There is something which must be remembered before any rational discussion of Batman or Superman or Batman v. Superman can take place. The real super heroes and their histories are to be found in that magical realm in which all reds are the same red, all blues are the same blue, and all greens are the same green: the comic books, preferably the Canon (the body of Superman/Batman comics ranging from the late ‘30’s to 1966). The movies and the TV shows are only pale imitations.
Knowing this will help you in any conversation about what’s coming in the new Batman v. Superman movie. Likewise, this knowledge will give you an edge in any consideration of whether or not the producers of the Batman/Superman project committed the atrocity of casting Ben Affleck as Batman simply to start a buzz. It worked didn’t it? It proves that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Ask Miley Cyrus.
If you haven’t been complaining about the Affleck casting choice, it’s because you understand that the Canon will stand no matter what. If Batman can survive George Clooney and Michael Keaton, Mr. Affleck can do no harm. If you haven’t been combing the net for word on what the film will be about, the reason is that you know the Canon. While others scramble to learn plot details, you rest in calm awareness that the course was laid out in the Canon fifty-seven years ago.
Batman experiences what he thinks is a dizzy spell while working in the Bat Cave. He doesn’t think much of it, perhaps because the humidity down there is about one hundred and fifty percent and he’s needlessly wearing that heavy costume even though nobody can see him. He doesn’t tell Robin about the incident, wishing to avoid silly health concerns. On a routine patrol of the city that night, the dynamic duo stops a bank robbery. When the thugs try to flatten the Caped Crusader with their getaway car, his body turns the vehicle into an accordion. Batman has inexplicably gained super powers. We wonder what happened during that dizzy spell.
This astounding surge of strength sets the stage for a titanic clash. Batman couldn’t go against the Man of Steel without picking up some extraordinary new traits. You’ve probably heard people arguing from time to time about who would win a fight between Batman and Superman. Although the argument is as sensible as debating how the Hulk would fare against the Flash in a track competition, I suppose it’s more fun than talking about how close the U.S. is to the start of a third world war in the Middle East. Those who favor Batman to triumph over Superman refer to the Caped Crusader’s astounding resourcefulness. Those who believe that Superman would win refer to . . . well, the obvious.
Back to our story, Batman’s sudden acquisition of super powers puts him into direct competition – and then into dark conflict – with Superman. The two battle over the best ways of addressing the crises that normally only Superman can handle. Soon, the two are throwing each other through stone walls, throwing huge boulders at each other, beating each other with gigantic uprooted trees, and blaming each other for the collateral damage. Robin tries in vain to stop the super standoff.
Finally, the Boy Wonder is sucked up into space on a tractor beam. He soon finds himself in the lair of two alien gamesters who have found a unique way of resolving their own Batman v. Superman argument. They explain that they are behind the dire duel taking place down on Earth. Using their sophisticated technology, they beamed Batman and Superman up to their lab where they infused the cowled crime fighter with all of Superman’s abilities. Next, they put them under a hate ray to insure combat on their return home. As a final touch, they ran the pair under an amnesia ray, wiping out any memory of the experience. The aliens never explain how they kept Superman from rolling them up into basketballs and using them to smash up their work shop. One of the sacred laws of comic reading is that skepticism is not allowed between the covers. You just don’t question.
Before the gamesters can do anything to Robin whom they have kidnapped to prevent him from interfering in the ferocious feud below, the aliens hear the big boss of their planet stomping down the corridor, calling to them about how he hopes they haven’t been screwing with other planets again. Panicked, they beam back Robin who arrives just in time to see Batman lose his powers and regain his friendship with Superman. Apparently, the big boss caught the gamesters and made them turn off the ray that was keeping everything in motion.
This isn’t fan fiction; this is the real thing, the way it actually happened back in 1956. Want an alternative scenario? How about the amazing Composite Superman? It also comes from ’56. Another alien inserts himself into the Batman/Superman story line by visiting Earth. He admires both heroes so much that he uses his chameleon capacities to turn himself into a half Batman and half Superman to combat crime on his home planet. Eight years later, the DC writers used the same idea in a story about an embittered custodian who is struck by lightning during his night shift at the Superman museum. When the jolt occurs, he’s standing near a display of small statuettes depicting various super friends of the Man of Steel. Naturally – This seems natural only if you’re a comic book reader – the custodian is immediately endowed with all the super powers of all the super heroes (yeah, from statuettes – remember, the no skepticism rule). From there, the only sensible thing to do is turn himself into a half Batman-half Superman and start taking over the world. This is the historical record in the Batman/Superman universe; the movies, as we know, are only fiction.
And the cinematic versions of our heroes are poor fiction at that. Even when the casting is deemed good, the portrayals create different entities from the comic book originals (Sorry, graphic fiction originals for those under thirty). Take Christian Bale as Batman. I doubt the real Batman’s voice made him sound like a late-night telephone stalker. Neither did Heath Ledger’s darkly psychotic, scarecrow Joker bear a resemblance to the real thing. It’s practically illegal to criticize the late Ledger’s performance, but he did not project the fun-loving bad-boy Joker we first knew. And as reverently remembered as the Christopher Reeve Superman is, he was really an affectionate cartoon of the real Superman. By the time we get down to Ben Affleck as Batman, I have to say no; Ben Affleck for Jimmy Olsen – maybe. In the real world of the comics, the one in which most men have strange blue highlights in their black hair, the current chatter about the plot of Batman v. Superman is irrelevant. As the tired saying goes, we’ve been there and done that – generations ago – probably better than it will be done on film.