So this led us inevitably to a very late-night comparison of the two giants - Marvel and DC. While there are other great publishers, many of them have died horribly (e.g. CrossGen, Caliber, Charlton) so it always seems to come back to the big two. In a conversation that lasted well into the night Isus and I compared the two Goliaths in depth. Quick Disclaimer - I like 'em both. Some of my favorite books are variously Marvel (the cancelled but not forgotten Deadpool and Doom 2099) and DC (most of the Batman lineup, Green Arrow) so don't take this as bashing one publisher over the other.
When I was younger (high-school and early-collegish) I really preferred Marvel titles. Sure, I liked Batman but the DC Universe in general wasn't my thing. I think it's because at the time, I felt that Marvel characters were more real. Most of Stan Lee's creations appear on the surface to capture the essence of humanity. Fantastic Four was always a book about a family - with all of the positives and negatives that come with it. Spiderman was mostly about Peter Parker trying to manage his personal life with MJ and his job (you know, the one involving tights). These were regular folks in extrodinary circumstances.
DC on the other hand was about these archtypes - Batman was the living incarnation of Justice, Superman the incarnation of Compassion, Green Lantern the symbol of Honor, Green Arrow the Champion of Equality. The DC guys just seemed too big so much larger than life that they were difficult for me to identify with. These were extrodinary people in extrodinary circumstances - nothing ordinary to hold onto.
However, now that I'm older I really prefer DC - ironically for the same reason that I used to prefer Marvel. The thing that has come to bug my about Marvel is that basically everyone's powers are the result of random chance. The Fantastic Four were born of an accident - as was the Hulk, the X-men (since genetics can be considered random chance) and so on. Now some of the DC folks are like this too - Superman, and Manhunter after all didn't choose to be born on different planets after all. But Batman, Arrow and Lantern all became whom they were because of choice not chance (even if Hal, John and Kyle didn't chose to be Lanterns, the guardians chose them.
Now, as for Superman, compare him to Spiderman. Both of them got their powers as a matter of chance. However, Spiderman's travails always seem to be a matter of misfortune. Whoops! Bad luck that you accidentally killed your girlfriend. [wikipedia.org] and sorry that you were accidentally blamed for the death of her dad . . . and the accidental death of the guy that killed her. Superman's problems, on the other hand, seem a little more the result of his choices. Sure he got killed by Doomsday but he knew that that was a possiblity when he chose to fight him. And he chose to return from behind the veil after death had claimed him. In the DC universe our heroes face consequences as a result of their choices while in Marvel they simply endure their fate.
Now truly, we the real people endure both the cruel whims of fate and the consequences of their choices. But I would rather concentrate on the latter rather than the former. Actual heroes such as Gandhi [wikipedia.org], Florence Nightingale [wikipedia.org] and Charles Drew [wikipedia.org] overcametheir fate rather than enduring it. If Nightingale had been a Marvel character, she wouldn't have ever gone to Crimea - she would have simply let her fate wash over her and married one of the wealthy suitors lined up for her. Instead, like a DC character, she grabbed onto her future and bent it to her own will.
The DC characters are, therefore, more human than their Marvel cousins in the way that really matters and thus more interesting to me. They transcend their shortcomings and, as a result, their worst enemies are inevitably themselves. Only when their own Will falters do they themselves fall. In Hush, for example, Batman is nearly defeated when his old enemies unite to break his spirit for they know that breaking his body will never stop him (if it would then he would have fallen to Bane). Oracle typifies this DC maxim - rather than succumb to her crippled fate she becomes, perhaps, the most powerful hero of all even when imprisoned in a broken body.
Spiderman's moral "With great power comes great responsibility" is a good one. When given gifts we should learn to use them with wisdom. However DC seems to have a motto that is the converse: With great responsibility comes great power". Batman, Superman, and so forth draw strength from the very fact that they care. Batman literally forged himself into a guided missile of justice on the belief that he was responsible for the future of Gotham.
Overall, this is more important message to us. We all face the same bad luck as the Marvel characters but we should strive to transcend them as the DC characters do.