“Martha.” Though Batman and Superman are comrades in arms, their mothers’ names may ultimately be the biggest thing they have in common. Outside of wearing curiously tight costumes and donning dual identities to protect humankind, the Dark Knight and Man of Steel are quite distinct.
On the battlefield and off, they live by totally different rules. Batman prepares diligently before a showdown, and Superman simply shows up. Batman has to design his weapons, when Superman has them ready made. Batman wears a unique disguise, but Superman opts out. Batman gets sad after a breakup, but Superman becomes a bloodlusting lunatic.
These are just some of the differences between the two, and as you’ll see, the Caped Crusader is hardly limited by his human nature. While Supes enjoys his natural born strengths, the Dark Knight devotes his life to becoming a self-made superhero who can go toe-to-toe with anyone.
Here is Everything Batman Can Do That Superman Can’t.
15. Have a Morally Complex Character
On a high level, Superman has a few complexities. He’s like that Sting song with a cosmic twist: “I’m an alien, I’m an illegal alien, I’m a Kryptonian on planet Earth.” That’s certainly a bona fide conundrum, but it can’t hold a candle to Batman, who watched his parents get murdered when he was but a wee child. It’s the kind of memory that forever shaped his worldview, leaving him at war with the world and forever at odds with himself.
Bruce Wayne’s rage is so ferocious that he makes oaths for himself and the way he fights crime. Has he broken these rules on a few occasions? Absolutely. He’s human, after all, and he’s subject to all of the inner emotional turmoil and insecurities native to our species. Though Superman is not without his vulnerabilities, he suffers none of the setbacks that Batman endures on a daily basis. The Dark Knight’s daily internal monologue goes, “What is my purpose on Gotham? How can I avenge my parents? When will it end?” That’s quite a burden for Batman to bear.
14. Weaponize Fear
When has Superman ever been scary? Sure, the rare occasions when he’s been a victim of mind-control are pretty harrowing, but he can’t take full credit for the chaos. On the other hand, Batman embodies fear and uses it as a weapon against his enemies. In The Dark Knight Rises, one of Bane’s famous lines sounds like it was stolen directly from Bruce Wayne’s autobiography: “I was born in [the dark], molded by it.” Indeed, Batman lives in the shadows and always plays to his strengths, drawing his foes into the moonlit crevices and alleys of Gotham City before beating them half to death.
On both the comics panels and the big screen, Batman is depicted like a human gargoyle. His introductory scene in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is the stuff of nightmares, as the Dark Knight scales walls and ceilings like a demon. While Superman cultivates a reputation of moral rectitude, Batman’s reign of terror remains his most important strength.
13. Use Gadgets & Vehicles
Batman’s limitations make him infinitely more compelling than Superman’s strengths. The Man of Steel can fly to other galaxies, stop bullets with his cornea and use heat vision against villains, but all of those powers move Kal-El from a superhero to a veritable demigod. That’s why Batman’s grappling hooks, Batmobiles and Kryptonite-grenades grab our attention. They don’t come naturally to the Dark Knight, like Superman’s supersonic hearing. No, Bruce Wayne has to do the research to design the weapons, then put in the manpower to make them. He designs, develops, and deploys all by himself.
That’s what the cache of weapons, gadgets, and vehicles really represent: a serious work ethic. Batman has had to earn every bit of his reputation and vigilantly guard it on a daily basis. He was born with a silver spoon, after all, so he could’ve simply elected to live a bacchanalian life. Instead, Batman has military-grade gadgetry because he wants to be the best.
12. Earn a Real Rogues Gallery
People judge others by the strength of their friends, but in the case of Batman, we assess him by the lunacy of his enemies. It’s an enduring question in the world of the Dark Knight: did his vigilantism give rise to Gotham’s villains, or did their iniquity birth the Batman? However you slice it, the presence of Bane, Harley Quinn, the Penguin, the Riddler, and the Clown Prince of Crime demand that the Caped Crusader keep up. They are evil personified, and in Gotham City, evil takes no vacations. Batman doesn’t mind, however, because his Rogues Gallery gives him a reason for living.
Contrast that with the bulk of Superman’s villains, who more often than not prioritize physical attacks over psychological warfare. Lex Luthor is undoubtedly the Man of Steel’s greatest threat, but other beasts like Metallo and Doomsday present little else than temporary Armageddon. However menacing they may be, Batman’s Rogues Gallery is far more eclectic and dangerous. They know his weaknesses and his wants, and as a unit, they know how to exploit the Dark Knight.
On another note, one wonders why Lex Luthor remains such an incredibly divisive villain on the big screen when the Joker is so beloved. While Superman’s villains may be less dynamic, it’s clear that Batman’s Rogues Gallery is tethered to his appeal.
11. Be A Successful Detective
There are two kinds of battles: those with prep time and those without. Limited to his physical strengths alone, Batman would surely lose his fair share of fights. When given ample time to sleuth, study, and prepare, however, there is no match for the World’s Greatest Detective. He cases crime scenes like a boss, solves nearly impossible riddles, and lurks in the shadows unseen.
Though the Batcave represents a symbol of escape for the Dark Knight, it’s really more of a laboratory, a place of refuge for Batman to stop and think. All of Gotham plots against him, and this is the place where he battles back by planning reprisals of his own. Thanks to his state of the art computer technology, Batman is in total command of the world around him.
With Alfred as his muse and Robin (or any of the other sidekicks) as his right-hand man, Batman curates a small but effective brain-trust for studying his opponents and crafting the best ways to beat them. The Last Son of Kypton has none of these advantages. Left to his own devices, he is seldom seen in preparation for anything. Unlike the Dark Knight, Superman’s decision to enter into conflict is often spur of the moment and made with little planning or foresight.
10. Rely On Tactics (and Win)
Batman’s strengths as a tactician come part and parcel with his detective work. Whether he’s fighting solo or alongside his allies, the Caped Crusader knows how to work the battlefield to his advantage. While he can punch harder than just about anyone, his brute force is only part of his secret for success. With a clever combination of gadgetry, sleuthing and martial arts, Batman positions himself for guaranteed victory. In the event his leading strategies fail, he simply relies on an equally well-constructed contingency plan to save the day.
Whether leading the Justice League or joining the dynamic duo with Robin, the Dark Knight has also shown a natural ability to instruct team members in the heat of battle. With an innate understanding of each player’s strengths, Batman often functions as a general who mobilizes his army to the fullest of their potential. This sort of leadership has extended even over Superman, who Bats has helped lead to victory on many occasions.
9. Use Superman’s Weaknesses (Without Going Insane)
Superman has a surprising amount of vulnerabilities, some of which neuter his powers, while others send him into a downward spiral of bloodlust and insanity. For example, if the Man of Steel fought Darkseid far away from the energy-imbuing light of a yellow sun, Supes would get incinerated. He fares especially poorly under the rays of a red sun, which effectively give him the strength of a steroidal human. Or, when he’s mind controlled by the likes of Martian Manhunter or Maxwell Lord (as has happened many times), Superman basically becomes a WMD in the hands of the enemy.
Though he is an aging and breakable human being, Batman isn’t particularly vulnerable to brainwashing and red suns. So long as he has the right gear, he can remain a hero in just about any situation. Most importantly, Gotham’ss protector doesn’t have the capacity to go completely berserk, as Superman has done more times than he would care to admit.
8. Wear Kryptonite Bling
It’s no secret that Kryptonite turns Superman into a vegetable. Whether it’s red, blue, gold or green, the famed radioactive ore destabilizes the Man of Steel to the point of maximum vulnerability. In Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne uses it to bring down Kal-El in epic fashion, fashioning Kryptonite-laced grenades and even a Krypto-spear designed for one purpose: to make Superman bleed.
However dangerous those weapons may have been, nothing compares to the sheer arrogance of Batman wearing a Kryptonite ring. After all, it does sit proudly on his middle finger. Though the Dark Knight didn’t make the jewelry (he has Lex Luthor to thank for that), Batman keeps it as a fail safe should his Justice League ally choose the nuclear option. By entrusting him with this ring, Superman acknowledges his fealty to the Caped Crusader, whom he empowers with the primary means to destroy him.
7. Run a Fortune 500 Company
Ignore that Turkish Airlines advertisement. Bruce Wayne would never fly business class. As a billionaire who splits his time managing Wayne Enterprises and keeping Gotham above water, Bruce flies private. You could say the same thing for Kal-El, of course, but that’s a bird (or a plane) of a different color.
While Superman spends his days simply trying to adjust to planet Earth, Bruce Wayne leads the charge for philanthropic efforts, building developments, financial initiatives and more. His company is one of the only solvent business ventures in all of Gotham City. By running his parents’ legendary firm during the day and managing Batman Inc. at night, while keeping everyone in the dark about his identity, Bruce Wayne completes the most daring balancing act in the whole of superhero comics. Clark Kent may be a dedicated journalist at the Daily Planet, but that doesn’t quite stack up to Bruce Wayne’s résumé.
6. Wear a Proper Disguise
Speaking of the Daily Planet, it’s legitimately surprising that no one in the press corps has even thought twice about Clark Kent’s real identity. A tweedy sport jacket and professorial pair of glasses can’t separate Clark’s face from Superman’s world-famous mug.
To be fair, Batman doesn’t have an airtight costume either, and anyone who gazes closely at his chin (we’re looking at you, Batfleck) might be able to suss it out. When compared to Superman’s get up, however, Batman looks like a true master of disguise. He’s got the pointy, devilish ears, the tactical suit, a grizzled (sometimes modulated) voice, and nearly total coverage of his face. For Batman, this is more than a disguise, it’s an identity. When shrouded in darkness and covered by his cape, Batman immerses himself in secrecy. Clark Kent, on the other hand, has a quick shave, jumps into his spandex, and shows up for battle as…himself.
5. Make Over A Billion Dollars More at the Box Office
While Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice made a solid profit, many box office analysts were unimpressed by the film’s final numbers. Despite making $330 million in domestic theaters for an $873 million total haul, BvS fell short of the box office gold it seemed destined to claim. Considering it was the first big screen marriage of the two massive franchises, it should’ve guaranteed Warner Bros. an easy billion.
These numbers are even more disappointing when compared to the previous standalone films for the two headlining heroes. Outside of BvS, Superman’s #1 box office champ is Man of Steel, which pulled in $291 million stateside and around $668 million worldwide. Contrast that with Batman’s current king of the hill, The Dark Knight, which made $534 million in America and over a billion across the globe. That means Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins sequel nearly made more money than all of the Superman live-action films combined. With all receipts counted, the Batman franchise has netted $2.2 billion at the domestic box office (with a $223 million dollar average per movie), besting Superman’s numbers by over $1 billion. Though harder to tally (given Superman’s box office presence in the 1970s), the international figures are even more impressive for the largest shareholder of Wayne Financial.
4. Survive Joel Schumacher
On some days, Batman “just can’t get rid of a bomb,” but he confidently got over Joel Schumacher. Though the auteur director certainly had a vision for the Dark Knight, it panned out in ways that would force the franchise to be temporarily put on ice. From the outrageous costumes to the flamboyant sets, the straining villains, and the relentlessly tongue-in-cheek script, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin spit in the face of the comic gods, and yet its hero somehow escaped intact.
George Clooney has apologized for his involvement and Joel Schumacher has shown contrition for the films, yet fans have largely forgiven this cinematic faux pas. In some circles, Batman & Robin has become a sort of guilty pleasure stuck somewhere between the Adam West days and the DCEU. Christopher Nolan later proved the series’ savior, giving Bat-fanatics the origin story they always wanted. Surviving the 1990s remains the strongest testament to the Caped Crusader’s durability. Could Supes have pulled off the same feat?
3. Train Sidekicks That Are Actually Cool
How come Superman never had a truly great sidekick? Despite the eagerness of Superboy and the loyalty of Jimmy Olsen, none of Kal-El’s brothers in arms made much of a name for themselves. The overarching reason for this is clear: in addition to living in the shadow of Batman’s sidekicks, Superman never had a Dick Grayson of his own simply because he didn’t need one. Kal-El is a one-man band, the Frank Sinatra of the superhero world.
In fact, the Man of Steel lacked a companion so badly that DC Comics partnered him up with Robin in several Silver Age storylines. As for Batman, there has never been a shortage of sidekicks. From the many iterations of the Boy Wonder, to Batgirl, Jim Gordon, and Alfred Pennyworth, Batman has surrounded himself with like-minded individuals for decades. Superman’s dearth of comrades shows us how independent he truly is, while a quick glance at Batman’s roster reminds us that he’s more of a team player than you think.
2. Not Become a Fascistic Despot When His Lover Dies
The loss of a loved one can do a number on anyone, including Superman. Unfortunately, the Man of Steel once caused his own tragedy by losing perspective in the throes of battle and accidentally flying Lois Lane into outer space. Somehow, he had confused her petite frame for the hulking monstrosity that is Doomsday, but that’s a story for another day.
As one would expect, Lois couldn’t handle the inhospitable environment of the cosmos and died shortly thereafter. As if that weren’t bad enough, Ms. Lane was also pregnant with Clark’s child, making the Man of Steel guilty of committing a double homicide. Cue a breakdown of truly epic proportions. Reeling from the loss of his beloved, Superman kills the Joker in cold blood and lays waste to everything in his path. Gone are the days of nice Clark Kent, replaced by a totalitarian spirit where murder and violence are the keys to power.
Batman has lost many a lover, but to his credit, he has never acted out in such a way. Even when Rachel Dawes died in The Dark Knight, he simply took the night off from the job and cried a little, rather than kickstarting a genocide.
1. Kill Darkseid
Outside of Lex Luthor, Darkseid is of Superman’s most iconic villains. He’s the ruler of Apokolips and is about to become a major player in the DCEU. Considering his history with the Man of Steel, however, it’s surprising that only Batman has been able to kill him over the years. This achievement ranks high among the Dark Knight’s accomplishments, not only because he helped take down the supervillain, but because he sacrificed his rules to do so.
Armed with a gun and a radiation bullet, a battered Batman takes aim at the behemoth and declares preemptive victory: “I made a very solemn vow about firearms…but for you, I’m making a once-in-a-lifetime exception.” To preserve just an ounce of his oath, Batman blasts Darkseid in the shoulder, mortally wounding him before being killed by the villain’s Omega Beams. Though Superman intervened later on and failed, Batman’s bullet eventually got the best of Darkseid.
What else does Batman have over Supes? Let us know in the comments!
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