Now Ladies and Gentleman! In one corner we have the tall, dark and (brooding) handsome vigilante of Gotham City, Batman!! And in the other, the red and blue tight-ed Man of Steel, Superman!
How long have we comic and DC fans been thinking of hearing those words? Thinking of how a battle between Superman and Batman would play out? Well, according to many people, Superman will always win due to the fact that he has a vast amount of incredible power, whereas Batman has got nothing but some fancy moves and such an overloaded utility belt, it might give the TARDIS chameleon circuit a run for it's money.
Through the examination of two stories that demonstrate Batman's skill set, this article will point out why Batman may very well have the battle won before it has even started. He may not have superpowers, but when you have Batman's intellect, resourcefulness and skill, superpowers can mean nothing.
A few words of warning before I begin:
1. This article is going to be spoiler heavy. Many comics are going to have their whole story-lines discussed and analysed.
2. Anything mentioned here is purely me recounting things. Just because I am looking at the stories where Batman won, doesn't mean I am on his side of the debate. Please refrain from starting any Comment Wars below.
3. This is my first article on Moviepilot, so please don't judge me you believe this article is not Pulitzer Prize worthy.
4. NO TROLLING
With that stuff out of the way, please read on.
THE FIRST MEETING
To start off, a little bit of foreword.
Both Comic Book Aficionado and Comic Book Newbie alike know that the majority of comic books are about super-powered people. Now I'm no psychologist, but when a person reads, they often immerse themselves in the world of the book, which can range from envisioning themselves as the protagonist all the way to full blown obsession, both depending on the type of story and the 'links' we form with the characters e.g how easily we relate with them. As you can guess, there is not much to relate to with a person who can move "faster than a speeding bullet" and can juggle trucks, which was exactly the case when Superman was first published in Action Comics #1 in 1938.
Despite how people were interested in Superman, many wanted a more relatable hero, prayers that were answered by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger in May 1939, with the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27. Despite not being as popular as Superman, people found Batman much more relatable, due to the fact that he was a superhero without any powers. With these two characters becoming well known in the comic book world, many entertained the idea of the two heroes meeting. This meeting finally occurred in Superman #76 (1952) which saw the Man of Steel teaming up with Batman after the two are trapped in the room of a cruise liner (sounds like fanfic material huh?) before the two finally teamed up to fight crime and soon became good friends.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the main event, shall we?
THE HISTORY OF BATMAN V SUPERMAN
As many fandom devotees are want to do, many began to ask the question of who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman? Would the Superman break the Bat? Or would the Man of Steel's omnipotence fail him?Had a person asked this sort of question years ago, they would have been laughed out of their local comic shop. But now, after several one-shots and other numerous comic arcs, fans have become much more analytical (and somewhat stubborn) when it comes to the Batman V Superman debate. The Dark Knight Returns (1986)The first time that such a battle was tested in comics was Frank Miller's 'The Dark Knight Returns' (1986), a four part story that followed a 55yo Batman donning his cowl after ten years of retirement to fight a new crime gang plaguing Gotham. When the government considers Batman's return to vigilantism a threat, Superman is dispatched to 'take care' of him. When Batman refuses, a fight between the two finally starts. Readers were shocked however to find out that it was the Caped Crusader who won the fight, a literal example of a mortal man defeating a god. Through the use of his intelligence, Batman was able to create devices that exploited the holes in Superman's defenses. These items included:- A Sound Cannon powerful enough to rupture Superman's eardrums- Acid spray which temporarily blinded Superman- A large metal suit with enough tensile strength to endure Superman's eye beams at close range (this suit will be worn by Batfleck himself in BVS)- An arrow tipped with synthetic kryptonite, which dispersed into a dust cloud when fired. The resulting dust cloud entered Superman's system, leaving him weak enough for Batman to beat Superman within an inch of his life.
Through 'The Dark Knight Returns', Frank Miller was able to make a very important point that perhaps no-one had addressed until then:
Batman is the Mind over Superman's Muscle.Now I'm not calling Superman stupid, but people with his kind of colossal strength tend to believe that their strength would be enough to defuse any situation (again, this is just conjecture). Batman however is a master strategist, praised by the likes of The Riddler and Ra's Al Ghul and even made Contingency Plans to defeat the Justice League's core members should the need have arisen (see the JLA: Tower of Babel argument in this post for more info), which means that he would have assessed Superman and the other JL members with a fine toothed (Bat) comb until he found every exploitable weakness.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." - Sun Tzu
Superman may have been so OP it isn't funny, but even a Man of Steel will bend and break if his weaknesses are exposed.
To this day, 'The Dark Knight Returns' is a cornerstone to the Batman V Superman debate and evidence that Superman is not completely unstoppable.
JLA: Tower of Babel (2000)
For the whole Batman side of the debate, this comic arc is a biggie. In this three issue story by comic writer veteran Mark Waid, Ra's Al Ghul steals Batman's aforementioned Contingency Plans and uses them against the Justice League, quickly (and mercilessly) neutralizing them all in only a few hours. When the JL finally recover and defeat Ra's, the JL's fear of the Plans causes them to expel Batman from the group. The fact that the Contingency Plans worked so flawlessly and in such a short time frame is evidence of Batman's incredible intellect, strategic ability and even ruthlessness. But this article is about Batman V Superman, not Batman V Justice League (that post is for another time) so I will be focusing on the Superman Contingency Plan. The Superman Contingency cited the jolly green, carcinogenic rock that is Kryptonite as the key to taking down the Man of Steel for quick response, emergency situations, but through his research, Batman was able to find out something else. When Green Kryptonite is exposed to high amounts of radiation, it evolves into Red Kryptonite. This Kryptonite, when weaponized, can cause a fluctuation in Superman's cells to points of excruciating pain, extreme sensory overload and skin so translucent and clear, you can see your reflection in it.
Had this been a situation where Batman wanted to kill Superman, the Caped Crusader would have most certainly succeeded. With his senses overloaded and incredible amounts of pain flaring in every cell of his body, Superman would have been practically powerless as a killing blow would have been dealt.
This is yet another example of the Mind Over Matter paradigm between Batman and Superman.
When the Tower of Babel comic was released, it demonstrated to the readers the extent of Batman's effectiveness as a strategist and just how dangerous he can be, even to a group of Meta-Humans.
With both 'The Dark Knight Returns' and 'JLA: Tower of Babel', the readers can realise that even with Superman's strength, he is still defenseless against a man who can create Contingencies and Fail-Safes against nearly any threat. Countless Batman story-lines demonstrate the fact that intellectually speaking, Batman is arguably the most powerful member of the Justice League.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts below in the comments section :D I also have a poll to conclude the article as well.
Thank you for reading! :D