Thursday, March 17, 2016

Batman v Superman I: The Silver Age Fights

Who wins?!

In 1938, Action Comics #1 brought us Superman, a vision of the best man we are capable of imagining. A year later, Detective Comics #27 introduced Batman, a vision of the best man we can imagine actually existing. This month, a movie will explore the question of which of those visions is better. Batman versus Superman… in a fight, who wins?

The question is not new. The two characters, owned by the same company, have fought against evil, side by side, hundreds of times, but have also squared off against one another in combat on many occasions. Who wins? A creator can imagine it either way, and both of the fictional heroes have wins to their credit. The outcomes of those battles may say a little about two fictional creations, and then, it may say much about what we would like to believe of ourselves, and our fantasies. Later this month, millions of people will consider the question: Who will win? This is a propitious time to look back at past battles and see how others have answered that question. Here is the most comprehensive look at what has happened when Superman and Batman have fought one another on thirty-three separate occasions.

Silver Age fights

1) World's Finest #74 (1955): Superman and Batman appeared together in one adventure as colleagues in the Justice Society of America, a meeting that was conveniently forgotten when they met for the first time again in Superman #76. In the fifth meeting of Superman and Batman in the new "Silver Age" continuity, we see Superman fight "Batman" for the first time. This isn't the real Batman, however, but an alien capable of changing his appearance. The shocker of seeing Superman punch Batman appears in the art, but the two heroes never raised a fist against one another. Result: No fight.

2) World's Finest #95 (1958): Superman and Batman battle for real, Round One! Batman gets superpowers and soon, he and his friend Superman quarrel, first as rivals in super-feats, then in a super fistfight. Robin soon discovers that aliens used advanced ray beams to give Batman superpowers and make both of the heroes hate one another. Their fight is interrupted and the aliens turn off the beams, returning everything to normal. Result: A tie.

3) World's Finest #109 (1960): A sorceror named Fangan enchants Batman, compelling him to obey three strange commands. Superman uses a ray beam in his Fortress to give Batman temporary superpowers so that he can fulfill the tasks, a plan that backfires when the third command is to defeat the world's strongest man. Using his powers, Batman throws Superman into space, which frees him from the magical spell he's under. Now that Batman is himself again, Superman reveals that he only pretended to be thrown, to end the ordeal. Result: No fight.

4) World's Finest #122 (1961): An alien named Klor convinces Batman and Robin that Superman must stand trial on his world. Using kryptonite, Batman sets traps to try to capture Superman, but fails on the first two tries. Although Superman is wary, a third trap succeeds, and Batman takes the weakened Man of Steel to Klor's planet, where the trial shows that Klor faked evidence to frame Superman. However, Batman's effort to trap Superman succeeds, in the first use of "prep time" to win a fight. Result: Batman wins.

5) World's Finest #143 (1964): Batman's morale is suffering from being upstaged by Superman on a mission. The heroes visit Kandor, where a now-powerless Superman tries to stage a fake emergency where Batman can rescue him for a change. Batman discovers the ruse and is so angry that the two fight a duel using stun-swords. Superman derives an advantage in the duel, but quietly decides not to go for the win. Batman therefore prevails the duel, and the convoluted adventure ends with the heroes resuming their friendship. Result: Although Batman is never aware of it, Superman could have won the sword fight.

6) World's Finest #153 (1965): An imaginary story merges the Silver Age origins of Lex Luthor and Batman by showing a world where a young Bruce Wayne mistakenly believes that Superboy has killed his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne. Wayne becomes becomes a crime fighter called Batman in order to avenge his father's death and pretends to be Superman's ally as part of an elaborate plan to take revenge on him. Allying himself with that world's Lex Luthor, Batman successfully captures Superman in a kryptonite trap intended to kill him. Luthor slips up and reveals that he framed Superboy all those years ago, so Batman frees Superman. In the resulting chaos, Luthor kills Batman, who realizes in his final moments that his whole life was devoted to a mistake. This story has a panel where Batman slaps Robin, which has often been used as an Internet meme. Result: Batman successfully ambushes Superman.

6) World's Finest #163 (1966): A space criminal named Jemphis lures Superman and Batman to a world with a red sun, and hypnotically commands Batman to kill Superman. Batman knocks the powerless Superman unconscious and is about to kill him, but Jemphis suggests a more sadistic finish, which allows Superman to escape. Then Jemphis stages a fight to the death in an arena. The night before the fight, Superman uses "prep time" to craft weapons that allow him to win the fight, but Superman refuses to kill Batman. This allows Batman to gain the advantage and is about to kill Superman when he overcomes Jemphis' mind control and the two join forces to defeat the villain. Result: It's complicated! Batman wins the first fight, but Superman prevails when Batman doesn't press his advantage. Superman wins the second fight, but Batman prevails when Superman refuses to kill him. Essentially, each hero gets the decisive advantage in one fight before deciding not to go for the kill.

7) JLA #63 (1968): The Key hypnotically commands the JLA to fight and kill one another after a one-hour delay. Before the command can be acted out, Superman goes back in time to switch places with the version of himself from three years earlier. The earlier version of Superman, unaffected by the command, physically overpowers the entire rest of the JLA, who are compelled to resist him. Superman easily defeats not only Batman, but also Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Aquaman, and the Atom, all at the same time. Once he has forced them outside of their headquarters, they are no longer compelled to obey the Key's commands. Result: Superman wins big.

8) World's Finest #176 (1968): In his final performance, a dying actor named Ronald Jason poses as a pair of aliens in order to trick Superman and Batman into a duel. Batman recruits Supergirl to help him while Superman enlists the aid of Batgirl. The four heroes fight a grand battle, during which the actor succumbs to his illness and dies. Superman and Batman then reveal that they figured out the ruse from the beginning, but allowed Supergirl and Batgirl to be fooled so that Jason would have a bit of success in his dying part. Result: Supergirl defeats Batgirl, but Superman and Batman have no real fight.

9) World's Finest #180 (1968): The heroes' third battle of 1968 took place in an imaginary tale in which Superman loses his powers, becoming a non-powered hero named Nova. A villain named Mr. Socrates captures Nova and uses a surgical implant to control his mind. A non-powered Superman almost kills his friend before Batman manages to subdue him. Then, Batman allows Superman to escape so that he can follow him back to the criminal's lair. Superman regains control of his own mind and helps Batman defeat Socrates. The Nova name and costume was later used as the basis for the mystery hero Supernova in 52. Result: Batman defeats a non-powered Superman.

10) World's Finest #182 (1969): Superman learns that an ancient curse is placed on Batman, making him go berserk whenever he's in costume. Superman twice defeats the raging Batman easily, changing him into his Bruce Wayne clothes to stop the rampage. However, we later learn that the curse was placed on Superman, not Batman, and that Batman's rampages were only an act. By staying in Superman's presence, Batman prevents the curse from taking effect, because it was contingent on Superman being alone. Result: No actual fight.

11) World's Finest #185 (1969): A group of galactic gamblers abduct the two heroes, rob Superman of his powers, and compel them to fight to the death. The fight is inconclusive when suddenly it is revealed that Superman never lost his powers, and the two heroes were deliberately acting out a draw until they could overpower the gamblers. Result: No actual fight.

12) World's Finest #186-7 (1969): Traveling back in time to find the connection between Bruce Wayne and General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, Batman finds that Superman has turned evil and is trying to kill him. Batman has a youth fire a kryptonite pebble at Superman's head, which turns him back to normal. It turns out that an evil spirit had been inhabiting Superman and was banished by the effect of the kryptonite. Result: No real fights.

13) World's Finest #195 (1970): As part of a plan to bust a Mafia ring, Superman pretends to be allied with them. Jimmy Olsen and Robin are in on his scheme, but Batman is not when, in an effort to prove his loyalty to the Mafia, Superman decks Batman and pretends to kill Jimmy and Robin. He confesses his plan to Batman a minute later, but the quick knockout was a clean takedown of the Caped Crusader, fair and square. Result: Superman wins.

14) World's Finest #202 (1971): Brakh, a Middle Eastern madman seems to have Superman under his control and is using him to increase his power. Batman arrives on the scene and hopes that Superman is only pretending to be under the villain's control. Batman quickly loses the fight, and is about to lose his life when Brakh orders his super-servant not to kill Batman. We soon learn that it is a Superman robot, not Superman himself, who defeated Batman. So, there is no fight between the two heroes, but in a telling moment, before the fight with the robot, Batman thinks, "Of course, I wouldn't even try to beat him! I know my limits!" Result: No fight, but Batman loses to a Superman robot, and admits that he couldn't beat the real thing.

15) World's Finest #258 (1979): When werewolves are on the attack, Batman gets infected, and becomes a super-powerful were-bat in a violent, animal rage. With his powers, he is almost a match for Superman, but the resourceful Man of Steel flies the two of them into the upper atmosphere where the were-bat passes out from lack of air. Result: Superman wins.

16) World's Finest #320 (1985): In their final pre-Crisis showdown, Batman assists Superman when he is being mind-controlled by a villain named Rem. Superman, sent to defeat Batman, chases after him in the Fortress of Solitude, but goes slowly as his own will power fights against that of Rem. Batman escapes, then uses the Phantom Zone projector on Superman. Result: Batman wins.

1 comment:

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