Batman has a very large family of heroes that support him in Gotham, and without them he could not get half the good work done that he does. But they always stand in his shadows, both in function and in sales. Nightwing is a first-rate character, but no one is surprised or excited when they team up, and when they do it is most often in aid of Batman’s current objective. But one man stands on the same level as Batman. One man can go head to head and stand his ground in every way. Only one man can be his complete equal while also being his complete opposite, if not going beyond. Opposing one another, they’re rivalry could level cities, but together they are an unstoppable force. This man is a force you don’t want to go against unless you ARE Batman. This man is Superman.
Next year will mark the first time that Superman and Batman meet on the big screen. But while this may be the first for film, it is not even close to the first time they have met in other mediums. They have had countless guest appearances in each others books and cartoons as well as team ups and shared time with the Justice League. But it is hard to say exactly when Batman and Superman first met. And various incarnations tell the story differently. So for ease I am going to break this down by era.
The Golden Age – Earth Two Pre-Crisis (1938-1956)
In 1940 they first appeared together on the cover of New York Worlds Fair Comics #2
They shared several covers together before the next step forward was made – a shared panel at the end of All Star Comics #7 in 1941.
The first storyline that they shared wouldn’t come until 1945 and not in the first place you’d expect it. It wasn’t even on page – it was on the air. At the tail end of February 1945, The Adventures of Superman started a storyline called The Mystery of The Waxmen. In it Batman and Superman met for the first time. Unfortunately, due to technological limitations of the day and the 7 decades that have taken place since, most of those episodes, including all that Batman are in, are lost. What does remain are 2 episodes that chronicle Superman and Robin’s first encounter. If you want to give them a listen you can hear both within this podcast. Batman and Robin would continue to star frequently in the show to allow Bud Collyer, the voice of Superman, to take vacation from the 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year gig.
1947 saw an interesting team up as well. This time in a humour book, All Funny Comics #16, which saw the Dynamic Duo, Superman and other characters come to life out of the pages of a book. The story was called The Strange Case of the Pink Eyebrow. I did not read it, but I heard about it at this blog.
Edit – Courtesy of Mr. Swanson: The first, in continuity, appearance of the two together along with Wonder Woman takes place in All-Star Comics #36, 1947, where they appear as honourary members of the Justice Society. I do not own the issue, so I haven’t read it, nor could I find it anywhere online, but it can be found in All Star Comics Archives Vol. 8 or DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #3, which I am about to seek out myself. Thanks Mr. Swanson!
Obviously an on paper, in continuity Superman/Batman specific team up was coming and that day finally came in 1952 when Batman showed up on the pages of Superman #76!
Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent have both decided to take advantage of a lull in duties to take a long needed vacation. They end up being roomed together because of an overbooking of the cruise. (Great idea, put the rich guy and the reporter together, if it were any other two guys the reporter would be taking advantage to get an inside scoop on the millionaire and driving him nuts, or the rich guy would just leave, and buy another ticket, or his own cruise liner)
There is a robbery attempted right before take off and Bat and Supes decide to come aboard as their caped alter egos as well. Unfortunately, a curious Lois, who was seeing Clark off, manages to get a room for herself as well and tags along. This is the beginning of the Bruce – Lois – Clark love triangle that sometimes happens. The dynamic duo end up learning each other’s identity of course. They say it’s an explosion from outside that helps them see each other changing identities when the lights are off, but it was the middle of the day and the window was open (thus the light from the explosion) they can both see well in the dark, so it was just a poorly thought out coincidence. Either could have left the room before changing. But it’s a kids book and I’m sure kids loved it. This was also the first time the famous B/S switch has occurred, where one of them pretends to be the other and it works for the characters, but we see through the B/S. In this case Bruce pretends to be Clark when they get off the boat and run into Superman. This throws off Lois who had come to suspect the truth behind Superman’s true identity.
Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan had done what many fans had been wanting for a long time. So I don’t really care about a bit of cheesy writing, it’s a good story that clearly made it into the history books.
The Silver Age – Earth One Pre-Crisis (1956-1985)
Although the ideas of Earth One and Two hadn’t been thought of yet, and Batman and Superman were still the same characters this is still technically part of Earth One canon, as it took place after the reimagining of The Flash, which launched the Silver Age.
In World’s Finest Comics #94 in 1959, after budget cuts forced the two stars of World’s Finest Comics to abandon their solo stories and join together for one story bimonthly, Edmond Hamilton (who seemed to forget that he already gave them an origin) and Dick Sprang gave the duo a new origin.
At this point in time there is no getting around the fact that Batman and Superman have met before and worked together for a while. This story is two in one – the (then) present day escape of Lex Luthor leads Batman and Robin to come to Superman’s aid in case Lex uses Kryptonite. But Superman has a new partner – Luke Cage, Power Man. Oh sorry, just Power Man. And Power Man won’t let Batman and Robin join in on the fun, which leads to them reminiscing on their first meeting with Supes, our second story. Back when they met originally, it was to help Superman against a couple thugs with Kryptonite guns. Superman didn’t want them to risk their necks for him, but they do anyway. Another B/S switch is pulled, this time with Batman impersonating Superman, by painting Superman’s face right over his own cowl!
Back in the present Batman and Robin stop Lex despite Power Man wanting them gone. Turns out that the whole Power Man stunt was also Superman not wanting to risk Batman or Robin getting hurt, Power Man was simply a robot Superman was going to use to get close to Luthor without having to worry about Kryptonite or put anyone else at risk. With Luthor back in custody and Power Man retired, everything is back to normal.
But again this isn’t really the first time they met. They met at least twice as boys. The first story was given to us by Jerry Coleman and George Papp in 1960 in Adventure Comics #275. To my knowledge, it is not available online and has not been reprinted since Superman Annual #7, a long time ago. So I had to read it on this Adventure Comics Blog. In it, Bruce moves to Smallville and partners with Superboy as the Flying Fox. Bruce is into Lana Lang and asks her to the Jr. prom. She leverages his request to get him to find out the identity of Superboy. When he does learns of Superboy’s identity he asks Superboy to remove the knowledge from his mind and forgets everything.
This takes place before the death of the Waynes. (Not sure why they would move to Smallville though). One interesting side note, the Flying Fox costume, which he borrowed from Lana’s fathers collection of Witch doctor masks, is a type of bat.
The next meeting, Superboy #182, which is collected, and I have, deals with Superboy helping out Bruce after the death of his parents. I was pretty surprised by how much I liked it. For a comic of that day, it actually gets pretty real. Not GL/GA Snowbirds real, but real enough. It was written by Leo Dorfman with art by Bob Brown.
Superboy, who had been away at the time, reads of the death of Bruce’s parents and heads to Gotham to offer his support. But Bruce won’t have any of it, he just wants to take down the Zodiac Killer (not that one) who has been leaving Zodiac signs at several crimes over several months, including the back ally where Bruce died and Batman was born. But in his blind anger and search for vengeance Bruce fails to look at the clues. It turns out that all the Zodiac signs had been left by a man who came to all the scenes afterward and left clues that he found close by, by luck. He wasn’t a killer at all, and Bruce’s parents really were killed by a lone thug.
In his attempts to rehabilitate Bruce, Clark brings him a costume in the hopes that they can have some swell adventures as Superboy and Batlad, but Bruce takes the costume, names himself The Executioner and goes back to thinking of ways to take down the Zodiac Killer.
In the end Bruce realizes his error, but it doesn’t get him off the path of justice, nor does it put his brooding to an end, something we Batman fans are used to. Superboy heads off with both boys memories intact.
In 1981, in the pages of World’s Finest Comics #271, everything came together when writers Roy Thomas, Jack Harris, E. Nelson Bridwell and artist Rich Buckler took everything that had come before and pieced it together in a way that made sense. Another book not in print or available on comixology, I read up what I could on it at this blog. It references pieces of the radio show, as well as the Flying Fox story and the first time that Robin met Superman in Adventure Comics (a story that I’m not going to look at here, but took place before Superboy met Bruce). I would have loved to read this in its entirety. I just read a similar Batman collection from the time, the Untold Legend of the Batman, which did a fantastic job of putting all the odd stories and crazy details of his origin together cohesively. I’m sure it will eventually make it onto comixology, but I want it in trade.
New Earth Post-Crisis (1986-1994)
Crisis on Infinite Earths changed everything. Everything that had been established and corrected and revamped was out the window. What was once a busy hive of endless possibilities was now just one earth. A combination of Earths One, Two, Four, S, and X, this new Earth and new timeline gave storytellers a chance to start from scratch in some areas and include the best parts of different characters going back to the beginning of their careers. We now had both Earth one and two versions of character running around, plus characters like Shazam and family from the other earths. Unfortunately in the process we lost Superman of Earth Two and we didn’t gain a second Batman, for he was already dead.
But we did get the opportunity to read new beginnings for both Batman and Superman in Frank Miller’s Year One and John Byrne’s Man of Steel. And with that, a new beginning for them as a team. This time, a more realistic take.
In the third issue of Man of Steel (1986) Superman goes to Gotham to arrest Batman, who at this time is considered a vigilante and a menace. Batman doesn’t help the situation, telling Superman that if he gets touched, a bomb will go off, killing an innocent man. Batman updates Superman on his current task, finding a serial bomber and jewel thief. They discover it is a new villainess, the Magpie, and find her when she blows up one of her henchmen. Then they decipher who she is and why she is doing what she is doing, and put a stop to her. It’s a pretty quick story, but the first half of the issue, Batman and Superman meeting and discussing things, is very well done. At the end of the story when Superman questions Batman about the innocent man with a bomb attached to him, Batman pulls out the bomb and says that he had to convince Superman that he wasn’t lying, but that he would never put someone else at risk.
Post Zero Hour (1994-2005)
Zero Hour mixed things up a little more, but Byrne’s story goes completely unchallenged for a good deal of time. There are a few early tales (such as Dave Gibbons World’s Finest and Matt Wagner’s Trinity), but nothing that changes the conditions of their initial meeting. The only addition, that I know of, made to their history, is in 2003 when Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did a quick two page story where Bruce, after his parents death, is driving with Alfred through Smallville. They have to stop so Alfred can look at the car. From his window he sees some boys playing baseball and they see him. Clark sees the car and knows he isn’t from Smallville. Afterward, Clark wishes he had asked the boy in the car if he wanted to play. Bruce wishes they had asked him if he wanted to play, but he doesn’t have time for games any more.
It astounds me how powerful 2 pages can be. Especially from those two. It perfectly captures both of the characters and makes you think, just a little, about how much of an impact your life as a child affects your adulthood.
Post Infinite Crisis (2005 – 2011)
Infinite Crisis returned a little of what was undone by Crisis on Infinite Earths, most importantly bringing the multiverse back. Now, instead of just one earth, or an infinite number, there were 52 alternate earths out there. This returned Earth Two and Three and S and others, but left our earth mainly intact.
There is a fun Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness story from Superman/Batman Annual #1 (2006) that reimagines the original Batman Superman meeting from Superman #76. Whether it is just a reimagined telling or is in continuity is unclear. It could be either.
The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are called together to fight alternate versions of themselves that are attacking through an inter-dimensional rift. They leave on good terms and suggest working together more in the future. Of course, next time they meet they instantly hate each other. But this is in their identities as reporter and socialite.
Just like in Superman #76, They end up on a cruise together and sharing a bed. But this time it is written a little more realistic, they are both being ego driven and won’t back down, sharing the room to show that they aren’t willing to let the other win. They also fight for Lois’ affection.
Clark unwittingly saves Bruce when Deathstroke, who has been hired to kill Bruce Wayne and is also making his first appearance, poisons his drink. Bruce goes to drink it, but before he can, Clark busts his glass apart trying to embarrass him. The two are later forced to work together and discover each other’s identity, when another Deathstroke appears onboard and causes some ruckus. This time, instead of seeing each other in the dark, Bruce tries to tranquilize Clark, but the dart just bounces off of his neck.
This other Deathstroke, who is more like Deadpool, is not the only visitor, Owlman, Ultra Man and Superwoman (Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Lois Lane respectively), of Earth Three’s Crime Syndicate have also shown up to kill Bruce Wayne. Things get wildly out of hand as more and more things come through the inter-dimensional rifts (this is what leads me to believe it isn’t in continuity). But Superman and Batman come out victorious. The end goes right back to Superman #76 where Clark and Bruce have to convince Lois that they aren’t superheroes. Afterwards it is revealed by Mr. Mxysptlk that it was he who hired Deathstroke and the Crime Syndicate and was bringing everything through the portal. But Mxy is a somewhat unreliable narrator himself, so who knows if it is real or not. But it is unchallenged, nothing else edits their initial direct encounter before the next big change.
But before that big change, there is one more revelation, this time from before either of them are born. This came from the pages of Superman/Batman #50 by TV writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson and artist Ed Benes. I really dig this one. I almost skipped it, because it’s their fathers and not them, but I’m really glad I didn’t.
While Thomas and Martha are expecting baby Bruce, they find themselves driving in Kansas when a flash passes over their car, and lands in a nearby field. Similar to how John and Martha Kent found baby Clark, but this time there is no baby. Just a piece of technology.
Flash to the present, the Justice League are cleaning up Smallville after a recent adventure of the World’s Finest Duo, when they come across a similar piece of tech. When they hold it it sets off something in the bat cave and both Batman and Superman, who are holding the smallville piece of tech, pass out.
They are both shown a flashback of their fathers, but they are both seeing the same thing. When Thomas picked up the machine his mind was transported instantly to Krypton. There, he meets Jor El, Superman’s father, who tells him that he is in the search for the right planet to send his unborn child before Krypton is destroyed. They both say things that please the other, and Jor El decides that Earth really is the right place to send his son. As Jor El is about to tell about his future son’s advantage on a yellow sunned planet, Thomas pulls a Dave McFly and disappears.
Whatever technology “woke up” in the bat cave takes off, fights the Teen Titans and then heads to the fortress of solitude. Batman and Superman confront it and it forces them to fight a bunch of holograms of their villains, in an act of self-defence, but when they disable it, it has a message left for Clark, from his father.
Bruce returns to the bat cave where the technology has messed things up, but has un earthed a journal from Thomas Wayne who had taken the tech he found and brought it back home. From his experience on Krypton he develops his vision for what he thinks Gotham could be and using the tech, which he studies and makes discoveries from, and rebuilds his dying company to the success that he left Bruce with.
This one doesn’t really fit the same with the others, but it is still a meeting of Batman and Superman from our world. Unfortunately during this time, our world has been messed up by The Flash, who is working to restore things. In the Jeff Johns/Andy Kuburt miniseries, Flash is building a team to confront Aquaman and Wonder Woman and try to end an ongoing war between the two rulers and their countries. The Batman of this world is Thomas Wayne, who doesn’t care about this war, but when Flash reveals to him how the timeline really played out Thomas helps Flash get his powers back and works to help restore things and bring his son back to life.
They attempt to break Superman out of a holding facility, because Flash knows how pure of a person Superman is. But this version is very different from the one we know. He is weak, and pale, and has never seen the sun so he has no power. Flash, Cyborg and Batman bust him out and bring him outside, where he is confronted by soldiers, and tastes power for the first time. He blows a dudes arm off with his heat vision, which scares him, and he takes off. It is quick, but that is the only Flashpoint era contact the two have.
New 52 (2011-2015)
These are the newest versions of the meeting of Bruce and Clark. But it’s unclear which is supposed to be taken as true. 2011’s Justice League #1 and #2, written by Jeff Johns with art by Jim Lee, two very prominent figure at DC, or the newer Batman/Superman series written by Action Comics writer Greg Pak with art by Jae Lee. They are both high profile books, but they don’t quite mesh. Greg Pak’s takes place earlier in both Batman and Superman’s careers, so I’m just choosing that one, but it all depends on what you read and how you read it.
First up is the Justice League story. Right on the heels of Flashpoint, this book launched the New 52, a world totally rewritten in the aftermath of Flash’s tinkerings with time. This is a bigger change than Crisis on Infinite Earths, launching all series back to #1 and reorganizing the entire world. This is the story of the first meeting of the Justice League and within that Batman and Superman.
Parademons (Darkseid’s minions) start coming to Earth. One of them is being followed, and Green Lantern is on the Parademon’s trail as well. They have a quick little fight, before thinking, “oh Superman’s an alien, he must have something to do with this”. Because that kind of stereotyping, especially when done by two rich young white american males, has never gotten anyone into trouble.
So they go looking for Superman, who himself thinks they have something to do with the Parademon that he just fought, and they also have a fight. Green Lantern calls in the Flash for help (because they have met already I guess) and he joins in, but he is also not able to beat Superman. When they all come to their senses they head to Superman’s current hide out, an abandoned printing press, to discuss their next move. That’s when a ton of Parademons show up and issue 2 ends.
I like the art a lot, and it reads smoothly, but it’s a quick read, it doesn’t really do much for me, especially as a 1st issue of… or a first meeting of… issue. And why do Hal and Barry know each other but Clark and Bruce don’t. In my mind I always think that Superman, Batman met first, then both met Wonder Woman, and Flash and GL meet first, then they all meet up together plus Aquaman or Martian Manhunter or Green Arrow or whoever. I’m ok with this if it were a cartoon or Elseworlds tale or an out of continuity story, but for a Justice League #1 kick off to the new universe story, I’d prefer it if it was a little different.
Pak’s first 4 issues of Batman/Superman are a confusing read. But it has some great moments. I usually love Pak’s writing, his Hulk run is one of my favourite runs to reread. But this was only hitting the mark half the time.
This is really the story of how the Superman and Batman of New Earth (Earth 0) met and then how they met the Superman and Batman of Earth Two (Earth One is now the home of the Earth One graphic novel series). There is also a nice flashback of how Earth Two Bruce and Clark met.
The first scene I really liked. It was of Bruce in his Year One war vet clothing sitting on a bench watching a kid get picked on. Clark rushes in and gets rid of the bullies. Bruce says now they will come back and beat him up worse the next night. They have their typical argument of how what the other person was doing was stupid. Clark also immediately recognizes that who he is talking to is Bruce Wayne. It was a nice scene that could go anywhere in their history and sums up the differences in their alter ego’s perfectly.
There is a great scene toward the end as well, after Young Supes has been hopping around while Old Supes flies for the whole story, Young Supes is trying to stop a plane from crashing, and he leaps up, but doesn’t know what he’s doing. Young Bats says “You’ve got to fly, Kent” “Fly? You dummy. You just said it yourself. I can’t” to which Bats says “You’re Superman dammit. You do the impossible” And as he says it, Supes starts flying with the plane.
For the most part the rest of the story trips over itself. As heroes they meet up again at a Wayne employees home after an attack, and Catwoman is somehow there, and the inner dialogue criticism of each other works, but the rest doesn’t, and that’s how the next 3 issues go. A demon teleports them to Earth 2 where they meet their counterparts, and then everyone just bickers while Wonder Woman shows up to do the real work. It might have worked as a story down the line, meeting their counterparts, but right off the hop this way, in what is meant to be a serious book doesn’t really work. At least I don’t like it.
Finally, what I did really love was the flashback in issue 3 of Earth Two Bruce and Clark meeting. It goes right back to Loeb and Sale’s 2 page story. But in this world, Clark does ask Bruce to play ball, and they become instant friends. When I read I was blown away, especially after having just read and written about it. Bruce doesn’t know how to play, and they just end up wrestling, with Alfred and Jonathan watching proudly from a distance. This moment sparks a tight friendship that lasts their whole careers. It was a nice scene, I just wish I didn’t have to muddle through everything else to get there.
The art doesn’t really work either. If it was a Batman only book it would, but this is a Superman book too, and Jae Lee’s style doesn’t capture the feel of Superman the way I want it to. It is great art, just not the right feel for the book. It was just too confusing to have so many characters that looked the same flying around.
And there you have it. The full story of how Batman met Superman. From before they were born when their fathers met, to their meetings as children, to the various times the “first met” as adults. From Byrne to Pak to Swan, From covers, to radio, to spoofs, to in continuity. From Earth One to… well just to Earth Two. If I did any other earths I would never finish this post. This is how things should stay until something Post Convergence changes things up again! Lets hope the movie can get it right too.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please comment if you have any additional thoughts or comments, or if there is anything that I’ve missed.
If you want to read what I’ve read, then check out the individual issues or you can buy them in trade formats at your local comic shop in the following volumes:
Superman #76 – Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years
Worlds Finest Comics #94 – Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years
Superboy 182 – Superboy: The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told
Man of Steel #3 – Superman: The Man of Steel Vol. 1
Superman/Batman Secret Files 2003 and Superman/Batman Annual #1 – Superman/Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told
Superman/Batman #50 – Superman/Batman: Finest Worlds
Flashpoint 3 – Flashpoint HC
Justice League #1-2 – Justice League: Origin
Batman/Superman #1-4 Batman/Superman: Cross World
Images from: https://qph.is.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-6f7911a3cc35b77ce806df05020ab538?convert_to_webp=true, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/New_York_World’s_Fair_Comics_Vol_1_2, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Superman_Vol_1_76, http://www.comiccollectorlive.com/LiveData/Issue.aspx?id=b2aebde1-0292-4d86-8e50-b89d50d2b835, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Adventure_Comics_Vol_1_275, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/505810601876306332/, https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=180451, http://forums.superherohype.com/archive/index.php/t-155625.html, http://thebatmanuniverse.net/image/General/Downloads/Wallpapers/Comic/, http://abduzeedo.com/illustrations-worlds-finnest-batman-and-superman, http://batman-comics.com/?tag=flashpoint-batman-knight-of-vengeance&paged=2, http://www.comicvine.com/justice-league-justice-league-part-one/4000-290431/, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Batman/Superman_Vol_1_1, http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/6/62058/1257722-superman__batman_25_2.jpg