SupermanSuperman’s weakness is not so much Kryptonite as it is his moral code: he won’t kill or be otherwise immoral (although he has been known to be deceitful, especially when dealing with with foes such as Mr Mxyzptlk). He is the paragon of virtue, the defender and best example of The American Way. But his virtue can hold him back: he refuses to kill, but how often has this refusal led to greater suffering later on? How many times has one of his foes escaped, only to wreak further havoc, surely including death? Granted, death and pain are not so much a part of the Superman universe compared to Batman, but certainly amid the destruction wrought by battling titans in the middle of Metropolis, sometime somewhere someone has been killed. What responsibility does Superman feel? Not as much, it seems, as characters like Spider-Man or Batman, characters whose entire motivations for being superheroes are based on feelings of guilt over the loss of loved ones or the desire to avenge their deaths. Superman, however, despite the loss of both parents (biological and adoptive) is a pretty together guy. He represents the happy, well-adjusted face of American culture, with a never-say-die, can-do attitude. He is the principled volunteer who went to war to make the world safe for liberty, whereas Batman is the hardened veteran whose motivations are good but just might burn down your village to save it. Therefore, Batman is the stronger character, even though he has no super-powers, because he’s willing to do nearly anything to win the fight. Superman is held back by his morals, which are ultimately more important to him than winning, and because of that, Superman is much more likely to lose. (It needs to be said that in the comic books, Superman of course never loses–he’s too powerful. What we’re talking about here is the real world, if characters like Superman and Batman existed in it.)

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