Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Best Batman & Superman Team-Ups

April 28, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Batman Superman DC Comic

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…


 
Last time we asked Who is the Worst Written Superhero? Here’s what some of you had to say:

Erick Rowan’s Beard: “I remember back in the day in which Superman was split into two individuals, one red and one blue. I don’t remember a whole lot about it in general, except that the entire thing was awful from beginning to end.

If you look hard enough, you can find lousy story arcs involving every superhero out there. I mentioned one of Superman’s already, another one that’s often hated is the Clone Saga involving Spider-Man.

If I had to pick the most poorly written, I’d probably go with Lobo. When you get right down to it, Lobo has basically been hot garbage from the beginning. The stories have often been nonsensical and there have been times in which Lobo has essentially been a parody of himself due to being so over the top and cheesy.”

redraptor: “Can I go with “any characters written by Chuck Austin”? He fouled up so many characters I think DC and Marvel had a real life team up and “disappeared” the guy one day. His take an She Hulk was so bad it was a running joke and had a storyline dedicated to reconning it in Dan Slott’s She Hulk.

Spider-man during the One More Day arc was horribly written.

John Byrne’s take on Ultimate Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, the Ultimate Universe in general actually, is comically awful.

Speaking of comically awful Frank Miller’s All Star Batman is a gold standard of WTF.

Carol Danvers and the entirety of the Avengers team around Avengers 200 when she was raped, impregnated, mind controlled and kidnapped by her future son and the team was all “Congratulations! Babies are awesome! Glad you found true love!” I’ve never been a fan of the character, but that’s a level of messed up no retcon can explain away.”

Benjamin Kellog: “Wally West, at least since Rebirth. The “Heroes in Crisis” mess has been thoroughly documented by now, but the recent “Flash Forward” and Wally’s takeover of the “Flash” ongoing comic has not entirely been the smoothest of recoveries, nor what I’d most like to see from the guy I most readily associate with that role (I honestly thought the “Super Friends” version and the “Justice League” cartoon version were the same man, and “Flash and Substance” is one of my fave depictions of just how gosh darn nice and community-supportive a hero can, and probably always should, be). So he’s willingly removed himself from his family, is zipping around the expanded Omniverse and jumping from speedster to speedster, and will likely not play a prominent role in any major line-wide storylines because? At least we get to see a grown-up Impulse this month.”

John: “For me…

Black Knight – 70 years and he’s just a guy with a sword, I swear the dude literally just exists to stand around for artists to draw swords.

Carol Danvers – To me she’s the opposite in that it feels like she gets a complete character reboot every ten years.

tw75: “The X-man Beast has suffered from some awful character development and writing over the past few years, implicated in most of the bad decisions the x-men have made. Angel Punisher was a big disaster, and I’m sure everyone/no one remembers the travesty of young Iron Man during the Crossing crossover.”

Excollector: “What about Punisher? Racial swapped, not a new character of a different race just Frank Castle suddenly not white. Back from the dead? Crazy? It’s all been done.
Wolverine is another excellent suggestion with all the twists that have been attempted with the Weapon X program, his origin, his time in Madripor as Patch.”

Too many awesome comments to list so go back and check them out! Big thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts!”
This week we discuss the…

Best Batman & Superman Team-Ups

Recently I’ve had the chance to introduce my kids to some quality DC animated cartoons and while watching some of the offerings that included Batman teaming with his buddy Superman, it got me thinking of some of my favorite adventures with this duo.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Superman #76 gave us “The Mightiest Team in the World!” At that time (1962), truer words were never spoken. Written by Edmond Hamilton with pencils by Curt Swan, both Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne book a vacation cruise on an overbooked ship and end up sharing a cabin. Only in comic books. It’s no surprise that when a crime occurs before departing that the two discover each other’s true identities. In another comic book happening, they book passage on the cruise ship for Batman and Superman as well. Oh, and Lois Lane gets a ticket too. It’s a fun story that has them solving the crime while keeping their identities hidden. This was a story that reflects the time it was written. You have heroes being heroes, the secret identity/Lois Lane plot is entertaining, and it’s a cool first meeting between the two.

Or was it?

Pick up World’s Finest #94 and the story was told in flashback and it turns out that Batman and Superman had met before their cruise! GASP! The villainous Lex Luthor escapes from prison (AGAIN) and he gets his bad guy gang back together. Only this time he makes up some liquid kryptonite to use against Superman. Batman and Robin meet up with Superman to map out a plan but Superman let’s them know their services are no longer needed since he has a new partner…Powerman. Powerman? Yes. Powerman. Batman and Robin shrug but keep focus on Luthor. Finally, the Dynamic Duo saves the day, creating a shield from the dangerous kryptonite. And what happened to Powerman? Never fear. Superman revealed to Batman and Robin that Powerman was a remote controlled robot he created to keep them safe. This story was pure cheese but illustrated the friendship between the two. Superman is obviously aware of Batman’s limitations and determination. His use of Powerman was his way of protecting a friend.

We have to backtrack a little for Worlds Finest #71. Written by Alvin Schwartz with artwork by Curt Swan, this is Silver Age gold. Lois Lane spies Clark Kent changing into Superman and, following her journalistic instincts, plans to tell the world. Good thing Bruce Wayne and his charge, Dick Grayson are visiting Metropolis. Doing the old switcheroo, Bruce volunteers to disguise himself as Clark and throw Lois off the trail. Being a buddy, Superman disguises himself as Batman. It all works out in the end and the status quo remains the same. Funny enough, I wouldn’t mind seeing this made into a movie. Just for the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

One do you get when you add one part Batman to one part Superman? World’s Finest Comics #142 and the Composite Superman, of course! Or maybe not. Joseph Meach is a disgruntled museum custodian for the Superman Museum. In yet another comic book science moment, Joe is struck by lightning in front of the Legion of Super-Heroes exhibit and gets the powers of each Legion member. And he looks like a mix of Superman and Batman. Wanting to do something with his new abilities, he tries to blackmail Superman and Batman to let him join them or he’ll go public with their secret identities. Good thing his powers fade or we could have had a movie called Batman v Superman v Composite Superman. The Composite Superman has made a number of appearances over the years, some better than others. His creation is thanks to the strong ties between the two heroes. I can only think of a handful of other “composite” types roaming the comic book world but this one is probably the most famous. Or infamous.

Next up is Superman: The Man of Steel #3. In 1986, DC let John Byrne do some tweaking and updating to the Superman mythos. In doing so, many of the early, carefree adventures between Batman and Superman were wiped out. No more smiles and silly misunderstandings. Instead, we got mistrust, squinted glares, and suspicion galore. Byrne gave us One Night in Gotham, a story that showed Superman confront Batman, who he sees as a dangerous vigilante. Batman, trying to capture the villainous Magpie, tells Superman if he gets too close, a signal will be activated that will trigger a bomb and kill a person somewhere in the city. Superman tries to help Batman in his search but gets an icy reception from the Dark Knight. Batman eventually tells Superman that the endangered person is Batman himself and Superman gives him a warning before taking off. There are some subtle hints at respect but both eye each other in a new way that hadn’t been shown before.

I decided to open this up to Elseworld teamups as well, since I love Superman & Batman: Generations. It takes Superman and Batman and follows them through a single timeline, showing them advance, age, and, eventually, being replaced by their progeny. The story begins in 1939, at the start of the Golden Age of superheroes. Superman and Batman meet for the first time (AGAIN), at the Metropolis World’s Fair, where they have some initial suspicions of each other. They team up to fight, and defeat, the Ultra-Humanite. It set the stage for a wonderfully entertaining tale that follows the two through the years, showing their friendship, strengths, and respect for one another. This series is a definite read and it not only shows Batman and Superman in a new light, but the entire DC universe as well. Perhaps my favorite work by Byrne for its sheer epic nature and his understanding of what makes a good Batman and Superman team-up work.

One of my personal favorites is Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman: Trinity. Another person who “got it” was Matt Wagner. Back in 2003, Wagner put together a really cool mini-series and the different encounters between the three heroes. Batman’s foe Ra’s al Ghul recruits Bizarro and the Amazon warrior Artemis to join him and his plan to create chaos. This, of course, brings together our three heroes. I’ll say now that the characterization and back-and-forth dialogue between them is spot-on. Each has their own way of doing things and their own quirks. It showcases a Wonder Woman that could easily hold her own on the cinematic screen. I know I’m throwing this around a lot but find this one and add it to the collection. It has, perhaps, my favorite “scene” of all time, as Batman is overcome by Wonder Woman’s enchantments after coming out of her pool. No, really, magic is at work. He gives her a kiss and gets a hard punch to bring him back to his senses. The best part is the interaction between Superman and Batman as they’re leaving. Simple and perfect.

While an important cog in a much bigger story in Kingdom Come, the Mark Waid and Alex Ross classic needs to be mentioned. We’re introduced to an older Bruce Wayne and a changed Superman. Instead of a physical battle, they two engage each other through wits and allies. While this isn’t a Batman/Superman team-up, their underlying relationship guides the story along. Their friendship is tested, their differences brought to a head. Through a trial by fire, readers are reminded that their resolve will bend but never break. While this book has a number of strong points and examples to rave about, it’s also a good example of how Batman and Superman are viewed among the superhero order.

The Superman/Batman monthly could be considered a cheat but since I make the rules, I’m throwing this out there. Superman/Batman was a monthly that launched back in 2003. It explored the many aspects of the Batman and Superman camaraderie, both positive and negative. Jeph Loeb, the original series writer, introduced a cool dual-narrator style to highlight the opposing viewpoints of our heroes.

Batman and Superman are intertwined with one another. Each acting as a representative of fighting for good, using a different method. Same spectrum, opposite ends. They act as checks and balances for one another and although they might disagree, they come together for the greater good.

Now it’s your turn. What Batman and Superman team-ups stand out to you?

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!