In honor of the upcoming release of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC Comics News is proud to present Countdown To Batman V Superman; a look at the history of these 2 iconic legends right before they meet for the first time on the big screen. As we anxiously await for their matchup on the silver screen, Staff Writer JC Alvarez takes us to the genesis of the relationship between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight — in comic books.
They are the mettle by which all others are measured, Superman and Batman — the World’s Finest heroes — have always lead the charge for truth, justice and will hopefully rake in a box office hit when they come face-to-face on the big-screen at the “Dawn of Justice” later this month.
Since the golden era of comics Superman and Batman have been held up as the standard by which all others would be compared. The heroes aspired to carry the banner and lead the charge for generations with their adventure stories taking on costumed criminals, mobsters and the sometime space invader. The two would ultimately team up in the 1940s as the headliners of DC Comics World’s Finest quarterly.
Inspired by the duo’s previous pairing which was published in the specially released New York World’s Fair Comic of 1940, the format was revisited for Issue #1 of World’s Best Comics but the title was modified to the now iconically more familiar “World’s Finest”. An anthology series that also featured other DC heroes, Superman and Batman sported the covers, but appeared inside the tome in separate adventures.
The 96-page quarterly format was modified in the 1950s after superhero comics became less popular among the readership. It was then that the anthology series shifted to a single story in a paired down publication and finally teamed up its titular heroes in a shared action story. In the 1950s, the World’s Finest team-up took on the combined efforts of arch-enemies Lex Luthor and the Joker, and even spawned a new nemesis the Composite Superman.
The stories went back and forth from the usual crime capers, to the more extreme escapades that found Superman and Batman swapping minds or power base, and Robin, the Boy Wonder often featured prominently in each issue. The early issues also prominently placed other “Golden Age” heroes including Zatara, Sandman and supporting players like Perry White and Lois Lane.
Though Superman and Batman both kept their mantles at the top of the DC Comics pantheon, respectfully teaming up along other major players as part of the Justice League of America, in the 1970s World’s Finest featuring Superman would rotate its roster.
World’s Finest became the publishing imprint’s monthly team-up title and brought Superman together with legends of tomorrow including the Teen Titans, Hawkman, Green Arrow, and still others, before returning to the tried and true tested team-up that started it all. Often times, series writers were given creative freedom within the anthology format of the series and weren’t bogged down with sticking to mainstream continuity.
This allowed for some unique pairings and “what-if?” style narratives that included original full-length stories introducing the sons of Superman and Batman, or expanded on canon by introducing characters that would play major roles in future stories, like Thomas Wayne, Jr. the older brother to Bruce. Thomas Wayne, Jr. would in contemporary DC Comics continuity have a significant part in the revelations leading to the discovery of the Court of Owls.
As a series World’s Finest lasted well into the 80s navigating between a quarterly magazine, a monthly book and later an 80-page “dollar comic” one of the first to join the expanded format published by DC Comics and sold for one dollar. The series featured many spotlight moments including one of the greatest superhero “mash-ups” — practically every hero under the sun — fighting alongside Superman and Batman, and the greatest talents in comics.
Superman and Batman would hold the title as the imprint’s “World’s Finest” well into the new millennium. The popular animated series that predated the phenomenon that became Justice League can credit its inception with the 1997 three-part story that teamed-up Superman and Batman in the Superman: Animated Series. The story arc was entitled “World’s Finest” and was released as a movie on DVD.
These two legends and unlikely best friends would be eternally intertwined and perhaps would never be more at their finest then when Frank Miller faced them against each other in his revolutionary epic Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Proof that their camaraderie was so deep, their loyalty so strong, that in order to give the world its Dark Knight, the Man of Steel conspires with his friend in a “fight to the death” turning Batman into a martyr.
Superman and Batman are dimensionally so vital to one another, and only stronger when seismically paired alongside Wonder Woman — the final component to the mythic trinity — that they’ve ascended to the level of modern day mythology, holding court at the center of a pantheon of characters that inspired the DC Universe. They are the template for all that follow. Soon the world’s finest will find themselves on the big screen in the blockbuster showdown of the season.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will finally see these two titans together, facing one another in combat before joining forces against a common foe. The film was intended as a sequel to director Zack Snyder’s reboot of the Superman mythology Man of Steel and was teased in 2013 at San Diego Comic-Con. Before the film’s proper title was announced, many fans speculated and even hoped that it would carry on the tradition and in fact be subtitled: World’s Finest.
Instead the film will be the jumping point for the cinematic DC Comics Universe and introduce the “dawn” of the Justice League establishing Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and others into the larger big-screen world. The “World’s Finest” mantle will be adopted though (again) for the small screen as it will be the title of an upcoming episode of the CBS television series Supergirl that will crossover and team-up primetime’s two title heroes and finally answer who’s faster The Flash or the Maid of Might!
So with fans holding their breath and in great anticipation for the larger than life collaboration that will finally put Batman and Superman together without a doubt, with 75 years of mythic storytelling under each of their belts, undoubtedly these two icons — Batman and Superman — will always stand apart, appealing to our greatest sense of wonder. Whether battling side by side, against one another, taking on Lex Luthor and the Joker, or facing doomsday, the Last Son of Krypton and the Dark Knight will always represent the best of the best. The world’s finest indeed.