Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is here, stirring up all kinds of buzz, theories, and controversies concerning the first ever meeting of The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight in a live action film. But Batman and Superman have a very long history of coming to blows in both comic books and cartoons. Through their 75-year history, these two heroes have clashed multiple times due to misunderstandings, mind control, and just plain old anger toward one another. Since these two characters are easily the most iconic heroes in the world, both sides have their staunch supporters in this titanic battle.
But why should Batman and Superman fight in the first place? Both men are heroes and are often depicted as good friends, even though their temperaments and ideologies are often at cross purposes. Sure, they both pursue justice, protect millions of people, and refuse to kill their enemies, but Batman is a dark symbol of vengeance while Superman is a bright icon of hope. Their drastically different personalities are bound to lead to a metaphorical and sometimes physical clash.
Putting aside personal preferences, who would really win in a fight? Batman is a tactical genius with access to powerful technology through his wealth and intelligence. He’s the peak of what a human can be, even though he’s flawed and makes mistakes. Superman is an all-powerful alien who uses his incredible powers for the good of his adopted world. He may be an outsider, but he’s the symbol of what humanity can be. He is the ultimate immigrant who has taken on our ideals.
In all reality, Superman should beat Batman in a straightforward clash. After all, The Man of Steel can fly at the speed of sound, is invulnerable to most weapons, and is strong enough to topple mountains. But this is the world of superheroes, where anything can happen. As long as the writing is good enough, readers should be able to go along with these many battles and their various outcomes. Unfortunately, that is sometimes not the case.
So from the iconic to the downright lame, here’s a look at the many times Superman and Batman have fought each other over the decades, along with the deciding factor in their fights and who the true winner was in the end.
The Dark Knight Returns
When comic book fans think of The Man of Steel fighting The Dark Knight, many first think of the climactic battle of Frank Miller’s opus The Dark Knight Returns. It’s also the most heated topic of debate concerning these two iconic heroes fighting one another. In this future-set alternate reality, and older Batman and Superman fight when The Man of Steel is ordered to bring in the rogue Caped Crusader. The two men meet in Crime Alley (where Bruce’s parents were murdered) and clash. But Batman has a plan – he’s wearing powered armor to augment his strength and durability, has a sonic gun, shocks Superman with Gotham’s entire power grid, and smashes his foe after a timely Kryptonite attack from Green Arrow. And when he has Superman at his mercy, he tells him “I want you remember, Clark, in all the years to come, in your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you.” Then Batman dies of a heart attack. Or does he?
The Deciding Factor: Superman is majorly weakened. While Batman has the power armor, it’s more effective because Superman was caught in a nuclear blast previously and is eventually hit with a Kryptonite arrow.
The Winner: Batman, in likely his most decisive victory on the list.
This is one of the absolute best clashes between Batman and Superman in modern comic books. Not only does it highlight the tactical genius of Bruce Wayne, but the powerful combination of heart and power within Clark Kent. In the midst of an investigation into what enemy is attacking him from the shadows, Batman and Catwoman are attacked by Superman, who has been weakened by Kryptonite in order to be controlled by the villainous Poison Ivy. Bruce knows he can’t beat Superman, so he has to try everything he can to stall the raging Man of Steel and snap him out of the mind control. This includes zapping him with massive amounts of electricity and punching him with a Kryptonite ring (which almost breaks Batman’s hand). But it’s when Catwoman kidnaps Lois Lane and pushes her off a building that Superman’s trance is finally broken, as he had been trying to fight the mind control all along. This is a really perfect scenario showing how outmatched Batman is, and what a badass he is for still making it out alive.
The Deciding Factor: Batman may not have every piece he needs to stop Superman, but he understands Kal-El well enough to use his wits and quickly strategize his attack (and escape) plan.
The Winner: Batman. But it’s not as much of a complete win as it is a victory in bringing Superman to his senses and saving his own hide.
Superman: Red Son
Another parallel universe story that find Batman and Superman at each other’s throats, Superman: Red Son explores the concept of The Man of Steel landing in Soviet Russia as a baby. While Superman becomes the iconic soldier for the U.S.S.R., a version of Batman rises as a rebel dedicated to bringing down the government and its icon. Teamed with Lex Luthor, who is leading the U.S. against Russia, Batman traps Superman under solar lamps that simulate the red sun of Krypton in an old Siberian detention camp, which immediately robs the alien hero of all power. Batman then proceeds to beat the stuffing out of the dictator and plans to lock him away forever. But at the moment of victory, the Soviet-aligned Wonder Woman cuts the power generating the radiation at great cost to herself, leading Batman to blow himself up rather than be captured. It’s a moral victory.
The Deciding Factor: Superman is caught in a perfect trap by Batman, as the rules here make the red sunlight have a devastating effect on The Man of Soviet Steel. He’s basically helpless.
The Winner: Batman. He may have died in the end, but only because of outside interference. Plus, he made his point in the revolution against Superman.
Lex Luthor: Man of Steel
Get ready for Batman to take a whupping. This is the ultimate example of Batman being out of his league when it comes to fighting against the immensely powerful Superman. Convinced of the threat of Superman and given Kryptonite by Lex Luthor, Batman seeks to confront a newly active Superman. But Superman makes short work of his opponent. Using superbreath, he blows the Kryptonite out of Batman’s hand, grabs The Dark Knight, drags him into the sky, and drops him far below into an alleyway. Then he stops just short of punching through Batman’s head in order to show the hero how powerful, and good, he is. This is the most lopsided victory in their long history of battles.
The Deciding Factor: Batman is simply outclassed here, with the hero backpedaling from the very beginning of the confrontation and never getting a shot in on Superman.
The Winner: Superman, by a mile.
Batman/Superman – New 52
In the relaunch of the DC Comics Universe with The New 52, readers are given a new telling of the first time that Batman and Superman meet, and this one is a lot more complicated. Here, the two heroes are transported to Earth-2, where Batman and Superman have been heroes for far longer. While both are confronted with the older versions of their counterparts, it’s the younger Superman who ends up getting in a brawl with the older Batman. While Earth-2 Batman is equipped with a Kryptonite shield and lots of gadgets, young Superman actually rips right through the protection and proceeds to beat the hell out of Batman. In fact, he rages out and almost kills him, which is crazily out of character. But it’s still a major victory in the history of their fights. As for why they act like they’ve never met before when these two eventually meet in Justice League? They had their minds wipe at the end. That and poor editorial coordination in DC Comics.
The Deciding Factor: Having a younger and inexperienced Superman beat the hell out of an older and experienced Batman is shocking, and maybe a little too much, but it’s convincing.
The Winner: Superman, showing that the character can be way stronger than many think when fighting Batman.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again
In Frank Miller’s horrendous follow-up to The Dark Knight Returns, we find Batman and Superman once again coming to blows. Like the last time, Superman is ordered by the government to take down Batman, who is a threat to their interests. This time, Superman confronts The Dark Knight in the Batcave and things go even worse for The Man of Steel this time. Not only do more heroes attack Superman, with Green Arrow and The Atom giving him a serious beating, but Batman dons giant spiked Kryptonite gauntlets and beats the ever-living hell out of the hero. Then he tells him to get the hell out of his Batcave. Batman doesn’t even wear armor this time! He just turns Superman into a pulp without getting a scratch on him. Not only is this a ridiculous turn of events, but it’s an insult to both Superman fans and fans of The Dark Knight Returns.
The Deciding Factor: Kryptonite gauntlets are definitely a powerful weapon against Superman in any story or universe, but The Man of Steel is turned into a major chump by Miller here.
The Winner: No one. Especially not the fans.
Justice League – The New 52
The first confrontation between these two heroes in the modern rebooted incarnation of the DC Universe, we find an unprepared Batman pulling out all the stops to try and slow down Superman, who he doesn’t quite understand yet. During an investigation into an alien invasion while teamed up with Green Lantern, Batman encounters Superman, who quickly takes out his ring-wearing partner. While most of the fight isn’t shown on the page, it’s clear that Batman has used tasers, gas, and much more to try and stop The Man of Steel to zero effect. Then Superman grabs The Dark Knight and slams him into a wall, possibly not knowing that his opponent has no superhuman powers at all. An intervention from Green Lantern keeps the fight going, but Batman ends things by talking to Superman and knowing that the hero won’t actually kill anyone. Smart move. This fight is shown in completion in the animated movie Justice League: War, but Superman comes off like a huge jerk who almost kills Batman.
The Deciding Factor: This is the first time Batman and Superman meet, meaning that Batman is way underprepared and absolutely nothing he has can affect The Man of Steel, who shrugs off his gadgets and immobilizes The Dark Knight.
The Winner: Definitely Superman.
Superman: The Trust
In this short story, Superman is barreling through Metropolis, seemingly have gone mad. With countless lives on the line, it’s up to Batman to stop his ally. So The Dark Knight latches onto Superman’s leg with his cable line to try and get him to come to his senses. But when nothing is working, Robin finds out that it’s an alien high frequency signal driving the hero insane. That’s when Batman pulls out a gun (surprise!) with a Kryptonite dart entrusted to him by The Man of Steel in case he were to ever be turned into a weapon by his enemies. Breaking his rule to never use a gun, Batman plugs Superman in the back with the Kryptonite weapon in order to immobilize him, not kill him. Then he pulls it out,takes his chance to remove the signal generator, and save his friend. Together, they take down Braniac, who caused it all. These two are perfect together.
The Deciding Factor: This is a major feat for Batman, as he manages to hold onto a raging flying Superman and takes him down. However, that Kryptonite dart was entrusted to him by Kal-El, so it comes back to Superman giving him the advantage.
The Winner: The Superman/Batman bromance. And how sweet it is.
Batman/Superman: World’s Finest
While The Dark Knight and The Man of Steel mostly team up throughout the runtime of the three-part animated feature World’s Finest, they do compete and even come to blows during this wonderful story set in the DC Animated Universe. In their first ever meeting, Superman interrupts Batman as he beats information out of some gangsters in a Metropolis nightclub. While Batman judo flips Superman, much to the hero’s surprise, The Man of Steel retaliates with a vicious shoulder check. Although it doesn’t come to more blows, the two do their best to get the other to back down, with Batman eventually pulling out a piece of kryptonite and shoving it in Superman’s face. It’s meant to show that The Joker has a ton more of the stuff, but it’s also meant to give Batman the upper hand. Of course, Superman uses his x-ray vision to see it’s Bruce Wayne under the cowl. Touché.
The Deciding Factor: Kryptonite in the face combined with a Superman who is far less powerful than his comic book and movie counterparts results in a much more favorable result for The Dark Knight.
The Winner: A draw. Neither man backs down and both discover each other’s secret identities. Plus, they eventual come to an understanding and team up!
Justice League: Tower of Babel
Not quite a battle between the two heroes, but a result of Batman’s schemes against The Man of Steel should they ever come to blows. Here, it’s discovered that The Dark Knight has created contingency plans to take down every member of The Justice League should any of them ever turn into a villain. But when his plans are stolen by Ra’s al Ghul, they are put into effect against each member to take them down simultaneously so the supervillain can carry out his schemes without interference from the superhero group. Superman in particular gets the short end of the stick, as he’s exposed to artificial red kryptonite, which painfully turns his skin transparent to rob him of sunlight absorption and temporarily strip the hero of power.
The Deciding Factor: This is a sneak attack against an entire Justice League unsuspecting of their impending defeat, so Superman didn’t have the chance to fight back.
The Winner: Ra’s al Ghul
Batman: The Brave and The Bold – “Battle of the Superheroes”
Next up in the animated battles between DC Comics’ greatest heroes, the clash in this episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold has Batman go up against an evil Superman under the influence of red kryptonite. It’s all the result of Lex Luthor exposing The Man of Steel to the stuff in order to turn him bad and ruin his reputation, as the results turn Superman into a tyrant who tries to take control of Metropolis. But Batman finds out the cause and is determined to stop Superman from wreaking havoc during the 24-hour period of inverted personality. So the hero suits up in power armor reminiscent of The Dark Knight Returns and battles Superman with the aid of Krypto the Superdog. It’s an all-out brawl in the streets of Metropolis that pays homage to the classic comic book, Silver Age Superman tales, the “Destroyer” episodes of Justice League Unlimited¸ and much much more.
The Deciding Factor: Batman from The Brave and The Bold is way more powerful than any other incarnation, combined with his power armor, he can take on Superman successfully. At least temporarily.
The Winner: A draw, as Batman was only trying to prevent Superman from doing any more harm until the red kryptonite wore off. But he was almost killed by The Man of Steel in the process.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Set in a parallel universe where Superman has been pushed over the edge and decided to rule the world with an iron fist, the rogue Man of Steel invariably comes up against Batman. But this really doesn’t go well for The Dark Knight. Finally fed up with his efforts to fight back, Superman breaks into the Batcave and confronts Batman in his home. After some tense words, Superman reveals that he’s there to end the threat of The Dark Knight to his totalitarian regime. Not by killing, but by breaking his back over his knee in a scene echoing the spinal attack committed by Bane in the Knightfall storyarc. This really isn’t much of a fight, as Batman barely has a moment to react and can’t do anything once in the clutches of Superman. But an unexpected combatant comes to his aid – Alfred, jacked up on a pill that temporarily gives super strength. He beats the hell out of Superman and makes him run for his life.
The Deciding Factor: This is a Superman who is not holding back, unlike most of the other fights.
The Winner: Alfred. What a legend.
The latest in the battles between these heroes, the fight in Batman: Endgame is the result of The Justice League being poison by The Joker’s toxin and set against Batman. But Batman is ready, having armored up in his Justice Buster Armor, which is designed to take down each member. Of course, it’s Superman who gives him the most trouble, as he’s by far the most powerful. The anti-Superman portion of the armor uses miniature red suns in the gauntlets, which help weaken The Man of Steel and make every punch far more effective. However, the Kyptonian hero is still able to rip apart the suit, grab Batman, and fly him up above the ocean. But Batman has one last ace up his sleeve – a piece of gum laced with kryptonite dust, which he chews up and spits into The Man of Steel’s eyes. It finally takes him down, leading to a splash landing in Gotham Harbor.
The Deciding Factor: This is maybe the most preparation that Batman has had out of any of these fights, with both the armor and the gum showing how ready he is, and how powerful Superman really is.
The Winner: Batman – a clear but hard fought victory.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
The first ever live action showdown between Batman and Superman is caused by Batman’s paranoia and Lex Luthor’s interference. Having decided that Superman is a threat that must be permanently stopped, Batman throws all of his resources into fighting his alien adversary. That includes designing a strength-boosting power armor and arming himself with Kryptonite weapons. Superman, however, is forced to fight Batman due to Lex Luthor holding his mother hostage and threatening the Man of Steel with her death should he not kill Batman. Taking heavy inspiration from The Dark Knight Returns, Batman springs multiple traps against Superman and blasts him with multiple Kryptonite gas grenades, which temporarily soften him up for a big beating. Putting Superman through the ringer, Batman wields a Kryptonite spear, which he prepares to drive through his opponent’s heart. But Superman’s pleas concerning his mother and Lois Lane’s intervention stop Batman from killing him.
The Deciding Factor: Batman has discovered Superman’s weakness – Kryptonite – before The Man of Steel realizes what this material could actually do to him. Combined with his power armor and Superman’s hesitance to fight, Batman is in charge for most of this battle.
The Winner: A draw, but Batman could have killed Superman before he came to his senses.
Have your own favorite Superman/Batman fight? Let me know in the comments below!