The world waits with bated breath for the opening of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” on March 25.
The Dark Knight meets the Man of Steel for the first time in a live-action film, and it looks to be a brawl for the ages.
And that got me thinking. How did the comics – you know, the source material for just about every blockbuster film keeping the major studios afloat these days – handle the first meeting of DC’s greatest titans?
What threat could possibly be dire enough to bring the two champions of justice together?
The Anti-Monitor? Darkseid? The Joker and Lex Luthor together?
Would you believe … a cruise ship vacation?
Hop in the wayback machine for “Superman” No. 76, “The Mightiest Team in the World,” cover date July-August 1952.
Yes, even though both had been around since the late 1930s – and dominated the superhero genre – the Superman and Batman had only “met” on cover illustrations for “World’s Finest” and in cameos in “All Star Comics.”
At last, writer Edmond Hamilton would team the heroes together in one story (with art by Curt Swan and John Fischetti) in a story you just have to love.
It’s just so darn screwy.
Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter alter ego of the Last Son of Krypton, decides he needs a break from crime-fighting – and books a cruise.
Unfortunately, as Clark discovers, the ship is overbooked and he’ll have to bunk with this Bruce Wayne chap.
Now as a fellow journalist for a major metropolitan daily, I can relate to Clark’s problem. I can’t count the number of times I’ve taken a trip and been forced to room with a millionaire. Why, actually, yes, I can count the number of times. Hang on. … Add the five and the seven. … Carry the two …
Zero. Zero times I’ve been forced into close quarters with a millionaire.
That’s because reporters, then and now, make less than pigeons. And millionaires like Bruce Wayne would book an entire cruise deck and would absolutely be the last ones forced to room with one of the unwashed peasants.
And while Clark has a reason for not wanting to make a fuss, lame as it is, what’s Bruce’s excuse?
But if Bruce actually acted like an entitled moneybags, we wouldn’t have a story.
But evil rears its head, as it is wont to do, even on cruise ships. Our heroes must go into action – but how to get into costume and preserve their secret identities?
Superman can fly so fast, he’s practically invisible. Batman can toss a smoke capsule into the trash can, scream fire and depart in the confusion.
Either one can make an excuse and leave the cabin.
No. They turn out the lights and change in the dark.
This is their great plan for fooling each other.
I’m starting to worry about these guys. Just how did they manage to foil the likes of Brainiac and the Riddler all these years? Let’s watch this play out:
The two quickly agree to keep each other’s identity secret, and they remain cabinmates as they hunt for a crook. Also on board: Meddlesome girl reporter Lois Lane. Superman comes up with a plan that proves why so many consider Batman the brains of the operation: Batman can distract Lois by pretending to be interested in her.
Lois overhears and decides to play them both by pretending to fall for Batman, thus prompting Superman to reveal his top-secret power: Super passive-aggressiveness. “I’ve saved you 100 times, but you seem to have forgotten about that!” he snits.
I’m beginning to suspect Hamilton drew his inspiration from “I Love Lucy.”
And that’s not even my favorite moment in this terrific tale. My favorite moment comes when the thief makes his getaway from the boat into the air, and Superman decides to help his new pal by throwing him at the helicopter.
Because just picking him up and flying after the copter is not nearly as suspenseful as waiting to see if the Caped Crusader is accidentally sliced to bat-bits.
Evil is thwarted. Lois’ suspicions about Clark are denied when Bruce masquerades as him – just the first of about eleventy billion times the two dress up as the other.
For over 30 years, in the pages of “World’s Finest,” Superman and Batman were the models of friendship to readers. These two different men, one practically a god, the other a talented mortal, saw the best in each other. Their friendship enriched their lives and was perhaps the most powerful weapon in their arsenal against evil. No matter the threat – aliens, Lois, Red Kryptonite, Lois, aliens hopped up on Red Kryptonite, Lois – they were there for each other, without question.
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” pretty much eradicated that, although I would be willing to bet their friendship was not one of the casualties Marv Wolfman had in mind when he penned that classic.
Friendship was too much of a relic from the Silver Age. In this dark age, heroes innately distrust one another. Fisticuffs is always the first resort.
I can’t help thinking we’ve lost something special.