Throughout the history of comics, there have been numerous team-ups that have graced the panels of our favorite books. There’s Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, Matt Murdock and Frank Castle, and Luke Cage and Danny Rand, among others. But, like it or not, one superhero team-up stands out among all of these exceedingly entertaining alliances: Bruce Wayne and Kal-El. So, what is it that makes the pair so iconic that they’ve become one of the cornerstones of comic book tropes, setting them apart from their peers?
For one, the partnership between these two DC Comics properties has been around ever since the golden age of comics. Having its roots in the 96-page special New York World’s Fair Comics, which featured stories that starred the Dark Knight and the Last Son of Krypton in separate, anthology type tales. From there, it was only logical and financially lucrative to have two of DC’s biggest properties to star in the same episodic tales: a move that at the time was uncommon in the industry. As a result, with that came the arrival of World’s Finest Comics #71, the first ever team-up that featured the two characters appearing in one story. And for almost 50 years, they will prove to be one of the most popular pairs to ever be on the funny pages. On that note, we could even go so far as to say that World’s Finest Comics set the trend for all other superhero team-ups to have come in the future.
Still, mentioning their long history together isn’t enough to justify why indeed the tandem between the caped crusader and the Man of Steel continues to endure up to this day. Well, their respective popularity aside, it’s all about the wonderful contrast that comes from the personalities of the two. And at times, this difference in tone tends to put them at odds with each other.
On one hand, we have the optimistic, wide-eyed worldview of Superman that provides stories with ideas of good old fashioned morals without appearing as a patronizing figure to its readers. On the other, there’s Batman’s bleak, cynical practicality to even out the Kryptonian’s bright demeanor. This clash between two opposing sides of the same spectrum fuses to open up an almost infinite number of storytelling possibilities that could range from the absolutely fun and lighthearted adventures they had in the 60’s to more serious, social commentary-type stories as with Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns.
If we look at it even closer, we’ll see that even their powers – or the lack thereof on the World’s Greatest Detective’s part – provide a beautiful look at the two opposing sides of the spectrum. With Superman, we have this demigod figure that in some way or another resembles power and opportunity by birthright. On the other side, there’s Batman, whose skills were acquired through a combination of practice, training, and work – barring his infinite trust fund, of course. When the two come together, we get a glimpse of the respective shining qualities and flaws they have.
So, the next time someone asks you who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman? It’s the fans. It’s all about the fans.