Four Letter Nerd

Batman or Superman: Who is the Greatest Superhero?

Previously on 4LN I wrote about how Superman would absolutely destroy Batman in a fight. I did not hold any punches in my argument, and that might have rubbed some people the wrong way (ironically, “pulling punches” is the only way Superman wouldn’t murder Batman’s existence).

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It was nice of the artist not to depict Batman’s head exploding off his body

However, Superman being more powerful than Batman does not make him a greater superhero, it only demonstrates that he is the more powerful of the two. Actually, I would argue that Batman’s lack of superpowers would make him much more heroic than Superman.

This argument is obviously predicated on Batman being a superhero. There are some very intelligent people that I have known who would argue that while Batman does perform feats of heroism, he is not a SUPERhero. I disagree. I might devote some more time to this in the future, but I will try to lay out a brief overview of why Batman is a superhero (at least in my eyes).

Quick! What do you think of when you think of heroism? Courage? Outstanding achievement? Submarine sandwiches? When we think of heroic acts we think of people who risk their lives for others; who put others well-being over their own; people who are courageous enough to stand in the face of life-threatening danger.

 

Hero

If you guessed “submarine sandwiches” you’d technically be right

Batman is courageous; he risks life and limb in order to provide protection for others; his desire to bring justice to those who evade it and to bring protection to those who do not have it outweighs his desire to live a normal life (or however normal a life can be when you are a billionaire). However, this only addresses Batman as being “heroic,” and most of us wouldn’t argue that he is not (unless you are arguing that he can’t be heroic because he does not exist… if that is the case, why are you here?).

In order to be a SUPERhero you have to do that which is heroic to an extraordinary level. What about Batman would we consider “ordinary?” There isn’t a lot there really. He has an extraordinary intellect, coupled with extraordinary courage. He has extraordinary willpower, coupled with the extraordinary ability to not kill but leave villains wishing for the sweet release of death. The heroics accomplished by Batman are not done on an ordinary level, but an extraordinary level. Hey, do you know what another word for extraordinary is? Super! So by definition Batman, both extraordinary AND a hero, has to be considered a superhero. Also, when I said I would be brief I apparently lied to you, but that was not my intention – I just got a little carried away.

So with that semantically charged argument finished we can finally move on to why Batman is a greater superhero than Superman.

Some do not like Superman because he is overpowered. If you think of something omnipotent, then dial it back by one or two notches and you have Superman. Personally I love Superman, he oscillates between the one and two spot in my favorite hero Pantheon of Justice. Could he beat Batman in a fight? Absolutely. There is almost no chance if you compare them logically side by side (I know that some of you do not agree because (insert comic book title) here, but come on… really? Everything will be okay, I promise).

However, there is a sliding scale that exists between invulnerability and courage. The closer you are to invulnerability, the less courageous you have to be. If I know that a bullet cannot hurt me, then I don’t have to worry about a man with a gun. If I know that I can catch a rocket propelled grenade with my bare hand and let it explode in my supertights and be 100% good to go then I don’t really have to have courage to stop them – I can just slowly walk towards them while thinking of what’s on my DVR, or trying to figure out what is so appealing about Sudoku.

Batman is one of us; he is as vulnerable as we are. This was his greatest weakness when it came to fighting Superman, but it is also what makes him a greater hero than Superman now. Batman faces death or bodily harm every time he dons the cape and cowl. The ability to continuously face extreme danger takes an absurd amount of courage. There is very little risk for Superman when he confronts a criminal, but Batman could be taken out by a low-level street thug with a lucky shot.

That 14 year old almost did what the Joker has been trying to do for decades

That 14 year old almost did what the Joker has been trying to do for decades

Batman’s does not have invulnerability, super strength, heat vision, or flight (or x-ray vision, or freeze breath, or super speed, or sonic hearing…), and it is the lack of these things that make his decision to fight crime on an extraordinary level so great. That level of courage is why he is a superhero, and it is that level of courage that makes him one of the greatest superheroes of all.

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Cam Clark

Cam is a husband, father, and a fan of many things. In college, he wrote his senior thesis on Mythological, Philosophical, and Theological Themes in Star Wars, and now spends his days causally specializing in Star Wars, Tolkien, and cubical work. No relation to Bill Clark.

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