by Nick Linger
With the recent release of Batman vs Superman (which I HIGHLY recommend the 3 hour director’s cut) it got me thinking about how Zach Snyder is going to approach the Justice League. How will he handle the duality between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel? So I decided to examine the subject my own way (both from the comic side and the cinematic side).
Back when DC published the first Superman story under the Action Comics, the original image of the Man of Steel was more wholesome and iconic figure of what “true” heroes should be or aspire to. Then enter the Batman under Detective Comics, the opposite of Superman. Batman was more dark, aggressive, and vengeful than his counterpart. So what was DC trying to achieve by making to comic characters “heroes” by making them almost exact opposites? As we’ve seen over the decades (in both comic and cinematic mediums) is that heroes aren’t born, they are made (and different depending on the character).
Let’s look at Superman, the Last Son of Krypton. He’s alien that was sent through space to escape the fate of a dying world and crash landed in Kansas. Now growing up in America’s Heartland, you can imagine that he was raised to have love and compassion for other living life and to have a high tolerance for other peoples’ ignorance, knowing that as he started to realize that he could very easily take life should he wanted to. The backstory of Superman has been humble and respected regardless of who pen’s it. We have witnessed the birth of what we believe a hero should both aspire to and symbolize over the course Superman’s existence. But he has suffered an evolutionary fate as his tales continue. When you have seemingly unlimited strength that can stop bullets, fly through space while breaking the sound barrier, and shoot laser beams from his eyes, what can hero offer to the reader that gives a few layers of complexity? His psyche. With all this might, how can the Man of Steel justify (besides the values passed on by his human parents) not exacting some level of his own will against those that seek to harm himself or the innocence around him? We saw in Snyder’s Man of Steel (another great film by the way), the moment that would define his life, the killing of General Zod. Now while this may not be the original reason for him not killing, it does however bring to light the gravity of the action itself on his conscience. His genuine remorse for taking a life, knowing that Zod would continue to spread death on earth, puts Superman at the center of an internal conflict that it was for the “greater good”. While in the story it makes perfect sense, but to a hero the goal is to preserve life while combating the threat, even a villains’.
This shift in Superman’s character has caused many diehards to freak out. That the version of they grew up with shouldn’t be reconstructed (like when DC launched their New 52 series). But in order to evolve Superman to the next level in the DC Universe and continuity, something had to change. And personally, I think this kind of change in comics is necessary to keep characters relevant.
Batman on the other hand, is a completely different animal in himself. A son of Gotham, that witnessed the murder of both parents in a botched robbery (according to original source material). This event didn’t give birth to a respected and noble hero like Superman. In fact it gave birth to one of DC’s most angry, vengeful, and mentally anguished characters in their roaster. Because of a corrupt justice system, Batman doesn’t share Superman’s notion that all life should be preserved. In both comics and cinema, Bruce’s original intent is vengeance (even knowing that it wouldn’t bring his parents back). As Batman has evolved, writer’s have taken the Dark Knight into some very dark places in both Gotham and within his own psyche. This is much easier to accomplish as Batman is driven by justifiable rage and vengeance for the continuous injustice that surrounds him and Gotham. While Superman would rather use diplomacy, Batman would much rather give the bad guys a vicious beating while along side Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl/Oracle. While Batman resists to the urge to kill, but only because he realizes deep within that killing won’t solve much (unless it’s the Joker lol). In respect to Batman’s psyche, I would argue that the Joker is a main reason why the Dark Knight would much rather stare into the abyss of evil than to give in to vengeance and join in. The Joker represents the opposite extreme to Batman’s vengeance. While the two have their fights, one can argue that the Joker is the Yin to Batman’s Yang. Batman’s never ending fight with the Joker allows Bruce to see that if he (Bruce) allows himself to continue an unrestrained path toward fighting injustice, he would be no better than the Joker.
So how can these two iconic characters fight side by side using opposite methods in order to accomplish a common goal? Well the answer lies in the question, what does it mean to be a hero and how do you collectively protect the innocent together? So maybe Snyder can help answer this question in the new Justice League.