What I am referring to, of course, is my public obsession with Batman and Spider-Man. Oh, I've alluded to the Spider-Man stuff before but always in a non-committal way. Here, today I am going to put it out there (just like I did with Star Wars) so you can see that I've got a little problem. You can decide whether you are on board--if you care, like I do, and if you want to talk about it a lot and in great detail, or you may just have to raise your eyebrows and say, "Well Kacy, good luck with that." Whatever you decide, I understand.
Just so you know where I am coming from, let me start with this: I'm small potatoes in the comic book arena. I don't claim to be an expert and most of what I say is based on the movies. I will also begin by exposing certain biases. I go back and forth on the Spider-Man vs. Batman issue, depending on the criteria and context of the discussion; however, I have a general gut feeling that Batman is simply cooler and I often strive to articulate an argument that supports this. This may be because the Batman movies always come out on or around my birthday, and because I was young and impressionable when the first Michael Keaton movie came out which seemed very awesome at the time.
Then again, when I was very young Spider-Man was on The Electric Company and I thought he was a real person so I feel a kinship dating back to my youth with him as well. And, before I really get started, I may as well admit one last bias and it is this: Tobey Maguire is a real hang- up for me. I find him unappealing in almost every way. This is balanced out by the fact that Christian Bale did appear in Newsies. But this isn't about the actors, is it. (I was about to say, "it's about the real people. "Of course, I know Spider-Man and Batman aren't real. Heh heh. Clear throat.)
Before I move on to the elephant in the room, which is of course the fact that Batman doesn't have any real super-powers, let me quickly address a few issues.
Pre-Hero History: Batman and Spider-Man both carry a sense of guilt about the deaths in their families which drives them and haunts them and that's interesting. The Wayne past and ties to Gotham are pretty compelling and Bruce Wayne is older than Peter Parker so he's done more (living with criminals, training with Ra's Al Ghul etc.) But Peter Parker's youth and relative naivete make him interesting in a different way. Perhaps it's a matter of taste.
Gender Issues: Do men and women view the super-heroes differently? This is a complicated matter. I'm not sure how this comes into play when deciding who is the best super hero overall. I will say this: if I were choosing a boyfriend I would definitely choose Spider-Man over Batman because he is loyal, introverted, thoughtful, likeable, agile, and appealing. He has shown in his devotion to Mary Jane that he would be a good boyfriend. Of course, this is his weakness too and all the villains know it. Batman moves on more easily from one woman to the next. Not such a great quality in a long-term relationship, but for a super-hero? Desirable. Bruce Wayne has a JFK Jr. mystique which seems just right for a super hero. He may not have any real powers, but he's super charming.
And while I am on the topic, I love how devoted Peter Parker is to Mary Jane but I can't help but feel like Bruce Wayne has a little better taste in women. We are talking about super heroes here so you have to have some ladies to save--that's part of the fun. But Batman's girlfriend, Rachel, is spunky and idealistic--a real player in the cause of justice. Spider-Man's girlfriend just wants to be an actress and has red hair. There is no accounting for taste.
Sidekick: Let's not talk about Robin for the time being, 'k? My blog is inspired by Batman Begins so I'm focusing on that. Although I'm happy to discuss the homoerotic at a later date. Anyway, they're not really sidekicks but I want to compare Aunt May and Alfred. The relationship between Alfred and Batman is important and compelling. His dainty accent and clothing make it all the more interesting when you realize that Alfred actually empowers Batman to do his job. The fatherly relationship plays out better than the Aunt May/Peter Parker relationship. I hate to say it, but it's simply true. Alfred is just cooler than an old lady. I regret this because it has personal implications for me in the near future but, no on wants to see an old lady--although Spider-Man's love for her is touching and endearing.
To further explore the Alfred relationship, people are basically uncomfortable with servants because of the whole slavery deal (but we'd all really like one--a servant, not a slave). Alfred is happy being a servant and really loves the Waynes (so that makes it ok). In the end, Alfred gets a lot of money so he and Batman aren't really in a master-servant relationship anymore-- he's there by choice. It's extremely satisfying.
Of course, if I were to choose a super-hero to be, I would choose Spider-Man because he has super power and that would be much more awesome. Batman has to work way too hard, although he has excellent help and cool gadgets. So maybe it all boils down to that. Maybe Batman isn't a "super hero" at all but simply a "super citizen." A really impressive Bill Gates, if you will.
But I don't know. I just can't discount him. So he has no powers, must we dismiss him outright? Perhaps the purists would. But I would argue that his ability to unite and inspire people behind the cause of justice and give them hope is his super power. Bruce Wayne has money which is essentially the means by which he transforms into a super-hero. So why should we privilege the accidental bite of a spider over the conscientious choice of how to spend one's money? If Ra's Al Ghul used economics to destroy Gotham, isn't money a legitimate way to create a hero to help inspire and re-build it? Is the accidental hero better than the deliberate one? Isn't this deliberate choice what separates the villains from the heroes? Isn's this the choice that all freaks are faced with--Use my freaky power for good or evil? Batman is freakishly wealthy.
Both men are inspiring and give people hope. You root for them for opposite reasons: You root for Batman because even though he is rich and can buy anything, when it comes down to fighting crime he's just a guy who isn't super in any way. You root for Spider-Man because in spite of the fact that he has super-strength and spider sense he's just a nerdy kid on a bike.
Believe me, I could (and probably will) go on. I know there is more to say about this, like how great it is to see Gary Oldman as a good guy, deciding on my favorite scenes from Batman Begins, and comparing Liam Neeson in Batman Begins to Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars I. But I've got much to think about right now.
Well, good luck with that.