Superman Comic Books
Superman: Special Reports
Superman & Batman: World's Finest Team - Part 2 (of 3)Author: Sean Hogan (email@example.com)
Last updated: September 27, 2004
In 1988, Superman shows up in the Batman books during the infamous"A Death In The Family" storyline where readers voted to kill the Jason Todd Robin (Batman #426-429; collected in trade paperback; written by Jim Starlin with wonderful Jim Aparo pencils inked by Mike DeCarlo). In the finale of the story, Superman is called to stop Batman from taking his revenge against the Joker (who has political immunity as the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations). Despite the strained relations between the two, Batman manages to thwart the Joker's scheme with Superman's assistance. Not unexpectedly, there isn't any development of the relationship between the two heroes aside from the obvious strain Batman is under with the death of his ward.
More satisfying to a World's Finest fan is 1990's three part "Dark Knight Over Metropolis" (Superman #44, Adventures of Superman #467, and Action Comics #654). As with the old World's Finest comic, the title page nostalgically declares"Your two favorite heroes, Superman and Batman, in one adventure together!" Jerry Ordway starts off nicely by having a shadowy figure on the rooftops, trailing Cat Grant and Jose Delgado. Surprisingly, the Batman-like figure is actually Superman.
Next, we learn that Batman has found a Kryptonite ring in Gotham (formerly Luthor's ring) and the trail leads him to Metropolis. In part 2, Dan Jurgens has Superman thinking, "There has always been something about Batman that troubles me. He works outside the law -- with methods that are questionable at best." He wonders, "What is he doing in my city?".
Batman drops in on a rooftop conversation between Gangbuster and Superman and makes it clear he wants to speak to Superman alone. Gangbuster asks, "Is that guy always this intense?". Superman replies tongue-in-cheek, "Actually, I'd say he seems to be in a pretty cheery mood tonight."
Batman's distrust of Superman shows when, in discussing the case, he thinks, "No reason to let him know I actually have the ring. It may come in handy." In contrast, Bruce Wayne is charming and flirtatious when he attends an awards function at Luthor's where he "introduces" himself to Clark and Lois. He also meets Luthor for the first time, saying "Lex Luthor. I've wanted to meet you for some time now!". Double meanings abound.
The third issue, written by Roger Stern, opens with a nostalgic scene of Superman and Batman, arms around each other, flying through the sky. The story has lots of interaction between the two (in hero and civilian guises), as well as conflicts with Luthor and Intergang. Batman deduces the history of the ring and gives it to Superman. The tale ends with Superman asking Batman to store the ring, in the event it ever needs to be used against him. Superman's final words are, "I want the means to stop me to be in the hands of a man I can trust with my life."
World's Finest Specials
Perhaps not (completely) in continuity (but who cares) is the 3 issue, prestige format series called World's Finest (also in trade paperback). Luthor and Joker take on each other as well as Superman and Batman. While the story is well-written by Dave Gibbons, it is the art by Steve Rude (with inks by Karl Kesel) that make the story so special. Rude does wonderful scenic views of Gotham and Metropolis. His art is filled with dynamic movement, creative angles and brilliant use of shading and lighting. He fills panels with such terrific details that he could rival Sergio Aragones. Steve Oliff gets deserved cover credit for his coloring.
The plot is complex, involving an orphanage with a murky history, located between Metropolis and Gotham City. In the process, Luthor and the Joker agree to trade cities. The heroes later do the same to chase their old foes. I recommend you get your copy and read, or re-read it.
The 3 issue, prestige series, Legends Of The World's Finest (also in trade paperback) by Walter Simonson and Dan Brereton takes a darker look at the pair with a gothic storyline and dark, painted art. It's a fight between demons with the Silver Banshee, Tullus, and Blaze, as well as a possessed Man-Bat. Interestingly, the plot has the heroes haunted by bad dreams of each other's origins.
Superman dreams of his parents, murdered by a lone gunman and begins to act harsher, angrier towards the criminals he faces. Batman dreams of being on Krypton and finds that he begins to fear the dark and the night and to lose his edge.
There isn't much development of the Superman/Batman relationship (understandable with Superman under the influence of the Silver Banshee for much of the story). This is a darker view of Superman, in both story and art and won't appeal to everyone. I suspect if you prefer Batman or just like a good Halloween type tale, you will enjoy the read.
The third World's Finest special is not very imaginatively called, WF3: World's Finest Three. Neither Batman or Superman take any part in the action, which features the first meeting between Robin and Superboy in an entertaining two part prestige format tale written by their respective writers, Chuck Dixon and Karl Kesel and with lovely art by Tom Grummett and Scott Hanna.
No matter what version of Batman is your favorite, you can't help but enjoy the Zero Hour issue of Superman: The Man Of Steel #37. With the timeline fracturing, Batman comes to Metropolis to find Superman. And it turns out to be not just one Batman, but several alternate versions of him. While Louise Simonson turns out a good story, the star of the issue is Jon Bogdanove's art. His alternate Batmen pays homage to artists from Bob Kane to Neal Adams to Frank Miller and many, many others. You may also want to pick up Superman: The Man Of Steel #40 for the letter page which reproduces the cover to #37 with annotations listing the original artists for the various versions on the cover. My favorite quote from the issue is when the first Batman greets the long haired Superman saying, "Not going 'hippie' on us, are you?"
On a darker note was Batman's appearance in Action Comics #719, where Lois lies dying from the Joker's poison. David Michelinie writes a solid, disturbing story. Superman desperately seeks Batman's help. Batman diverts him, realizing that Superman is losing control in his grief over Lois' condition. The Joker tells Superman that the only way to save Lois it to inject the Joker with a serum that will produce the necessary antibodies, but kill the Joker in the process.
Joker explains that since Superman is invulnerable, that "I'd destroy what you *are*." Forcing Superman to take a life, "even my life -- is bound to send you over the edge." Superman is wrestling with his moral code while Batman tries to convince him that he can't kill the Joker. Superman says, "I can crush mountains! Melt steel! Are you saying I can't save one woman?" Batman replies from personal experience as he says, "Life doesn't always have happy endings." He tells Superman to think about what Lois would want him to do. "For your soul and hers ... think!"
Michelinie is challenging not only Superman's moral code, but also our own. Neither the choice nor the consequences are soft-pedaled. Superman and Batman stand helplessly over Lois' hospital bed as the poison reaches its final stage. At the end of the issue, Lois is still alive, but the question hangs in the air -- did Superman make the right choice?
The issue shows the strength of the relationship between Batman and Superman. Even in anguish and indecision, with Lois' life in the balance, Superman relies on Batman's judgment and allows Batman to restrain him.
Batman drops by for a chat in Superman: The Wedding Album. Showing how Silver Age references can be over-used, Batman offers congratulations, saying "I think you and Lois will make the world's finest team." Ouch. When Batman explains how he has arranged for other heroes to protect the city during the honeymoon, as well as arranging for Clark and Lois to have the apartment they wanted, Superman replies, "Thank you Bruce. That's quite a wedding present! You better watch this nice guy stuff before it trashes your grim and gritty image!"
In Superman #126, Luthor is on trial and claims that he needs the kryptonite ring for his defence. After some wrestling with his conscience, Superman goes to the Batcave to retrieve it. Batman is waiting for him. His advice, "I wouldn't do it. He's guilty. Let him roast!" Superman counters with, "I rely on the goodwill and the trust of the people to do my job, Batman. You rely on fear and terror to do yours. I have to do this."
Interestingly, while accurately stating the difference in their approaches to crime-fighting, there is no longer any indication that Superman disapproves of Batman's methods. He seems to have accepted that different circumstances can merit different methods.
Always cunning, Luthor manages to swap the kryptonite ring, so that Superman returns an imitation to the Batcave. I can't believe that Batman wouldn't check the ring as soon as it was returned. Batman only discovers the substitution when he tries to use the kryptonite on an obsessive, controlling Superman in Action Comics #753. That story, part of the Superman 24/7 arc, has the JLA trying to stop Superman and failing badly. Finally Batman takes out the kryptonite, only to have Superman casually crush it in his bare hand. The follow up on the kryptonite switch isn't until much later, when the DC Universe announces Lex Luthor as the next President in the special, Superman: Lex 2000. In a very entertaining issue, we see Luthor's confrontation with Batman over the kryptonite ring and Batman's vow to get it back.
A rare Superman/Batman crossover follows up the ring plot in Superman #168 and Detective Comics #756 as Batman and Lois confront Superman at the White House and the good guys show that they can outsmart and outplay Luthor at his own games. There's a great chase scene through the White House and in the end, Batman gets the ring back in a surprising twist.