SUPERMAN versus BATMAN
"Who Would Win?" (DC)
Where: Superman/Batman #78 When: January 2011
Why: Joe Kelly & Jack Kelly How: Ed Benes
The Story So Far...
Violence. The will to fight for survival.
It is a trait manifested in nature across almost every level of dominating species. For those who possess it, it is a skill measurable in the darkest aspects of social heirarchy, and equally revered in sport and entertainment. For many creatures who exist within universes, and beyond them, power over the physical is an attraction whose lure attracts great fascination and mathematical speculation.
In a world where superhumans bare symbols and insignia, the lines of conflict and sport can blur. Beyond the multiverse exists a place known as The Comic Book Fight Club, where the struggles of everyday super-beings are watched and analysed. Within the universe itself, similar beings do much the same, dwelling on the powers of their greatest champions, whilst pondering their farthest limitations.
On a planet known to some as "New Earth", two beings, children, Gus and Skyler, indulge in such speculation. Representing the heroes known as Superman and Batman, they pit the two titans' tested combat repertoires againt each other in a battle of wits and wherewithal. No killing, no mind control, no Bat-Mite, no Mr. Mxyzptlik, no magic. A scenario of irreconcilable difference and the will to answer one simple question: "Who Would Win?!"
Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Superman 6 (Mach Speeds)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Superman 5 (Lasers)
Real Name: [Kal-El aka; "Clark Kent"]
Group Affiliation: [Justice League of America]
Cumulative Rank: [#5] Win Percentage: [56.67%]
2006: [#7] 2007: [#13] 2008: [#2] 2009: [#245]
With the planet Krypton on a path toward destruction, a scientist, Jor-El, bundles his only son into a rocket ship designed to take him far from the impending doom. The young Kal-El would be rocketted far from his home to come to land on the planet Earth, where a yellow sun would grant him the powers to become the man of steel - Superman!
A spiritual leader for the superhero community; Superman has a wide array of physical capabilities to back his presence up, the stalwarts being; super strength, flight, heat-vision, super breath, and super speed. He also has a keen intellect, his Kryptonian brain enhanced in much the way his body is.
A keen strategist, Superman has a broad understanding of sciences and battle tactics, but is often hindered by his own sense of caution and responsibility.
Real Name: [Bruce Wayne]
Group Affiliation: [Batman Inc., JLA]
Cumulative Rank: [#1] Win Percentage: [73.8%]
2006: [#1] 2007: [#2] 2008: [#1] 2009: [#19]
After witnessing the street murder of his parents, the young Bruce Wayne's destiny was forever shaped to be one dedicated to an ideal. Having spent his formative years studying the various sciences, martial arts, and crime fighting techniques, Bruce is ultimately inspired to become the one-man war on the criminal element in Gotham City: Batman.
Perhaps Batman's greatest power is the millions inherited from his industrialist parents, and the various facilities that came with that. They prove crucial in the design and construction of his many weapons, which are typically non-lethal, and have a variety of uses.
Complimented by his keenly strategic mind is Batman's expertise in the martial arts. He is extensively trained in multiple fighting styles, and commonly regarded to be one of the greatest hand-to-hand fighters in the world. He is also extremely proficient in general urban warfare.
Additional: Superman and Batman may be known as two of the greatest heroes in comic books, but their relationship hasn't always been representative of two World's Finest buddies. It's become something of a tradition here on The Comic Book Fight Club to start the year off with one of the many battles between the two. So far, there've been six, making this feature, the seventh.
Currently, at least here in the "Infinite Wars", Batman has proven to be the superior. In 1986, Batman famously had the better of his Kryptonian counterpart in Frank Miller's seminal final chapter, The Dark Knight Returns #4. In 2008, Darwyn Cooke acknowledge being influenced by this interpretation when he approached their secret battle in Justice League: The New Frontier Special.
Mind control had a part to play in other features, including the Hush storyline encounters of Batman #611 and #612, where the Man of Steel came under the influence of Posion Ivy. It was Batman who was possessed in 2005, however, when Kryptonite Man used him as a vessel in Superman/Batman #23.
History: Batman (4-2-0)
Math: Superman Ranking: Batman (#1)
What Went Down...
The specifics are ultimately unimportant. Batman has run the numbers, Superman remains unconvinced. However similar their desire to protect the innocent may be, they can simply not agree on the terms necessary. With the stakes devastatingly high, the two heroes have no choice but to force a concluson upon the other...
Superman strikes first, with a super-fast burst that shatters the Justice League meeting table and sends Batman reeling. When he reaches for a tool, the Dark Knight finds his trusted utility belt taken from him already. Ready for just such an occasion, he utters the voice command, "Damocles." With it, the utility belt explodes in a ball of flame that scatters "capsules of lead micro-filaments" that momentarily blind Superman, and render his incredible X-ray vision useless.
Batman makes a break for it, but the sound of the explosion was insufficient to deafen the alien ears of the last son of Krypton. Unable to see for the moment, Superman can still hear Batman, his heartbeat, if not deliberate, carefully trained movements. Batman isn't hiding, though. He's merely planning ahead.
Utilizing a "subcutaneous beacon," Batman summons the Batplane to his location, sending it hurtling toward the Man of Steel! The destruction of the machine slows Superman down, but does not defeat him any more than the batarangs Batman tosses after, to annoy him.
Superman responds in kind with a blast of arctic cool breath that sends a freeze across Batman's cape. The Dark Knight presses a button on another one of those wonderful tools, but Superman is on him once more before any result becomes apparent. In an effort to put the Batman to sleep, Superman takes him on a one-way trip thirty thousand feet above the Earth. The lack of of oxygen would defeat any mere mortal, but Batman has accounted for even this possibility!
Apparently dropped off by the Batplane before it's destruction, Batman dons an unfolding suit of armor, complete with oxygen supply! Suited up, the Dark Knight takes control of his direction in space, while the giant Batman/Superman Robot designed by The Toyman takes control of Superman's!
The massive robot, once pilotted by Captain Atom against a Kryptonite meteor hurtling toward Earth, certainly does not go unnoticed by it's right-side inspiration, but even a robot as big and powerful as this pales in comparison to the one and only, original Superman!
An unrestrained blast of heat vision makes light work of the gigantic robot, rennovating a massive hole in the machine's torso. It is an impressive feat, but plays right into the Batman's hands, who reveals his intent to deceive, rather than defeat.
Acknowledging that "there is nothing [Batman] can make that [Superman] can't break," the Dark Knight reveals the robot's status as a vessel, intended to carry and deliver a terrible weapon! Batman's greatest assault proves ultimately to be a chilling irony as Superman realises he has played a part in unleashing a terrible defeat upon not just himself, but the entire Earth below.
Batman rockets toward the Man of Steel, punching with armor-enhanced fists as black bats flitter around them. The engineered swarm reflect Batman's greatest powers -- incredible economic fortune, and a mind dangerously capable of putting it to work. Superman rips away at the rocket pack on Batman's armored back, while a dark shadow is cast across the Earth as Batman's trump card slowly but surely obscures the source of Superman's powers -- the Sun!
Batman continues to fight with an unwavering drive to win, unable to effect their trajectory without the pack on his back as they drift back into the clutches of mother Earth. His powers failing him, Superman is also too weak to do anything but object to the madness of his counterpart's actions. As the plummet back into the Earth's atmosphere, this Batman makes a final chilling declaration, "Welcome to the human race!"
With 2009 aborted and 2010 a total non-event, The Comic Book Fight Club has seen a lot of annual traditions go sacrificed and unfulfilled. With 2011 approaching, I couldn't bare to let that continue, and had a great issue to inspire a return.
There's something about the combative combination of Superman and Batman that inexplicably gets the juices flowing. Yes, they're two of comicdom's biggest and oldest icons, but they don't naturally match-up well like Hulk and Thing, and lack the natural history of tension that a famous feud like that one was founded upon. Never the less, it's become a fond tradition to start the year with these two at each others throats, and I'm pleased to be doing it again with a comic as meta-textually relevant, and sincere, as this one.
I wound up with this issue over Christmas by accident, in a pull-list that was supposed to contain an easily misread #76. I wouldn't by any means call it a blessing of fate, but I'm glad to have stumbled into it. There's something very charming about a comic book that allows for this kind of diversion, playing upon an idea that's a common thread for comics readers of all ages, but is stitched naturally into the world of the DC Universe. One of my overruling philosophies about superheroes in the modern age is that, after nearly a century of this archetype, it starts to make sense without explanation. To that end, we have people dressing in costumes and fighting crime in the world as you read this now, in a none too subtle example of life imitating art imitating life. If it exists as long as these ideas have, they inevitably start to make sense to someone.
This particular story asks less of the reader, settling for a familiar scene of two kids debating the powers of their favourite hero. This duelling dialogue takes on a very plausible tone, perhaps thanks to the presence of Joe Kelly's son, Jack, who is creditted as co-writer. It seems this could've very easily been transcribed directly from a friendly discussion between father and son, bringing with it the hint of dad injecting undeniably cool moments into son's somewhat shallow script, like the final exchange between the heroes as they plummet toward Earth, and Batman punctuates his harsh victory with the foibles for self-destrution he and the rest of humanity possess. You get a sense, as Superman plays the back foot throughout the story, that perhaps papa played Batman throughout the scenario, but speculating about who wrote what is really beside the point.
This is a comic book that reminds me of my childhood, filled, as it was, with long bus rides, and a father who patiently and enthusiastically indulged in these types of conversations with me. It's a reminder that there's another audience that needs to be catered for, not just in a special cornered off cartoon-based imprint, but in widely available superhero comics. A fact I'm sure many motivated readers and parents are aware of, but something the rest of us can easily forget.
The artwork of Ed Benes, existing somewhere in the realm of a Jim Lee-esque DC mid-2000's house style, is perhaps the most vital component that separates the cartoon imprints from these "standard" in-universe comic. It's a design standard that represents the presumed middle ground of comics, which doesn't assume anything about a readers' comprehension, which was vital to my enjoyment reading comics at a young age. Combine that with the whimsy for insulated ideas and the recent shift to one issue stories, and Superman/Batman is a book worth acknowledging, in general. The cover looks like stock art that got some text slapped on it to explain away the commercial irrelevance, but other than that, it's a peach.
On [Benes]; I don't know that young readers would have the critical eye to note some ugly inconsistencies in Benes' faces and figures, or the sometimes shallow framing and storytelling his artwork exhibits, but when he's good, he's really quite. Every now and then, those Jim Lee comparisons seem eerily apt. There are a few tells that it isn't Lee, but the panel featured above almost feels as if it could've come straight out of For Tomorrow. Other times, I wish Benes had a bit more depth in the staging of his frames, and a few less awkward poses. This poster simplicity probably lends itself to a younger audience, but wouldn't become overcomplicated with a few improvements.
Cynics might grizzle about young Jack's easy ticket into a credit in a world filled with would-be writers, but I'm sure you won't find any of those people here. Cynicism is something Superman/Batman seems to have battled for quite some time, but ultimately, that audience has been swiftly defeated by the books total lack of cynicism. Even when Batman isn't locked in [Grant Morrison] high concepts and Superman remains Earthbound, there's an awful lot of books month-to-month starring these two characters, it's true, and Superman/Batman as a series has struggled to find it's purpose since it's much hyped launch in 2003. By wholly investing in these fanciful, single shot stories, I think the series comes up a winner, even if an issue like #78, bought instead of #76, is soon forgotten.
To the question of the comic -- Who would win?
Gus and Skyler, the two children in the story, decide the ultimate end of their debated fight would be too grim for either hero to be deemed winner. We here in The Comic Book Fight Club have the luxury of judging on a scale, however, and I simply couldn't ignore the fact that Batman holds the upperhand, right to their hypothetical demise. It's a result that will do little to end debate over which hero would win in a fight, but for now, it is another statistic noted by Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club.
The Fight: 5 The Story: 4 The Pictures: 4