Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Batman and Superman: The Great Superhero Debate

The Great Superhero Debate always has come down to two characters, Batman or Superman — the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel.

Superman and Batman by artist Alex Ross
It could be similar to choosing between math and English; the general population usually has a distinct preference.

Superman and Batman as seen in the so-called Timmverse of animation.
All of us can identify with Superman. He came from another place and is an alien in his second home. Who can't identify with being an outsider who is trying to fit in?

Despite being Earth's most powerful and recognized hero, the Kryptonian called Kal-El chooses to be Clark Kent, a meek, socially awkward reporter.

Men specifically know what it's like to be an "every day kind of Joe" who longs to be seen as a super man. And who doesn't like the fact that Superman can fly "faster than a speeding bullet" and is unharmed by ammunition?

Batman, on the other hand, lacks superhuman strength and could be killed with a single bullet.

Billionaire Bruce Wayne is a normal man who has trained himself to be an Olympic-level athlete and the world's greatest detective. Anyone can appreciate that Batman drives the hottest set of wheels in all of fiction.

Wayne uses his financial assets to arm his private war on crime. His reason is simple: He doesn't want other victims to endure losing loved ones as he did.

Comic Book Resources gave Batman the No. 1 slot in the list of the top-50 DC Comics characters at one point. Superman was a distant second.
The final issue of writer-artist Frank Miller's four-part BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT  graphic novel/limited
series features a showdown between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight.
Entertainment magazine EMPIRE's July 2005 online poll about fans' favorite superhero came down to the Big Two. Fans, after starting with 32 characters, overwhelmingly chose Batman over Superman (67 percent to 33).

How should one discern supremacy?

Age? Both characters made their comic book premieres only a year apart (1938 for Superman in ACTION COMICS No. 1 and the next year for Batman in DETECTIVE COMICS No. 27)

What about comic-book appearances and series?

In addition to several solo titles and two versions of the SUPERMAN/BATMAN series, both heroes teamed up and starred in WORLD'S FINEST COMICS for 45 years. They also have been in and led various Justice League incarnations — both in the printed form and animation.

There have been too many one-time publications and limited series featuring either character to mention. Superman starred in the defunct titles SUPERMAN FAMILY and DC COMICS PRESENTS and at least two other series before the New 52 and "Rebirth" reboots.

There have been multiple characters with their own series after appearing in various Superman comics — Superboy, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen in the Golden Age of Comics. Supergirl has starred in several solo titles and in the 1990s, Steel and a new version of Superboy had their own series.

The numbers of ongoing series associated with the guy from Gotham are more impressive.

No less than eight ongoing Batman series have been canceled over the last several decades. And that's just since the mid-2000s. When DC Comics was publishing its New 52 titles, Batman and characters from Gotham City made up nearly one-third of what DC was publishing.

Nearly every member of the Caped Crusader's supporting cast -- except Alfred Pennyworth the butler and Commissioner Jim Gordon -- have starred in their own ongoing series: Batgirl, Nightwing, the third Robin (Tim Drake) and Azrael. who took Bruce Wayne's place as Batman during the "Knightquest" storyline crossover. In fact, the various BATGIRL series have starred all three versions: First, Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown and finally, the original (at least far as the late Golden Age and all of the Bronze Age are concerned), Barbara Gordon.

The most popular members of Bats' Rogue Gallery of Villains have been in their own titles, too. DC published nine issues of THE JOKER starting in May 1975 before canceling it. Catwoman and Harley Quinn were in separate series before DC launched the New 52. Catwoman had two before that reboot!

And none of the aforementioned series include those in ensembles in which DC's Big Two, their variations and supporting characters have appeared: BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS, SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and its countless variations, THE NEW TEEN TITANS (which Dick Grayson led as Robin and then Nightwing) -- and two similar series, BIRDS OF PREY, its current "Rebirth" version, BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY and YOUNG JUSTICE (which featured Tim Drake's Robin and Superboy).

After making his third appearance in the original THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD series, Batman combined efforts with other DC heroes (and villains!) for 18 years before DC canceled the title. Superman's team-up series was DC COMICS PRESENTS.

The late Christopher Reeve was the first modern actor to portray Superman onscreen in 1978 --
and in the opinion of Cary's Comics Craze, created the most iconic take.
Which superhero is dominate when it comes to films?

Multiple actors have played Superman and Batman on the big screen. Not counting the 1940s serials, three men have played the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill is the most recent) while DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. are on their fifth Batman with Ben Affleck.

Collage courtesy of Pinterest
Affectionately called "Batfleck" by fans, Affleck's Dark Knight first appeared in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." "BvS" was a sequel to the far superior "Man of Steel," which started off the DCE movie universe.

In November's "Justice League," Batman and Wonder Woman are assembling the superhero team and Cavill's Superman is expected to be resurrected. (And yup, the comics versions of Supes and Bats have been killed off, only to be brought back to life!)

When it comes to solo films, Batman reigns supreme. With the Feb. 10 release of "The LEGO Batman Movie," there have been eight flicks starring the Caped Crusader. Plus the two 1940s serials!

A Batfleck flick (see what I did there?!), titled "The Batman," is in the works. While it was originally planned for Affleck to write and direct it, Matt Reeves recently was announced as the director. Its future, including a release date, is up in the air.

DCE/WB have released countless animated films for the last decade.

The first fittingly starred the Man of Steel. ("Superman: Doomsday" was released Sept. 18, 2007 on DVD.) And there for a while, the companies alternated Batman and Supes as the stars -- interchanged with the Justice League -- but lately the Dark Knight has taken a significant lead there, too.

Most recently, Warner Bros. Animation has been releasing LEGO-based straight-to-Blu-ray and DVD movies. The first release was a Batman and Robin adventure. Each film is fun, light-hearted and played for laughs, featuring corny humor and inside jokes. Even when Justice League is in the title, Superman has played second fiddle -- not to mention a buffoon -- to the paranoid and ultra-prepared Caped Crusader, whose ego is out of control.

It's the small screen where Superman has the advantage over the (normally) grim Gotham guardian.

Most people can hum the theme to the zany 1960s "Batman" TV show nearly four decades after it was canceled.

The Man of Steel, however, reigns supreme on TV. There have been no less than three live-action series since 1988. Don't forget about the famous "Adventures of Superman" series starring George Reeves in the 1950s. Or the current "Supergirl" series in which actor Tyler Hoechlin has played Kal-El in a handful of episodes.

So, needless to say the Great Superhero Debate involving DC's Big Two rages on. Since the turn of the 21st century, and even as far as comic books go in the 1990s, DCE has made Batman its moneymaker.

Yours truly is a dedicated Batman fan. Always have been and always will be -- even if I'm not reading the current DC titles.

But I always have respect for Superman.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of which superhero tugs at your heartstrings and wallets the most, each character is great. They are at their best when they're together -- on the pages of comic books, graphic novels, limited series and on film.

Director Zack Snyder and many DC writers may prefer to have the two at each other's throats. But "my" Superman and Batman are at their best when they respect each other and work toward the common good.

There's a reason Batman and Superman are known as the World's Finest.

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