Josie Campbell, a writer on several recent animated projects released by DC, weighed in on the difference between Superman and Batman.
It’s the perennial question: Batman or Superman? Some fans may flock to the Crusader for his enormous wealth, cool cars, and high-tech gadgets. Others might find the appeal in Kal-El’s friendly face and unwavering sense of optimism.
And there’s no mistaking that when it comes to the big screen, Bruce Wayne has a bit more experience than Clark Kent. But exactly why has Bats been such an enduring figure in cinema history while Superman’s movies just haven’t broken through as effectively?
DC Creative Discusses Superman and Batman’s Popularity
My Adventures with Superman producer Josie Campbell (who has also worked on other DC projects like Justice League: War World and Teen Titans Go!) was asked by The Comics Cube why there have been more Batman movies made than Superman movies.
Campbell broke down the Dark Knight’s rise to mainstream icon status in the 1980s and ‘90s as a deluge of Bat-Media was released:
“I feel like it’s like the eternal question of just, ‘What makes something hit?’ And I think some of it is, we got into this area with Batman, especially in… the ’80s and ’90s, where I think the grittier, Frank Miller-inspired version of him hit and we all liked that. And we got that Bruce Timm version, which is very inspired by that, and it’s that film Noir, and there’s this grittiness to him that differentiated him in a way… I love the ’60s Batman, but it’s completely different. It is like its own thing.”
Campbell then turned her attention to Superman, noting the lack of direction that some claim has been an issue with the character in recent decades:
“So I think it took a while, but we as a culture were like, ‘This is fun. This is what we like.’ I think for Superman, Superman out the gate was popular. People love Superman. Superman was fun, Superman was funny, optimistic. And then we kind of hit the slew where people weren’t sure what to do with him.”
She remarked on a rising and falling action with regard to the two superheroes’ popularity levels, noting that “people gravitate towards different things at different times:”
“And I think it’s around the same time that you’ve got Batman rising and Superman falling. And I think what we were trying to do is get back to that optimism, and that joy, and that faith, and that heart. And people gravitate towards different things at different times.”
The producer expanded on her comments, stating that audiences are beginning to respond a bit more to Superman’s old-fashioned kindness and sense of right and wrong, and his role as an “earnest, corn-fed, Kansas boy:”
“In the ’90s, I was loving the stories where like Superman’s getting beaten up by Doomsday, which is a very different flavor. But I think now is a time where people really do want that earnest, corn-fed, Kansas boy who knows right from wrong to come in and save us, whether it’s the world around you, whether it’s the pandemic we just went through, whatever is going on in your life I think, there’s like a want for that again in a way that we haven’t culturally, at least for America, we haven’t needed or wanted in a while.”
Campbell circled back around to her original point: “Nobody really quite knows why something hits,” but that the spotlight could start to swing toward Superman, as the character just seems to appeal to fans in a certain fashion:
“So that’s a very long way to also say, nobody really quite knows why something hits and something doesn’t. I just think like the cultural moment for Superman is coming back.”
The Difference Between the Kryptonian and the Bat
Suffice it to say, some fans continually decry Superman as “lame” and a “boy scout.” And sure, Clark can be a bit of a goody-two-shoes at times, something that Batman certainly isn’t.
But there can indeed be something captivating about Supes’ niceness. While Bruce Wayne is all wrapped up in anger and broken pieces, Clark often seems to have it more “together” and is better fitted for his status as a beacon of hope than Bruce ever could be.
And that’s not even close to saying that Batman isn’t a great character and hero in his own right. His steadfast commitment to fighting crime in Gotham and his rigid unwillingness to kill are certainly something to be admired.
Many simply just seem to respond better to Bruce’s “cool factor.” After all, the guy seems to have all the tricks and toys; access to the Batcave, the grapple gun, keys to the Batmobile. It’s hard not to be enraptured by that.
But as Josie Campbell said, “the cultural moment for Superman is coming back.” With all the division and hate in the world perhaps we need a dose of Superman now and then.