The idea of super-heroes becoming involved in politics is hardly a new one. A recent post on RedState, entitled “Does America need Superman or Batman as its next President?” prompted me to revisit this concept. The RedState piece attempts to shoehorn Superman into a comparison with current Republican contender Rick Santorum while likening Batman with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (a much closer comparison.)
The piece’s writer, posting under the moniker “teapartier,” talks of Superman defined by midwestern upbringing, hardworking ideals, and a golly-gee attitude. Batman is depicted as having “attend[ed] the finest schools and consort[ed] with the ‘best’ families. He took full advantage of these opportunities to grow up to become a very successful businessman and public figure, with a vast fortune and formidable political influence.”
Now, ordinarily I would just ignore factual inaccuracies on RedState, but when it comes to discussing those pieces of Americana that are near and dear to my heart, I feel that I would be remiss to leave these assumptions uncorrected.
In 1991, as a part of their Armageddon 2001 event, DC showed us a future where Superman, filling in for his nearly-assassinated childhood friend Pete Ross, decides to run for the highest office in the land. After the Supreme Court rules that he was indeed born in America, the Man of Tomorrow wins in a landslide.
In his first term, he goes all-out. He oversees the construction of a space-based solar power system, much like the one described in the latest issue of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. He flies himself around the world to discuss pressing issues with world leaders on their own soil, in their own languages. He even enlists a foreign monarch, namely Aquaman, to assist him in recovering several tons of gold bullion from a sunken American freighter, which he then uses to balance the Federal budget. His penultimate act in the story is transforming the Justice League of America by rolling it up into a larger, UN-sanctioned group that will function as an international group of super-powered peacekeepers.
From a political standpoint, President Superman’s actions seem to come straight out of the liberal playbook. First Lady Lois Lane is seen supervising the transformation of blighted hotels into low-cost housing and organizing massive tree-planting campaigns. Clearly, a Kent administration would have much more in common with that of Bill Clinton or even Barack Obama than a hypothetical Santorum White House.
Where Batman is concerned, the comparison is more apt, but still a mischaracterization of Bruce Wayne. While the character has long been depicted as the scion of Gotham’s wealthiest and most influential family, he has rarely shown any interest in taking direct action as Bruce Wayne in either the city’s politics or society. His schooling consisted less of going to “the finest schools” and more of traveling the world in search of teachers who could provide him with the skills he would need to combat the criminal element. Furthermore, the author’s later description of Wayne as having made himself into a successful businessman is also off-base.
Bruce has seldom taken an active role in the operations of Wayne Industries, having chosen “better man” Lucious Fox to head the company’s board of directors. While their relationship is not as open in the comics as it has been in the recent films by Christopher Nolan, Fox has almost always been the functional head of Wayne Industries, with Bruce an invisible owner.
The point is this: if given the choice between Superman and Batman for President, Superman is obviously the wiser choice when one takes the characters’ actual (albeit fictional) histories into account.