The great Batman versus Superman debate!
Big news out of Comic Con last week, that the sequel to the excellent (albeit, slightly flawed) Man of Steel would be none other than Batman vs Superman or Superman vs Batman or… who gives a crap what it's called, we're finally going to get to see Superman and Batman on the big screen together! Hurrah! (and I wanted to swear profusely there, but this is a family show…)
Remember in I Am Legend, the mediocre movie of a truly great novel, there was a cheeky little tease on the billboard of the broken down cinema? That logo? Well, either we're about to be overrun by some pseudo-vampire like disease, resulting in the almost total destruction of the human race, or we're getting that Superman/Batman movie! Funk yeah!
I'm sure you can tell I'm excited.
Many years ago, during the period when I was working on White Dwarf as a layout designer and staff writer, drinking a few social beers in Bugman's, a chap called Phil Scott and I had a debate about who would win in a fight – Superman or Batman?
It's a classic, and it comes up all the time on forums, interviews with producers/writers/commentators, but this will be the first time in a live action scenario that it will (seemingly) be tested. It's the law, you see. When Superman meets Batman (or the other way around) for the first time, they don't get on and have to fight. It's a trope common to most super heroes, in truth. Look at Avengers Assemble for instance – Thor, Iron Man and Captain America all throw down when they first meet properly and have their little peeing contest (not literally, of course – that's not other film. Family show, remember, family show…).
Phil was very much on the side of Superman, citing his superhuman strength, x-ray vision, ability to fly and invulnerability; whereas I was, of course, on the side of the Dark Knight, holding up his intellect, gadgets and ability to outthink any fight and fighter as a sure route to victory, even against the Man of Steel.
As it happens, Phil's going to be joining us soon at Black Library Towers, so I'm sure our debate can continue, but I'm here to discuss that or even make arguments for and against who would win that fight. Nope, nope, nope. It's been done.
Suffice it to say that both characters are awesome, and a union on screen (even a fractious one) is most welcome and has been a long time in coming. I salute you Warner Brothers, Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder for getting the franchises into a place where this could happen, and for it to be commercially successful. I should also thank Marvel, who's joined up thinking has allowed for this wonderful crossover potential between feature films and the subsequent evolution of a contiguous and shared world. Wonderful.
In fiction, the Dark Knight and Man of Steel have met many times, and fought many times too. The one that sticks out most prevalently in my mind is The Dark Knight Returns, the seminal graphic novel by Frank Miller, latterly adapted into an excellent two-part animated feature in the great continuing run of DC animated movies. In this story, we see an ageing Bruce Wayne take on a hale and hearty Superman in a street busting battle that is worth the price of the Blue Ray alone. I won't reveal how it ends just in case you haven't seen it yet (go and do so if that's the case – go now… No, wait. Read the rest of this post and then go).
Another animated adaptation, Batman/Superman: Public Enemies pairs up these iconic heroes and sets them against a whole host of villains. Again, and particularly in the graphic novel, the relationship between these two characters, how they're so different from one another and how they come to regard each other, is examined. Admittedly, they don't fight, but the introspective moments, the little snippets of banter between them show how it could and might again happen. Their philosophies are different, you see. How could they not be. Superman is an all-powerful alien who could rule the world as a self-imposed god if he wanted to; Batman is very much human, although slightly hollow and lacking in the empathy that Superman attempts to emulate. It's an interesting dynamic and the poles these characters operate around regularly set them at odds.
As a kid, and even now as an adult, I was a big fan of the Bruce Timm animated series for Batman and Superman. These two shows came together in a wonderful crossover, which was (rather unimaginatively, is has to be said) called The Batman/Superman Movie or World's Finest (if memory serves, this was the name of the two-part episode from the Superman animated show). Again, the storyline had Superman and Batman meeting for the first time, although on this occasion they didn't fight each other, rather they both vied for the affections of Lois Lane (but not in a lame way, I hasten to add).
Certainly, both characters have their appeal as solo acts, but that interest for me is most definitely squared when they are together on screen. I am very much looking forward to seeing how that all pans out and have high hopes for the movie. We will have to wait until 2015 to find out, but what a year that's going to be. One thing I am finding hard to see is who will play the Dark Knight, as Christian Bale has emphatically stated he's hanging up the cape and cowl after a successful run on the character with Chris Nolan as helmer. I heard Joseph Gordon Levitt mentioned (although, I just can't see that. It'd be too obvious and not sure he's the right choice to sit alongside Cavill) and even Arne Hammer (I think that's the guy's name, though I reckon that awful Lone Ranger film has probably put laid to his chances). Clearly, what's needed is someone who can bring the edginess and driven aspects of the Dark Knight's character. No more Clooney or Kilmer please. Sheesh! I actually wonder whether Karl Urban would want a role like this. His chin is of the requisite squareness after seeing him in Dredd and the voice is clearly right. He has some acting chops too, and I could see him alongside Cavill as he reprises his role as Man of Steel. As for who else could I envisage in the part of Batman, I'll confess – no one springs to mind, but I hope the studio goes with an actor and not a headliner. Learn the lessons from Batman and Robin. You could argue that cast list was star-studded but the movie ended up being covered in doo-doo on account of how mind-numbing lay awful it was. I think/hope we've left those days behind us and those responsible are no longer a danger to our collective sense of taste.
I suppose only time, and spoilers revealed through IGN, will tell. It's been a long-standing debate between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight. Soon we may get to settle it once and for all… Until the next time, that is.