For three quarters of a century, two of the most famous superheroes of all time have shared a relationship that at its best resembles the height of fraternal allegiance, and at its worst the depths of aggressive antagonism Though they couldn’t be more different from one another in personality, world views, and aesthetic, they also share common bonds of being orphaned at young ages, coping with loss, and abandonment. Their life experiences shaped them into the men they are today, and set them up to be each other’s cautionary tales as well as inspirations. In the recent Zack Snyder film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the two superheroes spent the what feels like the most time together on-screen in cinematic history, trying to pummel the other unrecognizable. The film showed them feeding on the insecurities, fears, and doubts each of them had towards the other, and a maniacal Lex Luthor manipulating them into a combat that never needed to happen.
In the ‘30s and ‘40s, Batman and Superman were the World’s Finest Team, fighting crime and rescuing kittens up trees. But as the decades dragged on and urban decay blighted the country from several wars and conflicting agendas, comic readers wanted grittier storylines that reflected the times they were living in. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns ushered in a storyline where Batman and Superman lived in a dystopian future, and were enemies, not chummy friends. From then on, their relationship would wax and wane. Due to the nonsensical conflict that often arose (or dissipated) on a writer’s whim, many aspects of their relationship have never made sense.
19 THEY FIGHT OVER WANTING THE EXACT SAME THING
Batman and Superman come from different backgrounds, and their different life experiences have dramatically shaped their world views. Batman believes fear and intimidation are the only way to bring criminals to justice, and Superman believes hope and setting a good example accomplishes the same thing.
Ever the pessimist, Batman’s tragic childhood makes him believe there is no good in the world, and criminals must be scared into reform. Superman, ever the optimist, believes the world is inherently good, and that criminals can change their ways if one leads by example and inspires them to be better. They bicker and fight about each other’s methods, when they both simply want the same thing; a better world free of crime, though neither of them will admit it.
18 SUPERMAN IS A HYPOCRITE
When Bruce Wayne lost his parents as a young boy, he discovered too early that the world was a tough and unfeeling place. It was better to be self reliant and have fewer emotional attachments, because they were only ever used against you to break your spirit. This led to Batman becoming an isolated loner that was very mistrustful, something which Superman gave him no end of grief for.
Despite ridiculing Batman for his trust issues, Superman was the one to present him with a kryptonite ring because he didn’t trust himself not to be used as a weapon of evil. It follows that Superman can be just as mistrustful of the world as Batman, he just won’t express it openly.
17 MIND CONTROL AND ALTERNATE UNIVERSES
Contrary to the belief of casual fans, Superman and Batman don’t actually fight all that much. Only around the circumstances of "Infinite Crisis" and storylines like "Hush" and in The Dark Knight Returns does their egos get the better of them and they can’t reconcile their different world ideologies.
Most of the time, it simply boils down to a case of mind control, such as when Superman was under the command of Poison Ivy, or because they’re in an alternative universe/reality where they’ve become enemies (like in Red Son). Their mutual respect for one another is apparent in the numerous storylines where they’re best friends with no animosity.
16 THEY’RE OFTEN DEPICTED AS “BEST FRIENDS”
Batman and Superman’s friendship was a byproduct of the Gold and Silver age of comics, when Batman was a plucky Caped Crusader and Superman was a smiling do-gooder, both committed to fighting crime, and rescuing kittens from trees. They were depicted as best of friends in those days, until the post-war pep of the ‘40s fell to the urban decay of the ‘70s, and comic readers wanted grittier storylines.
After The Dark Knight Returns, Batman wanted to end Superman for being a government puppet trying to curtail his vigilante spree against the dystopian chaos that had engulfed Gotham. After that, their animosity only intensified in other storylines, without explaining how their relationship had deteriorated in the first place from its previous happy go lucky state.
15 THEY BOTH BOND OVER THEIR MOTHER’S NAME
Right after pummeling the crap out of each other in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, when Superman is on the verge of demise at Batman’s hands, Clark makes mention of the one thing that will put an end to the beatdown -- Superman’s mother has the same name as his mother.
This wasn’t something made up for the movie; both Superman and Batman’s mother is named “Martha”, and for some reason this fact makes them bond. Batman and Superman were created at almost the same time in the ‘30s, with Batman being far less dark than he is now, and resembling a Superman clone, so the fact that their mothers share the same name was never intended to be a pillar of their friendship.
14 THEY’RE BOTH JEALOUS OF EACH OTHER
Though Batman and Superman come from different backgrounds, many of their life experiences are the same, causing them to walk parallel, yet divergent paths. Batman was deprived of his parent’s love early on in life, so he’s jealous that Superman grew up with love and affection from his Earth parents. Superman has incredible abilities, so he’s jealous that Batman became the superhero he is on his own merit despite not having the privileges of superpowers.
Both of them are jealous of each other and what each of them has or doesn’t have (though they’d never admit it). This jealousy has led them to be scared of each other, when they should be celebrating their differences and bonding over their commonalities.
13 THEY BECOME ENEMIES FOR LAME REASONS
The Dark Knight Returns, probably one of the most famous comic book series of all time, helped lay the groundwork for the dark and brooding take on Batman that we enjoy today. Its storyline also featured Superman as a lackey of the leader of a dystopian future, who was so threatened by Batman’s brand of vigilante justice that he sent Superman to end him.
It inspired the storyline for Batman v Superman, but in that film it’s Lex Luthor that pits Superman against Batman. Superman only agrees to fight Batman because Luthor will kill his mother, and Batman only wants to fight Superman because he believes Superman is irresponsible with his powers.
12 BATMAN DOESN’T TRUST SUPERMAN
Though he appears very human, Superman is a celestial being from the planet Krypton. His entire planet was destroyed, but before that happened, his parents put him in an escape pod and jettisoned him to Earth, where he grew up thinking he was just like everyone else. That is, until Earth’s yellow sun started granting him super strength, speed, and a full range of incredible superpowers.
Batman has always been skeptical of Superman’s gifts, in part out of jealousy, but mostly due to the fact that if handled irresponsibly, Superman’s powers would have the means to destroy all of mankind. Judging Superman just because he’s different and doesn’t “understand how the world works” deprives him of taking responsibility for his actions and his integrity.
11 BATMAN IS A HYPOCRITE
One of the biggest points of contention between Batman and Superman is their approach to use of force. Batman believes that Superman is too destructive and dangerous because his superpowers often means catastrophic, flying battles with other super beings. Batman feels he should be more responsible with the collateral damage he causes.
All this, coming from a vigilante superhero who has no qualms about employing excessive displays of force to catch criminals. Though he has a "no kill" policy, it never stops Batman from frequently beating an enemy to within an inch of his life. Batman comes off looking like an uninformed hypocrite whenever he chastises Superman for any level of force he displays.
10 THEIR IDENTITIES SHOULD'VE NEVER BEEN SECRET
When Batman and Superman first met, it was as superheroes long overdo for a vacation from crimefighting. While on a cruise ship, they get double booked for the same room, and even have to sleep in the same bed. They end up inevitably fighting some bad guys on the deck anyway, but not before discovering each other’s secret identities.
In other reiterations of that fateful story, or in other storylines since, they aren’t always aware of each other’s identity or even existence. In Batman v Superman, for instance, Clark Kent purports not to know who Bruce Wayne is at all, and as the World Greatest Detective, Batman should know that Clark Kent is Superman without seeing past the black glasses.
9 THEY COMPETE FOR NO REASON
Though it’s awesome to read about superheroes constantly saving the day, the repeated success and winning by super powered beings can get repetitive and dull. And with so many superheroes to choose from, readers naturally start to wonder who would come out on top if a competitive edge was introduced.
Since Batman began his crimefighting career as basically a depowered Superman, it seemed at first glance he couldn’t compete with the Man of Steel in any real way. But comic book publishers discovered they sold more issues with two heroes depicted as fighting on the covers, so storylines were fabricated so brutal covers could be drawn and pull readers in who wanted to see if Batman would ever get the upper hand one day.
8 EVEN THEIR KIDS DISLIKE EACH OTHER
"What if?" storylines are what comic writers like to use to explore different aspects of a superhero’s life separate from their main narrative arc. They often take place in other dimensions, universes, or alternate realities, and can get as crazy as they want because they don’t affect the superhero’s legacy in any impactful way.
One of these storylines consisted of Batman and Superman having sons who were basically miniature versions of themselves, and were rivals for the exact same reasons as their fathers (which is to say, for no good reason). It wasn’t necessary and didn’t contribute anything to the Batman/Superman relationship.
7 BATMAN THREATENS GOTHAM TO GET SUPERMAN TO BACK DOWN
Sometimes in life, people have to go to extremes to make others see their way of thinking. In one of the most ironic situations ever to come out of the Batman universe, Batman actually threatened to detonate a bomb (that he didn’t set) that would hurt hundreds of innocent citizens of Gotham because Superman was criticizing his methods of crimefighting.
It was so important to Batman to shut Superman up that he actually suggested letting the bomb simply go off to prove his point that sometimes, his brand of vigilante justice was necessary. Of course, Superman wouldn’t have allowed it to happen, but it was an unnecessary fissure in their relationship.
6 THEY SHOULD TEAM UP MORE BUT THEIR EGOS PREVENT IT
In the Gold and Silver Ages, when Bats and Supes were known was the World’s Finest Team, Action Comics saw them in many chummy adventures. Though they acted joined at the hip, it wasn’t frequent, and over the years they each had guest spots in each other’s storylines rather than the level of partnership they used to have.
Currently they enjoy a mutual respect and friendship, but in the past writers decided that their hypertrophied egos wouldn’t allow them to cooperate. A lot of great storylines could have benefited from each other’s presence but they weren’t on speaking terms so comic fans were continuously denied.
5 THEY GO ON DOUBLE DATES
One of the oddest developments to come out of the current era of self-awareness in comics is Batman and Superman going on double dates. In the current Batman: Rebirth comics, which spans his courtship of Selina Kyle and subsequent engagement, they go to a street carnival and meet up with Superman and Lois Lane. Since you have to be in costume to enter, Superman dons Batman’s super suit and Batman dons his for a bit of role-reversing shenanigans.
They all chat about what it’s like fighting crime and saving the world like it’s completely normal, and t’s surreal to witness superheroes in everyday situations somehow still guarding themselves from having true heart to hearts about topics that matter.
4 BATMAN PICKED SUPERMAN TO BE HIS BEST MAN
After spending so much buddy time together during the course of Batman: Rebirth, when it came time for Batman to choose a best man after getting engaged to Selina Kyle, he chose Superman. While it’s not particularly odd that he considered him, he chose him over Dick Grayson, his former partner and original Robin.
It’s a bit like choosing a coworker to be your best man versus your best friend. And while Superman and Batman have had their moments of friendship and mutual respect, the deep connection Batman had with Dick Grayson (whom he helped raise as a teenager) should mean more than having the added security of Superman being your best man.
3 SUPERMAN JUDGES BATMAN’S WIFE
If Batman can marry someone who he once considered an enemy, you would think that Superman, ever the optimist, would be supportive of the union. Granted, Catwoman isn’t the same sort of villain that is included in Batman’s rogues gallery, but she hasn’t always been the anti-hero she’s considered today.
Catwoman was a criminal, even if she wasn’t a particularly malicious one. Also, Superman doesn’t let Batman forget it, constantly asking him how he can marry someone that used to be a thief. It’s atypical of Superman’s perspective, but it does make Batman look like he finally favors reform over vengeance, at least when it comes to love.
2 BATMAN IS PARANOID ABOUT SUPERMAN’S COUSIN
In a similar fashion to how Superman came to Earth, an escape pod bearing a young female Kryptonian came to Earth and was revealed to be Superman’s cousin. Kara Zor-El grows up as part of a foster family similar to Superman’s, and begins to discover that she too gets superpowers from Earth’s yellow sun.
Even though she pledges herself to the same pursuit of justice and worldly protection that Superman does, she is under Batman’s constant surveillance. Having two Kryptonians on planet Earth makes him suspicious, and there have been times he considered her just the beginning of an alien invasion.
1 BATMAN GIVES SUPERMAN RUN OF THE BAT CAVE
Despite being skeptical and suspicious of the Last Son of Krypton’s powers and intentions on Earth, Batman has in the past given Superman run of the Bat Cave. The Man of Steel can come and go as he pleases, and doesn’t have to ask permission to enter.
This doesn’t entirely make a lot of sense given Batman’s paranoid nature, especially since enemies of Superman and Batman haven’t been mutually exclusive. The Joker and Lex Luthor have been known to collaborate from time to time. Tracking the one to the other’s headquarters would allow them to capture two for the price of one.