?

Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Batman vs. Superman: The First Meeting

So, since "Batman v. Superman" is still in theaters, I suppose that now’s a good a time as any to mention another thing that bugs me about how certain writers portray Batman and Superman's relationship. Namely, how they discover each other's secret identities.




In several versions I've seen (from the Superman/Batman animated series to comics), the revelations play out exactly the same. Superman uses his super-vision to see through Batman's mask and then Batman deduces Superman's identity. The latter part doesn't bother me since Batman is supposed to be the World's Greatest Detective, so naturally he uses his observations and smarts to discover who Superman is. It's how Superman finds out that bugs me.

The first reason why I don't like it when Superman finds out that Batman is Bruce Wayne by seeing through his mask is because it's basically cheating. Superman doesn't find out who Batman is through observation like Batman does, he just uses a superpower. And furthermore, he does so without Batman's permission, which is a violation of privacy. If Superman is supposed to be the goody-two-shoes Boy Scout, then why is he invading someone's privacy like that? In most cases I've seen, it's not even as if it's a desperate situation and Superman does it because he must know who Batman is in order to save him or because he's truly afraid that Batman is a horrible villain who must be stopped and that's why it's imperative that he knows who's behind the mask.

No, in most cases, Superman just does it because he can. Batman won't tell me who he is? Fine, I'll use my super-vision and take a peek anyway. It's not like he can stop me.

Now some people might say that the reason why Superman does so is to highlight the differences between him and Batman. Superman has superpowers, Batman has his smarts, so it's a demonstration of their separate skills. But that just ties into my second reason, which is that superpowers are not all that Superman has. Yes, Batman is the World's Greatest Detective. But that doesn't mean that Superman is a muscle-brained dolt who only relies on his powers. For crying out loud, Clark Kent is a reporter. It's his job to notice details! Why is Batman the only one allowed to use his brain when it comes to finding out someone's secret identity?

And yes, I know that the same argument can be made when asking why, in most stories, Lois Lane never figures out that her coworker is Superman. But in that case, I would argue that the reason why is because the writers don't want her to figure it out. It's the same reason why Lex Luthor can't figure out that Superman is Clark Kent. In the Silver Age, Lois was treated like she was an opponent of Superman: she had a plan that Superman opposed (which in this case was to find out who he was), but he foiled her in the end, just as he did with Luthor. And, just like Luthor, Lois would keep trying to 'win' and Superman would foil her and repeat ad nauseum. Because if Lois knew that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person, it would be disastrous because....

Because apparently those writers thought that a superhero's love interest knowing his secret and loving him anyway would ruin the fun. Or something.

But when it comes to Batman and Superman, they're not opponents. So, why isn't Clark allowed to put two and two together instead of basically relying on magic?

It's even stranger given the original way that Superman and Batman met in the comics. In 1952's Superman #76, the scene starts when Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne board the same cruise ship. Clark's informed that the ship is full, so he'll have to share a room with someone. Of course, that person turns out to be Bruce. Both Clark and Bruce settle in while privately worrying about keeping their secret identities hidden from each other. A fire erupts and the lights go out. Taking advantage of the dark, both Clark and Bruce change into their superhero costumes. The ship's flames rise to the point where they illuminate the cabin and Superman and Batman meet at last.

Now, there are plenty of plot holes here. First of all, if Bruce was so worried about keeping his alter ego secret, why didn't he insist that Clark room with someone else? Sure, he'd look like a jerk, especially if he used his wealth and status as leverage to kick Clark out, but I think that Bruce would decide that hiding his secret identity was more important. Second of all, Superman is faster than a speeding bullet. If he was so worried about Bruce discovering his secret identity, why did it take him so long to change? Clark could've changed and zipped out of the cabin before Bruce had a chance to blink.

So, yeah, when you look closely at this scene, there are a lot of things that don't make sense. But the reason why I prefer this version of their meeting is because of the timing and nature of their realizations. They both find out at the exact same time and they both find out the same way: through an accident. So, neither is superior to the other. Superman isn't shoving his superpower down Batman's throat and Batman isn't lording his intelligence over Superman. There's no childish competition of "Oh, I figured out who you were first!" "Nuh-uh, I already knew who you were!"

The cruise ship meeting was retold in a Superman/Batman Annual (but with Bruce and Clark being antagonistic towards each other at the beginning, because of course *sighs*), but given DC's current determination to go dark and gritty, I have a feeling that the "super-vision/detecting" one-upmanship pattern will continue.

Tags: