DC Comics fans unite! Lawrence Pacheco and Scott Shinsato wax nostalgic on their superhero memorabilia.
With the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice due for March release, the question on everyone’s mind is which of the superheroes would come out the victor in such a showdown.
But fans of the two good guys look at the imagined rivalry as plain, old hype to drive ticket sales, with the specter of violence more believable to cynical movie-goers than the triumph of good in a world where it no longer seems to exist.
“Many people who like Superman are into his power and strength, but I like what the character stands for,” says longtime fan Lawrence Pacheco. “Christopher Reeve said it best: ‘What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely.’
“The heart and soul of it is that the ‘man’ is greater than the ‘super.'”
Pacheco, who resembles Clark Kent in dress and demeanor, latched onto the idea of emulating Superman as a child working toward becoming a better person, and over time built up a sizable collection of Superman-related objects and memorabilia.
Meanwhile, in another part of Honolulu, Scott Shinsato had the same notions about Batman, a man without superpowers but willing to take a beating in the name of justice.
“My takeaway from that character was that if you push yourself, you can be better than you are,” Shinsato reveals. His collection of Batman items rivals that of Pacheco’s Superman collectibles.
Just don’t call them collectors. “We’re really fans,” says Shinsato. “Collectors tend to buy and sell. For me, I wouldn’t sell any of my collection.”
For both, the collecting started innocently enough, with their fathers buying them comic books and a few superhero toys among many of the other stuff of boys’ dreams, from miniature trucks to action figures.
As they grew older, entering intermediate and high school, they delved into the psychology and backstories of the characters and took the themes to heart.
Pacheco admits it was disheartening to attend the premiere showing of Man of Steel, preceded by a contest in which a handful of moviegoers were invited to give their best impression of Superman rescuing someone trapped under a car.
“Every person in line grunted and heaved the car into the audience.”
Th e real Superman, he says, would have knelt down, lifted the car, set it down gently, and asked the boy, “Are you all right?”
“He does that so no one gets hurt,” Shinsato says, though to a public weaned on violence and attention-seeking, it’s perceived as a corny gesture to set a car down gently rather than recklessly flinging it a mile away, as Superman is capable of doing.
“People are becoming more cynical,” Pacheco says. “Th at’s the sad part about being the Big Blue Boy Scout. Th ese days, it seems to be more about the character’s strength and less about his strength of character.”
“They’re role models,” says Shinsato, who, when not working on being the best person he could be, as guided by Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, was having fun with trappings of the character’s life. “I liked the gadgets,” says Shinsato. “And anytime I got something, I put a Batman sticker on it.” Cell phone case? Bam! Utility belt? Pow!
He wears a Batman shirt almost every day, and has the shoes and socks to match. While photographing beloved pieces from their collections, a rivalry surfaced over who had what because companies licensed to produce goods for one character, generally had the license for the other. Th us, they were both able to bust out their respective 1985 Super Powers action figures and 1976 Avon Batman and Superman hairbrushes. Pacheco had the original box featuring Clark Kent mid-change in a telephone booth. Shinsato did not have his box.
Shinsato never travels without first checking to see what the destination holds in terms of Batman merchandise. He has Batman soda can racers from Brazil, and bento boxes and furoshiki from Japan.
He doesn’t have a life-size Batmobile, but he did get to go for a ride in the 1996 Batmobile created for the Adam West Batman TV series.
Shinsato said he was 13 when he won the opportunity to ride with its creator, George Barris.
“When I saw him, I thought, ‘Who’s this old man? Where’s Adam West?’
“He was talking to me and asking me questions about the TV show. He took me around Sand Island; he could have taken me around the whole island and it would have been too short.”
In 2014, Action Comic #1, which introduced Superman to the world at 10 cents a copy, sold on eBay for $3.2 million. Not having that kind of money, Pacheco has a reprint of the original June 1938 release in which Superman began as one of several anthology features in the National Periodical Publications comic book.
The character had been rejected by several other publishers who regarded the storyline as being too childish, Pacheco explains. But the strip proved so popular that National followed up by spinning him off into his own self-titled comic book, the first for any superhero, debuting in summer 1939. Batman, too, debuted as one of many characters in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. His popularity led to a self-titled comic book series launched in Spring, 1940.
The two have met several times over the years, starting with radio programs in the 1940s, usually as wary adversaries who develop a grudging respect for each other.
“At first, they’re at odds, but they’re two sides of the same coin. One is darker, one is more smiling,” Shinsato says.
“Superman doesn’t agree with the methods of Batman, but eventually they become close friends,” Pacheco adds.
Early cartoony portrayals of Batman on television and film gave way to darker storytelling with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and the success of that franchise has led other film-makers to take another look at other superheroes, to bring out the brooding, scarred aspects of their personalities.
“That’s not Superman,” Pacheco opines, who feels that Reeve’s innocent, good-guy portrayal in the 1978 Superman film was true to the character.
“It comes down to, if you were walking down a street and saw an old lady struggling with her bags, and she drops a bag, would you stop to pick it up? Some would walk on by, and some would go out of their way to help her all the way to her home. “It’s about doing something right, and that’s a quality more people should have.”