Superman Comic Books
Superman: Special Reports
Superman & Batman: World's Finest Team - Part 3 (of 3)Author: Sean Hogan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last updated: September 27, 2004
Visiting The Bat-titles
Despite several appearances by Batman in the Super-titles, Superman has not been terrible welcome in the Bat-titles. The first story after 1988's"A Death In The Family" is 9 years later in 1997's The Batman Chronicles #7. The story is even written by Super-scribe Jerry Ordway rather than a Batman writer. Borrowing from Action Comics #1, Superman is trying to gather evidence to prevent the execution of someone who may have been wrongfully convicted of murder. Ordway delivers a gripping, realistic story with solid interaction between the heroes (incidentally, this issue is also well known for Devin Grayson's writing debut with a story about Dick Grayson and Donna Troy).
As in earlier issues, there is a friendly, but prickly, relationship between the two. When Superman assists Batman during a battle, Batman's first remark is that he could have taken out the gunman without help. Superman takes no offense, instead openly saying, "I need your help, friend". It's nice to see that when a news helicopter spies them, it is Batman that disappears without warning, not the man with super-speed.
There is always a conflict in pairing Superman and Batman, as the former's powers dwarf the latter. Writers must come up with some way to make Batman both relevant and a full partner of the team. In the Silver Age, this was often done by removing Superman's powers (red sun, magic, etc). Even though the new Superman is not as powerful as his earlier incarnation, he has less weaknesses (green kryptonite is rare, other varieties don't exist and he and Batman don't visit red sun worlds often). In modern stories, Batman compensates for the differences in their physical abilities by his intelligence and fore-thought, as well as his mysteriousness (such as his ability to disappear).
The issue nicely contrasts their different approaches as Superman investigates through reporter Clark Kent while Batman muscles and threatens his way to the truth. The accused in the story is not completely innocent, which allows a discussion between the two as to what is the appropriate punishment for her. But in the end, the two agree that truth and justice must prevail -- although in this case their intervention is thwarted. As Batman says, "our philosophies may differ, but we're both after the same thing -- justice."
Superman also visits Gotham during the"No Man's Land" storyline in Batman #566 (written by Kelley Pucket, with art by Jon Bogdanove and Eduardo Barreto) but is told in no uncertain terms that Batman doesn't want his help. Superman and the JLA make a similar house call in JLA #32 with similar results. Clark Kent visits Gotham and checks up on Gotham in the highly praised Shadow Of The Bat #92 (written by Devin Grayson with art by Dale Eaglesham and John Floyd) and has a friendly, respectful chat with Batman.
World's Finest: A Maxi-Series
The Man of Steel mini-series is set 5 years before the ongoing Superman series begins. Any relationship between Superman and Batman during those 5 years still remains, for the most part, as "untold stories" with the exception of a ten issue series written in 1999 by Karl Kesel, titled World's Finest. The gimmick was that each issue would examine a different year in DC's compressed 10 year timeline. The first and last issues were in prestige format, with the issues between in regular format. Although an interesting idea, the series suffered from some weak stories and poor art. That said, there were some notable and enjoyable issues.
The two bookend issues can be read as one story. In the setup issue, a mutual acquaintance of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne - plastic surgeon Dr. Harrison Grey - is kidnapped by gangsters. When the two heroes practically trip over each other to capture the villain, a delivery truck takes out the victim. Superman and Batman acknowledge that they should have worked together better and begin to meet each year on the anniversary of Grey's death. Ten years and ten issues later, Superman, Batman and their respective allies team up against their respective rogues galleries and resolve the Harrison Grey plot. Beyond knowing the reason for Superman and Batman's annual visits, neither are required reading for the other stories and any of the issues in between can be read individually.
Issues #2-9 of World's Finest looks at the post-Crisis history of both heroes. In issue #2, they visit each other's cities and learn why Gotham and Metropolis require different approaches. That theme continues in issue #3 when Superman visits Arkham Asylum in Gotham and in issue #4 when Batman visits Metropolis. Then it's Gotham again in issue #5 with guest stars Batgirl and Thorn. None of these issues is particularly memorable .
The series finally begins to gel with the next issues. Issue #6 is delightful fun as Mr. Mxyzptlk teams up with Bat-Mite to argue which of their heroes is the better one. The story is filled with Silver Age references to give an additional treat to long time fans, while being perfectly fun and enjoyable to everyone. Some examples are seeing Batman and Robin climb the side of a building in tribute to the television series and seeing Superman and Batman swoop in to rescue Lois in tribute to their first team-up in Superman #76. Lois cheekily adds,"I'm flattered guys - but I'm fine - and can really take care of myself!"
The next three issues relate to significant story arcs in the character's lives. Issue #7 is a very entertaining story starting with the aftermath of Jason Todd's death and has a contemplative Batman travelling to Smallville and meeting Superman as well as Ma & Pa Kent. Issue #8 focuses on Lex Luthor just prior to his death and features guest villain, Catwoman. Issue #9 has two stories with the first on Superman's death and replacement by Superboy, Steel, Cyborg and Eradicator followed by a story after Batman's broken back and replacement by Azrael-Batman. All very good tales that are particularly enjoyable if you are familiar with the original stories.
Superman/Batman: The Continuing Story
Finally, 17 years after the cancellation of World's Finest, the two were given a regular ongoing series, simply titled, Superman/Batman. Written by Jeph Loeb, with a rotating team of top artists, the series plays on the differences between the two heroes, as well as their respect and friendship with each other. The series previewed in Superman/Batman: Secret Files & Origins 2003.
In the ongoing series, the first arc, appropriately titled "World's Finest", has President Luthor accuse Superman of being responsible for a giant Kryptonite meteor heading towards Earth. Featuring the dynamic pencils of Ed McGuinness and inks of Dexter Vines, the storyline is also noted for bringing an end to the Luthor presidency.
During the six issue storyline, we learn that Darkseid is working with or manipulating Luthor. Darkseid's agenda continues with the second arc, "The Supergirl From Krypton" with art by Michael Turner. Issue #8 has a young blonde survivor introduce herself as Kara Zor-el - Superman's cousin.
Loeb is clearly having a lot of fun playing with the current incarnations of the main characters, but freely introducing elements from the Silver Age of comics. He writes the series in two voices - as both Superman and Batman's thoughts are expressed as commentaries about each other and themselves. These insights bring depth to the characters, in both fight scenes and quiet moments.
They're All Just Imaginary Stories
There are also some great non-continuity meetings between Superman and Batman to please fans of the World's Finest team. John Byrne's four issue Superman and Batman: Generations is a fun look at the heroes starting with them in 1939 and following in ten year intervals with the concept that they and history continue in real time with each decade reflecting the atmosphere of the time. Byrne followed this with a sequel, Superman and Batman: Generations II which takes a similar approach but starts in 1942 and progresses in 11 year leaps with a broader focus on other heroes of the DC Universe in addition to the title characters.
A 12 issue series, Superman & Batman: Generations 3 is a time travel plot which has the story of the heroes beginning in 1925 and progressing in 100 year leaps per issue, with the villains story progressing in the opposite direction. I had difficulty in maintaining my interest throughout, but did enjoy the various iterations of the characters. While a decline in quality from the previous two series, if you enjoyed the characters, Generations 3 is worth picking up in the back bins.
From the animated television series came The Batman Adventures, which, in issue 25, offered a team up featuring a long-haired Superman and villainous Lex Luthor with his red haired and bearded clone body. Written by Kelley Puckett, it could easily be an in-continuity story at the time (1994). It also has the simple and compelling artwork of Mike Parobeck with inks by Rick Burchett.
When Superman later received his own animated television series, it started with a special episode that was adapted into a prestige format comic called, Batman & Superman Adventures: World's Finest. In the story written by Paul Dini with art by Joe Staton and Terry Beatty, the Joker (with Harley Quinn) acquires a substantial amount of Kryptonite which he offers to sell to Lex Luthor. All this and a love triangle between the heroes and Lois Lane.
Elseworld's Finest was a two issue prestige format series from 1997 with a fun and thrilling story from John Francis Moore with great period art from Kieron Dwyer and Hilary Barta. Borrowing equally from Indiana Jones and modelling the heroes after movie stars of that era (imagine Clark Gable as Clark Kent and Errol Flynn as Bruce Wayne) the tale mixes in interesting spins on the supporting casts and villains to produce a story that would have looked wonderful on the big screen (and does just as well on the pages of the comic book).
This story is not to be confused with the similarly titled, Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, which is also a terrific story, written by Barbara Kesel with amazing art by Matt Haley and Tom Simmons. The one shot prestige book has neither Superman nor Batman, but does have Kara and Barbara ably filling those roles. Just as entertaining is Kesel's version of a Justice Society (including an Elseworld's version of a major league Ambush Bug)
Finally, although not a team-up, an Elseworld prestige format book merges the legends of the two heroes. In Superman: Speeding Bullets, the infant from Krypton lands in Gotham and is adopted by the Wayne's as their son Bruce. When a lone gunman shoots his parents, the grief stricken boy fries the murderer with a blast of heat vision. In this world there is no bright Superman, but only a brooding, super-powered Batman. The plot revolves around a growing relationship with Lois Lane and a Luthor hideously deformed in a chemical plant accident. Highlighting the story is stunning artwork by Eduardo Barreto.
Short & Sweet
Dan Jurgens' story in Superman Secret Files #1 highlights the current relationship between Batman and Superman in delightful short story when a mysterious stranger investigates Clark Kent/Superman's background. The story has a review of the post-Crisis history of Superman, as the stranger talks with Ma and Pa Kent. But the highlight of the story is the final two pages, when Superman meets Batman in the Batcave. Batman again repeats that, "We're opposites. You represent the light, while I represent the dark. You're a product of love and order, while I'm a product of violence and chaos" and that, "...you grew up with the life I craved." Superman replies that maybe the two aren't that different. The issue ends with Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne sitting down, mugs in hand, to talk.