Batman V Superman Through the Decades


Batman vs. Superman... 75 years of really kind of hating each other. (Or so some would have us believe.)


Andrew Gilbertson said...

And yet in baseball is about the only time they don't have to cheat out the wazoo to even make it a valid question...

Siskoid said...

What do you mean?

Andrew Gilbertson said...

A pontification on the inherent absurdity of the Batman vs. Superman concept. It is, to me, like asking 'Who would win in a fight- a navy seal, or my year old nephew?' I get that you have great affection for your nephew and think that he's the best thing ever, but realistically, that's such a ridiculously uneven matchup that unless you throw in a million caveats (my four-year-old nephew with strength-enhancing steroids and a machine gun vs. a crippled navy seal on drugs who has a moral commitment to pacifism*), it is only your affection clouding your reason that makes you think it's any kind of a matchup in the first place.

Or, in simpler terms, it's silly to have Batman and Superman at odds in the first place, and even if you choose to, it's silly to in any way imply that would be a 'fight.' I was just noting that in all of the pictured covers except the baseball (or, I suppose, the bragging pic), the odds have been somehow stacked to give Batman even the ghost of a chance.

*(In other words, what people are usually asking is 'Who would win in a fight, Batman plus a plan plus technology from a multimillion-dollar company** plus an alien artifact emitting radiation vs. superman not making full use of powers like superspeed and holding back and not allowed to have any plan or strategy or technology or even wanting to be in the fight,' which really reads more like an excuse to try and justify how awesome Batman is by having him 'beat' Superman in an absurdly-contrived scenario than asking a legitimate question.)

**Actually, have you noticed that whenever they have Batman fight Superman in the TDK-onward era, he is pretty much Lex Luthor? Guy in a power-suit who's put the highest-tech output of his multimillion-dollar company, plus kryptonite/red sunlight/sunlight blocking*** gimmicks, into trying to defeat Superman, usually while ranting about how he's an alien/god that doesn't understand mankind and has to be taken down? Like, draw the purple and green powersuit over Batman's powersuit, and vice-versa, in a random selection of 10 panels, and I'll bet people couldn't tell which was originally which.

***Seriously, Superman and sunlight; I feel like people forget that he isn't Nuclear Man in Superman IV; it's not like 'eclipse renders him powerless.' It just keeps him from recharging long-term. but if you look at how long he fought Doomsday on his reserves, and the major battles he's had at nighttime or in deep space, I think people WAY too often have Batman/Lex/Someone Else blocking the sun have way too instant an effect on Superman. Like, he should feel it after maybe 6 straight hours of battling, or a week of ordinary superheroing- not 10 minutes later. That's not how it works.

...Okay, massively tangential rant only vaguely associated with your original topic over. I really enjoyed the collection, btw. The ongoing contrivances showcased therein just reminded me of a pet peeve and I got carried away in the process. :-)

Green Luthor said...

I dunno, I think they'd have to cheat out the wazoo to make baseball a valid contest, too. It's not like Batman could match Superman in hitting power, throwing power, or running speed, after all. (Of course, there'd still be the question of "who are the other eight players on each team", but it's still doubtful Batman could put together a team that wouldn't be at a severe disadvantage against Superman...)

But I agree with Andrew there. I'm always amused when someone tries to defend the notion that Batman could beat Superman in a fight. "Well, if you give Batman enough time to plan, and some kryptonite..." I'm pretty sure *I* could beat Superman if I had kryptonite, that's not really a valid test of ability. Realistically (and, yes, I know the irony of using that word when discussing Superman), it shouldn't be much of a competition at all, unless (as you said), you do something to dramatically shift the odds for Batman. Otherwise, Superman could just laser Batman from orbit while Batman's having nappy times. (cf

Jeremy Patrick said...

To troll up the works here: the idea of Batman having a plan and resources to defeat Superman isn't part of a completely contrived unrealistic addition to make a fight interesting. It's part of Batman's character and ability that he thinks ahead and prepares for every eventuality, so him having a kryptonite ring in case Superman goes rogue isn't pure contrivance-- it's a logical extension of the character's paranoia. Taking away Batman's intellect and preparation would be like making Mr. Freeze fight weaponless in a desert and saying "he's a pushover!"

Flame (war) on!

Andrew Gilbertson said...

The problem to me is that Mr. Freeze's suit and gun are a part of his natural arsenal. And if you want to have Batman fight Superman with batarangs and the standard contents of his utility belt, and a cunning plan, fair enough. (Though Superman should have the agency to also use his super-speed, enhanced perceptions, and depending on the version, enhanced intelligence to have plans of his own). But when you start bringing in tech designed specifically to fight Superman, including a ring, that's not really 'Batman vs.' anymore, it's 'Batman and Deus-Ex-Machinas vs.' It's not the equivalent of Mr Freeze's suit & gun anymore.

I guess it depends on where you draw the line with a character's resources and ability to gear up still counting as 'their built-in power or natural state.' To me, both Kryptonite and a Super-suit exceed those bounds.

DustMan said...

I personally avoid these "who'd win in a fight" arguments for this very reason. If you don't agree on the setting and context, it's just a popularity contest (See Marvel vs. DC/DC vs Marvel). Whether it's a boxing match or a war zone matter immensely. The personalities matter too (Superman has so many ways to outright kill an un-powered human, but generally won't do that because he's Superman, not Ultraman).

It's not like reality works that way, either. The same baseball teams face each other multiple times throughout the year, but each game will have different events and outcomes. Ultimately, in a battle between two fictional characters, the winner will be whoever the writer chooses that day.

Siskoid said...

I just knew people would expand on my photo essay :)

JeffJedi said...

If it's possible for Superman to be as fast and strong as he is then I think it's possible for Batman to be smart enough to counter that.

Batman, like Luthor, is willing to go a little bit further than Superman to win.

Andrew said...

I'm pretty sure Hasbro/Kenner made an action figure that looked just like that 2000's cover back in the '90s. Might have been in the Batman Beyond line.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

JeffJedi, that's the thing; if it were smarts alone, I might concede that. If he talked Superman into defeat like Mxyzptlk, then sure, it's a valid contest. But if he is 'smart enough' to build a nebulously-defined macguffin super-suit, or grab a chunk or kryptonite, that would be like Superman being 'strong enough' to drop a nuke on the Wayne estate. It's not really something *he* is doing. That's my point. The gallery above is filled with narrative cheats to level the playing field. In a post-TDK era, the narrative cheating has just shifted to 'Batman is smart enough/rich enough/plans ahead enough to have any particular device or Dues-Ex-Machina or whatever to beat Superman.' It turn Batman into that kid on the playground- "Bang! I just shot you!" "Nah-uh, because I have a bulletproof forcefield!" "Well, I have a lasergun that shoots through bulletproof forcefields!" "Well I have mirror armor that reflects..."

Narratively, it's the equivalent of a magic bag from which Batman can pull any specifically-tailored cheat that the writers can think of; but it's still a cheat, because it's a blanket justification for having literally *anything* on-hand to affect the outcome, and somehow incorporating that into 'because he thought of it because he's so smart, that still counts as just Batman.' It's essentially using his intelligence as an open-ended justification for infinite power, which I don't think is an objectively honest criteria for evaluating combat potential. Unless it is extended to both parties- in which case, Superman flies around the Earth and turns back time and KOs Batman three weeks before he thought up his plan, etc.

In other words, if the same 'any potential application of powers is allowed for limit-breaking' is applied equally to both, Batman's advantage gets counteracted and the fight is as unequal as if it was a no-gadgets fistfight. But, that principle ('unlimited application of key attributes can be extrapolated into any conceivable result') is applied only to one combatant and not the other- which, again, seems to make it more an exercise in justifying that combatant out of bias towards them than any kind of honest exercise.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

In essence, it's a silly, arbitrary exercise because unequal criteria are applied *every time*. It is, as DustMan says, purely a 'popularity contest,' because justification will be made for the favored victor based on how much the debater likes them, endlessly. To me, the idea of pitting Superman against Batman- with their objectively-defined actual physiologies and abilities- is absurd on the face of it precisely because they are so mismatched in terms of capabilities that it becomes obvious the only POSSIBLE outcome of even asking the question is a war of justifications. Without setting absurd amount of conditions or equalizers, it becomes a battle of unwritten assumptions anyway (Is it to the death? Who's trying to accomplish what? Do they each get to bring in their allies, their gadgets, their macguffins? Who gets to choose the battlefield? Why the heck are they even fighting? At what perceptual and timescale is it taking place- Batman's or Superman's? Is Kryptonite allowed? (Because in my book, whenever it comes into play, that's 'Kryptonite vs. Superman,' not 'Guy-holding-Kryptonite vs. Superman')).

In other words, it is, much like DustMan described, a pointless exercise. Who wins? By biology and power levels, Superman; it's not even a question- like an ant fighting a tank. Who wins? By psychology, Batman- if you write superman as not wanting to fight and trying not to hurt Batman, while Batman is out to RUIN him with every gadget and contrivance his 'planning ahead' can conjure. Who wins? Both of them, because it's in the nature of their narratives for neither to lose. It's a silly question to even ask, because your answer will be so tainted by bias and specialized, favorable conditions to your pick that the answer- even the very debate, and the conditions that you subconsciously attribute to the battle- will mean absolutely nothing to anyone but you, because they operate on subconscious and conscious assumptions that the next guy doesn't share.

And that doesn't even get into the inherent absurdity (hewing closer to the original intent of the photo essay, I think) of always contriving a reason for them to fight in the first place, which- barring some major disagreement and complete failure of both Bruce's reasoning and Clark's diplomacy and temperament- is completely against their characters anyway!

So, yeah. This was never meant to knock Batman, or to simply be an argument for the 'Superman would win' side. It's meant to say 'it's a dumb question in the first place and people only ask it as an excuse to 'prove' their side and it's a fruitless conversation in which you're essentially not even speaking the same language- using similar words to mean different things- because of hidden assumptions, and people just need to stop asking it, and who the heck thought it would be a good idea to make a major motion picture about it???' :-)

(Whoops! When I exceed the character limit, I know that it's time to make this my last word on the subject!) :-)

DustMan said...

I know the perfectly balanced battleground, where's neither's superpowers/money can cause a problem: a spelling bee! Just got to make sure that Mxyzptlk runs it. That has to have happened somewhere is the Silver Age, right?

Andrew Gilbertson said...

That would be a battle for the ages; Superman would have his on-again-off-again Super-memory at All-Star Superman levels, while Bruce Wayne would be revealed via flashback to have trained with Theresa Saur, Tibetan champion speller, and is now the Greatest Speller On Earth. I fear, like the average Superman/Flash race, it might have to end in a tie and/or interruption by supervillain. (My money's on Luthor. If anyone would compulsively feel the need to try and prove superior spelling ability to the heroes, he strikes me as the guy).

Siskoid said...

I looked and couldn't find an instance of a World's Finest Spelling Bee. I'm as surprised as you are.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

DC is preparing for a rebirth. What better way to symbolically evidence an end to the Flashpoint era than this criminally-overlooked contest? Does DC have a suggestion box?

(Actually, based on their choices in the last 10 years... I'm pretty sure they don't.) ;-)


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