Before we go into this I’d like to mention that I am 28 years old and have a master’s level education. That said, a couple of weeks ago Jeff was in town and we spent at least 30 minutes (from about 1am to 1:30am) sitting around a fire, drinking beer, and nearly coming to blows over the fact that we absolutely disagree on who is the better superhero; Batman or Superman.
Ok, first of all, the question isn’t who would win in a fight because clearly Superman would win and that’s exactly why Superman sucks, but I’m getting ahead of myself. When we ask ‘who’s the BETTER superhero?’ we’re trying to decipher who is the best representation of what a superhero should be. In philosophical terms that make this debate seem less sophomoric the question can be thought of as asking; who is the Platonic form of a superhero? Therefore, the argument hinges upon your definition of what a superhero is and should represent.
A superhero ought to be the embodiment of the pinnacle of the human endeavor. He (or she I guess, but let’s face it, women superheroes are lame) should be like Friedrich Nietzsche’s ubermensch who is meant to lead humanity across the great abyss (German philosophers always make up words and no one questions it, so I’m going to do the same). Given that’ ubermensch’ translate from German into ‘superman’ in English you’d think that’s I’d be arguing that Superman is the better superhero. But you’d be wrong.
You see the point of the ubermensch is that it’s a goal for regular men to strive toward. It’s something we should want to model ourselves after. And that, my dear friends, is exactly what Batman is the BETTER superhero.
Batman is a normal guy. He has no super powers. He’s just a dude who inherited a bunch of money and uses it to build gadgets and provide himself with enough free time to work out to the point that he is able to fight criminals. Theoretically, if you or I were in Bruce’s position, a rich kid who doesn’t have to work, we could also develop ourselves into masked crime fighters. Other than the opportunities his wealth provides, Bruce is an ordinary dude and each one of us could, at least in theory, follow his path toward superhero-ism (I just made that word up).
Conversely, Superman isn’t even a man; he’s an alien. He wasn’t born on this planet and solely as a result of the yellow sun over our planet, he’s essentially unkillable (this is also a word I just made up). He didn’t do anything to gain his superhero status other than land on our planet as a baby. He didn’t earn it, he just showed up. More importantly, we can’t ever be like Superman because no matter how hard we work, we’ll never be able to fly, shoot lasers out of our eyes, or be immune to bullets. The bottom line is that Superman is a fraud because he’s technically not even a man and therefore isn’t someone that can be emulated in a meaningful sense.
Therefore, the ubermensch/superman is actually Batman because Batman represents a normal person that has pushed them self to the apex of human capability. He is the greatest a human can achieve, but his greatness is not beyond the realm of achievable possibility (I’m pretty sure this phrase is something I could take credit for). On the other hand, Superman is an alien that can only be imitated if you go to a different planet that exists under a red sun. Good luck with that. Batman is Teddy Roosevelt, Superman is ET. Batman is someone that can be reasonably emulated, Superman is not only a fictional character, but the personification of a wholly fictional idea. Batman is the BETTER superhero.
Jeff argued Superman’s case, but I can’t remember what he said because it was so unbelievably absurd that attempting to commit it to memory would have caused a brain aneurism. But feel free, Jeff or any other misguided souls, to argue for Superman. The rest of you, just augment my argument and suggest any means by which we could become Batman (work out regiments, investment tips, schematics for the various items in his utility belt, etc).