Many of us comic book fans love discussing what would happen if our favorite heroes and villains got into a fight. Sure, we all appreciate great story arcs, but considering these characters' incredible abilities and skills, it makes sense we'zd wonder how they'd fare if they had to fight one another. There's a few really big matches that have kept people debating for years. Wolverine vs. Spider-Man, Captain America vs. Batman, and Thor vs. Hulk are a few that immediately come to mind. Someone reading this right now is probably ranting about why one of those matches shouldn't be debatable because the outcome should be obvious. That just goes to show how passionate many of us are about this subject. It seems silly, but it's what we're really into and you should embrace what you love. Now, one battle is the most popular and it's also one of the more interesting ones. Obviously, we're talking about Batman vs. Superman!
Sure, this brawl gets a lot of discussion because they're two of the most iconic heroes, but what makes this really interesting is the fact they bring completely different advantages to the table. Both heroes have gifted minds, but one relies on skill, a sharp tactical brain, and vast resources. The other is immensely powerful and has a variety of abilities.
When someone is asked who would win in a fight between these two, there tends to be two pretty common answers. The first says Batman wins because he's brilliant and knows how to take advantage of Kal-El's weaknesses. Batman may not be as strong or as fast as his opponent, but his resources and tactics should lead him to victory. The second says Superman wins because his physical advantage is ginormous. Even with Batman utilizing his weaknesses, his sheer speed, durability, strength, and powers gives him plenty of ways to bring the fight to a swift conclusion.
So, which is more valuable? Huge power or a focus on tactics? Well, it's not that simple because there's several things to take into account. When the question is posed, some people think it means these two just bump into each other while on patrol and then decide to go all out; they'll do anything to win. If that happened (morals off, random encounter), Superman obviously wins that because he could technically destroy Bruce with a single hit and his speed grants him a huge advantage. Kal-El not holding back means he has a big edge in that scenario, but a situation like that would of course never happen and it disregards how these characters act in combat. Neither one would want to kill or seriously harm the other. Even when Superman loses control (brainwashing tends to happen a lot in their universe), he's still usually not fully unleashing. So, if someone asks "Who wins if these two randomly bump into one another and neither is holding back?" Well, the answer should be obvious enough; that's just an unfair situation for Bruce. Luckily for Gotham's protector, that's probably not going to happen in a canon comic.
Superman and Batman have fought several times in comics and plot is always critical. Without it, there's no good reason why these two would ever be at odds. Unless it's an Elseworlds comic or a sparring session, these two aren't just going to go, "Hey there, want to fight?" When they do fight, there's often circumstances that alters one of them. We've seen Batman possessed or on a new version of venom, Superman mind-controlled, so on and so on. Give these two standard gear and make them fight in a random encounter, Superman's clearly going to take it. But there's always a plot and it always keeps things interesting... even if the character you're rooting for doesn't win. Let's go ahead and discuss some of the most memorable fights they've had in comics.
Last week, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's second chapter of Engame came out. The Justice League has been "Joker-ized" and they're trying to take Batman down. Unfortunately for them, Snyder reveals that Batman has an amazing armor which takes advantage of his allies' weaknesses. You know, just in case he ever needs to slug it out with them and fighting between heroes is pretty common in their universe. The armor and weaponry really gives a lot of love to Batman's intelligence and creativity. Thanks to some assistance from Ray Palmer, his knuckles have miniature red sons and he has features which defend him against Superman's heat vision and freeze breath. Not shabby, right?
Even after giving Superman a few good punches to the face, this out-of-character Superman still finds a way to regain the edge. He's able to tear apart the armor, grabs Batman and begins to fly straight up. If he wanted to, Superman could have ended it there. Bruce was vulnerable for a few moments, but instead of killing him, Superman's taunting him and this gives Bruce the opening he needs. Knowing he'd encounter the titan, Bruce had a last resort put in place: Kryptonite gum. That's right, he spits it in Kal-El's eye and that allows him to technically win the fight. It's worth noting that Snyder also said the Joker-ized heroes aren't "completely at full strength." As far as I know, this is the only definitive win Batman has over Superman in a canon comic.
In Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's JUSTICE LEAGUE #2, Batman throws everything he has at Superman. Nothing works and nothing even fazes the alien. Just so you know, Bruce was still learning about Superman at this point, and what he discovered is that nothing in his belt is going to help him stop the Man of Steel. This just goes to show that unless Batman has special gear on him or factors in the plot that are working heavily in his favor, it's a pretty one-sided fight, even when neither wants to seriously injure the other one.
Then there's the memorable battle by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee in BATMAN #612. There's two factors here which make things especially interesting. The first is Batman's wearing a Kryptonite Ring and the second is Superman's being influenced by Poison Ivy. On top of that, Batman lures Superman into a setting that limits the amount of damage Superman can dish out. Now, this is a fight that has the epic double page spread of Batman punching Superman in the face. People tend to post that and think it means Bruce Wayne dominated the fight, but it's leaving out a lot of the context. Even with several things working in his favor, Bruce has some critical inner dialogue. While Lee's exciting panels seem to show Batman in the lead, the script reveals just how much Batman is in trouble. At one point, he mentions that one more punch will break every bone in his hand and he notices that Superman is holding back a lot and could "squish" him if the Man of Steel really wanted to. Even when Batman has the green ring on, he still recognizes it's going to be one hell of a struggle for him and ultimately, he requires Catwoman and Lois Lane to make it out of this one in one piece. Come to think of it, I'm not really sure how the ring alone can help save Bruce from a bloodlusted Clark Kent. I mean, if Superman has totally lost it, how is that going to save Batman from a bombardment of heat vision or freeze breath? But hey, I guess it's better than nothing.
Finally, there's a limited series you might have heard of called THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Frank Miller's story takes place in the future. Superman has become the government's puppet and they want him to stop Batman. In this fight, Batman goes all out and, thanks to a kryptonite arrow fired by Green Arrow, he's able to put a hurting on Superman before his heart stops and he fakes his own death. Yes, this fight is all about the story's theme, but even in this one, it shows that Batman's unlikely to take the edge on his own. Before the arrow is fired, Superman is holding back and Batman's dialogue shows just how well the fight is going for him. "Wrist... crushed. Ribs moving... with a life of their own... and Clark... just broke... a sweat. Now... if Oliver doesn't show up..." This is before Batman manages to make the alien mad, too. Up until that point, Superman's thoughts make it clear he's holding back and doesn't want to harm the human. However, once the Emerald Archer fires the special arrow, it gives Bruce the edge he needs to land some brutal hits and even make the hero bleed.
Can the Caped Crusader defeat the Man of Steel? Of course he can, but it'll take extra gear, a focus on how much he's prepared for the fight, and it should be executed by a great writer -- someone who will give both the characters respect. Even if Bruce does manage to take it, it's still an enormous uphill struggle for him and shouldn't be easy by any measure whatsoever. And Big Blue shouldn't be downplayed, either. The guy is a genius as well -- something people tend to forget. Still, the odds are stacked against Batman, so most encounters will end with Kal-El having the edge unless there's other pivotal factors to take into account (does he have extra equipment? Are there other characters on Bruce's side? What's going on in the story?). Many of us will agree Superman has the edge, but the fact we're even having this discussion just goes to show that Batman is quite a badass. I mean, we're talking about what is essentially a very well trained and wealthy human taking on one of the planet's most powerful heroes, and people are still debating about it. Pretty impressive, yeah? No matter who you're rooting for, let's just be happy we live in a universe where both of these awesome heroes exist.
If someone asked you who wins in a fight between these two DC heroes, how would you respond?