Tuesday, July 05, 2005

And So it Begins--Batman vs. Spider-Man

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.


  1. Batman over Spiderman. No question.

  2. Very impressive, thorough, though out, articulate.... Dang it!

  3. If you'd like more reasons to choose the Bat over the Spider, the following may or may not be of use to you:

    Kirsten Dunst is less annoying than Katie Holmes.

    Christian Bale is WAY hotter than Tobey Maguire.

    Nobody says "Go get 'em, Tiger!" in the Batman movies.

    Batman villains are awesome and weird.

    If this doesn't convince you, nothing will.

  4. Despite what you may think, your title is very appropriate, considering the comment flood of very passionate but half baked arguments you are about to receive. And so it begins, but I’ll try my hardest to stay out of it, considering… you know.

  5. I'm pretty sure the length of this post alone will be self-selecting--only real die hard nuts (like me) will participate in what I hope is a civilized and enlightening discussion.

    Spider-Fan, if that is your real name, your input is of course welcome and expected--that's the only way we're ever going to get to the bottom of this debate.

  6. I think Batman is better, overall. May I (as the resident shallow and materialistic reader of your blog) throw in wardrobe issues? Batman's costume is way cooler, and it accentuates a very kissable mouth. Spiderman has to have his mask pulled back to kiss (or so I thought when I saw the preview--SHOCK! have yet to actually SEE all of either Spider man movie). Plus, all the deep crap you mentioned about being freakishly wealthy and making choices, etc. etc.

  7. Well, Carly--I don't know about THAT as I think way more about being Spider-Man than kissing him. Perhaps my problems are more serious than I first suspected...
    At any rate, some interesting gender issues are emerging and you do have a point. The Batman costume is more attractive and I prefer the colors.

    During Batman Begins I noted that Batman's prototype costume is better than Spider Man's prototype costume, and this made me pity Spider-Man.

    Note: Interestingly enough, while I may wish I were a super-hero, my sister Carly wishes she were Nicole Kidman (aka, Dr. Chase Meridian in Batman Forever. . . the plot thickens).

  8. Baterangs or spiderwebs? It is a good question. Personally I'd have to go with Batman over Spiderman anyday. Batman just has the cool factor-- forget about all the kissy stuff. Bleech.

  9. Well, I watched Spider-Man 2 again last night and I really like the whole self-sacrifice theme. That's good stuff. Spider-Man may be a better person than Batman.

    What I find interesting about Ra's Al Ghul is that he's not totally bad. He has good ideas. I like the way he thinks, but he's too extreme. So Batman has to deal with the gray areas of justice and evil. That's intriguing and it takes a lot of integrity.

    By the way, does Batman carry kryptonite in his utility belt? Because he should.

  10. I probably won't, but I have been thinking about going to Dragons Keep today.

  11. The bottom of this to me is that I just like geeks better than cool people. I think everybody is a geek deep down, and it's so much better to embrace your geekiness than to be all dramatic and cool-guy. I mostly suspect cool people of being at least slightly phony.

    So put me down for Spidey. Not that I'm skipping the Batman movie, or anything.

  12. Well, I must say that reading this post was very educational for me, since I don't know too much in the Super Hero department. However, I have some reasons why I like Spider-Man more. Though my reasons may be meaningless, compared to you all-knowing super hero people, they are still my reasons.

    Let's start with first impressions: One brother watched scary Batman movies. The other had cool Spider-Man sheets. I liked those sheets.
    1 point for the Spider.

    8th Grade: History teacher gave extra credit to those that colored Spider-Man pictures and hung them up in his class. Spider-Man helped me pass History.
    2 points for the Spider.

    Went to movie with my brother: First saw the Spider-Man trailer. Fell in love.
    2 more points for Spider-Man

    Opening Night of Spider-Man: no words.
    5 points.

    16th Birthday: Spider-Man (and Gladiator) Poster given to me. Hung it on my wall to see everyday.
    3 points.

    What happened to Batman? Is he even a contestant here? Well, the next time I even heard about Batman was the first time I went over to the Magleby residence. There I witnessed a similar discussion between a group of boys. All, but one, agreed that Spider-Man was better.
    Creating an entertaining conversation to listen to:
    2 Points Spider-Man
    3 Points for Batman

    However--Batman Begins looks excellent. Maybe I will have a more unbiased opinion after I see it myself. In hopes of seeing an awesome flick:
    3 points for Batman.

    Until then: Here's one vote for Spider-Man.

  13. Forgive me, Rob, but I think I've decided that I like Batman better. Gotham City is just so cool and the villians in Batman stories are really scary and funny. Plus, I really like Catwoman.

  14. Well, if I were choosing between Batman and ROB (and it may come to that), I would choose Rob without hesitation.

    There is obviously a lot of emotional baggage bound up in this debate. Not unlike the emotional baggage one might carry with them if one felt responsible for the death of their Uncle Ben, or their father. . .

  15. I never knew the name of Batman's girlfriend. It seems to me that she's not as well known. I mean, you mention Superman and Spider-Man, and you automatically think Lois Lane and Mary Jane (Or Gwen Stacy, depending on which era of the comics you were in too, right Rob?) But I wasen't even aware that Batman had a steady girlfriend before I read this.

    And Spider-Man kicks the crap out of Batman. Besides the powers and villians Spider-Man fights, Marvel characters will ALWAYS top DC Comics characters for me.

  16. At first I'm thinking, "Good luck with that one." But, after sleeping on it I've decided comparing Batman to Spiderman is like comparing apples to oranges. Sure, they're both superheroes, but one has a cape and the other doesn't. One is a self-proclaimed superhero while the other has no choice.

    But I'm happy for you that this topic makes you so happy. :)

  17. Oh Suzie, it doesn't make me happy--it torments me. I do like talking about it though.

    And remember Suzie, you always have a choice. But sometimes, Suzie, you have to choose to be steady and do the right thing even if it means giving up your dreams.

  18. People tell me I remind them of a balding Tobey Maguire. Can you imagine anything worse? I vote for Batman just out of spite.

  19. The real question is, why are people like Oprah doing shows on "the secret homosexual lives of straight black men" when clearly this is what the people want! And oddly, I find the sources here to be more reliable! I say if I have to be one--Spidey, but if I have to have a torrid affair with one--Batman for sure.

  20. I saw Batman Begins two days ago and instantly began a Batman blog in my mind. Then yesterday Guy told me you had this entry. I had to force myself to wait to read yours until I had written my own to keep it honest and personal. Now that I have posted mine, I am thrilled to read yours and find a kindred spirit. I, however, am not torn the way you are. I find Spidey charming and somewhat tragic, but for some reason not nearly as compelling as the Bat. I think the cool factor, in addition to the much hotter batsuit of course, tips the scales for me. I like the fact that a regular (albeit rich) guy can be a superhero without the powers. I do like what Ana said about the geek factor, but I enjoy Bruce's inner conflicts, too. Besides, we have way more batman jammies, masks, and action figures at our house than spidey stuff. (although the silly-string squirter is cool)

  21. I don't mean to completely derail the conversation at hand, BUT. . . no talk of Superman here in the mix? He's got the consummate superpowers, inner turmoil of living a double life with noone--no Alfred, no Mary Jane, not to mention his home planet blew up PLUS the addition of the really cool science fiction aspect of the "otherworld"liness. AND, he's able to maintain a professional career as a journalist while saving the world. I'm just sayin'. . .

  22. My immediate inclination is love for the Batman even though my knowledge of the two super-hero's PALES to yours.

    And also, having gone to two separate birthday parties with Batman and Spiderman as "special guests" to each...Batman wins hands down. Of course, this is mostly because "Spiderman" had quite the "BEER GUT" and that just isn't the image I want for Spiderman..

    But it must be said that your mentioning of Christian Bale in Newsies gives me yet another piece of truth that you are indeed a kindred spirit. Heck...Newsies could be an entire Blog topic. ;)

  23. No matter what your opinion on Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman, I think there is one thing can all agree on: Superman is an idiot.

  24. Batman all the way. He is a REAL man because he didn't have to be bit by a spider to become cool but worked his butt off to develop those manly curves. Love his costume...black always makes a person look sinister, mysterious and oh so sexy, he is smart, and let's not forget he is RICH! This isn't even a real debate...I've got to go take a cold shower.

  25. Peter Parker/Spiderman is sympathetic because he is kind. But you want a superhero with a little bit of badness in them, like a grudge, or self-doubt, or other personal issues. This edge makes them more appealing because it adds a level of humanity to them that people can relate to, like Sandra Dee in Grease, although she's not a superhero (but Olivia Newton John is super...well, never mind). Yes, Peter Parker mourns the loss of his uncle, but he handles it too well. I think this is the same problem with Superman. I don't think anyone can deny the greatness of his powers, and we can have sympathy for the plight of his planet, but he's just so good, too good. That’s not to say that issues in their lives don’t torment Spiderman and Superman, but for some reason, they lack that elusive “edge”. Maybe it’s because their secret identities are so completely harmless, I’m not exactly sure. At any rate, I like Batman better than Spiderman (although I think there are cooler superheroes out there). Besides, Toby McGuire’s, rendition of Spiderman is just a bit too Greatest American Hero for me. That said, I still enjoyed the Spiderman movies, but not as much as Batman Begins.

  26. Who knew that so many people felt so strongly about this topic?

    From a general marketing standpoint, I feel more comfortable with Spidey than with Bat..er -man.

    We have only had two Spiderman movies that have had some kind of consistency. Batman, on the otherhad, is like some crazy free-for-all... Any director can sign on to the franchise and totally do his own thing to the story/characters/back story. I can't forget that Joel gave Batman nipples for crying out loud. I feel that the cinematic Batman is sullied...slightly diluted...whereas Spiderman is still relatively cinematically pure.

    BUT...while the introverted nerd who always chooses to do the right thing is the guy who wins in the end for me, I still fall hard for the rich jerk...and holy cow...Toby/Christian?...Toby/Christian? Sorry Tobe, Christian had me in his crushing clutches in "Empire of the Sun".

    "Santa Fe, are you there? Will you swear you won't forget me..."

  27. Nicely put Carrie Ann. I think Crutchy should be a Super Villain, always in the shadow of the great Jack, weak, harmless, and then one day, BANG, he’s bitten by a radioactive crutch, and he doesn’t make the selfless choice our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man does with his new found powers. Thus a villain is born!

  28. I love that a discussion of Spider Man and Batman can bring out the Newsie fan. That is just fabulous.

  29. Hey, is it just me or are any of the rest of you wanting to hear about another obsession of Kacy's?

    I mean we are, as I type just 87 hours and 19 minutes away from the biggest event of the year and not a peep--what gives?

    Not to be a blog comment-ender or anything, you know how I hate that. . .

  30. Here Julie...let me help you out...So you won't be the blog-comment-ender. What is happening in 87 hours? Curious...

  31. http://www.mcphee.com/bigindex/current/11476.html

    Here's something I thought you might like... totally un-superhero related, but fun none the less.

  32. Suzie, that's so weird. I'm flattered that it made you think of me. And I think Julie is talking about a They Might Be Giants concert we took Sam and Maggie to. It's hard to tell, though, because she's on London time so she's like two hours ahead or something. (Time differences?--beats me!)

    Of the concert I will say this: The Johns' musical ability is surpassed only by their sense of humor.

    And what's the deal with their obsession with geography, the most boring of all subjects? Because, you know. . . I'm interested in things.

  33. So now it's in 39 hours 19 minutes and 18 seconds as of login and publish time. . .You really don't know? You're killing me here. . .not you Susie, I am not aware of your obessions (not that I claim to know all of Kacy's, but we have spoken at length about this particular one). . . 3 kids, two boys, one girl, are you with me yet?

  34. Oh, yes yes. Julie is so sweet to remember. I have two boys and one girl and it is my older son Sam's birthday in just about 39 British hours. He's turning 8 so this is a big one. We are excited because we get to take him to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for his birthday this Friday. But what to get him? Maybe something new to read. . . of course! His own new set of scriptures.

  35. My newest obsession: driving Julie crazy. I never knew how fun it could be.

  36. I knew what it was right away, but I won't say.

  37. You know, trying to drive me crazy could backfire. For example, what if I decided to just type in the last few pages and post it as a comment or worse, we could have the whole thing read in the 7 hour time difference by the look of it (and in saying "by the look of it", I do mean "by the look of it.") and spill the beans (every flavor) as a comment and you would just accidentally read it and be ruined. Think of it, by the time you get back from Willy Wonka, (I am sooooo jealous) and make your way to whichever party you intend to attend, which one by the way, BYU? Deseret Book? We will have left the Oxford street queue party where Dumbledore himself will make the books magically appear at the stroke of midnight, made our way quickly back to the Centre and have finished reading most if not all of it! Don't you go messin' wif me girl. . .

    ( Reproving betimes with sharpness•, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;—that was our lesson on Sunday and there was a wonderful distinction made—sharpness isn’t meant to be meanness, but with precision, done carefully, a lesson to us all. . .that means you too, Spidey and Batman.)
    Bringing us back to the reason for this whole blog in the first place--Kacy, who won?

  38. Julie, You wouldn't dare.

    Regarding the Batman/Spider-Man dealio, it is officially a conundrum. And I plan to talk about it for the rest of my life.

  39. You have a new post now, and I didn't want to detract from it and I love Spidey's happy ending to this one, but this just in from the New York Times online. . .

    Batman and Spider-Man have been rivals for decades. Now they will square off in the online gaming arena.

    Expanding the video game wars to new fronts, Microsoft announced a deal with Marvel Enterprises yesterday to develop an advanced online game based on Marvel's well-known cast of comic book characters.

    (You must realize how this comment has cost me, risking the dreaded comment-ender phobias that I have now clearly and permanently developed, so help me out here. . . Kacy? Spidey? Anonymous? Anybody?

  40. Anonymous6:18 PM

    I do what I can.


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