Batman vs. Punisher

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.

About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well;
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6 Responses to Batman vs. Punisher

  1. Loki says:

    It’s a fun comparison, and well done! Not sure if they’re each other’s closest counterparts, though, especially considering the many spinoff Bat-characters who (sometimes) use lethal force. Wouldn’t Huntress be more akin to Punisher, what with her use of deadly weapons and her (in some continuities) personal vendetta against the mafia? Or perhaps the Red Hood (Jason Todd, not the original), who for all intents and purposes is an angrier Batman with guns.

    As for Marvel’s version of Batman, that’s much tougher. In typical DC fashion, Batman kind of hoards qualities in a way that Marvel characters don’t. So he has Spidey’s science dabbling gadgetry (albeit with a much larger budget), Daredevil’s gloomy outlook and fear tactics, Reed Richard’s unmatched if perhaps slightly lonely brilliance, Nick Fury’s control issues, and of course as you say, Punisher’s one-man obsessed crime vendetta … and then the detective part, which I cannot really think of an iconic Marvel example of (oddly enough, I can think of multiple DC detectives), but which is yet another thing tossed into his character.
    Closest I get is probably Iron Man, though. True, he doesn’t have the same obsessive and self-disciplinary qualities that Batman shares Punisher, but otherwise … I’m not (just) talking about the similarities between superhero billionaire playboys with private butlers. I’m talking about how they both are genious level intellects, borderline paranoid, keep inserting their own personal judgment as superior to their (ostensible) friends and allies (see Tower of Babel and Civil War, for instance), and how they balance trying to do good with their public figure persona with their masked activities.
    But Punisher might be a decent second, and definitely makes for a more _interesting_ comparison, as your post here clearly demonstrated!

    • Cian Beirdd says:

      I had considered Ironman for the intelligence and money, but as far as relationship with the law and detective work I think I chose the best. I even went online and did a search for detectives; Punisher was the only name that came up. I suppose, though, that any magazine originally called Detective Comics is probably going to monopolize detectives. It was just a matter of finding some prominent Marvel character that was close.

      • Loki says:

        Agreed, Punisher is probably (more or less) as close as you get, at least outside of the espionage characters (and that’s obviously not quite the same as detecting).

        Odd how there are so many detectives with DC. Leaving actual police officers and all the various Bat-sidekicks and proteges aside, you still have Sebastian Blood, Blue Beetle, Elongated Man, the Question, Martian Manhunter, the Riddler (while he was reformed) — and that’s just off the top of my head. And (one of the) Flash(es) works in forensics, if I recall correctly. Odd how detective is the go-to profession for many of the alter egos (or even the method of many of the actual hero personas) with DC and there is nary a one to find with Marvel.

  2. First, I was also a DC follower rather than Marvel. I like my superheroes super without all the angst.

    But for me, Superman was The Man. He could FLY. Just flying did it for me. But I liked Batman too. He was a top quality Good Guy. He used is wealth to help others and I really liked when the comics put them together.

    You’re right about detecting, though. Superman was a Savior — Batman was a crime solver. Superman was power, Batman was the thinker.

    I’ll take both, thanks.

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