Did you know there was a time where there were only three superheroes to have their own title comic book? And that just happened to be during the Golden Age of comic books? Those heroes are referred to by some as The Holy Trinity: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.
If you were to go out on the streets and ask people to name the first three superheroes they can think of, statistically speaking, the likely answer will be "Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman."* These characters are such an important part of our culture. They've inspired us, given us strength, made us laugh, and even provided some political commentary.
*Some could argue for Captain America or Spider-Man, they were very close, but purely statistically speaking, won't be brought up as often as the other three.
What I love about The Holy Trinity is they each symbolize something different but equally important.
Wonder Woman is an icon for empowered women everywhere. Hell, social psychiatrist Amy Cuddy said that posing like Wonder Woman (see picture below) for two minutes is healthy for your brain and helps you gain confidence and determination (link to TedTalk here).
Wonder Woman was created during World War 2 as a way of empowering the women who were at home by the psychiatrist who invented the polygraph a.k.a. the "lie detector" which explains why he gave her the Lasso of Truth, a lasso that forces the captive person to tell the truth whenever asked a question.
What I love most about Wonder Woman is that she is a symbol for peace and is a very kind and warm character. She is known to have an incredibly big heart and is very sympathetic. Some might say that being so caring is a weakness, but I disagree because knowing when to be sympathetic and forgiving is of equal importance as knowing when not to. I would also like to add that I don't believe that giving a woman these traits is sexist or perpetuates sexism in any way because Wonder Woman kicks-fucking-ass all the time. If anything, it means she's smarter, in some ways, than Batman!
Superman is a symbol for hope and justice. He rescues us from burning buildings, saves us from the bad guys and puts them behind bars. As a superhero with pretty undefined powers (at least in the Richard Donner universe) it makes him much more available to save the day because that's who he is: the original, the iconic "superhero" who always saves the day. If he has to turn back time to do it, he will!
Superman is the guy who sees moral values as black and white. Never kill (don't even think of mentioning Man of Steel), never lie, and do everything you can to help others. It's this clarity in his character that you know exactly what he would do in any situation. (I'll give you a scenario at the end of this to explain to you exactly how each of these superheroes would respond to identical situations).
One of the main ways to tell how impactful something has been is to look at our culture before and after (duh). Before Superman there were no superheroes, none, not a single one. How many times can I say "none" before I've made it clear? Let's try. NONE. NONE. NONE. NONE. NONE.
Superman created the modern superhero comic book business. It transformed the laughable medium into a thriving MAJOR industry. He canonized comic books and it all started with this one:
Last but certainly not least (the most banal expression ever) I saved the best for last (an equally banal expression), BATMAN. Motherfucking BATMAN. If Batman killed, he would quite literally be the exact opposite of Superman or Wonder Woman. We all love Batman. Admit it, you do. No other superhero is more believable than Batman.
Batman is the world's greatest detective, first and foremost. He is also a symbol that criminals can fear and blah blah blah watch Batman Begins if you haven't heard this before.
But more importantly, Batman can be anyone. You don't need special powers to be a hero. A hero can be anyone. In fact, it's safe to say that Superman and Wonder Woman aren't expressing any bravery in some of the things they do because they're practically invincible and have nothing to fear (until Doomsday comes along...) but Batman is because he could very easily be killed doing what he does.
But Batman also represents a truth that we don't like to admit: we shouldn't trust easily and the world is a fucked up place.
Batman is a skeptic to the MAX. I love seeing him and Superman interact. It's their fundamental disagreements and stubbornness that makes them so entertaining to watch. Superman, who hands out his trust to anyone and every one, represents how we should ideally all behave. Batman represents what the world really is: a dark and twisted place, filled with people so horrible, I'll refrain from even bringing them up.
Batman can also be called a brute. Maybe he's compensating in front of the other super-powered superheroes but I really don't think so. And that's what's amazing: he is literally not afraid to fight Superman, not because he knows Superman won't kill him, but because he knows he could kill Superman if he wanted to.
Seriously, you have to have some nuts just being a human with no powers to go toe-to-toe with the most powerful superhero ever created and know you're going to win.
Like I said, I'm going to give you a situation and explain how each of these characters would respond. Part of how you know you've created a character with character is when you can put them in situations and know how they would respond. No response is considered more correct or better than the others. I'm also making this scenario up, so if it has actually happened in the comics, don't get angry that what I think they would do isn't exactly what they did in the comics.
Let's say there's a thief and he or she stole valuable diamonds and is on the run. But he or she is giving these diamonds away to help orphan children with AIDS (i chose this specific because NO ONE could ever argue against helping orphan children with fucking AIDS*). When our superhero catches him or her, here is how they would respond (assuming they believe him/her or he/she has proof they're not lying):
Wonder Woman would let him or her go with the diamonds and would personally help them more in any way she could.
Superman would turn him in and explain to the police what was going on in order to reduce his or her sentence or maybe even expunge it, but he would definitely get the police involved. Then he'd raise awareness and money for the children.
Batman would return the diamonds and let him or her go, that time... and then he'd send anonymous checks for the children. BIG CHECKS.
*I wish there was a SUPER CAPS for when you want to emphasize an acronym.
What do you guys think of The Trinity? Pretty awesome, eh? If you have any suggestions on my scenario, write them in the comments. I'll be sure to consider them and possibly edit it.
DISCLAIMER: just because I'm discussing how these characters have made an impact in our culture does not automatically mean I think that no other comic book character or series has made an impact on our culture. Certainly X-Men, Spiderman, and Watchmen have made a huge impact as well.