'Man of Steel' Countdown: Superman vs. Batman – Who Is the World’s Finest?

'Man of Steel' Countdown: Superman vs. Batman – Who Is the World’s Finest?

Apr 09, 2013

There are 10 weeks to go until the release of Man of Steel. So let’s have some fun and delve into the friendship he shares with Batman. Are they friends? How do they work together? Can the two of them support an entire film in the future? And, of course, who would win in a fight?

I’ve always liked Batman. He’s been a close second favorite of mine after Superman. This creation of Bob Kane and Bill Finger first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, just one year after Superman first appeared and set the stage for all the other superheroes that have existed since. Unlike the Man of Steel, Batman’s abilities are less “super,” and he has always relied on science, detective skills, fighting ability and gadgets. Fortunately, he was born into limitless wealth.

The rumors at Warner Bros. seem to suggest that it is working towards a Justice League movie that would include the two, as well as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and so on, but its best chance at a successful crossover after Man of Steel might just be to team up these two instead.


Batman as a Superhero

Make no mistake that Batman is the epitome of a superhero. While some might say, “But Batman doesn’t have any powers,” he actually does. Batman can win just about any fight, track down any villain, and even his wealth is akin to a superhuman ability. I personally find Batman less relatable than Superman merely because of Clark Kent’s upbringing and that he still works for a living. To paraphrase a statement by Dan Didio at DC Comics: if Batman can jump off a building and not die, he has super powers.

Batman is also an excellent strategist, which is why the unpredictable nature of the Joker is his clear antagonistic opposite. Compared to other Justice League heroes, writers have to be very careful how they use him during team ups because of course he can hold his ground in a fight, but against the big bad guys that would give even Superman a run for his money, it always comes down to strategy and tools or gadgets. He always plans ahead. Batman even took on Darkseid a couple of times, but only with the help of the right tools and tactics.

Batman’s strategies are sometimes very complicated and go to show how well he understands people, whether they are villains or fellow heroes. During a story in 2000, it turned out that Batman knew the Justice League so well that he had planned a way to take them all down, just in case they ever needed to be stopped. By this time, he had become so immersed in planning that he was pretty much the most powerful character in the League. Fans took to calling him “Bat-God.”


History of Partnership

From the 1930s to the 1980s Superman was the most popular character in comics, until Batman finally overtook him in sales around the time that Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns hit the stands in ’86. They even shared their own title, World’s Finest Comics, which ran from 1941 to 1986. At first, the book featured a handful of shorter stories with at least one Superman and one Batman, as well as several other popular heroes, but they eventually teamed up together in the same piece. They became fast friends because their goals as heroes were essentially the same. 

Then the entire DC Universe was rebooted after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986. John Byrne reinvented Superman in his miniseries Man of Steel, which also affected his relationship with Batman. In the third issue, the new version of Superman met Batman for the first time, just six months after appearing in public. He went to Gotham with the specific intention of arresting this masked vigilante that had been eluding the police. Batman had planned ahead and lined his cowl with lead so his face couldn’t be X-rayed, and also surrounded himself with an aura that Superman wouldn’t dare touch because it would set off an explosive that would kill an innocent person. In the conclusion, it became clear that he was telling the truth, but that the innocent life that would have ended had been Batman’s.

Because of the nature of Batman’s abilities, his methods must be in opposition to Superman’s. Batman uses intimidation and fear against his enemies and he hides in the shadows as much as possible. Superman, of course, wears bright colors with no mask and doesn’t appear to be hiding at all, except for disguising himself as Clark Kent.

The two teamed up several times over the next few years and soon came to trust each other, and even learned each other’s secret identities. There was very little Kryptonite on Earth, but Lex Luthor turned a small piece of it into a gem on a ring to taunt Superman, which he eventually lost. During a story titled “Dark Knight Over Metropolis,” Superman gave the ring to Batman in case he ever lost control and needed to be stopped. It showed how much trust they had built up over those years.


When Superman really lets loose and doesn’t pull his punches, the world is a scary place.  Although he and Batman are certainly friends, there are still times when they have had to fight, often due to some sort of mind control.

In Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, President Reagan sent Superman to stop Batman, but he was prepared and wore a cybernetic suit with rocket boots to amp up his power. First he fired missiles to soften him up and drop him to the ground, then fired a sonic disruptor and funneled all of Gotham’s power into an electric blast that truly hurt Superman. The battle was epic, and they fought to a standstill, but thanks to some Kryptonite that Batman created, he got the upper hand and won.

In Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s “Batman: Hush” storyline from 2003, Poison Ivy had infected Superman so that she could control his mind. Batman pulled out the Kryptonite ring that Superman had given him and was able to slow him down, but it was when he endangered Lois Lane, whom Superman was married to at the time, that it broke the spell. Essentially Batman won, but even with the Kryptonite, it was the tactics that made the real difference.

But then in 2005, during a story titled “Sacrifice,” Superman’s mind was being played with again. He believed he was fighting Brainiac and Darkseid and that they had actually killed Lois Lane, so he let loose with all his fury. However he was actually pounding on Batman and nearly killed him.



So who would really win a fight between Batman and Superman? If you ask a Superman fan, he or she will usually say Superman. The same goes for Batman fans who can point to stories like “Hush” and “Dark Knight Returns.” Outside of the story, it depends entirely on the writer and what needs to happen in the plot. That’s a given.

For Superman to win, he would need to surprise Batman. If Bruce isn’t prepared, the fight wouldn’t even be a fight. It would be one punch and the whole thing would be over. For Batman to win, he needs to be ready, just as he was in “Dark Knight Returns” with his powered suit, missiles and Kryptonite. He would have to exploit one of Superman’s weaknesses, which would be Kryptonite, red sunlight or magic. Batman has unlimited resources, so with a bit of preparation, he could find a way to use one of them. But Batman would also have to fight dirty just to have an edge. He might even endanger lives along the way, knowing that Superman would have to stop and rescue people, which would slow him down.

Still to Come

Then there’s the real-life box office battle. Can Man of Steel actually surpass the profits of the previous Batman movies? I’m not yet convinced that it can. Batman Begins made about $355 million worldwide in 2005. The following year, Superman Returns made $432 million, which wasn’t enough to warrant a sequel. But then in 2008, The Dark Knight pumped up to $718 million followed by last year’s Dark Knight Rises, which got just over a billion with combined domestic and foreign markets. Those are some pretty big numbers to compete with. If I were a betting man, I would guess that Man of Steel will meet or beat The Dark Knight’s numbers, but fall short of Rises. We’ll see what happens.

I would rather see a good Superman/Batman film than a Justice League film, but it continues to look unlikely that Christian Bale will return to the role. Warner Bros. is far from done making Batman films, so another version is likely just around the corner. Here’s hoping we finally get one with Henry Cavill and whoever is cast as the next Batman. If it happens, there will most likely be a fight, and my best guess is that it will either end up coming to a draw, or Batman will win just because he’s the underdog in that battle.

Do you think Superman or Batman would win in a fight?

Can Man of Steel top the box office successes of the last Batman trilogy?

Categories: Countdown Column, Geek
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