Batman and Superman are DC’s biggest heroes, and some of the biggest names in comic book history. Both created in the late 1930s, the Dark Night and Man of Steel have spent decades working together to fight crime. They’re on the same side in the fight between good and evil, so why is it that people always want them to fight against each other?
The two heroes are often on the same team. They’ve fought evil side by side while on the Justice League, the Super Friends, and the Trinity. They have starred in their own team-up series titled Batman/Superman, and even their sons have worked together in Super Sons. Back in the 1940s, Batman and Superman were put on covers and posters together for advertising purposes, and were even used to sell war bonds during WWII. In the 1950s, they were deemed the “mightiest team in the world” in Superman #76 and finally earned a team-up series dubbed World’s Finest Comics. They’ve been working together for an awfully long time.
In many stories, they don’t only work together in their fight for justice, but they’re also best friends. In 2016’s Batman #37, Bruce and Selina go on a double date with Clark and Lois. Superman is often one of the few people allowed to enter the Batcave and even briefly took over the role of Batman while Bruce was missing in Superman: the Animated Series. During DC’s Rebirth storyline, Bruce chooses Clark to be his best man at his wedding instead of Dick Grayson.
Despite all this, many comic and movie writers (and plenty of fans) love to make the two fight against each other. This goes back to their epic showdown in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 when an old Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to fight crime and the American government sends in their now-lackey, Superman, to stop him. This was one of the biggest moments in comics history because it saw the two most well-known characters duking it out for the first time and showed how Batman can handle himself in a fight against a superpowered alien. However, because this story was so well-received, a new trend of people wanting to see them fight began.
Batman and Superman have battled it out in Superman: Red Son when we see a glimpse as to what would have happened if Superman’s pod landed in Soviet Russia instead of Smallville, Batman: Hush when Batman takes on a mind-controlled Superman, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel when Lex Luthor convinces Batman that Superman is a threat, and a handful of other instances in comic books. They infamously fought on the big screen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before teaming up with Wonder Woman to take down Doomsday. They even somewhat appear to be rivals in The Lego Batman Movie.
The Injustice fighting video game series follows the story of Batman (along with other heroes) taking down a tyrannical Superman and his lackeys after the Man of Steel kills the Joker (because Joker tricked him into killing Lois Lane and nuking Metropolis) and comes to the realization that superheroes should be on top in a new world order. Any reason to rationalize DC superheroes duking it out against each other in a fighting game is absolutely worth it, but it’s another example on the long list of times the friends fight each other. One of the big advertising campaigns for the first game was that it will “finally answer the question of who would win between Batman and Superman.” That’s not a question that needs to be answered since they’d most likely be on the same side.
It’s definitely a lot of fun seeing them locked in combat against each other, but it happens a lot and only comes about whenever writers shoehorn in a reason for it. Some of the stories are really unique and entertaining, but it no longer feels as special as it should. Batman and Superman fighting has become such a trope that younger audiences or those just getting into superhero lore mistake them for mortal enemies when that’s far from the case. Overhearing a little kid at a grocery store picking between Batman or Superman ice cream say “Superman is Batman’s greatest enemy” is heartbreaking.
Superman and Batman are great friends because of the bond they gain while fighting crime together and both seeing that they are willing to put it all on the line for the betterment of the world. However, everyone seems a little obsessed with having them battle each other. It’s definitely fun to see, but they’re better off being friends and working together to stop evil.