February 22, 2024

Superheroes generally fall into two categories: those are a weapon, which is Superman, and who carry weapons, namely Green Arrow. Which one is stronger? The easiest thing, dear reader, is just to give an answer, but that’s not why you come to Collider. You’re here because you really want to dissect the question before you come to a conclusion, and you should do it well. The question is actually much more difficult to answer than it seems on the surface. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.

The perks of being a superhero whose body is a weapon

Christopher Reeve as Superman

The obvious advantage of a superhero who is a weapon is that they have everything they need at all times. When Lois Lane’s (Margot Kidder) helicopter began dropping into the streets of Metropolis in 1978 SupermanSuperman (Christopher Reeve) already had the power of flight and superhuman strength to save him. At worst, it delayed him a few nanoseconds so he could put on the suit. Also in season 2 the flashKing Shark (David Hayter) Barry dominates (Grant Gustin) creating an electrified underwater cyclone, taking him to the villain’s prison. Again, our hero already has the speed force in him: no charging, no Scooby snacks, just plain old super speed.


The added benefit of already having powers is the inherent knowledge of how to use them. Heroes like Wonder Woman or Groot have grown up with their abilities, while others who receive powers later in life are quick learners. Take Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) in spider man. He figures out how to scale the walls pretty quickly, but when confronted by Flash Thompson (Joe Manganiello), Parker discovers and effectively uses his previously unused Spider-Sense abilities to avoid Flash’s punches.

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Downsides of being a Superpowered Hero

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Image via Sony

in the words of the great prophets of poison, “every rose has its thorn”, and such is the truth of superheroes who are weapons. These superheroes have all their eggs in one basket, and if something goes wrong, they put a hoop on it. If we go back to Maguire’s Spider-Man, enter Spider-Man 2 Parker loses his ability to shoot the net in the middle. He has nothing else to use, no backup, so he falls to the ground. And God forbid an archenemy should guess the hero’s Achilles’ heel.

There are many examples to choose from here. Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) was stopped by Billy Batson (Asher Angel) “Shazam!” holding his head under water Shazam! Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) losing his powers after Shuri kept him away from the water (Letitia Wright) in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Superman was incapacitated by Kryptonite in every iteration of the movie hero from his Kryptonite collar. Superman To the punch by Batman (Ben Affleck), supported by various Kryptonite weapons, in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. On an emotional level, being that superhero is negative. You can’t just hang your ray guns or what have you in the closet and be there normal. There is no escape or respite from being a weapon, and even if you do, a Superman Superman IIeventually you need it back.

The perks of being a gun wielding superhero

The Batman - 2022 - the end
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. via Pictures

Being a gun-toting superhero has one big advantage over the other: anyone can be a superhero. If you’re rich enough (Iron Man), talented enough (Green Arrow) or committed enough (Peacemaker), the world is yours to save. There are no genetic mutations, birthright powers, or radioactive spiders. All you need is yourself, a weapon and the skills to use it (without getting killed, but that goes without saying).

Take Batman, for example. He’s arguably the most beloved comic book superhero, and he doesn’t have a single superpower. What he has is average strength and will, the foresight to determine what is needed in a given situation and a wide range of tools and weapons, and most importantly the funds, to do so. With so many options, he’s naturally not limited by what he can do if he has everything he needs filled (we’ll touch on that shortly). These heroes are more relatable, and can hang up their outfits and weapons at the end of the day. Take Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), who can make his superhero debut as Hawkeye and then return to his family at Christmas as a father and husband, as seen in the episode. Hawkeye.

Downsides of being a weapon carrying superhero

Robert Downey Jr.  Tony Stark is testing his gear
Image via Marvel Studios

Let’s double back to Batman now. His foresight is usually enough to ensure he has everything he needs, but even Batman runs the risk of running out of tricks. In Batman v. SupermanBatman defeated Superman (Henry Cavill), but after using all the tools and weapons available to him. If Superman gave up even an ounce of strength, Batman would be in big trouble. In The Dark Knight Risesbatman (Christian Bale) ran out of tricks, and paid with a literal backstab from Bane (Tom Hardy).

So if it’s possible for Batman to be understaffed, it stands to reason that another hero could fall short on his weapon count or, even worse, forget to include a key part of his weaponry. It can’t happen? Oh, silly reader. Look no further The Avengers, where Hawkeye runs out of arrows in a fight against the Chitauri. He brought out some dead to use again, but for the most part he can no longer provide his archery skills against the enemy. It’s one thing to run out of one’s arsenal, but a big problem with superheroes carrying weapons is the ability to separate from those weapons. Think Green Lantern without his Power Ring, or Green Arrow without access to his bow and arrows, or the Punisher losing the key to his vast arsenal.

Which Kind of Superhero Is Better?

There are superheroes who, by their very existence, undermine the positives on both sides. Suicide SquadNot surprisingly, among their “heroes” is Gunter Braun, aka Jabalina (Flula Borg), a javelin user, and Cory Pitzner, aka The Detachable Kid (Nathan Fillion), a hero with the ability to remove limbs and use them as weapons. However, time has a way of rooting out the weak, so regardless of which side they fall on, they represent the best of that breed. But can one be stronger than the other?

It’s a very, very, very small edge to those heroes who are weapons, and here’s why. Each side has heroes that differ in their skill sets, and a hero with a strong attribute can easily beat a hero with a weaker weapon, and vice versa, but those who carry weapons face the finite. Their quivers run out of arrows, their power malfunctions, and so on. Weapons rarely have to worry. Their powers end when they do, and that gives them victory.

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