The Best Batman/Superman Team-Ups
Make no mistake: since their first appearance together in Superman #76 in 1952, “The Mightiest Team on Earth” has become the greatest, most enduring superhero relationship of all time so the film well deserves all the hype being thrown its way.
So far, all of the attention has been on when Batman and Superman fight. And fight they have, going toe-to-toe nearly 50 times and at least once more in this film.
But what about the reverse? When have Bats & Supes had the greatest team-ups?
Well, in continued celebration of the “World’s Finest” heroes, here at HU we’re marking the top five best Batman/Superman partnerships (and, without irony, steering clear of some of the decidedly more far-fetched ones like Batman & Superman vs Predator & Aliens).
So here’s five of their best alliances, in no particular order:
“The Search for Kryptonite” by Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Shane Davis & Matt Banning (collected from Superman/Batman #44-49, 2008)
A series called “Superman/Batman” is obviously going to feature some rock-solid collaboration between the two. But this narrative really gets to what Clark calls his defining virtue: trust. The story, which ironically starts during the shooting of a movie about Batman & Superman, sees the duo attempt to round up and confiscate all the known Kryptonite in the world, including its gold, silver, red & black variants (each imparts a devastating affect on Superman). Working alongside Bruce, Clark discovers how his faith in others is honoured or exploited by friend and foe alike. The book also gets bonus points as an inspiration for Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman.
Batman vs The Undead by Kevin Van Hook and Tom Mandrake (collected from Batman Confidential #44-48, 2011)
Probably no one does the supernatural more moodier than artist Tom Mandrake (see his equally phantasmagoric run in The Spectre). Combine his garish inks with noted horror writer Kevin Van Hook’s Lovecraftian visions and you have a series of grotesque horrors emerging from the swamps of Louisiana as Bruce tracks an escaped, voodoo-obsessed inmate from Arkham Asylum in New Orleans. Batman is soon joined by Dimeter, a charming rogue of a vampire, but realising he’s in over his head with the undead, calls Superman for help. The pair then turns to another long-time DC character to understand what’s really going on in this magic-powered sequel to Batman & Superman vs. Vampires & Werewolves. Talking werewolf cops, voodoo priestesses, a dysfunctional love story and some clever social commentary makes this one of most interesting Batman-Superman pairings in print. Plus this one’s got zombies, lots of ‘em.
Absolute Power by Jeph Loeb, Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino (2006)
Just because they’re tyrannical super villains doesn’t mean this story can’t be one of their better team-ups. Few have captured the essence of both heroes better than acclaimed writer Tim Loeb (The Long Halloween, A Superman For All Seasons), who’s aided by long-time artistic collaborators Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino from Spain. In this tale of time-jumps, rivals of the 31st Century Legion of Superheroes: Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen & Cosmic King, travel back in time to murder both the Kents and the Waynes, prematurely altering the destinies of Bats & Supes for the worse. Raised as brothers with an oddly sweet co-dependancy, Bruce and Clark become superpowered fascists, killing off any perceived threats to their reign (including Wonder Woman). An accident bounces them through time, facing off against Bat Lash, Kamandi, Jonah Hex and the like before an alliance with Darkseid & the Demon Etrigan force them to confront the events that shaped them into who they were meant to be. All because, as one character explains, there is “None who keeps the darkness right next to the light” as Batman and Superman do.
Man of Steel #3 by John Byrne & Dick Giordano (1986)
1986 is remembered as a pivotal year for DC, marking its transition from the Silver Age of comics to the darker, more adult Modern Age with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, the canon-rebooting Crisis on Infinite Earths and to a lesser-known extent, John Byrne’s Man of Steel, a six-issue reboot that established the Superman canon for years to come. Issue #3 marks his first encounter with Batman during a mutual hunt for the glam-rock villainess and Harley Quinn forerunner, Magpie. It doesn’t go well: Batman threatens to blow up “an innocent person” if Superman tries to stop him with his superior physical abilities. Superman relents and only afterwards does Batman admit he’s been holding on to the bomb the entire time. Mutual admiration ensues but suspicion remains. With A Death in the Family on the publishing horizon and printed issues now bearing the “DC Comics aren’t just for kids” tagline, the sunny Silver Age days when Bats & Supes would happily pal around and swap costumes (er…to confuse enemies, of course!) are most definitely over.
Trinity by Matt Wagner (2003)
Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat since it includes a first meeting with Wonder Woman (only a bit of a cheat). Writer & artist Matt Wagner, best known as the creator of Grendel, depicts all 3 with an understated, stylish cant. His personal take on the characters as well as the intrapersonal dynamics between them as they band together to foil a plot by Ra’s al Ghul & Bizarro is simply sublime. Perhaps an artful inspiration for 2017’s Justice League movie?