SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers from Superman #4 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Alex Sinclair and Josh Reed, on sale now.
We all have that one friend. We may love them like a sibling, but at times, we still want to strangle them as though they were our worst enemy. Sure, we would unhesitatingly follow that one friend into battle, and then argue while fighting back-to-back. Nobody -- and we mean nobody -- hurts that one friend... unless it's us. Yes, we all have that one friend... including Superman.
In the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths era, Superman and Batman were best buds; constantly fighting by each other’s side, they were even labeled the "World’s Finest" team. After Crisis, the close friendship was retconned away, with the only commonality between the two being that they fought on the same side of the law. Over time, the duo again gradually became closer, and come Rebirth, the pair are steadfast friends again – albeit with some very stark and open differences.
In Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis’ Superman #4, Superman professes the differences he and Batman overcome to his son Jon, as part of a lesson on how to deal with conflict. Kal tells his son “I want to pop Batman’s head off his body every day I’m alive.” Ouch! That hardly seems like something to confide in your kid about your best friend.
Of course, Superman wouldn’t actually do such a thing, and that’s his point. He calls Batman his brother, and goes on to tell Jon that ultimately, Batman “turns around and does the greatest thing I’ve ever seen anyone ever do.” Whatever annoyance Batman might serve up to Superman, Kal knows enough to take a breath, give it some time, and wait for the reminder of how great his friend really is. That’s Superman’s secret to dealing with the burden of being Batman’s best friend: treat him like a passing rain shower, and wait for the sun to shine.
As Superman says to Jon, “Hey, it’s Batman. Wait five minutes.”
There’s no other way for two such disparately different friends to treat each other, really. Superman, after all, is the big blue boy scout – he rescues kittens from trees, can stop a riot with a stare, and is a messiah-like inspiration for others. Batman on the other hand, is the Dark Knight, and maintains order through fear. He can stop a riot, too – with a few well-placed punches and smoke bombs... and probably with his own stare. If there’s a kitten to be rescued, well, he’ll just let Superman handle that kind of thing.
Friends or not – it’s impossible for Batman not to annoy Superman on a daily basis.
To be fair, Superman’s kitten-saving ways and his eternally bright, optimistic view of the world probably drive the always brooding and already-driven Batman to the brink of fisticuffs, as well. The fact that the two don't engage in more frequent battles is a testament to their unwavering dedication to heroism.
And that’s why they’re friends – the two men might not have much in common, but with such a fundamental similarity, it would be hard to not have such a strong bond. Sure, the two might bicker about how to dispatch a threat, but they will always stand united in the fight to end it.
Just don’t put a kitten in the way.