August 23, 2013 10:35am PT by Graeme McMillan
When Bruce Met Clark: The Many Comic Book Origins of Superman/Batman
Well, now that we know that Ben Affleck will be the Batman to Henry Cavill's Superman, it's perhaps time to start thinking about what the first cinematic meeting of Superman and Batman will look like.
The dialogue read by Carl Lumbly at Comic-Con came from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, and depicted one of the final meetings between the characters, at which time the two were at odds and fighting for different takes on the American dream. The various comic book versions of their first meetings, however? Well, those are a little bit less violent.
Take, for example, the characters' very first "first meeting," from 1952's Superman #76. In "The Mightiest Team in the World," Superman and Batman meet when forced to share a cabin aboard a cruise liner while both are on vacation. The two -- who don't immediately hit it off -- initially try to hide their respective identities from one another, but as soon as danger threatens Lois Lane (also on the cruise, of course), they soon realize that -- hey! -- fighting crime is much more awesome with a friend, and an unbeatable team is born.
Six years later, World's Finest #94's "The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team" declared that, no, that wasn't the real first time that the heroes had worked together, and flashed back to a new first meeting that saw the heroes coming together much more amiably when Batman offers his assistance in dealing with Lex Luthor in case Superman had gotten bored with that whole "kryptonite is deadly to me" thing. It's a friendly first meeting that matches the cozy, safe tenor of the superhero comics of the time, but hardly something that Affleck and Cavill could sink their teeth into today.
Perhaps, then, "One Night in Gotham City" -- from 1986's Man of Steel #3 -- would be more suitable. After the history-revising Crisis on Infinite Earths series that celebrated DC's 50th anniversary, this story offered an all-new "first meeting" between Superman and Batman, with the Metropolis Marvel initially trying to arrest Batman -- who was, at the time, a mysterious vigilante with unknown allegiances, remember -- before the two teamed up to solve the case of museum curator-turned-jewel thief Magpie. At the end of the story, Batman looked wistfully at the sky as Superman flew away and thought to himself in ponderous word balloons, "A remarkable man, all things considered. Who knows? In a different reality, I might have called him 'friend.' " Who wouldn't want to hear that voiceover as Ben Affleck grimaced into midair?
This being comics, of course, that new new first meeting has been supplanted more than once in the last 27 years. It's been revealed that Bruce Wayne almost met Clark Kent when the two were kids, when Wayne's limousine was passing through Smallville because, well, I have no idea. Maybe Alfred is really, really bad at maps or something. Considering the amount of flashback material in Man of Steel, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a version of that nonmeeting made it into 2015's still-unnamed movie, with long, moody establishing shots of a limousine under cloudy skies and clotheslines filled with T-shirts fluttering in the wind.
In recent years -- and following the latest all-new, all-different continuity restart of 2011's New 52 reboot -- Superman and Batman have had not one, but two first meetings to choose from. The first, in 2011's Justice League #1, saw Batman and Green Lantern running afoul of a cocky, scrappy Superman whom they believed to be part of an alien invasion. A quick fight later -- Marvel Comics having successfully established the "First They Fight Because of a Misunderstanding, Then They Team Up for the Greater Good" formula in the 1960s, in case you were wondering -- the three formed the nucleus of the new Justice League.
Then, this year, it was apparently decided that the two needed another first meeting with which to launch their new Batman/Superman series. This latest first meeting is a somewhat confusing one: The two characters run into each other in their secret identities and don't really get on, but their first costumed meeting is interrupted by alternate world shenanigans where they end up meeting parallel Supermen and Batmen for reasons as yet unexplained (The storyline is still ongoing). Let's set this one aside from potential adaptation; for the sake of both budgets and audience comprehension, it might be better to skip introducing the multiverse as well as an all-new Batman in the next movie.
Of course, the actual plot of the Superman/Batman movie -- which, surely, should be called World's Finest after the comic the two characters shared for almost four decades, especially considering Warners' tendency to avoid naming movies after characters (with the exceptions of Green Lantern and Jonah Hex, both flops) -- won't exactly track to any one comic book story, just like Man of Steel was anything but an adaptation of the first appearance of Superman. But Man of Steel did incorporate many elements of existing Superman comics, so it's not impossible that the next movie will do the same. Is it too early to start chanting "Cruise Ship! Cruise Ship!" over and over again?