Superheroes are generally presented as the good guys. Both parts of the word mean good, in one way or the other. Some of them are anti-heroes (such as the Punisher, Daredevil, or Moon Knight), but they are almost always presented as good. Their goodness is on display. No two heroes show this as much as Superman and Batman, though their methods could not be more different.
It begins with their upbringing. Superman lost his parents before he knew them and was adopted, believing the Kent’s to be his biological parents for many years. They cared for him like only they knew how, raising him to be one of the most enduring heroic figures in pop culture today. Bruce Wayne’s parents, on the other hand, left him during his formative years, leaving a young boy crushed by the weight of a world firmly on his shoulders, even though Alfred tried to help.
These critical details bring to life two heroes whose method is different, though their end goals remain the same: Goodness.
Superman was instructed on goodness as virtue, goodness as a power. He is dressed in bright colors, takes heroic stances, and shows up with flash and fervor and does away with the evil-doers and villains with a smile on his lips and the wind in his hair, backed by blue skies and to the cheering of the crowd (this leaves out, of course Batman vs. Superman). Batman, on the other hand, was shown the world is a hard place. He dresses in dark colors and stays to the shadow. He breaks legs. He leaves people hanging from gargoyles. He refuses to let anyone know his secret identity and usually ends up pushing away the people trying to help him. He uses goodness only as a end, and his means are severely dark.
In any Dungeons and Dragons game, Superman is the Lawful Good and Batman is the Chaotic Good. Their differences create a dichotomy, combined with their popularity, elevating them to superhero stardom. It is these two heroes, with their mirrored approaches to goodness, who paved the way for all other superheroes. These two heroes create both important archetypes: the bright and shining hero, and the dark hero.
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