In the previous two comparisons I have started with a Marvel character and tried to find a DC equivalent. This week I thought I would start with a DC character – Batman. His original, and primary, quality is that he is an independent detective. Batman also happens to be the most interesting character in the DC pantheon for me. But, by right of his detecting quality, the closest character to be found in the Marvel universe is The Punisher.
So, again to the comparison. Batman was first seen in 1939. He is one of the most intelligent humans in the DC universe, comparable to Lex Luthor. He is rich, too. He has an endless supply of money to invest in gadgets and travel. Batman is also the most accomplished martial artist in the DC universe, having learned and excelled at nearly every form of combat in existence. Add to that he keeps his body at the level of an Olympic athlete and he is nearly unbeatable to any human he comes up against. He has also worked to master nearly every science known to man, including interrogation and escapology, and is both quick-witted and thinks ahead. This means that his utility belt allows him to beat even alien and superior opponents. He is mentally tough, too, able to withstand tremendous levels of pain or the mental attacks of telepaths.
The Punisher was first introduced in 1974. Though possessing above average intelligence he is about as close to Bruce Wayne as a class valedictorian would be to Stephen Hawking. He has access to money, but this is limited to the cash he collects from the criminals he hunts. Not that his income has ever hampered his access to weapons or tools, but then again I don’t see a specially designed suit worth millions in his future. He also possesses a high level of physical fitness and specialized military training, though nothing like Batman. Along the way he has learned mission-specific abilities such as acting and has the same level of pain tolerance and mental strength as his counterpart.
Their origin stories have similarities as well. Batman’s parents were killed in front of him, emotionally driving him to crime-fighting. The Punisher watched his wife and children get killed. However, their responses were very different. Whereas Batman will go beyond the limits imposed on law enforcement in catching criminals he doesn’t kill, doesn’t use guns, and has a sincere desire to help the community he lives in as demonstrated both in and out of the mask. The Punisher has one goal in life, punishment of the guilty. There is only one punishment for offenders – death.
Clearly Batman has more assets and is therefore combats and crime-solving are less challenging and interesting for his character. On the other hand, the dimension of his approach to his childhood trauma is fascinating. It gives him a complexity that would be difficult to duplicate. For instance, with The Punisher all he has is simple hatred. Unlike with the previous two weeks, I can’t definitively say the Marvel character is the more interesting. Each adventure may be more fun to read with the Marvel hero, but the character of Batman is deeper, more evolved, and more complex than anything The Punisher is capable of. I find myself interested, despite myself, in the future Superman/Batman movie.