Recently, I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I watched an in-flight movie. I used to love using my time traveling to check out the new and unfamiliar, and it was refreshing to experience that again. Given a short flight time, there was only so much I could fit in, and the movie I landed on was Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons.
Somewhat reflecting developments in DC Comics over the past few years, it’s an animated feature film about Superman’s son, Jon Kent, teaming up with Batman’s son, Damian Wayne. How this compares and contrasts with the comics is convoluted in ways I don’t fully understand myself, so I’m treating this mostly as a standalone thing. In that regard, it’s probably fine to watch on its own as long as you’re familiar with Superman and Batman in a general sense. Maybe the fact Robin (Damian) is a pint-sized assassin who calls Batman “father” might throw some people off.
The story: Jon thinks he’s a regular kid with boring parents who are both journalists. Soon, though, he discovers the truth about his dad, and his entire perspective changes. When the starfish-like alien conqueror Starro begins to take over the adult superheroes, it’s up to him and Damian, whom he befriends (?) after meeting Batman, to save the world.
There’s something about the past decade of fiction that has brought to the forefront the challenge of heroes having to raise their own children. While plenty of comparisons can be made between Jon and Son Gohan from Dragon Ball, I think it’s more apt to look at other works, like Boruto, the Star Wars sequel trilogy, and even Avatar: The Legend of Korra to some extent. The gap between the stories focused on the parents and those focused on the children can vary from a few years to many decades, but they all land in the same space, wherein the legacies of the old heroes still persist in the hearts of the fans.
Because of this, portraying these adults as loving but flawed parents can be a tricky balancing act, and a common source of conflict in these stories is the struggle between maintaining one’s duty and being there for their kids. What’s more, these works are often meant to have the old good guys step out of the limelight and allow their kids to take center stage, which can create complicated feelings among fans.
In that regard, it’s actually kind of comforting to see the literal most perfect superhero, Superman, have trouble with this. If even the Last Son of Krypton has days where it’s hard to be a dad, then who wouldn’t? Sure, he’s ultimately the Best Dad Ever (and Lois an equally amazing mom in her own right), but Battle of the Super Sons successfully conveys the idea that we can have faith in the next generation to do things their way if we communicate to them the importance of love and justice.