7 Ways Batman Is Objectively Better Than Superman

Arguing about Batman versus Superman is like masturbation: A lot of people do it online, often instead of sex, and it's a lot of fun. Also like many arguments online, one side is backed up by intelligence and careful preparation while the other only keeps going because arguments just bounce off its stupid invulnerable skin.

Even Superman looks bored by his own comic.

#7. Batman's Regular Stories Are Interesting

Superman is the icon, the original comic book superhero as we now understand the term, and 80 years later he's still kicking ass. But like many 80-year-old men, he repeats his stories too often. He's practically a mythological figure, but mythological figures are only interesting in epic confrontations. Zeus doing battle with the Titans is world-shaking. Superman facing the Prankster is about as interesting as Superman facing the mirror, super-flossing his super-teeth.

Yep, that's a weedy strip of organic matter he could get rid of by spitting hard. The Prankster's greatest crime was theft of the reader's time.

These monthly non-entity villains are the super-equivalent of rain on your way to work: It's never going to stop you, it just makes this regular chore slightly more annoying as you proceed in a straight line to the inevitable conclusion. Superman could solve most of his problems by flying toward the bad guy and then nothing else.

Helpfully demonstrated by the Authority's Apollo.

Not killing people is an important part of Superman's character, but there's a huge gap between "a moral code against murder" and "letting any idiot who can afford fancy dress waste four months of everyone's lives." Batman's insistence on the same code is much more impressive because he's actually risking himself for it. And Batman's everyday confrontations are still interesting. You know he's going to win, but he always has multiple methods, none of which are "Just be immune at them until they die of old age." He can turn one thug with a gun into one of the coolest takedowns of all time.

Batman disarming the good guy instead of the murderer, just to keep things interesting.

This is why Batman has brilliant video games and Superman doesn't. In the Arkham titles, Batman is far superior to his enemies, but will still be shot to death the second he screws up. That's what makes victory fun. Superman games are all annoying because he has to be ridiculously weakened, because challenge is impossible when you're a walking God Mode.

Titus Software
Making Superman magically depowered and forced to fly through hoops to get to the end, Superman 64 was mocked, but is actually based on 90 percent of all Superman plots.

A true Superman game would have an immortal main character racing against time to save innocent civilians with unavoidable consequences -- meaning it would be the worst game ever, based on time limits, escort missions and permanent failures.

#6. Batman Gets to Be Himself

That title might sound odd when you're talking about a man with a secret identity dressed up as a giant latex rodent, but Batman has never been exposed to anti-vengeance-ite. Because Batman writers don't have to fight their own main character to write a story. Superman is only barely short of flying out of the page and punching the author for daring to inconvenience him. Powers are meant to define a hero, but Superman suffers superpowers like rising damp: They start out manageable but keep climbing until you have to tear the whole thing down and start again.

Sometimes with tragic results, like Roller Disco Superman.

Super ventriloquism, logo-throwing, existential micro-self projection -- no one has been given more ridiculous powers in fewer lines of writing since Mussolini. Which is why Superman has been affected by more chemicals and forces than hydrogen. Magic, hypnosis, an entire anti-rainbow of Kryptonite that made him suck ("anti" because regular rainbows are linked to strong men sucking in a good way), and whenever things get too troublesome they just block out the sun.

Which finally makes their capes useful, and adds yet another reason it sucks to be a female superhero.

Depowering Superman is meant to make us appreciate his inner resolve and true heroism, but actually makes us endure the non-adventures of Man-man. If he's not Super, we could be following any idiot, and seeing him running away is even worse than watching him effortlessly punch his millionth giant robot. One of the worst examples was Aliens vs. Superman. A Kryptonian finally teaching those literal-dickhead xenomorphs that attacking strangers in space is a bad idea would have been awesome, but instead he's depowered and spends four issues running away so hard that an entire world dies.

#5. You Don't Have to Care About Batman

The best Superman stories require that you care about him in the first place. Red Son, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, All-Star Superman (you're simply not qualified to talk about comics if you haven't read that), For the Man Who Has Everything ... they're all fantastic for fans and meaningless to anyone else. Red Son asks "What if he'd landed in Russia?" which means you care about him in America. Whatever wonderfully ends his story, which means you had to have been reading it until then. All-Star simply is Superman, and smelts the insane Silver Age junk into a shining piece of precious storytelling, but only fully works if you already knew about that crap.

But seriously, read it.

One of the greatest Superman stories ever written is Garth Ennis' Hitman/Superman.


Supes struggles with his inability to save everyone while an Irish-American murderer explains what he truly stands for. It's one of his finest moments, but only if you're all Nietzschean (and already care about the struggle of the Superman). You can't base your regular stories on how hard it is for you without being an emo whiner or a male porn star. Superman stories not based on his history or emotional struggles boil down to beginner Street Fighter: holding "forward" and "punch" and hoping it works. The only difference a really strong enemy makes is how hard he grimaces in the process. The worst example was The Death of Superman. DC promoted this as the story that would change everything, where Superman and Doomsday ineffectually punched each other for six issues until -- gasp! -- they punched each other even harder!

This was the 40th time he'd reminded us he had to hit the bad guy.

Batman's best stories are tough smart guy versus the villain. You don't need 40 years of back story to appreciate that. We enjoy that story with new characters in new movies and video games every week of the year. The recurring Bat-characters only make it even cooler for longtime fans.

Especially when he's fighting KGBeast, the only villain to beat Batman in the "costume is clearly a sex thing" contest.

Batman suffered just as much '50s lunacy as his Superfriend, but they've been bonuses in some modern plots, not the entire point.

You don't need to know about Planet X to understand how much ass Technicolor Dreamcoat Batman kicks.

#4. Batman Is Smarter

Superman is meant to be super-intelligent, but his solution to every problem is either charging straight at it with his fists up or throwing things. If any Kryptonian kindergarten teachers had survived, Superman would spend most of his life in timeout. That's why his most famous villain is mastermind Lex Luthor: Someone has to do interesting things to keep the story moving. But because evil plans end the instant Superman finds the planner, they're based on distraction and deception, so we get to follow a confused man who mindlessly punches everything for four issues until he stumbles into someone who knows what he's doing. That's the exact plot of ending up in a mental institution.

Action Comics

Batman is the Master Detective. With him, we're actually following the trail instead of playing Kryptonian Whac-A-Mole until the Daily Planet or S.T.A.R. Labs or the Justice League Satellite or his super-vision suddenly tells him where to go punch things next. You know they're both going to save the day, but with Batman, you still get to wonder how. With Superman, you just flip a coin as to whether he'll end the movie by punching or lifting.

Warner Bros
Superman Returns added variety by choosing "lifting," but it was a mistake.

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Luke McKinney

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