Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will represent the first big screen meeting between the Last Son of Krypton and the Caped Crusader. The title promises a smackdown of epic proportions, and in celebration of this momentous match-up, we’re looking at five times the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight have come to blows in the past. Spanning comics, television, and video games, these are the five best fights between Batman and Superman.
The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
It’s impossible to ignore Frank Miller‘s landmark graphic novel when talking about these two titans battling it out for supremacy. The showdown between a renegade Bruce Wayne and a government-employed Clark Kent is brutal and thrilling. Pitting these two friends against each other because of their strict ideologies is exactly what makes superhero stories great. It’s obvious that Zack Snyder’s film has taken a lot of inspiration from Miller’s seminal work, and it will be interesting to see how the film treats this fight not as a final meeting but rather something of an introduction. If you only read one thing from this list in preparation for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, make it this. After that, you can check out the great animated adaptation on home video.
Superman: The Animated Series – “World’s Finest” (1997)
When Warner Animation finally decided to join their Batman and Superman cartoons and establish a connected universe, they hit the ground running with a three-part epic that saw the two heroes eventually teaming up against Lex Luthor and the Joker. Before they became teammates, they had to square off a little first. As you can watch in the clip above, there’s a fantastic back-and-forth between the two; Superman overpowers Batman and also discerns his identity by using his x-ray vision, but then Batman weakens Superman with just a pebble of kryptonite and then tracks him back to his apartment in order to discover that Superman is Clark Kent. It’s not the most visceral of matches, but it shows how the battle between these two is more than just physical.
Batman: Hush (2003)
In this enormously successful story by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, Superman is put under the hypnotic spell of Poison Ivy and acts as her personal bodyguard. When his path crosses with Batman, the odds don’t look good for the Dark Knight. That’s when Batman slips on a kryptonite ring and lays into the Man of Steel. The big reveal: Clark gave Bruce the kryptonite ring. Out of all the people on the planet, Superman trusted Batman with the one thing that could bring him down. That’s what makes this fight so powerful in retrospect; representing the friendship and faith these two have through a knockdown brawl. It’s also telling that, even under Poison Ivy’s control, Clark holds back his true strength. Not even mind control can stop the big Boy Scout from being a good person.
Superman: Red Son (2003)
This Elseworlds tale is one of DC’s finest for a multitude of reasons, but we’ll focus on the Batman vs Superman aspect for today. Set in a world where baby Kal-El landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States, Superman: Red Son eventually leads to a point where Superman is practically the ruler of Russia. One of the only dissenting citizens is a mysterious anarchist who dresses like a bat. Yes, in Superman: Red Son, Batman is a rebellious figure against a totalitarian government regime. Shades of The Dark Knight Returns are certainly present, but author Mark Millar does plenty to give it a unique spin. Seeing Batman outwit Superman by exposing him to red sun radiation — the thing that drains all of Superman’s powers — is a great sequence, and the fate of the Caped Crusader is a heavy one.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013)
What better Batman v Superman struggle could there be than one where you are doing the fighting? Granted, there were other DC fighting games before Injustice: Gods Among Us, but they were all pretty bad (looking at you, Justice League Task Force). Injustice: Gods Among Us was the first game that really made you feel like you were a superhero going toe-to-toe with other superheroes. Plus, the actual storyline of the game — another “Superman is an oppressive leader” tale — was so successful that it spun off into its own ongoing comic series. If you want to actually feel like you’re beating up Superman or Batman, this is your best bet.
Will Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice provide us with another rousing duel between these giants of the superhero world? We’ll find out on March 25th.