10:46 pm - 01/09/2013
DC vs Marvel: Superman vs Captain America
For as long as there have been comic books, there has been the feud between DC and Marvel. Both are heavy-hitting comic companies that continue to gain legions of fans every year. The purpose of this column is to take one DC persona and one Marvel persona of equal measure and popularity and pit them against each other to see who come out on top.(From House of Geekery)
Background: These are two of DC and Marvel’s flagship heroes and both are iconic figures of patriotism and grandeur in the comic-book universe.To start things off we’ll look at Clark Kent and his transformation into The Man of Steel. His origin story is one that has been retold through countless forms of media but always stays the same. Superman is born as Kal-El on the alien world of Krypton to his parents Jor-El and Lara (where’s her weird name?) during the last days of the planet’s existence. Krypton is being destroyed from the inside out and Clark’s biological father Jor-El is tasked to create a spaceship that would send his son away from harm and onto planet Earth, where he could survive and live a better life. In a last ditch effort they’re able to save their son but are killed in the process, and the outer debris of Krypton is transformed into Kryptonite, Superman’s only weakness. His spaceship crashes into the middle of a cornfield in Smallville, Kansas and it is there that Martha and Jonathan Kent find the baby and raise him as their own. Even though it is Martha and Jonathan Kent that have the largest affect on his childhood he very much seeks guidance from both sets of parents. It is with them that Clark learns the truth about his past and how to harness his power for good and to combat evil. He adopts the alter-ego of Superman to hide his identity and protect his loved ones from evil as he becomes the protector of Earth and their greatest hero.
Steve Rodgers follows the same path as Clark in the sense that he loses his parents at a young age and is blessed with powers too strong for him to fully understand. However, instead of being born with these powers Steve inherits them from a volunteer mission in the Army. Rodgers wasn’t blessed with super powers and instead was a short, scrawny kid from the Bronx that was constantly picked on for his size. Those struggles are what made him stronger mentally and helped him forge a set of standards and principals that he never lost site of as he got older. When Steve went to enlist in the Army he failed all of his qualifications but was able to volunteer for a Top Secret military event called Operation: Rebirth. The experiment exposed smaller soldiers to “Vita-Rays” that greatly enhanced all physical attributes of its subjects from strength, speed, stamina and reflexes, thus creating the “perfect super soldier”. Once Rodgers went through with the operation he was tasked with becoming the poster boy of WWII propaganda for the United States until he went into counter intelligence and worked his way up the ranks against our enemy, the Nazi group Hydra. After fighting through the entire war it was in the waning moments of WWII when Hydra launched a plane carrying a bomb at the United States of America. When his partner Bucky attempted to diffuse the bomb it erupted in mid-air, launching Steve into the Atlantic Ocean were he was presumably KIA. Protected by the super-serum he was encased in a gigantic block of ice and found years later by the US military, where he would return to duty and fight against Earth’s dangerous foes.
Both have interesting and exciting origin stories and it’s too difficult for me to choose a winner.. so this one is ending in a tie.
When you’re dealing with Superman you’re dealing with quite possibly the most powerful superhero alive, and although that’s often debated you’ll always find Superman in that particular discussion. So when discussing his powers you don’t start with what he does have but what he doesn’t have, and that isn’t a lot. According to DC wiki, Supes has “flight, super strength, invulnerability to non-magical attacks, super speedvision powers (including x-rays, heat-emitting, telescopic, infra-red, and microscopic vision), super-hearing, and super-breath, which enables him to blow out air at freezing temperatures, as well as exert the propulsive force of high-speed winds”. I mean this is a guy who literally turned back time by flying around the planet in an opposite direction! Superman’s one weakness is the alien rock Kryptonite from his home planet and without that he’s borderline unstoppable.
Captain America has enhanced strength, agility, reflexes and speed of his own but is no match to Superman in this category (and few are). The super-soldier serum enhanced those physical traits but he’s also a brilliant tactician and one of the greatest soldiers ever known. According to Marvel Wiki “Captain America had mastered the martial arts of American-style boxing and judo, and had combined these disciplines with his own unique hand-to-hand style of combat. He had also shown skill and knowledge of a number of other martial arts”. So while yes, Captain America does have his own “super powers” they are just below the level of an alien like Superman and he has to work out vigorously to stay in the best shape possible (it’s not granted like Superman’s is).
While Cap gives Supes a run for his money in this category, Kal-El is just too powerful for him to overcome.
Both of these superheroes have been prominent vocal and longstanding leaders of their respective groups, The Avengers and The Justice League. However there are some smaller group affiliations with each of them that we’ll look at in the next paragraph.
Superman has been a member of The Justice League, The Justice Legion Alpha and Superman’s Squad.
Captain America has been a member of The Avengers, The Secret Avengers, The Invaders and The Redeemers.
Both have again been parts of smaller groups but their real stories lie in solo adventures and when they’re headlining either The Avengers or The Justice League. Because both have had such crucial roles in each group and have not only led them but have been primary focuses of those issues, this category is also ending in a tie.
Is there anything more iconic than the Superman “S” logo in not just all of comics but all of pop culture? That patented red and yellow S on the blue body-suit with red boots and a red cape is pure, vintage comics in every way imaginable. Does Superman use any weapons? Well, no, he himself is a weapon and he doesn’t carry a side-arm or device that helps him in battle. His apparel comes down to an armored, Kryptonian bio-tech suit that he dons every time he goes up against his enemies.
If Superman’s apparel screams “Classic America” than Captain America’s outfit must scream “BALD EAGLES, APPLE PIE AND DEMOCRACY”. Cap’s outfit started off as an inspirational American flag-inspired Army uniform to rally the troops into action and continued to evolve as he went through the years as a soldier. It was designed by Howard Stark and features a high resistance to gunfire, a wireless radio transmitter in the helmet and a Kevlar fiber that has been updated to become light weight and incredibly flexible. His stars and stripes on his helmet and chest might be iconic but it’s his shield that garners all the attention. Cap’s shield is 12 inches in diameter and made of indestructible Vibranium metal alloy that has never been able to be reproduced. It’s not only resistant to bullets and fire but also high radiation and is aerodynamically perfect in design which creates a “boomerang” ability that Cap uses in battle.
While both heroes don memorable suits in Captain America who is the only one with a weapon and the shield is too iconic to replicate.
When it comes to the history of comic-books there are only a handful of superheroes that leap directly off of the pages and into pop-culture and Superman is the leader of that group. He’s essentially the grand daddy of the comic-book genre, ushering in a new era of superheroes and being the first to garner that many super powers. Upon his debut in 1938 he was absolutely everywhere from television programs, radio serials and newspaper strips. He gave birth to the golden age of comics and has more or less held that top spot for most of his existence. He’s one of the major 3 players when it comes to superheroes, alternating between Superman, Batman and Spider-man and he’s seen an unbelievable amount of adaptations outside of the comics themselves. He’s had multiple animated series with “Superman the Animated Series” being the standout as well as a live-action 10 season run of “Smallville” that just ended a couple of years ago. He also gave birth to the respectability of the superhero genre on the big screen with “Superman: The Movie” which starred Christopher Reeve in the titular role and went on to garner 4 Oscar nominations as well as spawning 3 different sequels. It was rebooted with a “sort of” sequel to the original series in 2006 by Byran Singer, an attempt that drew mixed reviews for both the movie itself and the performance by Brandon Routh. Supes will again fly into theaters next summer with Man of Steel, and this time newcomer Henry Cavill will don the tights in an attempt to launch a new franchise that helps build towards a Justice League movie. Aside from the massive success in films, tv and comics Superman has crossed into pop-cultural with his logo everywhere from tattoos on millions of people including athletes, rappers and celebrities to selling merchandise around the world. When it comes to superheroes and social relevance there are few that have been this popular for this long other than Superman himself.
Captain America isn’t a slouch in the social relevance category either and has had his own share of success outside of Marvel comics. He debuted in the 1940’s and it is estimated today that he’s sold over 200 million copies around the world as of 2007. He’s seen his popularity skyrocket recently with the success of “Captain America: The First Avenger” as well as a leading role in one of the biggest superhero movies of all-time, “The Avengers”. However even before he took over the big screen with Chris Evans in the lead role you could find Captain America merchandise in not only toy stores but department stores with graphic tees of his iconic shield logo. He’s been a focal point of a ton of video-games and cartoon series including multiple versions of The Avengers, a crossover with X-Men, Spider-Man and “The Super-hero Squad Show” and even a handful of made for TV movies. He might not reach the level of popularity that Superman has attained but he’s pretty close and his logo itself is also a pop-culture crossover that’s been seen on tattoos, on vehicles and in other forms of media. Captain America is another superhero that successfully branched out of his comic-book medium and into multiple platforms ranging from art and television to film.
While both have their fair share of followers it’s Superman who is almost unbeatable in this category again, making him the winner of this showdown based on the criteria above.