Blog #10: Character Rivalries in Animation

Hey everybody, today I’m going to talk a little about the aspect of rivalry among certain animated characters, and I’m going to be as brief, or to the point, as possible.  Okay so a charater rivalry, as I would define it, is when you have at least two characters equal in some or many ways in such a way that sparks a debate as to who is better among fans. Famous rivalries include the following: Ash and Gary from Pokemon, Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, Vegeta and Goku from DragonBall Z, Bug Bunny and Daffy Duck from Looney Tunes, and finally Batman and Superman from the DC Comics Universe.  One of the questions that arises, for myself at least, with these character rivalries is: What is it that makes these two characters, whoever they may be, so primed or so special that they are constantly compared with each other?

I think alot of it has to do with the individual personalities of each of the two characters and how they interact with, or play off of each other.  The Batman and Superman rivalry is an excellent showcase for walk I’m talking about in the prior sentence as both heroes respectively almost have a night and day view of the world, human nature, and criminality.  This difference can be seen and explained best in how each character was brought up and how they each deal with criminals.  So, let’s start off with Superman’s character make-up and then we’ll move onto Batman’s and then we’ll wrap it up.

Okay so as I’m sure most of you know, Superman was born on the planet Krypton to parents Jor-El and Lara who, as the planet Krypton was about to explode, placed the infant Superman, or Kal-El, into  a spaceship that rocketed off the doomed planet and shipped him off to Earth and was found by Jonathan and Martha Kent who took him in and named him Clark.  The Kents raised Clark, or Superman, on their farm in Kansas where he aquired, through the strong guidance and love of Jonathan and Martha, a high moral standard and bright idealism which is how he would later interact with the world as he moved to Metropolis and became the hero known as Superman.  Superman has a most positive outlook on humanity and life in general; he strongly believes in the best of mankind, depite its flaws, and he is always looking to treat people with the respect and dignity no matter what.  Superman’s optimistic and idealistic nature is in most respects a contrast to that of Batman.

Batman, as most of you probably know, was born as Bruce Wayne into wealth as the son of billionaire parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne.  Unfortunately, when Bruce was eight years-old he witnessed the darkest and most life-changing moment in his life, as his parents were shot and murdered right in front of him by a thief.  That haunting moment gave young Bruce a driving desire to fight the criminal and corrupt elements that so thoroughly plagued Gotham City, and so he spent his pre-Batman years studying all he could from the best minds in the world and training with the best martial arts masters he could find.  He did all of this until he finally became a master detective, scientist, martial artist, etc. and thus he adopted the persona of Batman in order to strike fear and terror into the very people who preyed upon the innocent people of Gotham City for so long.  So, with all of this Batman has a darker and less idealistic view of humanity and life as he has, for the most part, been predominantly exposed to the darkness of both, unlike Superman.  Moreover, while Batman will treat people with respect and dignity that they deserve, he isn’t going blind himself to the darker nature of each person that he encounters.

So now we finally come to how the two characters will deal with the criminals they encounter and hopefully the reason why their rivalry is so classic will be revealed. So, stemming from each hero’s personality and upbringing, we can get a glimspe of how each deals with the criminal element and also how they’ll deal with the governmental systems that be.  Now as I said Superman is a highly moral and idealistic person, believing strongly is fair-play, truth, justice, and etc and so with villains like Lex Luthor, Superman will most often give them the benefit of the doubt and he’ll be most inclined to show mercy toward a criminal if it’s possible.  This is in somewhat contrast to Batman who is a bit more cynical about criminality than Superman is, which again stems from the fact that he has dealt with the darker side of humanity more often that with the light.  Batman is highly trained at interrogations and he knows plenty of techniques that will get the information he needs from the criminals and he isn’t afraid to use any of them.  Batman will even use techniques that might be considered borderline torture, but obviously not to the extreme as he never kills his villains, something he shares with Superman.

Finally Superman, who is all for fair-play and giving the benefit of the doubt, would most often be one who trusts and is willing to work with the governing bodies of a respective city as he has often acted as a mediator who tries to keep the peace between government and hostile voices.  Batman on the other hand, who has grown up amid the rampant corruption of the Gotham City, is one who will often think twice before doing things for a government offical(s) and it’s not likely that he is one to be very trusting toward a governmental body of any sort.

So with all of that said, I think that a strong factor which makes a character rivalry like the one between Batman and Superman, so great and so lasting is that each character is for the most part a stark contrast to the other and they each present a different, but effective view of viewing the world and reaching a common goal, which in this case is to protect the innocent people from the bad guys.

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8 Comments on “Blog #10: Character Rivalries in Animation”

  1. Kendra Prasad- Hist 389 Says:

    Mike, I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I agree that both Batman and Superman are successful in what they desire to accomplish, although they go about this mission in different ways. Because of this, many people are more drawn to Batman, and others more interested in Superman. This may have to do with peoples’ upbringings and personal experiences. If they have seen more “bad” in this world, perhaps they will be able to relate more to Batman and will prefer seeing the bad guys more hurt. Because Batman and Superman are pretty equal in success with defeating the bad guys, they are good and entertaining rivals.

  2. History of Childhood Memories Says:

    To go off of what Kendra said I agree that how we percieve cartoons, and any form of “show” is from our upbringing. Our own perosnal experiance make us desire to see superman win or batman win so this makes them great rivals in that we subconciously look back into our past and somehow find something to relate with in one of the two. Then again we do that with all animation as I said before but more so with rivalries like this. This is also the reason we like Buggs over Daffey, its the smart alec side of us that chooses one and hopes the other one is defeated. Our future and our past are so interconnected.


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  4. tkambach Says:

    One thought on why Batman and Superman are good rivals is that Batman is a pessimist, while Superman is an optimist. Batman has a plan to counter pretty much any of his companions if they go rogue, while Superman believes in second chances. Another possible reason is that since Batman possesses not superpowers, he feels he must do more to make himself more valuable to his teammates (topic was mentioned in one of the Justice League or Justice League Unlimited episodes, not sure which).


  5. I’ve always loved the Batman Superman rivalry. It seems silly to even call them rivals as I don’t think they even see each other as that. They see each other as tools meant for different trades. Sure they get angry at each other, but I think it’s more of a partnership than a rivalry (although partnerships can definitely be rivalries). I do like batman more though, as preference. Superman can shed off his humanity to become a god, batman can never shed his humanity or else he’ll become something much worse.

  6. jcampion Says:

    Definitely an interesting topic. I think what makes a great rivalry is not only two strong characters, but two characters who are strong in different, and sometimes contrasting reasons. I think the most interesting rivalry on here was the Superman-Batman debate for the simple fact that these two characters were not created as rivals, nor are they even from the same company, and yet fans constantly debate about them as if they were specifically made as rivals. It’s just a testament to two very good characters and two very popular characters.


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