I read this post, “Batman: Plutocrat,” today, and it reminded me of one of the big reasons why I like Superman as a character more than I like Batman.
Both Batman and Superman are born into aristocracy (Bruce Wayne, the son of a millionaire doctor; Kal-El, the son of his planet’s most prominent scientist). Both are orphaned, but Batman keeps his family’s wealth and social status, while Superman loses it all. Kal-El/Clark Kent is raised by Midwestern farmers, salt of the earth people who value hard work. Bruce Wayne plays the role of the bored, rich playboy. Clark Kent is a hardworking newspaper reporter. Bruce Wayne lives in a mansion. Clark Kent lives in an apartment.
In his first stories, Superman fought against warmongers and corrupt businessmen, protecting immigrant laborers and ghetto children, before moving up to, as Steven Padnick put it, “intergalactic dictators, evil monopolists, angry generals, and dark gods, i.e. symbols of abusive authority.” Batman has always fought (again, in the words of Steven Padnick) “psychotics, anarchists, mob bosses, the mentally ill, and environmentalists, i.e. those who would overthrow the status quo.” Superman fights against The Man. Batman is The Man.
Superman is generally held up as the comics symbol of Inherent Power, while Batman is the icon of A Regular Man Who Has Trained Himself. But there is more to power than superstrength and invulnerability. Bruce Wayne inherited the power of money, property and social influence, while Clark Kent has to work for his livelihood. Batman fights crime using gadgets and vehicles created with his vast financial resources. Superman has only himself.
Of course, what it really boils down to is this: Superman’s values–who he fights, what he fights for, how he fights, and who he champions–much more closely match my own than Batman’s. To me, Batman is an interesting character, but Superman is an inspiring character. Batman’s a privileged rich guy who fights against the poor and unusual. Superman’s a middle class worker who fights for the poor and downtrodden. And that is my kind of hero!