For over half a century, comic fans have staged theoretical match-ups between some of the biggest superheroes and villains ever to hit the printed page. The super-powered showdowns weren’t limited to good guys vs. bad guys either: fans young and old have debated which iconic heroes would come out on top in an all-out brawl. Green Lantern vs. The Flash; Wolverine vs. Deadpool; Wonder Woman vs. Captain Marvel – with strengths and weaknesses on both sides, die-hard readers have enjoyed smart (and sometimes outrageous) debates – going to bat for heir personal favorites.
Throughout DC Comics history (not to mention non-print media), Batman and Superman have gone toe-to-toe on multiple occasions. Whatever the reason for their conflict – mind-control, differences in ideology, etc. – the Dark Knight and Man of Steel haven’t always been on the best of terms. As often as they set aside their differences and fight shoulder-to-shoulder, at the most basic level, the pair have different perspectives on exactly how to best dispense justice.
But how can a mere human beat a superpowered extraterrestrial? For readers who are less familiar with prior Batman vs. Superman showdowns, here are ways the Dark Knight can beat the Man of Steel.
WEAKEN SUPERMAN WITH KRYPTONITE
The most obvious explanation that die-hard comic readers and casual fans will likely point out is that although Superman is near-impervious to human weapons, he does have an achilles heel: Kryptonite. Kryptonite was never introduced in Man of Steel, but without Kryptonite somewhere in the DC Movie Universe, Superman would be unstoppable – at least until magic-powered heroes (like Shazam) come onto the scene. Obviously, an invincible Superman wouldn’t be very fun in a face-off with Batman or Lex Luthor, so there’s reason to expect that pieces of Kal-El’s home planet will eventually appear in the Justice League film universe.
That said, viewers expecting a repeat of Superman: The Movie (where the hero is harmed by any Kryptonite nearby) are seriously underestimating Batman’s cunning – having, on more than one occasion, found ways to outright inject Superman with weaponized Kryptonite.
We already know that director Zack Snyder is borrowing heavily from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel – which featured a brutal face-off between Batman and Superman in which Green Arrow attempts to fire a Krytonite-infused arrow into the Big Blue Boy Scout.
So, assuming Bruce Wayne knows about Kryptonite, it wouldn’t be too hard for the Batman V Superman writers to find a creative way for the Dark Knight to introduce Kryptonite and, in the process, put his rival on a more even playing field.
THREE’S A CROWD
There is one other possible explanation: Batman isn’t alone in his battle with Superman.Depending on how the DC shared universe story takes shape, it’s possible this Dark Knight already has allies (such as Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, or Aquaman, among others) that could jump in and help take down the Man of Steel. Much like “The Dark Knight Returns” (which counted on Green Arrow to help weaken Superman), Dawn of Justice could see Batman take a beating from the Man of Steel – to distract the Kryptonian while other heroes take their positions.
It’d take sharp story-telling to fit other players into place without undermining the main conflict between the titular characters but, depending on the context of Batman V Superman‘s iconic brawl, a third party (be it hero and villain) could ultimately join the fray.
AN IDEOLOGICAL, NOT PHYSICAL VICTORY
Without question, fans are excited to see the two heroes battle out their differences, but achieving victory isn’t always the same as winning. Given that Batman V Superman‘s storyline revolves heavily on superhero accountability – specifically whether or not the Man of Steel should be revered or blamed for his role in the destruction of Metropolis – Bruce Wayne can still beat Kal-El, even if Batman loses in the physical fight.
In spite of presumably good intentions, Batman V Superman appears to feature a world where Superman isn’t accountable to anyone. He does not answer to a government or solitary leader – relying entirely on his own gut and subjective beliefs to decide when and where to intervene as well as what is best for humankind, prompting Charlie Rose to ask: “Is it really surprising that the most powerful man in the world should be a figure of controversy?”
To that end, what if Batman doesn’t need to beat Superman to a bloody pulp, but only needs to show that Superman can bleed, that he’s not invincible, to beat him? Fans will have seen a similar idea played out in Snyder’s breakout film, 300 (where a group of Spartans gave their lives to make Xerxes bleed – and prove he is not a god), as well as Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” – where Batman doesn’t necessarily expect to kill Superman, he just wants to push back against a callous government (that wields Superman like a blunt instrument).
Taking a stand to gain an ideological victory may sound like a purely intellectual distinction, but it’s one that modern comics have explored in depth – including Marvel’s own “Civil War” event.
To that end, Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight might simply have stepped out of retirement to show the people of Metropolis (and Gotham) that, together, they are not powerless against Superman – and that the Man of Steel shouldn’t be the sole arbitrator of what is right and wrong on Earth.
If a single man in an armored suit can take on a super powered alien one-on-one, it would make Superman and the people of our world think twice.