The Sentry and Superman: A Character Contrast

Sentry Rips Superman

Supes and SentryThe Sentry vs. Superman.  I hear it all the time.  Either as a genuine interest in the battle or as a complaint against these two specific characters.

One of the biggest complaints that I hear about DC’s Superman is that nothing can hurt the guy (except Kryptonite, of course).  Therefore every story that makes the reader fear for his life is revolving around this little stone.  But I say “nay.”  Superman is about an outside look of man’s morality and the inherent flaws of humanity as a whole.
Reading the title of this post, you probably thought there was a misprint, but in actuality Superman and Marvel’s Sentry couldn’t be any more different.  It has been said to me that while DC has characters that a reader can look up to, Marvel has characters that a reader can relate to.  DC has Superman and Batman who do what’s right no matter what (even if how they get there is questionable), while Marvel’s Spider-Man and Iron Man make mistakes that end up coming back to bite them in the butt.  There is always evolution of the characters and therefore new moral quandaries that can be applied, yet the distinct foundation of the universes remain.  This is what separates the Superman from the Sentry.
The Sentry has often been cited at Marvel’s version of Superman; boring because of the immense power that he possesses.  Sure, you have the mental instability, but that doesn’t compromise his physical strength.  What these readers seem to overlook is the fact that he is a human while Superman is an alien.
Duh, right?  Everyone knows this.  However, this small fact is the key.
Both Superman and the Sentry have the power to do what is right and both of them have the will to do what is right.  Ethical dilemmas aside, only one of them has to deal with inherent human flaws.Superman fights Sentry Superman constantly views humanity’s cruelty toward each other through the eyes of an outsider.  His mindset is clear, “If I have the power to do what is right, I WILL do what is right.”  Whereas, the Sentry thinks, “If I have the power to do what is right, how come I CAN’T do what is right?”

The Sentry has to deal with humanity’s flaws on an internal level.  Imagine the guilt, anxiety, and frustration of having the ultimate power set and not choosing what is right when you know what is right.  We all do this, we all struggle with this.  We can all relate.  When you see the last bit of salsa in the bowl and your bro is coming over with chip in hand to take that last bit from you…what do you do?  Pretend you don’t see him and grab a chip yourself.

“Oh, sorry bro.  I didn’t know you were going for the goods too.”  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve done this.  So for the Sentry to have all the good intentions in the world and to fail to uphold what is right and be talked into evil by Osborn or create another Void nightmare or to kill Lindy out of anger drives him insane with guilt.
The difference between these two characters is where the flaw comes from.  With Superman the flaw comes from without.  With the Sentry the flaw comes from within.  This distinction epitomizes the fundamental difference between DC and Marvel.
So the next time you go to pass over a Sentry comic because you are already reading Superman, take a second look.  Try to pick out the origin of conflict and how it affects the other characters.  And most of all get Comic Booked!
Laters!

Related Posts

Comments (7)

I really like this post even though this is not my favorite debate. Sentry vs big blue is a fight I have never been interested in because I don't really like either of them much. Besides Supes would have to win. He always does and sells more books.

The different ways they deal with that amount of power is interesting though. Human flaws of guilt, anxiety, and frustration along with metal unbalance make the Sentry and his powers more of a problem than anything and he tries not to be. While Superman is almost always the solution and he knows he is. I think he has the big Kryptonian flaw, hubris. His whole race didn't see a planet blowing up coming because they thought they had it all figured out…. AND I still don't like either of them much.

@Ortegatron, I have to say that the Sentry mystifies me as a character. It took me a long time to figure out why in the world Marvel would create such a character and what his place would be in the 616. There are many possibilities for this character's future, but as it stands right now the Sentry is a symbol of mankind's ability to deal with absolute power.

The road to destruction is paved with good intentions.

Also, consider what the Sentry's definition of "good" is vs. Superman's.

Thoughts?

Great article! Not a big Superman fan, but – as I've posted before on facebook and the like – I'd love to see the Sentry get his own title comic… even tho it may very well turn into cosmic adventures which do not appeal to me very much.

Good assessment of the inherent Marvel/DC differences. Good thoughts!

Thanks @Aaron,

Abnett & Lanning restored my faith in the cosmic stuff. I would really like to see the Sentry continue in his role on earth, but the demand for such a subtle book is very low.

On the other hand, I'm not sure how Superman stays afloat.

Laters!

I am not sure Sentry know what good is. He has made some pretty poor choices and his definition of good and his role in it are off and on with his mental stability but he does mean well. While I think he is something as a academic interest, like big blue his power level makes somethings silly. Like when the Punisher took a shot at Osborn and got away from the Sentry…. no powers human escaped from the Sentry. Come on. I too wonder why Supes is still selling.

@Ortegatron, I believe that Sentry does know that there is a right from wrong.

This being said, his identity is wrapped up in doing right, while his definition of right is in flux. This causes very real emotional and mental anxiety growing into disorders.

His abilities and powers give him the "do-how," but they leave out the "know-how."

Laters!

Sentry is Superman gone insane and lost in the Marvel universe. He has lost his moral compass and has no noble purpose. Thus the void. The origin-story about Roberts Reynolds drinking the Professor's secret formula hoping to get high and instantly becoming the Void is nothing more that a cover story. If you look at the line of people that were, at one point, trying to lift Thor's hammer in the desert you can see Clark Kent is in line waiting his turn.

Comments are closed.