Why I always root for Superman over Batman

Commentary: In any Batman v Superman scenario, CNET's Jeff Sparkman will be on Team Superman, even when Superman isn't very Superman-y.

Jeff Sparkman Senior Copy Editor / Reviews
Jeff Sparkman is a copy editor at CNET who also writes about goofy and retro gadgets and contributes lame jokes where needed.
Jeff Sparkman
4 min read

Now that "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" is out, lots of people will be cheering on their favorite of the two in the fight. Give me a Batman-Superman face-off and I'll always be on Team Superman.

People often say Superman is boring or too powerful, but he's always been my choice. To me, Superman is an ideal. Yes, he's got tons of powers, but he's not looking to pound criminals above everything; he wants to help. He's what I hoped I would be like if I had super powers.

At the time I was growing up with Superman, Batman was kinda weak sauce. I watched reruns of the '60s "Batman" TV show, which I liked, and the various incarnations of "The Superfriends," in which everyone in the show was hopelessly square. Batman was more serious in the comics then, but he wasn't the armored badass people tend to think of until 1986's "The Dark Knight Returns" comic series by Frank Miller, and then the 1989 Tim Burton movie.

And while Batman got progressively more badass, being less restrained when it came to subduing criminals, I still preferred Superman because even though Superman was an alien from another planet, I related to him more. I was never going to be a cunning tactician who could beat the hell out of all the weirdos running around.

While I was pretty sure I hadn't been rocketed to Earth as a baby, I related to Superman because of Clark Kent. I was also awkward, bespectacled and timid. Bruce Wayne seemed like just a mask that Batman wore during the day. Superman was about hope and possibilities.

I was essentially a walking Superman encyclopedia. It started when my dad brought home "The Official Superman Quiz Book." When I was a little older, I was checking out all the Superman books my library had on hand. Repeatedly. And of course I got the Underoos.

My younger brother and I became avid comic book readers and collectors. No matter what, we always made Superman a priority. As a kid, my brother wrote a letter to the editors of the Superman title that got published on the letters page, back when that was a thing. We bought every issue of the main Superman comics every month for a good 25 years.


Here's a small sampling of my Superman paraphernalia. Up front is "The Official Superman Quiz Book," which at one point I had committed to memory. Not shown here are the Superman II and Superman III board games, which for the safety of humankind are stored somewhere else.

Jeff Sparkman/CNET

And the movies? The first two with Christopher Reeve were my favorites. The third and fourth, well, not as much. I wanted to like "Superman Returns," but it didn't feel like there was a lot of actual action going on.

The current cinematic Superman, introduced in "Man of Steel," didn't feel very Superman-y to me, and I agree with my colleague Roger Cheng about the reasons why. It also seems to me like they're going with an alternate-reality version of Superman -- the kind DC Comics would publish as an Elseworlds book, where we get alternate takes on various DC heroes.

I felt obligated to see "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice," not just because I felt I needed to to have an opinion not based solely on the trailers, plot summary and ridiculous title, but also because, like I might have impressed upon you by this point, I like Superman, and hey, maybe they improved the things I didn't like in "Man of Steel."

So, what did I think?

Imagine listening to a breathless 6-year-old who has to pee really bad but first needs to tell you everything that happened during his day. That's how the movie's pacing feels.

I don't like Batman and Superman as characters in it, either. Despite Director Zack Snyder's argument to the contrary, they don't reflect the characters in comics as they've largely been portrayed in the comics I've read over the last 35 years. Yes, there are points in those comics that come close to this interpretation, but I'm talking about overall portrayals.

I'm sure some people dig this version, and that's cool. I did like a few parts; seeing Gal Gadot in action as Wonder Woman was a particular high point. I can appreciate it or at least accept it as a dour, joyless alternate version of the DC Universe. It's just not the one that I would try selling to a mass audience, and not one I really want to see.

It's like when your team is having a bad season. You're still a loyal fan, but you don't have a whole lot to root for. That said, I still have hope that someday I'll see a movie with a Superman I can really root for again.

Watch this: 'Batman v Superman' review: the even darker knight