Super besties forever


It’s a great time to be a fan of Superman/Batman team-ups, with a new movie due for 2015 and a new comic in the stands.

THE friendship between Superman and Batman is a legendary one, and has withstood the test of time, through alien invasions, cataclysmic events and multiple damsels in distress.

But the nucleus of their friendship changed in Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns, when Batman unleashed decades of pent-up frustration on Superman, pulling every dirty trick imaginable to secure a memorable victory over his best friend.

Till today, Batman’s parting shot to Superman after his victory echoes in eternity: “I want you to remember, Clark. In all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you.”

Two weeks ago at the San Diego Comic-Con, Harry Lennix (Man Of Steel’s General Swanwick) recited those lines during the Warner Bros/Legendary panel in Hall H, right after which Zack Snyder announced that not only will he be making a follow-up to his recent Superman movie, but he will also be bringing DC Comics’ two titans together for a Superman/Batman movie!

Scheduled for a 2015 release, this has all the potential of being THE greatest comic movie ever. Since they first met in 1952’s Superman #76, there have been seven decades’ worth of collaboration between the two, which certainly provides a wealth of stories to explore.

The “opposites attract” angle alone would be extremely intriguing – if done properly, the whole alien/human, hero/antihero, brains/brawns, might/strategist contrast between the two should prove to be a winner, not just for Warner Bros, but most importantly, for the fans as well.

On top of my list of “must-have” scenes in the movie has to be the compulsory battle between the two superheroes. Just like how Marvel managed with The Avengers, Snyder must also try to unite the duo in a manner that generates respect, and also lays the foundation for their strong friendship.

This week we revisit six memorable meetings between the Dark Knight and Man of Steel. Here’s hoping 2015’s movie will at least be half as good as the encounters we’ve highlighted here!

When Clark met Bruce

Superman (vol. 1) #76 (1952)
Writer: Edmond Hamilton
Artist: Curt Swan

Batman: Why ... why, you’re Superman!

Superman: And you, Bruce Wayne ... you’re Batman!

THIS was the moment that sparked the beginning of a powerful friendship.

Clark and Bruce take long-awaited vacations on the same cruise, but a booking glitch has them sharing the same cabin. When a jewel theft occurs on board, the two accidentally discover each other’s alter-egos when they both decide to spring into action at the same time! After dealing with the thief, they then have a bigger problem – a certain snoopy reporter named Lois Lane.

Instead of the usual battle of strength we see in most inaugural team-ups, here, we had the duo engaging in a battle of wits to convince Lois that they are no heroes.

This offbeat tale was not only revolutionary, but more importantly, established a logical foundation to the duo’s everlasting friendship.

Strange bedfellows

Superman/Batman Annual #1 (2006)
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Ed McGuinness

“It was horrible! Some maniacs were trying to kill Wayne during all the ruckus! Can you believe it? Luckily, Superman and Batman showed up and saved our bacon. Mostly Superman...” – Clark Kent

PROBABLY the only time you’ll ever see Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent sharing a bed side-by-side, this 21st century “tribute” to Superman #76 adds depth and dimension to the first “when Clark met Bruce” moment. The cruise ship angle is retained, but the threat comes in the form of Deathstroke, the Crime Syndicate, a poor potshot at Deadpool, and the similarities between Clark and Kal-El’s chins!

Superman/Batman ran from 2003 to 2011 and featured the two characters working together in stories that were mostly different from their regular books.

Mêlée at Crime Alley

The Dark Knight Returns #4 (1986)
Writer: Frank Miller
Artists: Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

“It’s way past time you learned what it means to be a man ...” – Batman

SET in the future where a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to continue the fight against new challenges, this milestone story redefined the boundaries of their friendship.

The writing had been on the wall for ages, and it was inevitable that the duo’s differing approach to saving the world would one day collide.

Here, Miller exploited the chinks in their friendship to perfection by casting the Man of Steel as a political lackey and the Dark Knight as an anti-establishment maverick.

What makes this story so legendary is of course, the “Mêlée at Crime Alley” – where Batman gives Superman a beating.

This no holds barred slobber-knocker that saw Batman pulling out all the stops and resorting to every dirty trick in the book (exoskeleton armour, outside help and a kryptonite arrow) en route to handing Superman his most humiliating thrashing ever!

Showdown in Metropolis

Batman #612 (2003)
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Jim Lee

“If Clark wanted to, he could use his super speed 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

LOEB and Lee’s Hush story arc is one of the most acclaimed modern Batman stories to date, and Batman’s fight with Superman in Metropolis also ranks as one of the most memorable battles between the two ever.

Superman inexplicably falls under Poison Ivy’s control and attacks Batman, whose only protection is a Kryptonite ring which he uses to its full potential by unleashing a few good right hooks. While the outcome is pretty predictable, the beauty of this brain vs brawn encounter is the way it addresses the question of what the Batman will do if Superman becomes uncontrollable. Also worth mentioning is Jim Lee’s stunning artwork.

Bats goes batty

The Dark Knight (Vol. 2) #5 (2012)
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: David Finch

“You can’t win, Batman! I’m your physical superior in every way. If you were thinking clearly you’d know this. Try to regain control…” – Superman

TTHIS time, it is Batman’s turn to go under the influence, courtesy of Scarecrow’s fear toxin. In this delusional and juiced-up state, Batman tries to take Superman head on ... well, for at least five pages until Superman finally unleashes his might!

Owing to the huge similarities between the latest movie and the DC New 52 comic version of Superman, it probably wouldn’t be surprising if the upcoming movie takes a cue from this issue.

Soviet Superunion

Superman: Red Son #2 (2003)
Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett

“Strange visitor from another planet! Last son of a dying world! Everything they needed to defeat you could be found in those two phrases, Superman. All we had to do was create the right conditions!” – Batman

THIS Elseworlds tale, in which Superman was raised in Soviet-era Ukraine rather than in Kansas and becomes the Soviet Union’s champion, deserves a mention because of the thought-provoking duel to the death between the duo.

The Russian version of Batman is definitely grittier than the mainstream version, as he ensnares Superman in his death-trap, comprising a host of solar lamps that replicate Krypton’s native red sun environment. Deprived of his powers, Superman becomes easy pickings for Batman – who completes the humiliation by locking the Comrade of Steel in a broom closet illuminated by the red solar lamps!

To complete the story, Wonder Woman’s timely intervention saves Superman from dying in a broom closet, and Batman avoids Superman’s wrath by committing suicide.

Comics courtesy of Earth 638 (email: earth638@yahoo.com, Tel: 012-663 1584, Facebook: facebook.com/earth638).

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