In a little over a week, we will have the divine pleasure of seeing something that what was once thought would never, ever happen. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will descend upon us like a slow moving, bumbling juggernaut that will not be stopped. The movie started it’s promotion machine so long ago now, that I feel as if I have seen it already. But alas, for good or bad, I think it will be a spectacle to behold. I’ll save my judgement for next week.
When the movie was first announced, I heard a lot of people say, ”Why are these two fighting? aren’t they both good guys?” Well, they most certainly are. And for the most part, they are the best of friends. But as we know, the drama is the thing, and it’s made for some interesting comic book stories over the years to have these Big Two knock heads. They are, after all, two very different characters with totally different views on justice and crime fighting. One becomes like the night, dressing as a terrifying creature in order to frighten the ”cowardly lot” of criminals that plague his city.
The other? Well, he dresses in bright red, yellow and blue, and uses his god-like powers to fly around, defeat science gone mad, natural disasters and giant robot gorillas on the loose. Why wouldn’t they disagree every once in a while?
What I’d like to present to you today are some of the best of both worlds as far as Batman and Superman fighting each other, and some of the better books (IMHO) where they team up for the greater good. And maybe even shed some light on how things will go in the new movie. These are the ones I’m reading to prepare for the movie. So, pick your side and let’s get ready to rumble!
10: World’s Finest #71
This book is where it all began. Superman and Batman in the same magazine on a regular basis. But what sets this particular issue apart from the rest is the two never appeared in a story together until this issue. Up until this point in the series they had appeared in the same book but separate stories. This issue started a tradition that continues to this day. This little tale involved Lois Lane realizing Clark Kent was Superman, so Bruce Wayne, who looks a little like Clark without glasses(?), disguises himself as Clark Kent to pull the wool over Lois’ eyes. Tame by today’s standards, but a really cool example of the innocence of the time.
9: Lex Luthor:Man of Steel
This beautifully illustrated mini series from DC that explores why Lex Luthor hates Superman so much and the various ways he tries to convince the public that ol’ Supes is a danger to humanity. In these endeavors, Lex has a meeting with Bruce Wayne wherein Lex gives Bruce Kryptonite as a gift(?). Needless to say, Batman confronts Superman with the Kryptonite but gets his ass handed to him for his trouble. Very good read and wonderfully written by Brian Azzerello and art by Lee Bermejo.
8: Man of Steel #3 (DC Comics)
In 1986, Comic art legend John Byrne, after successfully rebooting a number of comic franchises, tried his hand at retooling the Man of Steel for DC Comics. His goal was to sort of clean up all the loose threads that had become very clumsy in Superman’s long career. No more Supergirl, no more Super dogs, monkeys, horses, etc. He took Superman back to his early days but in a modern setting. Clark was now the sole survivor of Krypton living on earth. A clean slate, if you will. So, of course, Batman lurks these pages. Superman investigates reports of a vigilante prowling Gotham City. Batman, on the trail of the villain Magpie. When confronted by Superman, Batman threatens to explode a bomb that will kill an innocent person in Gotham if Supes tries to capture him. After the two reluctantly work together to capture the villain, Batman reveals it was he himself who would have suffered the explosion of the bomb. Superman warns Batman of crossing lines in the future, and Batman silently admits to having a little respect for Superman.
7: Superman: Red Son
DC Comics publishes an imprint called Elseworlds that takes their characters and puts them in to different settings. A sort of ”What if?’ series. Somewhere during this run of books Mark Millar asked the question, ”What if Superman’s rocket crashed in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas?” Thus was born the awesome Red Son mini series. It seems Earth’s rotation landed little Kal-El in the Ukraine instead of Kansas farmland. Raised by the Soviets to ” Fight for the common worker and fight a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.” Batman’s not having it. Working with the KGB and Luthor, they devise a plan to take down Superman’s state of authority. Things go South and leave Wonder Woman severely injured, and Bats killing himself as a martyr. Nasty Business, but a lot of fun to read.
6: Superman: Speeding Bullets
Another Elseworlds title from 1993, this story posits that baby Kal-El’s spaceship is found by Thomas and Martha Wayne instead of Ma and Pa Kent. Later, after seeing his parent’s murdered, (And frying the killer with heat vision!) Young Bruce vows to avenge his parents and later adopts the persona of Batman. But with Superpowers. Not really a team up or battle so much, but a great amalgam of the two characters.
5: Justice League: Origins Issues 1-6
Ah, DC’s New 52. Yet another reboot of their comic line and another chance to bring together the two big boys of the DC Universe. This doesn’t have a long drawn out conflict with Superman and Batman, but should be noted because of the characters first meeting in this new universe. Plus the Jim Lee art!
4: Kingdom Come
We go back again to the Elseworld’s well for 1996’s Kingdom Come. What I loved about this four issue series written by Mark Waid and spectacularly painted by Alex Ross, is that it once again showed all of our DC Comics pals as older versions of themselves, and once again deconstructs our ideas of Superheroes in the modern age. These older heroes are being replaced by younger, more dangerous and even amoral vigilantes, often times the sons or daughters of the older heroes. Superman returns to Metropolis to reform the Justice League, while Batman takes the opposite end and reforms the Outsiders. Both sides have their own way of dealing with these brash new whippersnappers. What’s also great about this series is that there isn’t really a physical battle between Superman and Batman, but more of a battle of wits. A must read.
3: Batman: Endgame
In this ”Joker story to end all Joker stories”, Endgame is a masterpiece. The Joker, after not finding any meaning any longer in his relationship with Batman, pulls out all the stops. Using a super version of his Joker toxin, he infects the entire Justice League, Superman included. Batman has to jump through hoops to figure out a way to stop Supes without killing his old friend. Highly recommended.
One of my favorite stories with these characters, Trinity tells the story of how DC’s premiere iconic heroes met before the Justice League was formed. Matt Wagner (Mage. Go read it.) writes and draws all three issues of this series, showing the differences of all three heroes and how they came to be known as The World’s Finest Team. No battles to be found here, though they do bicker with each other quite a bit. A good example of why these characters are so great.
1: The Dark Knight Returns #4
Now, I am well aware that this is on almost everyone’s favorite top ten Batman/Superman stories. But there is a reason for that. Frank Miller boils these two icons down to their gooey, sticky essence, and proceeds to let them duke it out like they never have before. This is superhero deconstruction at it’s absolute finest. Done by a man at the top of his game. I dare say there will never be another battle like this one. Ever.