Where Do I Start?- Superman Meets Batman
If you’re even a little bit into superheroes, you’ve either heard about or seen Man of Steel. And no matter how you feel about the polarizing film (I happened to be one of those who thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you very much), you’ve read the news about the sequel. Batman’s coming to Metropolis, and he’s Ben Affleck. Regardless of the casting, this is a dream come true for me. I’ve loved the Superman/Batman partnership since their team ups in the Batman and Superman Animated Series as well as Justice League. It’s the Dark Knight Detective and the Last Son of Krypton. Darkness and light. The pinnacle of manhood and a god tempered by humanity. It’s one of the great partnerships in all of the multiverse. So with that, here are a few of my favorite stories featuring Bruce Wayne and the son of Jor-El.
Public Enemies (Jeph Loeb, Ed Mcguinness) – To me, this is the quintessential Superman/Batman story. Originally published as Superman/Batman 1 – 6, Public Enemies gets under way as President Lex Luthor publicly blames Superman for a deadly kryptonite meteor headed towards Earth. And once the super villain turned commander-in-chief puts a bounty on Superman’s head, every hero and super criminal imaginable comes out of the woodworks to bring in the Man of Steel. This story features Batman and Superman versus a laundry list of baddies, the JSA, and Luthor himself, all while showcasing the difference between Clark and Bruce. Oh, and I can’t forget my favorite part: Bat-family/ Superman family team up inside the White House to take down the President.
Supergirl (Jeph Loeb, Michael Turner) – Yes, this is another story by Jeph Loeb, but the man was on a roll at DC back in the early 2000’s, blending the existing mythos from the comics with the sensibilities of the animated series versions. This was the story that reintroduced Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El to the pre-New 52 DCU. But more importantly, this tale of super cousins, Amazons, and New Gods takes Superman and Batman to Apocalypse to save Supergirl’s soul from Darkseid’s corruption. Ok, I love me some Jack Kirby space dieties, so this story struck a chord when I originally read it. It highlights the fact that even though Batman and Superman don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to their methods, Superman trusts Bruce with the most precious thing he has: his family. The Supergirl arc sees Batman go from mistrusting Kara to taking up a role in her life not unlike a rich uncle. By the way, Bruce punches Darkseid in the face! And the destroyer god doesn’t even feel it. Batman’s sheer audacity on full display.
Batman #612 – (Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee) – The Hush storyline that ran through the main batman title in 2002 was one of the books that brought me into the DCU after years of being a strict Marvel Zombie. It was a twelve-issue run that displays most of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, teased thee return of then dead sidekick Jason Todd, and introduced a new villain to Gotham City in the process. Jim Lee’s dynamic pencils didn’t hurt either, I must say. But as much as I enjoyed the overall arc of the story, it was issue #612 that I will always consider the highpoint. When Batman follows Catwoman to Metropolis, he finds a mind-controlled Superman waiting for him. And once Supes unleashes his Kryptonian power upon the Dark Knight, Batman’s almost superhuman levels of preparedness come into full view. Yes, the kryptonite ring is in full effect, people. He’s obviously aware that he can’t actually hurt Superman if he doesn’t want to be hurt, but in his own words, “Deep down, Clark’s essentially a good person… ….And deep down, I’m not.” It’s this shrewd line of thinking that allows him to hold his own until Superman can break free of Poison Ivy’s control.
The Dark Knight Returns – (Frank Miller) – The Dark Knight Returns is a Batman story, not a Superman /Batman story. So what is it doing on this list? Well, to answer that question, let’s back up for a minute. When I was growing up in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, Superman and Batman were always buddies. They never fought, they had similar outlooks on battling crime, and they were portrayed more like “Super Friends” than rivals. DKR shattered that version of the characters’ relationship possibly forever as Batman takes on the hardened Dirty Harry style that most Bat-fans have been accustomed to for years. At the same time, Miller writes Bruce Wayne as an outlaw among superheroes who doesn’t care what those in power think about his crusade against the criminal element. In the final act, this puts him at odds with Superman who in this particular tale has become an errand boy for the U.S. government. Miller introduces us to an aging Batman who is cunning and ruthless enough to stand toe to toe with Kal-El using robotic armor, a tank, and the city’s power grid as weapons. DKR is important to comics for many different reasons, not the least of which is its establishment of Superman and Batman as polar opposites who grudgingly work together but are destined for a terrible clash one day on the future.
I’m sure there are other stories that could be included on this list, but these are the ones that hold a special place on my shelf. When Superman and Batman finally come together on the big screen in 2015, its highly likely that Zack Snyder and company will lift elements of their relationship from both comics and animation. But if you’re looking for comics featuring the “World’s Finest”, this is where I’d start.