Monday, July 14, 2014

The Batman Issue

So, having recently watched the Batman vs Spiderman Death Battle and seeing the number of people complaining about how Spiderman shouldn't be able to beat Batman, a few thoughts came to mind.

So let's start with a question: how can a man, no matter how highly trained have any chance at standing alongside the heaviest hitters of DC Universe and expect to put forth an equal effort to the others?  The fans would have a large list of reasons just why Batman can step up to the likes of Darkseid or Sinistro.  They would cite his planning, his resources, his strategic thinking, his massive array of physical training,  However, the reason that Batman can win out in a lot of the circumstances where he comes out on top of a super-powered enemy comes down to one thing:

He's Batman.

This sounds like a weak argument, the sort of thing you'd hear from a fan boy or girl, but it's true.  He wins because he's Batman.  Likewise, Wolverine wins a lot of his fights because he's Wolverine. 

What do I mean by this?  It's simple.  Batman is an impressively popular character. 

One of the reasons he is so popular is that he is one of the few DC characters that is a more or less normal human being.  Likewise, a lot of the troubles he deals with verge on things that could occur in real life, rather like an action movie.  It's possible, not bloody likely, but possible.  When he came up to join the JLA the writers had to make sure that Batman was given plenty of chance to shine.  Of course, his fans wouldn't really sit still from him being simply in the support position, doing strategy and planning.  They wanted him to take out some of the big things here and there.

His massive intellect and resources provided them with an out on the idea that, if given a chance to prepare, he could likely come up with a strategy to defeat any opponent about which he possessed much information.  After they'd established his ability to prepare a few times, then they could later just write up an explanation referring to that crazy level of preparation for explaining why he just happened to have something up his sleeve for the particular circumstance at hand. 

The problem is that it begins to wear thin after a while.  Fans read Batman comics to see Batman overcome adversity and prove that he is a badass.  They pick up the JLA to watch him prove that a "normal" human can stand up with, as a friend puts it, "Space Jesus, Green Space Jesus, Cosmic Super Speedster, Divinely Created Warrior Woman and several other similarly powerful characters".  For those that are fans and have been reading Batman comics for a long time, this is fine and doesn't matter.  For other people, it stretches the bounds of reality, some times to the point of going "meh".

This is also a reason why you find youtube entries like "Why Batman can beat the Avengers" and other such things.  Because the fans of the character believe that Batman can beat anybody given the right preparation and circumstances.  Well, guess what, anybody can beat anybody given the right preparation and circumstances.  The reason Batman gets such things so often is because, as already said, the fans expect it.

Realistically speaking, Batman is not a physical threat to most superhuman characters.  In the death battle video that started this, the video starts with showing Batman toss around Spiderman at the start quite a bit.  Even that little bit wouldn't really happen.

The physical differences are too extreme.  Spider-man has 20 times the strength, 20 times the reflexes, is capable of surviving a tremendous amount of punishment beyond what Batman can, and his Spider-Sense is a natural, inborn version of the holy grail of martial arts.  To be honest, neither Wolverine nor Captain America should realistically be able to defeat Spider-Man and both are of comparable level of training and skill to Batman with commensurate higher levels of experience each.

Of course, this is pretty much what the Death Battle crew ruled when they had Spiderman win, and people complained.

Now, of course, people are going to say "but you're a Spiderman fan, of course you think he'd win."  And yes, I prefer Spiderman over Batman.  I find Spiderman to be the most mis-used and abused character out of either Marvel or DC.  There's loads of potential there and loads of interesting threads to travel...unfortunately...Marvel wants to keep Spiderman to a formula and thus plot needs makes him come out weaker and more 2-dimensional than he really should be.

However, that said, I am not saying this because of Spiderman.  Spiderman has experienced the same popularity advantage in the past.  If you look hard enough, you will find a Spider-Man vs Superman comic in which Spider-Man wins...and no, he doesn't use kryptonite.

Realistically, there is no way that Spider-Man can beat Superman.  Heck, there's no reason even Goku from Dragonball Z should be able to beat Superman in a fight.  The numbers we are privy to across so many comics basically make Superman the most awfully over-powered character in either DC or Marvel with the possible exception of such things as Galactus.
I am not particularly a fan of Superman, I generally find him hard to relate to.  As I noted, one of my friends states that he is essentially DC's attempt to do "Space Jesus".  In reality, I've run across two characters that do the Jesus metaphor pretty damn well, and without sledgehammering it too much: Captain America and Vash the Stampede.  Superman just feels rather pretentious and blind to what being mortal is.

This same can be said of entire universes.  The Star Wars vs Star Trek discussions are legendary.  However, a concentrated look at the numbers involved makes it clear that even a small one or two man bounty hunter craft such as owned by Jango Fett thoroughly overpowers every known version of the Enterprise.  Also, the Star Wars universe spans the entire galaxy while the main portion of Star Trek occurs within a single quadrant.  So Star Wars has advantages in speed, numbers, resources, power, shields and weaponry.  A simple investigation makes it quite clear that Star Wars wins, but the Star Trek fans continue to claim otherwise.

Of course, now would come the accusations that I am a Star Wars fan.  To tell you the truth, if asked Star Wars or Star Trek, my answer would be Stargate or Babylon 5.  Babylon 5 tech is very, very clearly not even up to the level of Star Trek tech.  So, in a B5 vs ST war, B5 would lose....badly...humiliatingly...embarrassingly.  Despite this, I much prefer B5.  As to Stargate, hard to say, its tech zigzags all over the place so I'm not sure.  By the end of Atlantis and SG-1 they have ships magnitudes faster than Star Wars ships and fuel supplies many times more efficient but I'm uncertain of their comparable shields and weapons powers.  However, if the comparison of weapons was analogous to the comparison of engines and fuel, then each SG vessel would be several times more powerful than a death star and the series doesn't bear that up.  I'd say that SG would likely lose, even if their weapons were comparable to Star Wars (which I doubt).  Their fleet is excessively small, even by the time of Universe, compared to the ST:NG or ST:TOS Federation.  So both of my favorite space opera stories would likely lose battles to either Star Trek or Star Wars.....the numbers do not lie.

The point is, there really is no point to saying how so and so a character would win in such and such a fight.  Pointing back to old comics to show them beating similarly powerful opponents is not evidence.  Remember, the reason characters win is because of plot.  The reason long-term characters or groups continue winning against impossible odds is because people like you enjoy said character and companies fear they will lose money if they write stories according to the most probable results.  There is no reason to tell someone else "man, my favorite character can beat your favorite character."  The ability to defeat characters or groups from outside series should in no way be a model of why you enjoy a character or series.  It's a ridiculous metric and just makes problems.

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