To cite a fictional character as a primary example for a serious discussion may seem to be, in some way or another, out of context, but for a self-confessed nerd like me, superheroes are and will always be part of society. We, the collective geeks and nerds, know all too well that they don’t really exist, but there is that certain “something” – a relief, or comfort, maybe – that people with powers, capes and extraordinary abilities were once our guardian angels.
More often than not, our concept of superheroes changes as we grow older. I grew up watching and reading X-Men, Batman the Animated Series, Wild C.A.T.S., Superman, the whole nine yards. Hell, I even wanted to be Zach the Black Ranger at one point in my life. There was no Internet, not social media, no “digital age” – the only technology that we had was the television, the radio, plus comic books, trading cards and action figures to fuel our addiction. It was the golden years of geekdom, and it was good.
Fast forward to 15 years, my eye for superheroes has yet to fade a single shade. My Facebook page is filled with pictures of superheroes and yes, I have a Batman and Thor tattoo to prove my indulgence. But then again, age comes with wisdom. I no longer see them as someone who would swoop down to save the proverbial damsel in distress as the knight in shining armor, but a social icon who comes with a cult following. The more I read and watch their movies, the more I know that Bruce Wayne is a humanist and Superman once believed in something divine.
We all know who Clark Kent is, right? He’s the mild-mannered journalist for The Daily Planet, Lois Lane’s love interest, and Superman sans the eyeglasses. But before he knew that he has the ability to beat the living hell out of anyone who comes in his way, Clark Kent was Kal-El, one of the last survivors of the Planet Krypton (his cousin, Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl being the other).
To make the long story short, Kal-El’s pod crash-landed on Earth, and he was found by Martha and Jonathan Kent. He was raised to be a “normal” boy but soon found out who he really was.
It’s quite safe to say that Martha and Jonathan had raised Clark well, and it was because of these values that made Superman one of the most beloved characters in history. Growing up, Clark was used to working on the farm and, if you want to look at their life on a different route, attended Sunday service religiously. What else is there to do when you’re living in the middle of rural Kansas?
There’s no definite indication that tells about Superman’s religion, but Steve Major’s post at The Humanist pointed that Martha and Jonathan Kent “probably believed in Jesus.” He noted that Superman, along with the rest of the Superfamily and Krypto as Methodists but he argued that the Man of Steel is, “at heart, a humanist.” At one point, the author quoted a conversation between Clark and Lois wherein he admitted to having stopped attending Sunday service “because he knew too much about their lives – their problems – their lies” and “he was afraid that he might lose his faith in people.”
So, both Superman and Clark Kent turned to humanism in an effort to, as Major believed, “to put his faith in the best that humanity has to offer.” There’s still Truth, Justice and the American Way somewhere along the line, though: an overpowered alien who works well and acknowledges the capacity of his fellow human heroes is fine in any book.
If Superman is an alien, then Batman is, well, a man in a bat costume. He’s 100% human, but at one point became the God of Knowledge when he sat on the Mobius Chair in Justice League: Darkseid War. Strip him of his storyline and he will still bleed, grow old and die.
Bruce Wayne was born to Martha and Thomas Wayne and thus, completing the wealthy lineage that erected Wayne Industries. There’s not too much brouhaha about their lives but an unfortunate meeting with Joe Chill suddenly left young Bruce parent-less. This particular incident left a scar inside Bruce and he took this as his driving force to become the Dark Knight.
There are two sides of Bruce Wayne: the brandish billionaire playboy and the philanthropist cum head honcho of Wayne Industries. Think of him as DC’s Tony Stark or as someone who has practically everything in his life but took on the mantle of protecting his city and the entire world from bad dudes. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy portrayed the two sides of Bruce Wayne to the point that fast cars, sexy girls, and his business capabilities were branded to near perfection, so much so that it looked like a Wayne movie rather than Batman’s.
The Caped Crusader, on the other hand, is the humanist. He was created through Wayne’s fear of bats and his motive to avenge the death of his parents. The American Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie said that “Batman is a reformer and humanist, and not an avatar for right-wing fears” due to his “essential faith in humanity’s ability to improve itself.
Case in point: to become Batman, Bruce Wayne trained to become what is known as Super-humanism, or the ability of humans to go above and beyond the general expectations and realities of humankind. Its Wikipedia description added that this state can be achieved through natural ability, self-actualization or technological aids. With seemingly unlimited wealth and of course his impetus for justice, Bruce Wayne trained Batman to have near genius intellect, mastered various martial arts and hand-to-hand combat and enforced a peak physical and mental condition. Batsie’s access to technology was coursed through Lucius Fox, hence his updated arsenal, vehicles, armor and everything there is to find in the Bat Cave.
Again, there is no concrete context as to what superheroes believe, but in some way, they do. Superman/Clark Kent is firm on his belief in humanity and its potential, while Batman/Bruce Wayne used education, physical feat, technology and money to defend Gotham.
Except for gravestones and depiction of churches, comic book artists can only illustrate so much when it comes to religion. Hellboy is one exception, though, because he always carries his adopted father’s rosary with him and he is prophesized to bring upon the destruction of the world in the evilest way possible. But then again, humanism, whether secular or otherwise thrive in the comic book world: from the Justice League who serves to protect the entire human race to Professor X’s vision that mutants and humans can live in peace, spandex and superpowers erase the dogma of religion and all its contexts.
HAPI Bacolod Member
Jearr (pronounced JR) is a product of the University of Saint La Salle with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. He is a book hoarder, loves tech, beer, food, bikes and his 4-year old “mini-me” while living by the meme, ” Curiosity killed the cat; ignorance killed man.” He is Batman is his other life.