Parenting is a minefield of controversy. We can let the womenfolk handle trivial issues, like whether to vaccinate, or make babies cry it out. We dads need to tackle the tough topics requiring steely resolve and a firm grasp of the facts. Today’s prediliction: Batman or Superman?
The occasion for this quandary is my son’s very first superhero action figure, acquired yesterday. My sister was cleaning out her basement playroom. So the wife and I cherry-picked all manner of superfluous puzzles, Hot Wheels, and crayons. But the prize was a five-inch Batman.
A boy’s first superhero sets in motion a series of preferences and decisions that will shape his worldview. It usually comes down to the Caped Crusader versus the Man of Steel.
For my childhood self it was an easy choice. I never much liked Superman. Everything came too easily to him. Sure it must be nice coming from your superior solar system with its awesome red sun. You come to Earth, with our crappy yellow sun, and of course you have super strength and you can fly and shoot laser beams from your eyes and bullets bounce harmlessly off your chest and fall at your feet like acorns. And who does Clark think he’s fooling with those non-prescription glasses?
Give me Batman any day. He has zero super powers, but must instead rely on his wits. He conditions his body, hones his fighting skills, and develops mission critical gadgets to give him a tactical advantage. I mean, what’s cooler: fighting crime with super strength and icy-cold breath?… or using grappling hooks and boomerangs? Duh.
Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, which is some sort of depressingly remote arctic masturbation lair. Batman has a state of the art, retrofitted cave, with forensics lab, analytic computers and en suite parking, bitches. And the Bat Cave has plenty of blinking lights and beeping consoles, so you know some next-level shit is humming in the background. And instead of commuting to the North Pole, Batman slides down a fireman’s pole, cleverly concealed behind a bookcase.
Even cooler for a mortal, Batman is strictly opposed to guns. Since his parents were shot to death, Batman built his vigilante creed around punishing senseless violence with principled violence. (I just gave myself the chills.) To paraphrase* Batman’s anti-gun rationale, “Even a knife can cut bread; a spear can pitch a tent; but a gun’s sole purpose is to kill.”
None of this is meant to deny the allure of other more nuanced superheroes, like Spiderman, Wolverine, or the most underappreciated hero of all: Aquaman. As in, “Oh hi, my name’s Aquaman. I talk to fish. Telepathically.”
The way I see it, two-thirds of the earth’s surface is covered by what substance? Exactly: water. And who rules the oceans? Right again: Aquaman. And he’s doing a bang-up job too, because besides some drug running, shark finning, and Somali pirates, people aren’t getting away with a lot of seafaring crime (BP oil spill notwithstanding). By comparison, Metropolis and Gotham City are freakin combat zones.
But all those other heroes come later. My son isn’t yet two. He knows nothing of Krypton, Gotham, secret identities or utility belts. He’s just going by first impressions. He appears to prefer the subversive Batman to that sellout Superman. It’s an auspicious start for a crime-fighter.
* I’d quote it verbatim but the original comic book is in my old room in my parents’ house. Blast!