With Batman and Superman currently battling each other on the big screen in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," there's no more fitting time to explore the history of the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight fighting each other in the world of comic books.
Surprisingly enough, for characters who had both been in continuous publication as soon as Batman joined Superman at National Comics (now DC Comics) in 1939, the two heroes did not have a traditional team-up with each other in a comic book for more than a decade. While they shared the pages of "All Star Comics" a couple of times with the Justice Society of America, these were hardly crossovers. One appearance was the briefest of cameos and the other was a typical JSA story of the era in which the heroes split up and had their own solo stories, only interacting in brief framing sequences. They also teamed up a number of times on "The Adventures of Superman" radio show.
This is by far the most common story element in Batman/Superman fights, and it has led to many of the most famous fights between the two over the years.
THEY PRETEND TO FIGHT
Another common theme in fights between Batman and Superman is that they only pretend to fight. This is the set-up for the famously bizarre "The Superman-Batman Split!" from 1968's "World's Finest Comics" #176 by Cary Bates and Neal Adams (the issue was later reprinted in the 1980s with a striking Ed Hannigan cover showing Batman pummeling Superman with kryptonite gloves). Batman and Superman each seemingly side with an alien who claims that a rival alien is evil and needs to be stopped. Oddly enough, Batgirl ends up joining forces with Superman while Supergirl sides with Batman. In the end, the aliens are revealed to be the same person, a dying actor who wanted to see if he could pull off the greatest acting performance of all-time. As it turns out, Superman and Batman knew it the whole time but decided to go along with it to be nice to the respected actor -- the guy was dying, after all).
THEY'RE NOT ACTUALLY FIGHTING EACH OTHER
POWER CORRUPTS BATMAN
A surprisingly common theme is Batman gaining superpowers and then going nuts once he gains them. This was used somewhat recently in "Handful of Dust" from 2012's "Batman: The Dark Knight" #5 by David Finch and Paul Jenkins, where a modified version of Scarecrow's fear venom gives Batman super strength and sets him against Superman.
Like Marvel's popular "What if...?" series, DC for years did "Imaginary Stories," where they could try out story ideas that would never fly in the "official" DC comic book continuity. The most famous example of a DC "imaginary story" was when Superman died in one of them in 1961's "Superman" #149, "The Death of Superman." So the World's Finest duo had their fair share of imaginary stories where they fought each other, as well.
STORIES SET IN A POSSIBLE FUTURE
SIZING EACH OTHER UP IN INITIAL MEETINGS
This is a common superhero trope, as superheroes often fight each other when they first meet, but hasn't showed up that often in Batman/Superman instances since they've known each other since the 1940s (even in their famous 1952 first team-up, it's pretty clear that they're both already familiar with each other). However, following "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and "Flashpoint," we were able to see two "first" meetings between the two.
JUST BLOWING OFF STEAM
INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US
This is also an "imaginary story," but I think it's a special case and deserves get its own category. "Injustice: Gods Among Us" is a popular video game from 2013 about a universe where Superman is driven insane after the Joker tricks him into murdering Lois Lane and others. Batman and some heroes and villains stand against him, with Batman eventually figuring out the only way to win was to bring in version of the heroes from other universes (more heroic ones). The game basically revolved around the concept of "Who would win? Batman or Superman?" There is a tie-in comic book series, first written by Tom Taylor and currently written by Brian Buccellato.
Which category do you think the conflict in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" fits into? Let us know in the comments!