Most of the time, when you see Superman and Batman fighting --- and boy howdy have we seen Superman and Batman fighting --- it's over some kind of ideological difference. It's a conflict that always seems to have its roots in mistrust between the ideas that those two characters represent, that extremely relatable conflict between a super-powered alien and a normal, regular, non-powered human who only has a billion dollars, a weaponized meteorite, and a rocket car to level the playing field.
But for me, that's only part of the story. I think if we just go a little deeper, we'll find that there's one major source of conflict between Superman and Batman that you almost never hear about.
This week the fans of DC's TV shows finally get to see the live-action comic book crossover that we've all been waiting for, as Melissa Benoist's Supergirl on CBS gets a visit from a new friend from another reality when The CW's The Flash, played by Grant Gustin, makes his first appearance on her show.
We're beyond excited to see what happens when these two DC heroes team-up on the screen, because it looks like the story could capture all the joy of superheroics that sometimes gets lost in other adaptations of the genre. To mark the occasion, we've put together a list of some of Supergirl's best team-up stories in comics, featuring Egyptian queens, unrequited loves, and many, many Draculas.
Batman and Superman are hitting the big screen this week with the promise that they'll v each other harder than anyone has ever been v-ed before. But if you're looking for a comic that features some of the best examples of those two heroes going at it, I can highly recommend digging through a back issue bin to find yourself a copy of World's Finest Comics #197. It's an extra-sized issue that's crammed full of one story after another where Superman and Batman find themselves fighting against each other.
But even though all three of the stories in that issue are basically stone-cold classics, the best one by far is the one where Batman --- a grim, gritty, ruthless Batman --- lures Superman out to another planet so that he can lock him up in a jail cell and beat him with a laser whip whenever he doesn't obey. And it might just be the weirdest story about those two characters fighting that I've ever seen.
Many readers have their own personal vision of popular characters; an artist whose rendition is the version they default to in their imagination. For Spider-Man, for example, some might think of Steve Ditko's version; some John Romita's (Senior or Junior); some Todd McFarlane's. But sometimes an artist makes such an indelible impression upon a character that their work becomes the definitive take, the Platonic ideal of that character that lives in all of our minds' eyes. When it comes to Superman, if you're looking for an iconic and definitive vision, no one can touch Curt Swan. Not by a country mile.
Promo comics are amazing. Since they're created for a wide audience that goes far beyond the normal readership, they always feature characters who have been boiled down to their most basic, accessible forms, but they're always at least two steps removed from what they should probably be doing. I mean, even if you boil them down to their most essential elements, the Justice League probably shouldn't be relying on a guy with a really nice drill to help them defeat a supervillain, and Batman doesn't usually fight crime by helping a small child overcome his allergies.
But that's part of what makes them great, and it only gets better when you're not exactly sure what's being promoted until you're about halfway through the comic. So today, I invite you to join me for 1992's Batman: A Word to the Wise, in which the Caped Crusader is called upon to extoll the virtues of literacy, a department store, and --- if I'm reading this correctly --- the entire nation of Canada.
Every February, I like to throw a bit of a spotlight on some of the more romantic pieces of superhero comics, but with Superman, that's pretty hard to do. I mean, sure, he'd eventually settle down with Lois Lane in one of the better romance stories in comics history, but for a long stretch of his history, he did everything he could to avoid letting anybody put a ring on it. Whether it was Lois, Lana, Lori, Lyla, or even Marybelle, the hillbilly whose lack of double-L initials should've disqualified her from contention well before she was carried over the Marryin' Rock, that dude was simply --- and famously --- not interested.
What you might not know, however, is why. It turns out that Superman wasn't just trying to protect his girlfriends from those who might use them to strike at him; it was that all this time, he was still carrying a torch for his first crush: Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt --- and the fact that she died in 30 BCE didn't stop them from dating for a week when he was fifteen.
At a time when most of comics was tiptoeing around the notion of gay, bi and lesbian people existing – much less being portrayed well – The Legion of Super-Heroes was making text out of subtext with characters such as Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass, and doing it during one of the series' most creatively daring periods.
Yet as the fate of the character Shvaughn Erin illustrates, a step forward for some can often leave others behind.
I don't think this is going to surprise anyone, but over the years, I've built up a pretty solid collection of comic books about superheroes fighting pro wrestlers. It's one of those things that I'll always go out of my way to read, because they're almost always pretty amazing, especially in the Silver Age. I mean, who could forget the time that the Caped Crusader took on a masked heel called the Hangman in order to settle the age-old question of whether or not Batman could beat a pro wrestler in his own element, and got his utility belt handed to him in the process?
But of all the superhero-versus-wrestler battles that I've seen in my time, I don't know if I've ever encountered one quite as weird as 1962's "The Downfall of Superman," which starts off strange and gets just gets more and more complicated as it goes on --- largely because it involves Superman actually taking on a real-life pro wrestler, and losing.
Zee zee zee zee! This day marks the first appearance in 1938's Action Comics #6 of an unnamed office boy who would before long go on to great heights as Superman's pal, Jimmy Olsen. While this office boy would make a handful of appearances in the Golden Age, the name Jimmy Olsen wouldn't be uttered until the advent of the Adventures of Superman radio show in 1940, in which the cub reporter was introduced largely so Superman would have someone to talk to. This version would be integrated into the comics in 1941's Superman #13, but would disappear after a few more appearances.
Many of comics’ most popular characters have been around for decades, and in the case of the big names from the publisher now known as DC Comics, some have been around for a sizable chunk of a century. As these characters passed through the different historical eras known in comics as the Golden Age (the late 1930s through the early 1950s), the Silver Age (the mid 1950s through the late 1960s), the Bronze Age (the early 1970s through the mid 1980s) and on into modern times, they have experienced considerable changes in tone and portrayal that reflect the zeitgeist of the time.
With this feature we’ll help you navigate the very best stories of DC Comics’ most significant characters decade by decade. This week, with the release of Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice just six months away, we’re taking a look at the best Superman/Batman team-up comics.
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