ / 0-)

    the given reason (beyond greed) for lex luthor's hatred of superman speaks to the heart of this...superman's existance is a goal higher than we can aspire. he isn't human, he is better than us (flight, power, etc) and we all are alive because he is benevolent. according to lex, superman's existance cheapens human endeavor. no matter what heights we achieve, superman can glide above us effortlessly. he must be taken down a peg to allow us to rise, according to luthor.

    superman, in return, spends enormous energy and time being clark kent, embodying the human values and choice we all struggle with. that he is good despite his power shows that struggle and his victory over it. that is why superman is a great example of humanity despite his alien power. humans will always do whatever we can. our humanity rests in the consideration of whether we should. superman can do anything. what he chooses not to do is his humanity.

    batman? yeah, that's a lot of vengence bankrolled by an angry child. i love the character in my fictions, but not my alleyways.

    If only Michael Phelps hadn't smoked that pot...imagine what he could have accomplished with motivation and good lung capacity.

    by papa monzano on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 07:52:25 AM PDT

    •  invincible (0+ / 0-)

      for the opposite of this, see the comic "invincible". great stuff.

      (also, incorruptible/irredeemable, two books about the flipping of a superman to a psychopath and the lex villain to a hero in response...)

      If only Michael Phelps hadn't smoked that pot...imagine what he could have accomplished with motivation and good lung capacity.

      by papa monzano on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 07:54:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  These characters are constantly being reinvented (0+ / 0-)

    and reimagined, so I don't think its proper to draw one conclusion.  Different writers emphasize different parts of batman - some even exploring the toll his brand of justice takes on the criminals and city he protects.

    I think many Batman movies and comics, including the The Dark Knight, wonder aloud whether there would be a Joker, Scarecrow or Two-Face if not for Batman. That his vigilantism creates even an insanely more dangerous type of criminal.  

    The characters are different so they represent two different challenges.  Superman is all powerful - the only way to create drama is to test his moral code.  That is why there are so many "evil" Superman, because the true test of his power, is restraint.  

    Batman on the other hand, is like you described, a self made man (although even he is born into wealth).  He is someone who has developed a strict moral code.  He is allowed to have that moral code in the comics b/c he is never in a position to implement it.  

    I think an interesting juxtaposition of the characters Batman - Superman and Lex Luthor takes place in Superman Red Son.  If you're a comic fan and haven't read it, you should check it out.  Another evil Superman story, but in it we have a fascist-communist Superman vs. a capitalist Luthor and an anarchist Batman.  

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