It’s been a good couple of years for comic book enthusiasts. Between the Dark Knight Trilogy and the Marvel movies you’d be forgiven for assuming that somewhere out there there’s a nerd with a magic lamp and one wish left.
He might have used it already. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel comes out this week and, if the previews are any indication, aims to remedy where Superman Returns went wrong by actually having Superman fight someone instead of stalking his ex-girlfriend for half the movie and then abandoning his illegitimate child.
But even with gratuitous levels of super-punching and a shirtless Henry Cavill, Superman is still a tricky character to bring to the big screen. The drawback to having your main character be an indestructible, morally perfect demi-god is that audiences have a hard time relating to him. It’s difficult to inject an element of threat or danger into proceedings when your protagonist can shrug off a hollowpoint to the retina.
It’s the reason why Lois Lane is solely responsible for Metropolis’s kidnapping statistics rivaling those of Colombia’s. For there to be any urgency to the story Superman’s loved ones have to be constantly put in danger. It’s his relationships with humans that make him more relatable to audiences.
But when we’re watching Clark move heaven and earth (literally, in the first movie) to save Lois for the umpteenth time we mustn’t forget that she’s actually his rebound relationship. No, his first serious relationship was with his crime-fighting buddy Batman and it’s a lifelong bromance that makes his marriage to Lois look like a cheap, drunken one-night-stand in comparison.
Batman and Superman’s super-friendship is probably one of the most stable and enduring relationship in comics history and nowhere was their love more evident than on the covers of World’s Finest, a bimonthly comic that started in the early 1940s and ran until 1986. It told of the adventures of the world’s original superpower couple (and their adopted kid Robin).
The comic ran for more than 300 issues, and for over 40 years those stories pitted Bats and Supes against everything from the Axis of Evil to aliens to a… dude who could turn people into blimps? While these stories were being told however the comic covers were telling an entirely different tale. The story of Batman and Superman’s blossoming relationship and eventual bitter separation.
The Golden Days
The first issues of World’s Finest read less like the exploits of two superheroes (two and a half if you count Robin) and more like a slideshow of the best summer vacation ever.
Seriously, if you discount the one where they’re throwing baseballs at Hitler and Stalin then they don’t actually encounter any villains on the cover for about 70 issues. What we get instead are essentially the vacation pictures of the world’s most active treehouse gang.
Here they are on their skiing holiday…
…working in their organic vegetable garden….
…or just spending some quality time fishing as a family.
Yeah, Lois and Catwoman are fun, but you can’t take them fishing.
The Seven(teen) Year Itch
This trend continued for over a hundred issues! For 20 years Batman, Superman and Robin were essentially one big happy family. But no relationship is perfect and the strain of being in the public eye took its toll on this one.
It started small at first. The adorable holiday card covers would show up less often as the friends began to focus more on their work than spending quality time with each other.
They started to disagree about the best way to raise the kids.
This continued until the tension reached breaking point and the covers started to show Batman and Superman fighting with one another.
Robin started to appear less on the covers as tensions between the two increased.
Trial Separation (by Combat)
Eventually Robin stopped appearing altogether, presumably he was off smoking, shoplifting and whatever else children of divorce do to lash out and get attention. By this stage nearly every other issue featured the dynamic duo trying to kill each other.
Things turned nasty when they began to publicly accuse each other of petty, ridiculous things…
The stakes escalated, until they were burning each other at literal ones!
The relationship had clearly run its course, World’s Finest came to an end in the mid-80s and while, eventually, the two would be able to get back on good terms and work together again they were never as close as they’d been in those idyllic years.
But there’s still hope! Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel acknowledges Bruce Wayne’s existence, making it the first DC movie in an expanded film universe that may eventually feature a Superman/Batman movie.
But instead of churning out another action-filled, by-the-numbers summer blockbuster, what if they choose instead to make the first superhero bromantic comedy?
Richy Craven shudders to think about the amount of fan-fiction this may have triggered. You can check out more of his stuff over at Cracked, A Series of Terrible Decisions or, if you like mediocre jokes about Batman and Game of Thrones, follow him on Twitter.
Richy struck a balance between ridiculousness and reality with Bat-Villains Too Lame to Be in a Dark Knight Movie and The Nuttiest Real-Life Superheroes. For a sexier look at the World’s Finest team, check out Power Girl and Huntress in this week’s DC Comics exclusive preview!