By WIshIWasSuperman 34 Comments
Ok – for the next few minutes I’m crossing over to the dark-side of the forum and am talking about a battle between the two – not the upcoming movie. I know, I know – it’s been done to death. Batgod blah, blah, blah. SUPERMANPWNSALLLL, blah, blah, blah… Trust me – I know. But since this is my personal blog – please entertain me for bit. Actually... it's more than a few minutes, I'll admit... this is easily the longest blog I've ever had. I apologise in advance, and offer a sincere congratulations to anyone who actually reads the whole thing.
There’s another great series of threads on here titled “Does Batman Always Win”, where one of the CV writers (@k4tzm4n I believe is responsible for it) analyses a battle between Batman and another hero to see if Batman really does always win. It’s a satirical response to the touted “Batman wins because he’s Batman” argument used (usually in jest) in many of the discussions. I’m even sure this post will gain that response from at least someone here. But I want to use a similar discussion method. So no this is not about looking at their actual battles in comic or animated form (a la the now infamous Superman Vs Batman thread by @citizenbane). This isn’t discussing the movie or even whinging about one fanbase over the other.
Instead I’m going to break the various characters down, look at their respective qualities and do comparisons in multiple areas. I’ll look at pros and cons for both and be as objective as humanly possible. I’m also going to look at the various arguments usually presented by both sides and attempt to deconstruct them. Others may have done this before – kudos to them. This is my blog and I shall do with it as I please (or until CV ban me – not that I expect that to happen).
Some precursor information – these two characters sit at the top of the comic book foodchain in my eyes. They are my number 1 and number 2 favourite characters. They’re the only two who’s titles I consistently read and have current subscriptions to. In my opinion they are basically responsible for the comic book genre as we know and understand it today and deserve infinite amounts of respect for the characters and for the roles they have each played in forming something that we obviously all love. And so it is with all this in mind I’m approaching this oh so volatile subject that has resulted in countless flame wars and trolling on internet forums since the internet pretty much became the internet.
Ok first let’s do some character information and bios. I’ll kick it off with the one who started it all:
Ok – we all pretty much know the story here. Rocketed from a dying planet, raised by childless farmers, etc… The one known as the ‘Big Blue Boy scout’ he’s basically been around as long as superheroes have existed and has had a very rich, textured and sometimes controversial history. He’s been represented in all forms of media and expressions, from comics, novels, musical theater, radio, animation, TV and the big screen – more often than not being the 1st to reach these mediums when compared to other comic book characters and superheroes.
The CV wiki lists the following powers and abilities:
- Attractive Male
- Berserker Strength
- Blast Power
- Energy Absorption
- Heat Vision
- Ice Breath
- Super Hearing
- Super Sight
- Super Speed
- Super Strength
- Unarmed Combat
- Wind Bursts
Pretty impressive huh? Not sure how “attractive male” is a power or ability though… But I digress… There are many threads regarding his feats and powers around on CV. Arguments about him being over-powered etc… Basically I don’t think a whole lot needs to be said. Just for fun I’m going to add in a few things here by inferring powers/abilities based on other information. Based on the H’el arc and character, Kryptonians are essentially sponges for various forms of radiation. Some don’t affect them, others do and in different ways, usually expressing themselves in various powers and abilities. In H’el’s case these even included telekinetic, mind control, teleportation and chronal abilities. Others like Kryptonite (irradiate fragments of Krypton) can be potentially lethal. So Superman has the same potential for these powers as well and at different times in his history seems to have displayed some form of them (along with others like shooting rainbows out of his fingers – beat that!). However he doesn't at present and none of these would generally be considered a part of his power set. So don’t worry – none of that will enter the equation, I just wanted to comment on it.
I don’t really feel the need to go too in-depth here as we’ll study majority of his features and powers (and weaknesses) throughout the article. So moving on….
Again – it’s safe to say we’re pretty familiar with his story as well. Murdered parents… massive wealth… protector of Gotham… etc.. Similarly to the demi-god above he has also had a massive and rich history, undergoing multiple re-writes and revisions for varying reasons and has also been immortalised in pretty much every medium known to man. I’m sure someone has even done rice based art around Batman. In direct contrast however he’s no boyscout, often reverting to dirty tactics and a “means to an end” mentality. He’s an agent of the night, using stealth and psychology against his opponents. It’s not unthinkable for him to be seen to be putting others in danger (not really but initially on the surface it may appear that way) or manipulating even his closest friends and allies if he believes it will provide the best outcome. A darker, moodier and more cynical hero than Superman, he still however has a strict code – so while not a boyscout, he can be trusted as if he was. He’s inspired many, often at the ire of the Gotham P.D. and despite being just a human has been an integral and consistent member of the Justice League in its many forms, surrounded by super powered aliens and god-like beings and enemies.
Again the CV wiki lists the following powers/abilities:
- Attractive Male
- Escape Artist
- Insanely Rich
- Power Suit
- Unarmed Combat
- Weapon Master
Not quite as extensive as the higher list but still impressive in its own right (again with the attractive male – when exactly does that assist with a villain? He smiles them into submission? Also not sure if “insanely rich” qualifies either). Also in a similar vain to Superman there are numerous threads on CV regarding his feats and abilities and arguments etc… so I’m not going to do any more here. I don’t think there is anything else to add although I notice “strategist” isn't listed specifically – I’m going to guess this is included under intellect. Comparing the two here will be interesting…
OK, with that out of the way let’s start breaking them down and comparing them in different areas that are relevant to a battle.
Ok – this is a bit of a no contest – I admit. If we’re comparing the two I mean – this is a little bit unfair in this department. Regardless of which version or era of Superman is being referred to, he outclasses Batman in orders of magnitude in this particular area. Superman is operating on a cosmic scale, with varying feats ranging from lifting mountains and whole buildings, to moving moons and planets. His most recent high-showing was a 5 day bench-pressing orgy in an underground location with weight equivalent to the entire planet Earth (I believe around the 6 sextillion tons range?).
Don’t be misled – Batman is no slouch in his own right here. Considered to have ‘peak human’ strength in the DCU, he’s been seen to smash through solid walls, and even is considered capable of bench pressing 1 ton – something no ordinary man is capable of. But in the grand scheme of things – he’s no matchup on raw strength alone. I can’t even recall a battle suite or anything that’s boosted his strength to Superman’s level (although for the time being that wouldn't count – those things are coming later).
So in this field Superman has it hands down, no argument, I think from any reasonable person.
Ok again it’s a no contest (this may be something of a theme for a while actually). Again Batman has ‘peak human’ stamina and has some impressive feats. A recent one included him engaged in mortal combat (MORTAL KOMBAAAAAT! Dunuh dunuh dunuh dunuh-duh… Ahem…. sorry, got sidetracked) for 28 hours I believe. While there may be some differing opinions on what this actually meant – it’s still a very, very impressive feat. But it can’t match up to the Kryptonian.
Running on essentially the sun itself, Superman doesn't tire easily (especially when he has constant exposure to the sun) and an advanced healing rate will quickly keep him going when any mortal man would be at the end of his abilities. Even without constant sun exposure his seemingly near endless stores of solar energy can keep him going for superhuman lengths of time without sleep, food, water and all while engaged in strenuous physical activity. Plus he can always fly up and expose himself to the sun if he feels the need anyway.
So again, Superman takes this department.
I know I’m going to be accused of being bias – but I honestly am just being realistic here – once more this is a no contest. While Batman can survive more than any ordinary man has any right to, a well placed bullet, fire or even a falling object would actually end it all for him. Superman on the other hand has survived all sorts of things including nuclear explosions and radiation, supernova explosions and even Superman IV: A Quest for Peace (and to keep going after that is more impressive than anything!). Silver Age Superman even survived the Big Bang! Batman has some very good feats and showings, powering through all sorts of physical injuries and torturous pain to keep fighting the good fight but in the end Superman is capable of inflicting far too much physical damage for any level of mental toughness to be at all relevant.
3rd time straight here – Superman
In case you’re wondering – this will make it 4 in a row. Batman doesn't really have “powers”
as such anyway, where-as Superman has heat vision, freeze breath, super-speed comparable to the Flash, flight, super-hearing… I think you get the point. Yes Batman is Superman’s superior in combat skill, but in majority of cases this won’t make any difference if every time he hits or kicks him he breaks his own hands and feet. No point flogging this one – it’s definitely dead. Superman.
Finally somewhere for Batman to start fighting back! While Superman has various toys and gadgets at his disposal as well, Batman has a seemingly endless supply of all manner of toys to use against an opponent – and he seems to always have exactly what he needs with him when he needs it too (are we sure his utility belt doesn’t have a pocket dimension in it?). Superman has at different times had robots, armour and protective suits and once had a pretty awesome sword too. But at the end of the day Batman has the superior arsenal.
The one thing I will point out though is that while it’s safe to say Batman has the superior array of gadgets at his disposal the vast majority (all?) are useless against Superman. Batarangs, gas grenades, tasers, cryo pellets, explosives – at best these will be a mere annoyance to the man of steel. So while Batman wins this particular time, it’s with the mindset that it doesn't actually do him much good anyway.
Probably one of the greatest equalisers between Batman and his opponents is his mind. With extremely thorough understandings of psychology, human behaviour and analytical thinking he has solved anything anyone has thrown at him. He may not have the highest I.Q. in the DCU but there are few that can plan and plot to the exact ability he has been capable of. If someone wants to consider this a Super power when it comes to Batman, you’ll have no argument from me. He’s managed to plot out contingency plans against the most powerful heroes on Earth and has outsmarted some of the most powerful beings in the DCU. He understands battle strategy as well as anyone in history and is probably only matched by Martian Manhunter, Vandal Savage and Ra’s Al Ghul in this regard (and two of those guys have been around waaaaaaaaaaay longer than Batman).
On the other hand Superman is no dummy. Despite a perception by some that he is about brawn, not brains – he has time and again shown an advanced intellect above what any human is capable of. His arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor, considers him his only equal in terms of intellect – which is saying something as Lex actually does have the highest I.Q. on Earth and really only is outsmarted by the likes of Brainiac. Anyone who’s trolled a Superman/Batman battle thread will have also been pointed to newer issues where he managed to read and absorb all medical information in about 5 minutes and then perform a dangerous and complicated operation to save a life. Officially his brain is considered to be far advanced beyond that of humans and is capable of processing information faster than any human (except for those linked to the speed force) can ever hope to achieve – essentially he can think faster than us – which is saying something because a human minds thoughts are pretty damn quick (microseconds in fact).
So where does this leave us? In a bit of a pickle actually. On one hand we have a master strategist and intellectual genius by anyone’s standards with few equals. On the other hand we have someone who can actually see process and react to any stimulus faster than a human (including Batman) could ever hope to, as well as retain and perfectly recall any information. A so inclined Superman could theoretically read all strategic information, books etc… and have that information at his disposal the same way Batman could. “But why does the speed of his thoughts matter here” you might ask? Well, I’m preempting something that will come later as I deconstruct the various arguments used. So what’s the verdict here?
One of the fanboys in me demands it be Superman because of his advanced over-all intellect. Another fanboy dwelling inside me demands it be Batman due to his obvious advanced strategic mind and understanding of emotions, psychology and the like. Since I consider both to be valid arguments – I call this a draw.
“What?” – Simply put a characters mindset or “personality” comes into play. Who is more driven? More motivated? Who has more to lose? Is one easily manipulated? These aren't questions of intelligence, or even necessarily mental toughness (although that falls into this category) but they should play an important role – and it is here that Batman claws back a bit. Now in terms of mental toughness – I consider them equals. Neither one will ever just give up and both will fight to their own deaths if it means protecting those around them. Each will mentally over-come even the most severe of physical obstacles and both have been through their own personal hell's at different times in their history. But where they diverge I think Batman gains an advantage – and it’s the fundamental difference between the two characters in terms of their places in the world of comic books and superhero history.
Superman has recently been shown in a brash, hit first – ask questions later – type of light, however he still retains that element of being the big blue boy scout. He doesn’t look for the dark, he doesn’t expect someone to be willing to go down the sick twisted path he would never even consider. At the same time he can be a little arrogant at times, trusting in his powers more than might be wise and having an assumption he will always over-power and win against an opponent.
Batman on the other hand recognises his weaknesses and knows his short comings. As such he accounts for it and doesn’t take anything for granted. He uses caution until he’s had a chance to know what he’s up against. He also isn’t afraid to look into the dark places and account for what twisted and depraved minds are capable of, even sometimes venturing down them himself if he feels it will be necessary. Like it or not, he will do almost anything to achieve his goal, even if it means betraying those who love him. Short term pain for long term gain is within his psyche. Basically Batman will go to lengths that wouldn’t even occur to Superman – for all his intellect, Superman lacks some of the imagination that Batman has (it’s not his fault – they have different enemies that force this on them). Where Batman has a contingency plan for even his best friend, such a thing generally doesn’t occur to Superman – until it’s too late.
I give this one to Batman.
Ok – this can’t be avoided – we have to get this out of the way. On one hand, Superman has some pretty effective weaknesses. Kryptonite (for the sake of simplicity we’ll just stick with green) is his main achilles heel, and he is also known to have no special invulnerability to magic, like he does to say, bullets. He can also be attacked mentally, although he can offer some resistance here if you truly know your Superman history. Then there is red-sunlight – basically negating his powers and making him no different to any human. On the other hand we have Batman who is as vulnerable to anything as any other human – no additives (green, red or otherwise) required. What can hurt or kill you and I will have the same affect on Batman. He can be blinded, broken, crushed, burned, deafened and simply destroyed in all manner of ways.
Given the fact that Superman only has weaknesses when there is some special element involved, I give Superman the upper hand here – since Batman is always vulnerable and weak to any of Superman’s abilities (except for attractive male of course – they stalemate each other here).
Ok – so there we have it. Superman has 5 categories, Batman takes 2 and there’s 1 draw to try and appease my inner conflict. Superman wins right? Well…not exactly. In the above sense of just doing a character comparison, if we were to take the standard battle thread approach then yes, Superman wins, let’s say 6, maybe 7 out of 10 (based on the 8 categories and Superman’s dominance in 5 this gives him a 60% advantage). However, there’s actually one more factor that essentially trumps all the rest and makes the previous 8 categories I’ve looked at null and void – “the story”.
Since this is fiction the author of any story controls the outcome. Why are they fighting to begin with? Is one of them rogue and the other is trying to stop them? Is it an alternate universe story where they hate each other? Is one of them “bloodlusted” and willing to kill the other? Are both of them willing to kill? Does the fight take place in Batman’s cave or in a space station? Has Superman been sun-dipping? Does Batman have near unlimited prep-time to launch a surprise attack on an unwitting Superman?
Since we don’t have any pre-defined set of rules for this particular battle discussion (the idea is it’s a general discussion), instead what I’ll do is look at the various arguments I’ve seen and weigh up the pros and cons for both sides; or at least try to. I’ll then give them a +1 or -1 score for how valid the argument actually is. It may result in a 0 if the point has an equally valid counter argument.
I’ll start with ones in favour of Superman
"Superman Can Speed Blitz Batman into oblivion"
This one is very true, there’s no denying it. Superman is capable of moving faster than Batman could even hope to see, let alone process the movement and react, so a surprise attack would leave Batman dead in the water before he even got started. However, Superman rarely speed blitzes an opponent. There’s no reason to think he suddenly would when he fights Batman, especially from the outset. That would be very out of character for him. If he ever does speed blitz someone it’s because it’s been dragging on or he sees no other way to end the conflict. If he waits, Batman has time to put in plan some sort of action which could turn the battle. However, mildly out of character or not, it still remains a valid and legitimate possibility as it does occur enough for me to consider it genuine. It’s only one particular usage (straight up before the fight even starts) that is really “out of character”. It’s also a valid tactic which would end any fight. So +1 based on that. However it gets a -1 considering that Superman is more likely to wait and in doing so provides ample opportunity for Batman to counter/defend in some way nullifying the opportunity (especially if he utilises Kryptonite effectively). So… 0 I guess.
"Superman can use his heat vision from space – no matter where Batman is he would be dead"
Again – also true – but very out of character. Ignoring the fact this would result in Superman killing Batman (and maybe thousands or millions of others), or that if Batman was hiding somewhere Superman may struggle to actually find him to fry him (that rhymes…lol), I can only recall one time Superman has rained down fire like this – meaning it’s not something he’s prone to do. He may have done it more, but it’s certainly a rare event, and in fact he will usually get up in Batman’s face to fight him. But similar to above – rare event or not, depending on an individual circumstance, it’s still possible so +1, but given the over-all rarity and out of character requirements (so basically the fight has a very strict requirement) it earns a -1. Final answer 0
"Superman is far too powerful"
This argument in and of itself is more an observation than anything and only has relevance when the conditions of the fight don’t include Batman utilising one of Superman’s weaknesses – which is unlikely to occur. On the other hand, Superman simply is that powerful and unless Batman is trying to kill Superman, eventually Superman will probably over-power Batman in some way or fashion. The argument about Superman always holding back comes into play here too. On one hand he always holds back not to cause too much collateral damage or accidentally kill his opponent, thus providing Batman some ability to fight back. However this also suggests he has a very established amount of precision and control, so could actually hit Batman just hard enough to knock him out in a single punch without the fight dragging on… hmm.. Also, even if Batman IS trying to kill Superman, he’s not a certainty considering Superman’s vast powers and any opportunity that arises he will simply use enough force to achieve his goal. +1 based on all that, but -1 given that it’s a far too specific circumstance where Batman won’t have utilised weaknesses of Superman sufficiently, and the higher likelihood that Superman would be holding back too much allowing Batman the ability to fight back. Final result..yep, 0.
"Superman can simply crush Batman"
Yeah – there’s no denying this either. He can do it himself with his bare hands, or simply drop some large heavy object on him. Barring any type of PIS, Batman loses here. As durable as Batman may be, I don’t think he could survive having Wayne Tower dropped on his head, or being smashed into a mountain at near light-speed velocities. I can’t even mount much of a counter argument here since Superman is prone to doing this sort of stuff to enemies (meaning it’s not out of character), and Batman has succumbed to similar attacks previously (although not usually with so much strength or speed behind them). +1 (first legitimate +1 too) Although, on the other hand (and after some more thought on the matter), for Superman to resort to a very intense attack type that would render Batman unconscious or dead would be a special type of circumstance… I guess this allows for a -1, giving it a 0 result overall.
"Superman can fly him into space"
As valid an argument as this may be – it results in Superman killing Batman again. It’s a +1 if that is the context of the battle, but more often than not it’d be a -1 since he doesn’t usually want to kill him. I’ll allow the +1 under the idea in some scenarios it’s a valid argument., but I also apply a -1 given the absolute strictness required for said scenarios. 0.
Now, arguments for Batman
"He’s a master strategist – he already has contingency plans to take down Superman"
Yep – no denying this one. Given Batman’s mindset and paranoia (well founded on some occasions) he has already considered the idea he has to take out Superman in a fight someday and has planned for it. His plans are usually pretty good too as he creates them with a full understanding of the opponent and what they may or may not do. Do they involve PIS? Usually. Do they ignore the above arguments in favour of Superman? Definitely. But – doesn’t make it less valid +1. The amount of required PIS however, IMO, equally earns it a -1, resulting in a final outcome of 0.
"Batman has Kryptonite – Clark even gave it to him"
Specifically, it’s a kryptonite ring. With 1 or 2 low showings as exceptions, this amount of Kryptonite is mostly useless though. It’ll allow Batman to land some punches without destroying his hand (a la Hush) but ultimately it’s not the leveller it’s usually considered in these arguments. In one sense this is a +1 however as he does indeed have the ring. In another sense however it is a -1 because I won’t simply ignore rare low showings. 0
"Batman will use red sunlamps (a la Red Son) and simply beat the crap out of him, since he’s a much better fighter"
This is for me a very valid argument. IF Batman uses red sun lamps in the context of the fight scenario he can take a fairly easy victory due to his superior combat skills. However, more often than not this would require a fair amount of stupidity on Superman’s behalf, which he simply isn’t. I mean just like in Red Son, it takes a pretty specific scenario for this to become valid and feasible, and has never been used by Batman EXCEPT in Red Son. It’s single use earns it a +1, but the far too specific conditions for it to come about earn it a -1 as well, so 0.
"Batman can use prep to defeat anyone – he is the master of prep"
I’m going to give this one the first -1 result simply because it actually just repeats an earlier argument. I’ve seen it used as a separate argument but really it just encapsulates the 3 above it in some way and isn’t really its own argument. Besides, Superman can prep as well as anyone else as well – especially given his genius level intellect, access to Kryptonian and other alien technology, and his ability to learn anything in only minutes…. -1
"Because he’s Batman"
…….. I’m not even gonna……. Just…. No.
"Batman would prep and use a surprise attack on Superman, so Superman wouldn’t even see it coming."
It combines earlier aspects – but I’ll allow it as it has a new element to it – the element of surprise – which used correctly, would negate some of Superman’s advantages. An unsuspecting Superman won’t be on guard or on the lookout for red sunlamps or explosive kryptonite containers. This means that if Batman can lure Superman to a pre-determined and prepared location with whatever tools, gadgets and allies Batman has enlisted – he can take it to Superman quite effectively. On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier Superman’s brain works much faster than Batman’s – or anyone’s for that matter. Realistically, he could perceive the attack coming and react to it in the exact moment of its launch. Also, given his super senses it’s not illogical to assume he would still detect some traces of something suspicious either through an errant sound or smell or something that he is able to pick up on. The genuine ability for Batman to launch a surprise attack earns it a +1, but I also kind of want to give a -1 because baring PIS/CIS, Superman should be able to react easily enough to evade/escape/counter/etc… So I guess 0.
"Batman knows and understands Superman so he will beat him psychologically more than anything first THEN beat him physically"
Batman’s understanding of tactics, his enemy, psychology etc… are valid in any fight and he definitely is at or near the top of the food chain in this regard. This argument is even used when looking at the Hush issue and is, in my opinion – very legitimate. If we’re talking about a mind controlled Superman and Batman trying to break it – this is the method he will use. If we’re talking about a sadistic Batman who just wants to destroy and torment Superman – this is the tactic he would use; and he would use it well. HOWEVER – Superman knows Batman just as well. The two are the best of friends in almost all incarnations, and have a mutual level of understanding and respect for one another that is pretty rare. Superman has the exact same ability and opportunity here to manipulate Batman as the reverse of the above scenarios. Ok – maybe he won’t go sadistic in nature, but he will do things to attack Batman mentally, to try and get through to him… My point being this argument ends up working both ways depending on the scenario so, while Batman gets a +1 here, Superman equally provides a -1 resulting in 0
"Batman can use some sort of suit or maybe Venom or a similar toxin to get on the same level as Superman"
Since it’s comics, I’ll entertain the notion that there are metals and materials that are strong enough NOT to be demolished by Superman in half a second, rendering any robot or suit useless in nanoseconds. This is basically a part of the Lex Luthor approach, using advanced weaponry and robotics, so on that front it has some validity. However I would also counter by saying that all suits eventually are destroyed by Superman when they are used. Also as to using some sort of boosting drug – not only is this WAAAAAAAY out of character for Batman, there is yet to be a drug or toxin suitable enough to grant powers or even strength at the level of Superman’s. I’ll point to the New 52 example where Batman was hyped up on Venom – he still wasn’t strong enough. For a large part this just gets a -1, however I’ll grant a +1 as correctly utilised robotics and weaponry SHOULD provide the opportunity for Batman to take a win, so 0… again.
So where does that leave us? With a whole bunch of zeros – that’s where. There was almost a couple of legitimate +1’s and even a -1, but over-all for every argument there is a valid counter argument.
My conclusion is the same as others I’ve seen on CV that manage to remove themselves from fanboy bias – it’s all dependant on the author and their story. In any given circumstance a writer can achieve any outcome they wish. We could argue the merits of each position to the end of days, but ultimately it will come down to the story someone wants to write. If for the purpose of the story, Batman needs to win – he will. It might be done in a really stupid way, but it will happen anyway. On the other hand if the story demands a Superman victory – that’s what will happen. Batman will have his plans thwarted or no access to Kryptonite and Superman will take an obvious victory.
In a battle sense, the expectation should be for Superman to take the win in more cases than not, and this is reflected in the comics themselves – however at the end of the day, in just a single scenario the victory will always go to the authors intended winner – no matter what, and THAT is how it REALLY works. Abd after all that it's pointless... because we all know the they would never truly fight because of our pettiness.... they're too big for that...