11 July 2011

A Theory About Superman and Batman

[Note:  It seems I hardly ever blog here, opting instead to post notes on Facebook.  With Google+ and the possibility of linking this blog to a social network on the horizon, I thought I might dig deep into my Facebook notes and share some of my pithy, witty observations with the world at large.  You're welcome.]

An off-handed joke/observation yesterday ("Do you suppose Superman ever asks Batman to carry his ID for him? Because ... you know ... no pockets.") got me to thinking.

Why does Batman tolerate Superman?

Young Bruce Wayne watched as his parents were killed by a common street thug and was raised by his eccentric, English butler in a cold, empty mansion. Kal-El was a baby when a natural disaster took out his home planet, and was raised by loving adoptive parents on an idyllic Midwestern farm. Batman dedicated his life to avenging his parents' death, traveling the globe to train with the best -- to become the best. Superman is endowed with super powers by our yellow sun. Batman has to continually condition his body to stay in tip-top shape. If Superman is ever feeling rundown or flabby, he can sprawl out in the sun for a few hours.

(Seriously -- if Superman's strength is such that he can lift a 747 over his head, where does he go to work out? There aren't enough free weights in the world.)

To preserve his secret identity, Batman has to pose as a bobble-headed, billionare playboy. 180 degrees from the man he truly is. And Superman? The overgrown boyscout poses as a naive Kansas farmboy. What a stretch.

And for all his hard work, the people of Gotham call Batman "vigilante," and occasionally press their police to bring him to justice. The people of Metropolis call Superman "champion," and erect statues in his honor.

How can Batman stand to be in the same room with Superman?

Because when Batman sees Superman, he sees a massive tool. (Pun intended.)

Think about it: Batman can't fly, so he has a bat plane. He can't stare at a set of fingerprints and divine the identity of the person to whom they belong, so he has a bat computer. He carries a variety of bat-tools wherever he goes in his utility belt. There are a lot of things Superman can do that Batman can't: He's a walking x-ray machine, for starters. He's a handy body shield. Super speed and flight makes him the best "go fer" in the world.

There is something Batman has that Superman lacks: Intellect. Consider: Batman can't deflect bullets with his bare skin. He can't afford to walk blindly into a room and take on all comers. He has to strategize, often on the fly. If Superman were locked in a sealed container with a ticking time bomb, he'd have a couple of options: 1) Use his super strength to bust out or 2) wait for the bomb to go off, brush the dust off his costume, and fly away. Batman, on the other hand, would have to use his keen mind to defuse the bomb or break himself out.

The radiation of our sun gives Superman god-like strength, but not necessarily god-like intelligence. Even if the potential for god-like intelligence is there, what would motivate him to develop it? Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive -- and he didn't have to work a day to become that way. Being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound does not automatically imply an ability to complete a crossword puzzle.

As a criminologist (perhaps the greatest living criminologist) Batman has studied psychology. He would know how to manipulate Superman to get what he wants. Superman is guileless and bald-faced. Batman is nothing but guile, hidden behind his lead-lined mask.

And Superman is his bitch.