Who among us didn’t dream of being a super hero? I myself valiantly fought evil while wielding the $4.99 Captain America shield my mom bought me from the local toy store, and my marketing guy says that every kid on his block donned old bath towels to provide neighborhood security in the form of twenty or so pint sized Batmen. Unfortunately, our youthful alter egos gave way to real life as we grew up to become lawyers, engineers, salesmen and accountants. All professions where doing things like leaping out of your cubicle in a cape and shouting, “Stand back, citizens” is going to get you committed or fired, probably both. But do we ever totally turn our backs on our comic book friends? I think if you’re being honest, the answer is no, but instead we channel our affinity for costumed crusaders into reasoned debates that discuss the relative merits of things like super powers, who could beat who, and the ultimate question, DC or Marvel, or at least that’s what we do here at Compass.
Since we are all still basking in a post Captain America 2 glow and are positively giddy about the impending cinematic arrival of Spiderman 2, we recently became involved in a wide-ranging discussion involving all things “comicverse”. Interestingly enough, although everyone agreed they couldn’t wait to see the movie, the old webslinger was not universally regarded as each participant’s favorite super hero. I myself am a Captain America guy, while my marketing guy places Iron Man at the top of his list, and most everyone seemed to agree on some combination of the Cap, Tony Stark’s alter ego and Spidey as constituting their top three. The notable exception here being our financial analyst, Carter, who after Batman and Ironman—both rather common choices—displayed a strange affinity for the Hulk by listing him at number 3. I’ve always found the Hulk to be a bit of an enigma. He seems to have his own agenda most of the time, he’s not terribly articulate—“Hulk, smash”—and his clothing bill most be astronomical, but to each his own as they say.
While we collectively love Batman, especially the Christian Bale incarnation—I mean Ben Affleck, what the heck—we find DC to be a poor sister to their Marvel superhero brethren. I think some of this can be traced directly to DC’s biggest star, Superman. Although everyone loves what Krypton’s gift to Earth stands for since only godless commies and maybe the French don’t believe in “Truth, Justice and the American Way”, can Superman ever really lose? Sure there’s the whole Kryptonite thing, but you’re just not going to find that on any street corner, and he’s made of steel for crying out loud. The Hulk, for example, can want to smash him all he wants, but everybody in Metropolis knows that the guy with the “S” on his shirt would turn him into a green blot on the pavement in about 30 seconds. I guess even though we know that our superheroes are always going to prevail in the end, we like to think there’s a chance that this time they may have met their match—it just adds to the suspense.
Any superhero argument always gets down to who could beat who, and this is another area where DC seems to come up lacking. Does anyone think that the Justice League could beat the Avengers, even with Superman on their side? After Batman and Superman what have they got? The Flash? Big deal, so he’s really fast, one repulser ray blast from Iron Man and all that’s left are those yellow boots. Wonder Woman? While everyone agrees in equal opportunity for the more particularly gifted among us, an invisible plane—which itself is great but how come you can still see her—and some bullet blocking bracelets just don’t stack up very well against even the weakest members of Marvel’s A-Team, Black Widow and Hawkeye. And let’s not even get started on Aquaman. What’s he going to do, try and flog someone with a flounder? Let’s face it folks, if the comic book world was a playground, a lot of DC guys would be coughing up their lunch money on a regular basis.
I think the beauty of the superhero world is that in our own little boy ways we can still identify with them. Somewhere deep inside we still dream of bringing evil doers to justice while humbly hiding behind our own costumed alter egos, but, since our spandex wearing days are long behind us, our heroes personify our long abandoned hopes and dreams. And so while we spend our days building data centers, weekends will find us sitting in the dark and nodding solemnly when Spiderman is reminded that, “With great power comes great responsibility”. And when the lights come up, many of us will look to our sons sitting next to us and ask them if they had to choose “Which superhero would you be?” And the cycle will begin anew.