I know, I know, what the hell with that title. But please, hear me out.
As I write more and more about things that I love, I decided to write about comics, first about the Flash and then about Invincible. While deciding what to talk about in my next article, I wondered.
What could be a good subject for a small thesis, bringing a few comics trivia while trying to analyze something I utterly adore.
Like any good ideas, it always comes when you expect it the least and often from a source you might not have expected at first, even if this one kinda makes sense.
Such as millions, nay, billions of people all around the world (And I say that with absolutely no useful data) I played and finished the amazing Injustice 2 and absolutely loved about every second of it. The fights, the story, the actors, the characters. Although the best part of the story for me was when both Bruce and Clark yearned for their lost friendship.
I won’t spoil that scene, but it’s a touching if short moment that made me stop to think for two seconds about friendship and how important or fleeting it can be. They both miss their friends, but they know they can’t come back from that. And then I wondered, for this to work as well as it does, in Injustice 1 and 2, it means that everyone understands the link between the two characters. These men were friends, still are in the ‘normal’ universe.
A strong bond that transcends universes.
What impresses me the most is how well matched those two characters are for two heroes created by different people, for different audiences, with no plans whatsoever to complete the other one. Even if Batman was a direct response to Superman’s lightness.
They got put together for the first time in Superman #76, and since then they made countless appearances together inside a lot of other comics, and their interactions were often the highlight of the book, and the greatest thing about that was that not once it felt forced.
Sometimes when you mash up two characters who have their distinct series, it’s hard to give them the proper voice or to decide which will get the spotlight, but for them, it just worked, and the world is a better place because of it.
So why does it work that well?
The most interesting part of this relationship is the contrasts. Everybody knows that Clark is the boy-scoutiest boy-scout ever (Something I’d like to write about one day), while Bruce is the brooding master of the night. The direct conflict as for how they are perceived (Although they both inspire hope, they have their way of doing so, either by Fear or by Compassion) is interesting as an outsider but is also incredible from when you try to put yourself in their place.
We all have a friend that is completely different but still works because his perspective in life allows us to think about ours. That friendship there is this concept taken to an extreme.
On one hand, we have The Batman, Bruce Wayne. A human with so much sheer willpower I still don’t understand how any Green Lantern ring which came near him doesn’t just leave their owner’s finger and pledge his allegiance to Batman. A man scarred so deeply by his parents’ loss that he had to become crazy to cope with it and stay barely functional. A man who puts fear into the hearts of anyone desperate enough to do evil deeds.
On the other hand, we have Clark Kent, Superman, a man who lost his whole planet even before he was able to walk and who wears that burden on his person. Someone which never knew his parents. But someone who was raised by a good family with high values. One of the strongest human being on earth and not just thanks to his powers. Someone which will always try to see the best in any situations, which will always try to defuse a situation.
Completely different men, both linked by tragedy, by the loss of their families. Even if they were both took under tutelage by extraordinary people, they both ended up being their own man.
This single fact is enough for them to bond, but what works is how they complete each other, Bruce being the Yang to Clark’s Yin. It’s also more nuanced than just Clark being the nice guy and Bruce the bastard. Bruce is a detective when Clark can be less subtle. Bruce is an incredible tactician, and Clark is often the wrecking ball.
It works because there is no, or maybe just a few, redundancy. They have their place, and they work well together. Not once, when you read Superman/Batman (From Jeff Loeb and Ed McGuinness, fantastic comics), or most comics where they are well written, you have the feeling that one or the other is getting more coverage, there is a perfect balance, a delicate ecosystem that just works. It also works when they are just visiting the other one on their comics.
The banter sells everything too, their interactions can be as funny as dramatic, with Bruce always saying he works better alone but still trusting Clark with his life, something he only does with his family, and Clark is always telling him he should smile more.
These men are friends. They are brothers.
What should I read if I want to see that?
Well, I’d say almost anything with both, any crisis, any Justice League where they are prominently featured.
But! If you want to see fun adventures with the two of them, I would recommend Superman/Batman from Loeb and McGuiness, and the great Superman & Batman: Generation.
Generation is considered as an Elseworld, meaning it is not canon. But it is the greatest book about the two heroes. In a world where time passes like on our own. We follow Bruce and Clark from 1930 to the far future. With many plot twists and funny things that happen which all make sense in the mythos of the two characters.
It’s a joy to read and a fascinating thought experiment.
5/7 will read again.
In the meantime, I still have Superman’s ass to beat up, no murderous dictator on my watch. I’ll get him back to being a boy scout, even if I have to destroy him with Batman first.