The Start of a Beautiful Friendship1 of 12It’s been decades in the making, but this week, fans will finally see the Dark Knight and Caped Crusader come together on the big screen when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters. And while the pair are usually thought of as close allies and friends, Batman v Superman pits the two against each other – at least for part of the movie.
But even that isn’t unprecedented. Batman and Superman have been meeting in comic books and other media almost as long as they’ve existed, and almost every possible iteration of that meeting has been explored. So with yet another version of the first meeting of Batman and Superman taking center stage in pop culture, we’ve decided to look back at the stories that lead to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with Superman and Batman’s 10 best first meetings.
The Mightiest Team on Earth!2 of 12The true first meeting between the Man of Steel and Dark Knight came surprisingly late in the careers of both heroes, in 1952's Superman #76.
When both Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne found themselves trapped not only on the same cruise liner, but in the same cabin thanks to some admittedly ridiculous plot shenanigans, it was only a matter of time before they each learned the others' secret identities and teamed up to fight crime together. This story -- complete with the two heroes deciding to play with Lois Lane a little while keeping their identities secret -- may be more than a little goofy by today's standards, but if Batman v Superman manages to have any of the weird, meet cute charm of this story, it'll be a good thing.
The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team3 of 12Told in flashback during 1958's World's Finest #94, it turned out that Batman and Superman had actually met before their cruise ship collision when the Dynamic Duo offered kryptonite assistance to Superman.
Quite why there was a retconned version of the characters' first meeting just six years after the first story isn't entirely clear -- Of course, with the turnover of readers back then, it's possible no one really remembered that first story at the time -- but nonetheless, this is another meeting between the two that shows them as friendly peers, working towards a common goal. If only that could've lasted…
World's Finest4 of 12Of course DC's animated continuity had an entirely different take on the first meeting of the two heroes, which managed to synthesize the complex dynamic the two characters had enjoyed up until that time. The multi-episode "World's Finest" arc of Superman gave us a Superman and Batman who understood that they have to work together even if they don't necessarily like each other, which -- thanks to Bruce Wayne's interest in Lois Lane -- it turns out that they don't.
If the movie has to follow one particular version of history between the two character, this might be the best choice to go for: There's the contrast of optimism and pessimism in the two characters, but they're able to put aside their differences in a relatively fast and painless manner to get the job done. Of course, that might not make for the most cinematic option…
One Night in Gotham5 of 12By the time the post-Crisis Superman and Batman got around to meeting for the first time, in 1986's Man of Steel #3, relationships between the two had soured considerably; writer/artist John Byrne brought the traditional Marvel dynamic of misunderstanding/conflict/team-up to DC, ensuring that Superman had to not only try to arrest Batman, but leave ultimately still a little suspicious of him despite the two having brought Magpie to justice together.
This introduced a new chilliness into the relationship between the two characters that would remain for years, until Superman had literally died for his city and Batman been crippled while trying to keep his safe. Apparently, that kind of thing goes a long way to rebuilding relationships, although it's not really recommended for anyone who isn't a superhero.
1939: The Vigilantes6 of 12Retconned into the 1999 Elseworlds series Generations was this brand new version of a meeting of the original Batman and Superman, again envisioned by John Byrne. This time around, it was the Ultra-Humanite -- a classic Golden Age villain who didn't actually come face-to-face with Batman during the real Golden Age (but debuted as a Superman Villain in the real 1939) -- that brought the two together, with the two heroes finding themselves investigating different aspects of the same case before coming together to defeat the bad guy.
In part due to its overwhelmingly retro nature, the two heroes manage to work together in near-perfect harmony, setting in motion literally centuries of co-operation between the heroes and their eventual off-spring. Maybe it was Byrne trying to make up for what he set in motion thirteen years earlier.
The Batman/Superman Story7 of 12For the 2007 fifth season of animated series The Batman, producers took the character further out into the DC Universe than he'd ventured previously, starting with this two-part episode that came up with the best reason for Batman to fight with Superman during their first go-around: The latter hero was mind-controlled by Lex Luthor, thanks to Poison Ivy's mind-control gas.
While it doesn’t seem that any Bat-villains will appear in Batman v Superman, the conflict between Batman and Superman will reportedly arise as a result of Luthor’s cunning manipulation rather than direct control.
When Clark Met Bruce8 of 12And then there was the time when the two characters didn't meet for the first time. In this short by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, a young Bruce Wayne passed through Smallville and found himself in the presence of Clark Kent -- although, as the two were kids (and neither even vaguely aware of what lay ahead of them), neither one was really aware of how important the other would end up becoming in their life in the future.
One of the many retcons to Superman's history of the period -- Remember when Lex Luthor was suddenly at high school with Clark, seemingly out of nowhere? -- this was one that was light enough to stick.
Justice League, Part One9 of 122012's "New 52" makeover brought about yet another chance for our heroes to meet for the first time, and this time around, there was a brand new twist: The two heroes had company during their first meeting. Specifically, Green Lantern was along for the ride, with his brand of act-first-think-later decision making drastically changing the way things went -- especially when combined with a Superman who was, himself, more likely to punch first and ask questions later (And even then, his question was "So… What can you do?").
Considering how important these two characters are to the overall universe, this meeting set the tone for a lot of what was to follow in the "New 52": Namely, more visually explosive storytelling at the occasional cost of nuance, much to the upset of long-term fans. Plus, really? Green Lantern had to be there?
Detective10 of 12When Bruce Wayne finally showed up in Smallville continuity, it was something that fans had been waiting some time -- Like, the entire length of the show's run on television and then some -- for.
Thankfully, they seemed more than satisfied with what writer Bryan Q. Miller and artist Criss Cross came up with for the 2012 arc of Smallville Season 11, with Bruce matching Clark in terms of inner angst and surpassing him when it came to anger.
As was traditional in Smallville, the new hero initially appeared to be a problem to be dealt with before all was revealed, but no bridges were burned that couldn't be rebuilt later. If only Stephanie Brown had managed to make it in to the finished version…!
Cross World11 of 12Less than two years after the new Superman and Batman met for the first time in Justice League #1, they did it again in Batman/Superman #1 – Blame the fact that they didn't remember this earlier meeting on alternate-reality-time-travel-comic-book-craziness.
In terms of first meetings, though, this one is weird – Clark and Bruce certainly have a first meeting that's worth remembering (and one that neatly summarizes their world views), but when it comes to getting their costumed alter egos together, all manner of parallel world hell breaks loose, bringing together alternate versions of the characters to complicate matters. Of course, with Jae Lee art, everything managed to look exquisite no matter what manner of craziness was actually unfolding on the page...
In fact, this one counts for two, as their first meeting on Earth 2, as children, was also chronicled in its pages. We look forward to the next time they meet for the first time all over again - possibly in DC's Rebirth relaunch.
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