Superman / Batman: Heroes in Balance
The final comic book/superhero guest post is from my friend Ron Mattocks of Clark Kent’s Lunchbox (how cool is that?) He’s a daddy blogger whose spin on the everyday events is genius. He has a way of making you laugh while still getting a serious point across. Ron is a blogger that I look up to, he’s been a bit of a mentor to me - much like Obi-Wan to Anakin.
Ron is the author of the forthcoming book Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. I’ve ordered an advanced copy of the book and I have to tell you guys that it’s a great read. He had me laughing out loud while reading it. Most times when I read a book, I do just that - read it, but with Sugar Milk I didn’t feel like I was just reading a book, I felt like I was experiencing it. I felt like I was right there with Ron as he went through the ups and downs of his life. This is one book I would recommend and not because he’s my friend, but because it’s a great book.
Superman / Batman: Heroes in Balance
By: Ron Mattocks of Clark Kent's Lunchbox
I blame WalMart for turning me into a comic geek. Of course, I blame WalMart for a lot of things—lowering our country’s standard of living, raising China’s gross domestic product, and killing at least one of my kid’s goldfish. WalMart has essentially become my one-stop shop for blame, but in the case of my comic book obsession they really are at fault.
It all started with a roll-back special on seasons one and two of the television program, Smallville. I had just moved to Chicago and was having trouble getting my cable hooked up, leaving me with little else but DVD’s to watch after coming home from work. I had heard of Smallville and knew it was popular so I figured, why not? Thus began my slippery descent into the fantasy and adventure of a world (or worlds if you believe Crisis on Infinite Earth), where the forces of good protected the innocent from the minds of evil.
Oh, and did I mention I was thirty-five at the time? Yeah, I’ve always been a late bloomer in life. (It took me until the seventh grade to realize storks didn’t bring babies.) When it came to such staple characters as Wonder Woman and Batman, I knew little about them beyond what I’d seen on the Superfriends cartoons. After watching those discounted DVD’s of Smallville, though, I was hooked, entrancing myself in five season’s worth of Clark Kent as a young adult.
Next thing I know, I’m muscling middle-school teenagers out the way at the bookstore in order to get my hands on landmark titles like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, John Byrne’s Man of Steel, Superman series reboot, and Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis Once I discovered Chicago Comics was only four blocks from my apartment, storage boxes started filling up pretty quick with current titles like the weekly Countdown to Final Crisis.
Sliding another three-inch stack of comics across the counter for the cashier to ring up, it occurred to me that maybe it was a kind of odd that a man my age should be so into a bunch of freaks who wear their underwear on the outside of their costumes. Nah! And then I told the guy behind the register I’d see him next Thursday—the day the store received its regular shipment of new titles.
Of all the characters I followed, Superman was (and still is) my favorite. Yeah, I know he can be a little self-righteous at times, and people debate as to whether he can achieve relevancy with today’s audiences. It’s hard to relate to a guy, who’s virtually unstoppable and absolutely committed to justice. In reality we know that the world isn’t quite so black and white, which is why, I think everyone is quick to jump on the Bat-wagon when it comes to the Dark Knight.
Batman has no meta-human powers, and although he always does the right thing, he confronts a great deal of grey area when employing methods meant to bring about justice. Throwing a mob kingpin off a balcony and breaking his legs in order to get information is perfectly fine because to the Caped Crusader the ends justify the means as long as the means doesn’t cross that line. Superman, however, would throw a super hissy fit (and often has) over such tactics.
Given their differences, the pairing of DC’s two most prolific heroes has always intrigued me. On one hand you have an all-powerful alien who sees the world through a lens of moral absolutes while on the other hand you have a human being walking a fine line of moral ambiguity. In fact, when thinking about it, Superman and Batman have a number of differences: one grew up with adoptive parents, the other was an orphan; one lived in rural Smallville, the other in Metropolis; in their secret identities one is bumbling reporter, the other is a rich playboy. Despite all this, they remain effective in fighting crime.
So how can two such different superheroes with such different points of view manage to fight together? Well, sometimes they don’t and it’s usually when they are the most polarized versions of themselves. In fact, in storylines like The New Frontier and The Dark Knight Returns, Superman as an agent of the government is actually going after Batman for his vigilante methods. One is so close to the law that he obeys it unquestionably while the other is so far away from the law the he disregards it.
So basically, what this all comes down to is balance. When Superman and Batman are their rational selves, they are a virtually unstoppable team; however, when they become extreme versions of themselves, then infighting ensues.
Balance is something I think about all the time. I think about it when I want that fourth piece of cake. I think about balance when I’ve been spending too much time on the computer instead of with my family. When I read the latest political headlines announcing the latest battle in Congress, I think about balance. When I see the pictures on the news of a smoldering building destroyed by a fringe extremist group, I think of balance. Then I think of Superman and Batman—two silly, fictional characters fighting closely together for justice despite their differences, and suddenly I don’t feel juvenile about reading comic books.
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Ron Mattocks is a freelance writer and father of five. His work has appeared in a number of publications and on public radio. He writes regularly on his blog, Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and his book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka will be release March 30th. Ron lives with his wife in Houston, Texas, and sneaks off to the comic book store every chance he gets.
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