Batman and Superman have fought at least thirty-three times. In the last post, I tallied the Silver Age battles. Here, I continue my look at the history of Superman versus Batman fights.
17) The Dark Knight Returns (1986): In DC's most famous Elseworlds story, Superman and Batman end up on opposite sides of the law, culminating in a battle between super-lawman and bat-vigilante. Facing off in Crime Alley against a Superman who is not at "full strength" after surviving a massive Soviet nuclear blast, Batman utilizes a carefully-prepared sequence of technological weapons and one assist from Green Arrow to defeat the weakened Man of Steel, finishing him off with his fists and asking him to remember "the one man who beat you." Result: Batman wins big.
18) Man of Steel #3 (1986): John Byrne's redefinition of Superman wastes no time in redefining the relationship between DC's two flagship superheroes. Superman goes to Gotham to arrest the vigilante Batman and initially takes Batman by surprise, but soon is surprised himself when Batman escapes, then explains that if Superman touches him, it will set off a bomb, killing an innocent person. After a tense collaboration in which they apprehend the killer Magpie, Batman reveals that the bomb was on his own person, making it a good thing that Superman never tried to grab Batman in the initial surprise attack. Result: Batman looks like the boss, but there is no fight.
19) Superman vol2 Annual #3 Armageddon 2001 (1991): Waverider spectates an alternate timeline in which Intergang accidentally destroys Metropolis with a nuclear explosion. Grieving for Lois, Superman unilaterally disarms all the world's nuclear weapons, but in his rage, he's sloppy and kills some U.S. sailors. He tells the President that if the American military tries to oppose him, he'll fight them and win. The President asks Batman to bring Superman in, but Batman refuses, warning Superman how high the stakes have gotten. When the Justice League tries to arrest Superman, Martian Manhunter dies in the fight. Now Batman feels he has no choice, and confronts Superman in a fight at Crime Alley styled on DKR's. Despite Superman being at full physical strength, his soul is sick and he's guilty for what he's done. Batman wins without all the tricks, using just the kryptonite ring Superman gave him. As Superman dies, Batman is anguished, wondering who the authorities will send after him when his time comes. Result: Batman wins.
20) The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2002): Frank Miller takes his most famous scene and says, "No, no… it goes like this…" This time, instead of just a symbolic assist from Green Arrow, Batman has other heroes doing most of the work, and the fight, like the story, is a worse version of DKR. Result: The Justice League wins; readers lose.
21) Batman #12 Hush (2003): Poison Ivy takes control of Superman and uses him as a weapon to attack Batman. Although Batman didn't expect an attack from Superman on this specific day, it's a situation he has anticipated and prepared for. He retreats underground, arms himself with the kryptonite ring, and contemplates, "If Clark wanted to, he could use his superspeed and squish me into the cement. But… deep down, Clark's essentially a good person… and deep down, I'm not." The two swap blows – with writer Jeph Loeb reusing the hypersonic and electricity tricks from DKR – until Superman is wrested from Poison Ivy's control by the sight of Catwoman throwing Lois Lane from a tall building and the need to save the woman he loves. Result: The fight is inconclusive; the situation goes to Batman.
22) Superman: Red Son (2003): An Elseworlds showdown between a Kal-El who happened to land in Soviet Ukraine instead of Kansas and a Soviet Batman whose parents were shot by the Stalinist system. Using an idea from the American Lex Luthor, this Batman crafts a trap for Superman using a weakness to red sun that the Kryptonian didn't even know he had. Batman beats and very briefly imprisons the powerless Superman, who is immediately freed by the sacrifice of his ally, Wonder Woman. Batman commits suicide rather than face punishment. Result: Batman beats Superman, but Wonder Woman turns the tables.
23) JSA: The Unholy Three (2003): In the Elseworlds continuity begin in JSA: The Liberty Files, where the JSA are a collection of U.S. government agents, we eventually find out that the Superman who helped win World War Two in the last tale is not the Kal-El we know and love but Zod, a sociopath Kryptonian disguising his intentions until he finds the time is right to take over the world. His sneak attack kills some of his world's superheroes, but Wesley Dodds escapes to alert Bruce Wayne to get the rest of the team together to stop their world's evil Super-Man. It seems that no one can stop him when "the Bat" swallows an experimental pill designed by Terry Sloane to give a person temporary superpowers. A superpowered Bruce Wayne trades blows with the evil Clark Kent long enough to let the rest of the team take him down. Result: The Justice Society wins.
24) New Frontier (2004): Darwyn Cooke describes, but doesn't show, a version of DKR's Superman-Batman brawl as a result of McCarthyism in 1952. Batman wins, later telling J'onn J'onzz that he did it with a "seventy-thousand dollar sliver of meteor." However, a later chapter of the story indicates that Superman and Batman are close friends and that the fight was staged, to get the government off both of their backs. A later miniseries shows how a real confrontation began before the heroes decided to save themselves some sweat and fake Batman getting away. Result: No fight.