Jonathan Lethem says in an interview with Powell’s.com:
The other thing about Marvel superheroes, as opposed to DC, is that when Superman is Superman, that’s who he really is; Clark Kent is a pretense. When he’s Superman, he’s fulfilled; he’s in his right place. And Batman is really Batman; Bruce Wayne is the disguise. With the Marvel superheroes, it’s the other way: When they put on their costume, they’re pretending. Despite their powers, they have massive imposter syndrome.
I was a huge Marvel fan as a kid in the 80s, and I hated DC, but I never thought of it this way. To me, the Marvel superheroes just had more complexity—even more humanity, if I may put it like that. There was much more gray. (This was before Frank Miller reinvigorated DC’s Batman franchise.) And I liked Spiderman the least of the Marvel superheroes.
That reminds me, I need to go watch Iron Man today.
PS: Powell’s has some great author interviews, look on the left panel of the Lethem interview for more.
Update: In separate emails, Rahul Gupta, Gaurav Sabnis and Abhishek Mehrotra quote this excerpt from Kill Bill 2:
As you know, l’m quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book. Not particularly well-drawn. But the mythology… The mythology is not only great, it’s unique. Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.
Ya, whatever. I still think Superman is the suckiest, most simplistic superhero. If boredom was my Kryptonite, Superman would have killed me by now.