In honor of Marvel’s next big event, I’ve decided to take a week off of thinking hard. Instead I’ll do what they’re doing: Wasting your time by forcing two characters to fight for your entertainment.
Of course I don’t have the resources to produce artwork. Nor do I have the time to create an actual script. Instead, I’ll just take this idea to a few different levels, and ultimately create enough sweeping declarations to get some beautifully angry comments. I love beautifully angry comments.
In this corner: Bruce “The Rich Kid” Wayne and his amazing belt of knickknacks! That’s right, it’s everyone’s favorite powerless pugilist… the billionaire with bats in his belfry, The Batman!
And in this corner wearing skin-tight underwear and a mask without a mouth hole… Marvel’s favorite orphan, Peter “I was a jerk once, and I’m paying for it every day…” Parker! That’s right, it’s the web-slinging, science-spitting, devil-befriending behemoth… The Sensational Spider-Man!
Now there are a few ways to tally the fight. Since I’ve got inches of column to waste, let’s start with the obvious: In a street fight with absolutely no planning, Spider-Man would stomp Batman into a bloody pulp. Bats may have one of the greatest minds in comics, but at the end of the day, no amount of gadgets and Kevlar will out-match a fighter like Spider-Man. Not only is Spidey more agile, he’s also got superior strength and maneuverability. Batman can use all the kung fu in his repertoire, but Spider-Man has the actual super-powers.
I will concede this though: if these two were pitted against one another and had any chance to plan the bout, Batman would knock Parker out like the Orkin Man. Batman’s tactics, gadgets, and ability to use his terrain to his advantage trumps Spider-Man’s physical prowess. And while Spidey is a super-genius… a brilliant fighter he is not. Simply put, with any amount of time to prepare, Brucey’s coming out bruised but boastful.
Fan-service aside, how about we put these two against one another by way of the TeeVee. On the silver screen, Bats takes the trophy. Spider-Man had a few live action cameos on the Electric Company, and a simply too-terrible-to-believe live action show. Batman had Adam West. And you can say what you want about those kooky cavalcades with Burt Ward… but the zeitgeist here nods towards the cape and cowl when it comes to overall quality. Somedays, you just don’t have a place to throw a bomb.
When the battle gets animated, that’s really where Spidey gets killed. Not for lack of trying. The late 60s gave us a decent Spider-Man cartoon. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was… a larf. In the 90s Fox Kids gave us a series that started strong, but became hampered by way-too-long season arcs, and an entirely forgettable last season – that saw the trope of guest stars used piss-poorly. In the mid-late-aughts the Sensational Spider-Man was fantastically done, but cut way too short. In contrast, Batman started slow (in the Super Friends, and then helping out Scooby Doo), but finished amazingly. Yeah The Batman in the early aughts was an atrocity, but Bruce Timm’s animated Batman Adventures wrote the bible on quality cartoons. And The Brave and the Bold was a campy trip that started off too-kiddie, but quickly found its footing in the hyper-kitsch fan-service delivery. By my count Bats wins by four Emmys.
OK, so Bat’s wins the battle of the silver screen. How about we take a trip to the movies? Consider my math: Spider-Man 1? A minus. Spider-Man 2? A solid A. Spider-Man 3? … D. Now over at the Batcamp, let’s take stock. The Adam West Bat-Movie? Don’t count. The Burton Bat-Films: B. The Schumaker Schlock? D… if I’m being nice. The Nolan-verse? Well, if there’s a grade above A, I’d give it. At the end of the day, there’s been more guano out there than there’s been Spider-poop. So I tip the hat to the wacky web-shooter in the battle of the big screen. And he can take that win to the sock-hop.
But how about where it really counts? On the page. I guess I’m sad to say I don’t have the proper license to weigh in on that particular bout. As I stated last week, my exposure to Spider-Man in comics-proper is poor at best. Admittedly I have a very extensive Bat-Collection, so I’m more than likely biased. Given my knowledge though of Spider-Man’s bullet-list of plot threads, I might still be inclined to tip the hat back to the Bat. He does have a few decades more history to draw on though, so it may very well be an unfair fight.
I will say this: In the time since my birth, Batman has had his back broken, his mantle stolen, his sidekick murdered, his life unraveled by several secret societies, his bastard son joining his menagerie, and has survived two or ten universal resets.
In that same amount of time, all I’ve really heard about Spider-Man that really stuck was that he nixed his marriage to Mary Jane to save Aunt May. And there was a clone saga people didn’t like. And he had an Iron-Spider suit. And a black suit. And a cosmic suit. And at some point was tied to an ancient race of animal totem warriors or something. In terms of only recognizable milestones (that haven’t been universally hated) … Batman would take the crown. Prove me wrong.
So there you have it. A few hundred words on an amazing battle. So it’s time for you weigh in. Was I too favorable to Time-Warner’s titan? Does Spider-Man have more going for him than a six-pack and a quip dictionary? Who has the better rogues gallery? Who has the better friends? Man, this could be a whole new column next week. I guess it depends on you, the gentle reader of my column.
At the end of the day, in the battle between Batman and Spider-Man? The winner is you.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander