Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is presently smashing, bashing, and thrashing excited moviegoers with Ben Affleck donning the Dark Knight’s cowl for the first time and Henry Cavill returning as Krypton’s mightiest son from his debut in Man of Steel (2013).
The two most super-recognizable of superheroes may be meeting on the big screen for the first time in Dawn of Justice, but Batman and Superman have long existed in one another’s worlds and joined forces countless times to battle crime as only that ultimate combo of mega-powers possibly can.
So why would the two icons actually fight each other in the new film? Haven’t they always been friends? How did they meet, anyway? Did somebody step on somebody else’s cape and, from there, all bets were off? We can’t answer every question anyone might have about the half-century spanning relationship between Batman and Superman, but we can certainly share things you never knew about the massively muscular bond between these two most towering defenders of truth, justice, and the all-around kickass way.
Batman First Teamed With Superman on the Radio
Throughout World War II, ads for comic books, war bonds, and the U.S. armed forces frequently depicted Batman and Superman as pals who together supported the troops, but they didn’t team up for an official adventure until a 1945 episode of the Superman radio serial.
On “The Mystery of the Waxmen,” Batman (voiced by Matt Crowley) joined the star of the show (Bud Collyer) in an episode that depicted the heroic pair as old friends.
Superman had been enjoying huge success on radio and after a 1943 Batman movie serial proved to be a hit, DC and the show’s producers aimed to expand the Caped Crusader into a new medium as well. As a result, Gotham’s Dynamic Duo frequently dropped by Metropolis via the airwaves.
So Batman could be seen—perhaps by a certain Kryptonian known for bouts of feeling overburdened—as cruising to multi-platform success by clinging to the heels of Superman’s high-flying red boots. Deep-rooted rivalries between long-time chums have begun over far less.
The Batman-Superman Combo Didn’t Hit Comic Books Until 1952
In the Superman #76 story “The Mightiest Team on Earth,” billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and mild-mannered newspaper reporter Clark Kent find themselves trapped by happenstance on a cruise. Once criminal shenanigans emerge on board the vessel, the two alter-egos reveal themselves to one another, respectively, as the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel. An enduring crime-fighting twosome is then born at sea.
The World’s Finest Heroes Naturally Found a Home in World’s Finest Comics
The 1941 debut cover of World’s Best Comics depicts Superman and Batman on either side of the Robin the Boy Wonder. It began as a 96-page quarterly special that featured DC’s biggest heroes in individual adventures, and by the second issue the name had changed to World’s Finest Comics.
Thirteen years in, Batman and Superman teamed up in a single story for World’s Finest Comics #71. Thereafter (except for a brief spell in the ’70s) each edition chronicled a new Batman-Superman shared adventure until the series ended in 1986 (tje same year The Dark Knight Returns reimagined both characters forever).
Batman frequently obtained temporary super-powers on par with his flying, invincible pal in World’s Finest, so that they could seem more evenly matched. Maybe that began some of the resentment and jealously we see spilling out in Batman v. Superman?
But Here’s How They Really First Met (in Print)….
World’s Finest Comics #94, from 1958, offers a written-in-hindsight explanation of the actual initial hook-up (you know, in comic book fictional terms) of its signature champions of the righteous.
After Metropolis hooligans get their mitts on liquid Kryptonite, Batman and Robin use their scientific prowess and the high-tech Batcave to help save Superman from the nefarious substance.
Sure, everybody’s all buddy-buddy by the last panel, but perhaps they’re burying some hard feelings. After all, Bats had to go out of his way for a guy who has infinitely more inborn advantages than he does, and Supes could feel guilt about looking weak and having to rely on anyone—let alone flashy rich-guy Bruce Wayne—for help just to survive.
The Dark Knight Returns Upended the Whole Hero Game Forever
In 1986, writer and artist Frank Miller reinvented the entire Batman mythos with his culture-changing four-part masterwork, The Dark Knight Returns.
Set in a dystopian sci-fi future, Dark Knight depicts Bruce Wayne as a misanthropic recluse who only comes out of retirement as Batman when the Joker seems to portend the coming of the apocalypse itself. In the course of the story, Batman’s deep-seated rage toward Superman as an empty god of false hope eventually builds to a showdown between the two that is largely recreated on screen in Dawn of Justice.
For many years following the success of DKR, Batman and Superman seemed locked in a love-hate grip as huge as their own heroics.
Don’t Underestimate the Bond of Losing Parents and Mom Named Martha
Both Batman and Superman are orphans. Bruce Wayne lost his folks to a thug’s bullets in a Gotham alley while, Jor-El and Lara, parents of Kal-El (Supey’s birth name) perished with the destruction of the planet Krypton.
Bruce Wayne’s mom was named Martha. In Smallville, Kansas, kindly farmer Jonathan Kent and his wife Martha found Kal-El’s getaway spaceship and adopted the superboy-to-be as their son, Clark.
Beginning with the JLA comic book series in the 1990s and continuing with Superman/Batman in the 2000s, the super-frenemies adversarial stance softened, often as they connected through feelings about growing up with the loss of their initial families and the love of good women named Martha who brought them up to battle real baddies and not one another.
This theme comes up again (and how!) in Batman v. Superman.
Batman Reveals His True Self by Donning a Disguise; Superman Does So By Taking His Off
Herein may lay the core yin-yang element that keeps these twin icons so profoundly intertwined. Batman is the John Lennon of superheroes and Superman is the Paul McCartney. Each one’s strength compliments the other to reach heights that could never hit on their own. What it comes down to is this: Batman, Superman—you guys need each other and we need you. So let’s get this throwdown over with and move on to the truly mind-blowing stuff!