Batman v Superman: A Roundtable

Obligatory use of Jim Lee contrasting cover pic for Batman v Superman discussions.

Obligatory use of Jim Lee contrasting cover pic for Batman v Superman discussions.

Batman and Superman are two of the most famous and most popular fictional creations of all time.  They have more than 75 years of story and history behind them in print, on tv, and on movie screens.  Soon we’ll get to see them duke it out for the first time in the movie theater when Zack Snyder’s Batman v SupermanDawn of Justice hits.  The trailers look epic and the action, based on Snyder’s own Man of Steel should satisfy everyone looking to see these two icons clash.  So what is up with Batman fighting Superman?  The Monthly Spew’s top staff discuss.

Dustin – Has a Superman tattoo.

Josh – Batman enthusiast, started his comic journey with Watchmen, Kick-Ass & Miller’s Dark Knight books

Joey – Thought this discussion was about Spider-Man

Doug –  Decades long comic reader

Dustin’s Take

I love Superman.  He’s my favorite comic book character of all time.  That wasn’t always the case.  I grew up a total Marvel Zombie and my favorite characters were Cyclops and Magneto.  Then I read Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and painted (not illustrated) by Alex Ross.  That book changed my mind about Superman and all of DC.  I had grown up parroting the “Superman is boring, Superman is too powerful,” arguments, but when I read KC it was a take on Superman that said, “Superman is the most powerful, but that doesn’t mean boring.”  And it wasn’t.  It was epic.  It was Superman taking on more than just a villain-of-the-month, it was Superman taking on the entire structure of superherodom and doing it in the face of Armageddon.  It is still the best depiction of Superman in any medium and Jon Hamm needs to play that version in the movies in about 15 years.

This moment doesn't come until after a long chain of traps that Batman lured Superman through.  And it's all the better for it.

This moment doesn’t come until after a long chain of traps that Batman lured Superman through. And it’s all the better for it.

I’ve also read all the great Batman-Superman fights, and they are almost always a lot of fun.  The most famous is probably Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, but my favorite is the Geoff Johns-scripted and Jim Lee-illustrated fight from Hush.  What is great about both of these fights is that they showcase how clever Batman has to be in order to pull them off.  In DKR he uses the entire electrical grid of Gotham city to shock Superman, fights him in a tank, has Green Arrow shoot him with a kryptonite arrow, and then slugs it out in a battle-suit.

One of the highlights of this battle is getting to

One of the highlights of this battle is getting to “hear” Batman’s thought process.

In Hush he’s fighting a Poison Ivy-controlled Superman and he’s already on the run so he has to be even more clever.  He hasn’t prepped the battlefield like he did in DKR, all he really has is his wits and his knowledge of the enemy.  This is a much more interesting fight to me because Batman can’t just pull out a robot suit to fight in.  Yes he’s got the kryptonite ring, but he knows it isn’t enough.  He decks Superman a couple times but he can’t keep doing it because it would break his hands.  He keeps the fight in the sewers of Gotham so that Superman can’t use his flight or his speed effectively.  He uses his knowledge of the city to bluff and then hurt Supes and escape.  It’s a greatly-scripted fight.

This was creepy and effective.

This was creepy and effective.

The most recent fight between the two was written by Scott Snyder (no relation that I know of) and drawn by Greg Capullo was… a letdown.  Superman is again being mind-controlled (or at least mind-fucked-with) this time by the Joker.  Seeing a Jokerized Superman was pretty awesome and chilling really.  What bothered me was that the fight did not rely on Batman’s cleverness.  Instead he has a giant robot suit that he climbs in.  One that has miniature red suns for knuckles.  That’s kind of cool and the fight is excellently drawn… But it didn’t feel like Batman to me.  It felt like Iron Man putting on his Hulkbuster suit.

Oh, is that Iron Man?  Or a new Lex Luthor suit?

Oh, is that Iron Man? Or a new Lex Luthor suit?

Yes, Batman uses lots of gadgets and vehicles, but once he goes into a robot suit it really just feels like the writer is being lazy.  I want to see Batman using tricks and clever stratagems to go up against Batman; not just putting him into an Iron Man ripoff suit and suddenly having him be as strong as Superman.  Its the same problem when Lex Luthor puts on his warsuit- he becomes less interesting when he’s just trying to match Superman punch for punch.

All that being said, I really hope that the fight between these two in Batman v Superman follows the DKR and Hush routes.  Make Batman be a tactical genius.  Show him staggering Superman and putting him off balance with clever tricks and gimmicks.  I don’t just want to see a fist-fight where Batman puts on a steel suit and can suddenly match Supes blow for blow.  Give us one of the interesting, clever, well-scripted fights that lets each hero show us what they can pull off and I’ll be thrilled.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure that massive blast of heat vision that we see Batman dodging in the trailer isn’t from Superman but from the cloned-Zod Doomsday monster that Luthor is making.

Josh’s Take

What Dustin said, except I like Batman.

I think what intrigues us about this match-up, and why creators keep returning to it, is because it seems impossible for Batman.  How could a mere mortal man, which nothing but training and intelligence, take on this God-like alien?  (or False God, for those of you familiar with the film’s trailer)  The easy answer would be for Supes to just pound the crap out of Batman, which would be a much more likely scenario, but that would make for a boring, predictable story.  “How will Bats pull this off?” is the question that keeps us reading.  And so far there have been several interesting ways devised for the improbable Batman to come out on top.

As far as the film goes, I echo Dustin’s concerns for a good tactical battle, and not just a smash em up, souped up boxing match.  But I feel the film makers know better than that. (although the final battle in Man of Steel kind of says different, maybe they’ve learned from mistakes)  All in all, while I’m stoked to see how they play it in the movie, I’m really more interested in seeing them work together, I think their contrasting personalities play better OFF each other instead of AGAINST.  (Plus I’m sick of arguing with Dustin over which should actually win and why)

When they aren't punching each other, Batman and Superman work well together.  Here you see them casting some serious shade at some evil-doer.

When they aren’t punching each other, Batman and Superman work well together. Here you see them casting some serious shade at some evil-doer.

Doug’s Take:

Superman is one of our most inspiring heroes.

Superman is one of our most inspiring heroes.

Ah, Superman vs. Batman…The ultimate battle. The contrast between these two iconic characters is as evident as night and day. Both have over 75 years of history to analyze and have battled on several occasions.

Superman, the most powerful being in the universe with a myriad of powers, is held in check by his inner morality. He is the shining example of a superhero.  This gives him his “Boy Scout” image, and as such, many consider him boring. I feel this is a necessary trait to keep Superman from attaining God-like status and letting his power simply dominate, answering to no one. Superman has the potential to lay waste to the entire planet if he were not careful. As we saw in Man of Steel, when Superman’s battles escalate the damage is catastrophic.

Batman is the flip side of the coin. He has no true super power, relying on his intellect and gadgets, as well as his training to defeat his villains. Batman has seen the true dark side of crime, being a victim and losing his parents at an early age.

His sole purpose was to become the ultimate crime fighter. He fights from the shadows, with fear as one of his weapons. I feel he holds Superman in contempt as he (Superman) seems unwilling to do the necessary things to win a fight.

But a Superman without self-imposed, moral constraints is a terrifying concept.

But a Superman without self-imposed, moral constraints is a terrifying concept.

I believe that a true battle between these two heroes would be a one sided affair. While Batman is skilled in strategically battling his enemies, finding their weaknesses and exploiting them, I feel that Superman could easily overpower him if he wanted to. Superman holds himself back at times to not kill or seriously injure his opponent. I thoroughly enjoyed “Hush” and “DKR”, as both battles were entertaining and seemed closely matched. In my opinion though, if Superman were provoked to the point where collateral damage was not an issue, Batman would be defeated before he could find the appropriate gadget in his utility belt. Superman’s speed and invulnerability would take down the Dark Knight and his surroundings, or perhaps a blast of heat vision would incinerate him. I can appreciate Batman’s style of fighting, but I feel it would be too little to actually slow down Superman. He truly needs to take care not to prod the sleeping giant one too many times. I’m very interested to see how the film plays out. I’m sure they will play down Superman’s abilities to keep it close, but true comic fans will understand.

Joey’s Take

Not a particularly big fan of either character, nor much of a comic book reader save for the occasional Marvel book Dustin handed me in middle school/high school. But what I do know of the core conflict that drives the upcoming movie, Batman vs. Superman, is that it is more than a physical fight; it is an ideological struggle between two very different characters.

As DC/WB barrels towards a clash of its premier character, Marvel is doing the same thing in Captain America: Civil War.

As DC/WB barrels towards a clash of its premier character, Marvel is doing the same thing in Captain America: Civil War.

The differences between the two men are not relegated solely to their powers, but also to the way they view the world and how good and evil function in our society. Superman represents a pure ‘good’; good for the sake of good, an ideal moral standard that is an unattainable extension of his incredible powers. Not only does he tower above us in his abilities but also in his adherence to a strict moral code. Batman, however, represents more of a moral ambiguity. He strives to uphold a greater sense of justice, but will often bend or break rules to achieve that. Even his vigilante modus operandi is outside the parameters of lawful behavior, but it is performed with a sense of duty. He does what he feels must be done, with or without the approval of the laws of men.

So both men wish to achieve the same end– peace and justice– but disagree on the means by which to do it. Superman wants to operate within the law, but Batman is willing to operate outside the law. Superman sees Batman as a threat to the upheld system; Batman views Superman as unwilling to do whatever necessary to accomplish peace and Justice.

Damn it, Joey!  We're not talking about Spider-Man!

Damn it, Joey! We’re not talking about Spider-Man!

The trailer for the new movie makes the motivation for the grudge match between comic books’ two most iconic names appear more personal, and many of the comics use the device of a possessed Superman to match these titans up, but BvS represents a larger ideological struggle, one which is not limited to the DC universe. Marvel’s upcoming third Captain America installment, Civil War, will put Captain America and Iron Man in a similar position; taking opposing viewpoints to achieving peace. Captain America has long been an idealist, striving for things like individual freedom and possessing a strong belief in the established system.

Ok... maybe we're talking about Spider-Man A LITTLE BIT!

Ok… maybe we’re talking about Spider-Man A LITTLE BIT!

Ideologically, Captain America matches Superman’s “boy scout” persona. Iron Man, however, lines up more with Batman’s “I play by my own rules” ethic. He is willing to operate outside the jurisdictions of the established systems, but he is ultimately  uninterested in the idea of superheroing as the idea of peace is really just his out; not a sustained system but an endgame, a fixed point where he is able to say, “that’s when I get to retire.” His greatest motivation was not a sense of duty– I must do this because it is within my power to do it– but a way to ease his own guilt for developing and selling weapons. Batman’s motivations are nobler, I think, but in the end, both are ideologically opposed to their respective counterparts, and it’s about to make for some interesting cinema.

In either case, the parties involved must come to some kind of reconciliation between what must be done and how it must be done. I guess they decided the best way was to punch each other until the other guy changes his mind, taking a cue from drunken, ‘roid-fueled Jersey Shore meatheads in bars across the country. I will point out that Supes and Bats have faced off more than once in the comics, but Rogers and Stark have only gone toe-to-toe in the Civil Wars story arc (so far), so BvS may have a larger heap of expectations.

Don’t agree with any of our takes on the subject?  Feel like we missed a key point?  Please share it with us in the comments!


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