This Friday, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens in theaters, giving movie-goers the opportunity to see an epic battle between Bats (Ben Affleck) and Supes (Henry Cavill) play out on the big screen.
But wait – aren’t Batman and Superman friends? They are, for the most part, and in their long history on the comics page they’ve worked together more often than not, even becoming friends despite their different outlooks on the world. (Superman is a boy scout, while Batman is a crazy rich guy who dresses like a bat. So there you go.) However, circumstances have pitted them against each other from time to time, simply because fans can get enough of seeing these two powerhouses complete to find out who’s bigger, better, stronger, cooler, etc.
While it’s not an exhaustive list, we’ve rounded up nine instances where the two superheroes have previously fought (in one sense or another), just to see who’s won more often. Place your bets, folks.
Superman Vol. 1, No. 76 (1952)
The first team-up between the two occurred more than a decade after the heroes debuted – and yes, that does seem oddly late, when you think about it. When they finally did it was decidedly not epic. The story has both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent booking a cruise. Due to a strange overcrowding issue, they’re forced to share both a room and even fight over the bed – which they eventually share. They solve a crime, sure, but can we focus on the fact that Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent shared a bed on a cruise ship?
The winner: We’ll call this one a draw … a very weird draw that ends with Lois Lane accepting a date with Robin.
Batman, er, Superman, er Iron Man to the Rescue! The Best Superhero Saves Ever
World’s Finest Vol. 1, No. 151 (1965)
A device that can de-evolve or super-evolve people turns Superman into a bearded, club-toting caveman and Batman into a bald, superbrained man of the future. No, really. And no, the two don’t get along so well.
The winner: Superman, who despite being rendered dumb manages to trick superbrain Batman into de-evolving himself, ridding him of both his future smarts and his evil schemes.
Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane No. 89 (1969)
Not every victory need be the result of a fistfight. In this comic, Bruce Wayne sweeps in and captures the heart of Lois Lane, who is all too happy to find someone to love after Superman skips out on one too many dates to fight crime. The real kicker: Lois marries Bruce not even realizing his secret identity, whereas Lois previously had eyes for Superman but not Clark Kent.
The winner: Batman, because he got Superman in the one spot he’s not invulnerable – his heart.
Man of Steel Vol. 1, No. 3 (1986)
After a DC Comics-wide reboot of sorts, Batman and Superman meet for the first time (again), when the former is pursuing the supervillain Magpie and the latter intrudes because he believes Batman is a dangerous outlaw vigilante. Batman’s solution for keeping Superman off his tail? Telling him that he’s activated a bomb that will go off, killing someone in the city, should Superman get too close. It works, and at the end of the story, Batman reveals that the person in question was himself. They leave wondering if they could have been friends in a different reality.
The winner: Batman, who put Superman in his place, even if he did it in a really creepy, underhanded manner.
Batman No. 612 (2003)
Superman falls under the thrall of that sexy plant lady, Poison Ivy, and Batman and Catwoman team up to beat him back to his senses. While Batman employs a series of weapons against Superman – including a Kryptonite ring Supes had given him for just such an occasion – Catwoman drops Lois Lane off the top of a skyscraper, knowing that the Man of Steel’s love for Lois (and his need to rescue her) is the one thing that can truly break Poison Ivy’s spell.
The winner: Batman, if only because Superman helped out in advance by foreseeing this kind of thing happening.
Superman: Red Son Vol. 1, No. 2 (2003)
In an alternate dimension, the pod that carried baby Superman to Earth landed not in Smallville, Kansas, but in Soviet Russia. He becomes an iron-fisted dictator there, and in the book’s second issue, he fights a Russian version of Batman. He’s not technically Bruce Wayne, but he’s Batman in everything but name, even down to the fact that he almost does Superman in by fighting him in the presence of lamps that mimic his home planet’s red sun, draining Superman’s powers. Wonder Woman intervenes on Superman’s behalf, however, and Batman ultimately kills himself to prevent torture by Superman’s regime.
The winner: Um Superman? He’s the one left standing at the end, but it’s a narrow victory.
Superman/Batman Vol. 1, No. 23 (2005)
Possessed by the Kryptonite Man, a superhumanly strong Batman beats the tar out of Superman, who is weakened by the radiating Kryptonite.
The winner: Superman, who eventually forces the Kryptonite Man out of Batman’s body, but not before Batman nearly bests him in battle.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012)
In this animated adaptation of the 1986 Frank Miller comic book of the same name, Batman and Superman ended up facing off mano a mano – or at least Kryptonian a mano in a robo-armor suit that Batman wears to level the playing field. Oliver Queen shoots Superman with a Kryptonite-laced arrow that’s just powerful enough to fell Supes without killing him, and then Batman dies of a heart attack.
The winner: Batman, because he only faked his death, with an assist from Queen.
Batman Vol. 2m No. 36 (2015)
Possessed by Joker Venom and looking all Joker-y, Superman knocks Batman around a bit, ultimately flying him high into the sky for a grand finale. Batman, however, has an ace up his sleeve: chewing gum. It’s Kryptonite-laced gum, in fact, which allows him to spit into the eye of possessed Superman, weakening him and ultimately allowing Batman to win the fight.
The winner: Batman, with an extra point for literally spitting in Superman’s eye.
That puts Batman slightly ahead of Superman, at least by this snapshot of their history together. You may well be asking why this would be, since Superman is all-powerful and nearly invincible, while Batman has no superpowers aside from his mighty brain. We’d love to say that brain can always overcome brawn, but a recent Vulture piece about the longstanding rivalry between these two superheroes attempts to answer this very question. “Today, Batman is a far more popular character than Superman, and he typically wins whenever they go toe-to-toe in a story,” the writer notes. “Which is, of course, ridiculous, considering he’s just an earthling, but that only makes it all the more remarkable as a reflection of reader preferences and prejudices.”
So how about that? Batman wins because we like him – and because we’re more like him. Superman was born with his powers, more or less. Batman worked hard to become the hero he is today – and isn’t that the most all-American superhero trait of all?