Two terrible moments forever changed the life of Bruce Wayne. The first came at age six, when he roamed the far grounds of Gotham Citys Wayne Manor and fell into a deep cavern swarming with bats. Though his father soon rescued him, Bruce never again felt completely secure in his world.
The second came two years later, in the alleyway behind a movie theater in which the Waynes had just seen "The Mark of Zorro." There, before Bruce's very eyes, a mugger shot Thomas and Martha Wayne in cold blood before fleeing into the night.
Though the police eventually arrived, they were far too late to help the Waynes; but physician and social worker Leslie Thompkins arrived in time to bring loving comfort to Bruce before his young heart was forever hardened by his trauma. Together with Philip Wayne, Bruce's uncle and legal guardian, and Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family butler, Thompkins gave guidance to Bruce as he passed through his teens. But none of them could erase from Bruce the burning passion to punish all criminals, an oath he avowed at his parents' grave site. To that end, Bruce grew up training himself to the peak of physical and intellectual perfection and, at age eighteen, began using his vast fortune to travel the world in search of those who could teach him to fight crime effectively.
Years later, Bruce returned to Gotham City and began his war on crime. Before long, he came to realize that his skills were not enough, that he would need an edge over his opponents -- a guise that would strike terror into their hearts. Inspired by the bats that had so horrified him as a boy, Bruce donned a blue-and-gray costume complete with cape and cowl and renewed his mission. The results were immediate: soon, the criminals of Gotham began speaking in fearful whispers about the creature known only as the Batman.
Though Batman's fight against corruption was a lonely one, he soon found others who shared his passion for justice, chief among them police lieutenant James Gordon, one of Gotham's few honest cops. Their friendship deepened over the years, and today, in his role as Police Commissioner, Gordon frequently uses the Bat-Signal to summon the Dark Knight whenever his policemen are confronted with threats too great for them to overcome.
Batman's final case as a solo agent brought him face to face with Gotham's former protector, the bloodthirsty vigilante called the Reaper. Soon after, the Batman's life was changed once more, when he adopted Dick Grayson, a young acrobat whose parents, like Bruce's, had been killed by criminals. Under Bruce's tutelage, Dick adopted the guise of Robin and became Batman's partner, staying with his mentor until reaching adulthood. Eventually, the Robin mantle was passed along to Tim Drake, the current Robin.
Batman is unique among those crimefighters who hide their true identity behind a mask and costume in that his Batman guise is the "real" one; his daytime role of bored socialite and philanthropist is actually the disguise. This persona is carefully crafted to divert any suspicion that Bruce Wayne, principal stockholder in Wayne Enterprises, an extensive world-wide empire of successful businesses, is, by night, Batman.
Superman is Kal-El, son of Jor-El and Lara of the planet Krypton. He was rocketed to Earth as a baby when Krypton was obliterated in a cataclysmic explosion that Jor-El had predicted. Kal-El landed on Earth to be found and adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who named him Clark and, fortunately for us, raised him to be a good citizen and a heck of a nice guy.
Still, he is an alien, and a god-like one at that. Even though his friends are mortal, his family is mortal, he was raised as a mortal and spends most of his time living a mortal's life, Superman has been and always will be an outsider.
Superman realizes he is out of place in this world, but he also realizes he can help it. Rather than use his powers to impose his will on others, he has chosen to be Earth's gentle guardian, pledging never to kill anyone, or interfere in the free will of nations. Sometimes it's difficult for him to remain detached, especially when he sees the effects that bad policies have on the planet. Even as Superman there's not much he can do about that, though as reporter Clark Kent he can champion the fight of the little guy through his writing for the Daily Planet. In some ways the good Clark does in print is just as meaningful as any of Superman's heroic feats. Superman's not out to make a name for himself, he's there to help people. He rarely stays around for a "thank you", he simply does his job and splits. Naturally, some people treat Superman with suspicion, as if believing that a man this selfless and good must have an awful lot to hide. Some people even fear him, dreading the day that Superman will decide that humans are not fit to govern themselves, but he is. Of course, it would never be in Superman's nature to do that, but, being a rather elusive hero, some paranoid souls are inclined to think the worst.
Lex Luthor is the undisputed master of Metropolis and lord of all he surveys. Although he started life as a poor kid in poverty-stricken Suicide Slum, young Luthor's dangerously brilliant mind was already working to find a way out. When, at age fourteen, his parents were killed in a mysterious auto accident, their sizable insurance policy (which conveniently named Lex as sole beneficiary) brought Lex his first quarter-million and the chance to be the youngest student to ever enter MIT. The aggressive young inventor amazed all his teachers and graduated three years later with a master's degree in science. The money he soon made from patenting his inventions made him a billionaire by age twenty. Through his late twenties and thirties Luthor's pace continued unabated. Anyone who got in his way was crushed and swept away. To keep up a benevolent front, Luthor donated millions to Metropolis, buying the city hospitals, parks, opera houses and art museums, all named for him. He brought industry and prosperity to Metropolis, eventually employing two-thirds of the city's work force among his many companies.
Now in his late forties, Lex Luthor is generally regarded as a hero. Thanks to his battery of lawyers and "pet" city officials, it would be nearly impossible to connect him to any crime. He's careful to keep his hands clean, delegating the dirty work to subordinates. And yet, there's one thing he craves above all else: the death of Superman. Because he cannot control or own Superman, Luthor is obsessed with destroying him. To Lex, Superman represents free will. Inspired by Superman's selflessness and nobility, the people of Metropolis could begin to think for themselves and turn against a self-styled demigod like Luthor. And above all, what really galls Luthor is that he had to buy the city's love and loyalty, and Superman got it for free.