“Tell me, do you bleed?”
Even before that infamous line was uttered, the conflict between the Dark Knight and the Son of Krypton has often been an entertaining scenario in the pages of comic books. Not just in terms of plot, but also for a lack of better words, very cool cover art. Here we look at a few classic issues and their covers that pit the two iconic heroes against each other.
With cover art befit of this article’s theme, “The Feud Between Batman and Superman” story begins, oddly enough, with friendship. After Batman is injured by friendly fire from a bullet bouncing of Superman, he begins to question the risks and his own helpfulness in teaming up with Superman. To lift Batman’s spirits, Superman devises a fake emergency in the Bottle City of Kandor that requires Batman’s help. On their mission, unfortunately Batman discovers the truth about Superman’s deceit, which ultimately leads to a wild Kandorian sword duel between the two. This is particularly dangerous as Superman does not have his invulnerability or strength in Kandor. Batman wins the duel, leaving a weakened Superman who gets captured by the Metalloids. This time the danger is real, and Batman has to save Superman.
In another Batman vs Superman adventure involving Kandor (which really is one of the few plot devices that put the two on equal footing), the premise of the issue starts with Superman displaying erratic behavior, including destroying buildings and refusing to save people. Public outrage leads Batman to investigate the “Dr. Jekyll”-like behavior. He discovers that Superman has assumed the crown in Kandor due to conflict between its citizens that could potentially lead to civil war. Unfortunately, even the leadership of Kandor can’t explain the erratic behavior of Superman in the outside world. Left with no other options, Batman kills Superman with a poison-soaked thorn. Oddly, after Superman dies he miraculously grows back to normal size and comes back to life. The true villain of the story reveals himself to be a Zirkonian cat, who had gotten out from Superman’s interplanetary zoo and used a brain-altering ray on Superman.
Why contrive an intricate plot that pits the two superheroes against each other when you can simply go with jealousy? In World’s Finest #95, Batman wakes up with the abilities of super-strength, flight, etc, similar to that Superman. During a building fire, Batman and Robin arrive on scene first, but Superman swoops and saves the day. Feeling belittled, Batman starts using his newfound abilities to one-up Superman. Their jealousy and competition with one another ultimately devolves into a fistfight. By the end of the issue, they learn that two irresponsible aliens had gambled over whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight, in a situation where Batman also had Superman’s abilities. Sounds like the aliens were the embodiment of the classic hypothetical hero vs hero debates held by comic fans.
Competition between the two isn’t always about violence; in Superman #76, they not only compete to solve crimes but also for Lois Lane’ affections. Coming off separate missions, the two heroes independently decide on a vacation aboard a cruise. In the first twist, Bruce and Clark are assigned as roommates on the cruise. When a jewelry heist unfolds around them, the two civilians attempt to keep their superhero identities a secret from one another as they solve the crime. Unfortunately, their charades don’t last long, as they quickly realize who the other person really is; which could possibly make Superman #76 the first time each hero learns the other’s secret identity. To complicate matters, Lois joins Clark on the cruise. The heroes’ original plan was to distract Lois by pretend to fight over her, but she wasn’t going to let them off for fooling her that easy.
“If Clark wanted, he could use his superspeed and squish me into the cement. But I know how he thinks. Even more than the Kryptonite, he’s got one big weakness. Deep down, Clark’s essentially a good person… and deep down, I’m not.” – Batman
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