For the Love of Batman

Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?

This is an argument which has ruined many friendships among the nerds and wannabe nerds alike. Because on the one hand it is a very stupid question and on the other it just a stupid question. It is very stupid in the sense that these are fictional characters whose trials and tribulations are determined by humans with biases. So the answer to who would win in a fight between the two depends on who is writing the story and at what point in their lives they are writing it.

It is a very stupid question in the sense that Superman for all intent and purposes is a god. So if he wanted to kill Batman he could just punch the earth kind of hard and destroy all current and future life on this planet. And if Batman were to escape on his lunar base, well Superman could just blow that place up too.

Because at this point, who’s keeping count?

But we know Superman doesn’t want to kill Batman that badly. After all, they’re bros, right? Well, I am not so sure about that. I am confident that in the current continuity Superman genuinely thinks of Batman as a close friend. But I am more skeptical if Batman thinks of Superman as a friend. Or at the very least we cannot assume that Batman thinks of Superman that way.

This is because trusting someone is profoundly antithetical to Batman’s nature. Remember, that Batman was not only an orphan but a rich one at that. Everything that everyone told him to trust about society blew up in his face when his parents, were literally, blown up in his face. This caused Batman to discover that all societal institutions and norms which say that bad stuff doesn’t happen to good people (more precisely bad stuff doesn’t happen to good rich people) weren’t true. So as a result of that you can trust nothing and no one, not even yourself.


After all, Batman does have a backup personality on standby in case he is a victim of mind control. Because who doesn’t have a backup personality?

So now that we’ve established that Batman cannot trust anybody then how is it possible for him to make friends. After all, isn’t trust a necessity of friendship?

The first thing I would say that this depends on the level of friendship. The dude you play pickup hoop with, although he is your friend, you don’t need to trust him.

However, as you become close friends with someone you need to open yourself up more and by extension trust more. Or at least give off the illusion of trust. For example, Superman may feel like Batman trusts him because he knows Batman’s secret identity and his trauma.

But from the Batman’s point of view, these are just pawns he is giving up to get closer to the most powerful man on earth.

For example, in a recent Justice League comic book Batman insists that they allow Luthor to be part of the Justice League so that they can keep an eye on him.

What’s that old saying, keep your friends close but your enemies closer?

Batman’s modus operandi has always been to allow people through the superficial layer of friendship so that they can trust him, but he will never trust them.

I am perhaps overly harsh on the matter. It is possible after spending all this time with Superman Batman actually trusts and likes him. But my point is, at the very least, at the beginning of their friendship Batman wanted to get close to Superman and the best way to do so was to become his friend.

So now that we’ve established that the two are not necessarily bros. Who would win in a fight?

In order to answer this question, we first must examine all the times the two have fought in the lore. This is because any Batman prior to the Bronze Era would be mercilessly massacred by Superman. In addition to this for a long time Superman basically had no cap on his power and was surprisingly ruthless.

It’s kind of weird to think about, but the Batman the ultimate tactician is a very recent phenomenon in comic book culture. It was when Grant Morrison in the Justice League of America that this new Batman emerged. And if I can quote myself after 1997

The point of Batman in both culture at large and comics, in particular, is that he is the ultimate manipulator. He’s the person with a plan B for everything and just like every underdog in history; he manages to out-think his opponents. He’s a sort of warrior Spock whose brute force and infallibility makes the ideal hero to root for.-Me

And the cool thing about this new version of Batman is that he and Superman have fought a lot. Most of the times because one was mind controlled (you know comic book stuff). But on a couple of occasions, they fought for principle and more importantly ego.

Okay, so we know which Batman we have, and we are aware which Superman we have. So who would win in a fight?

People fight for a lot of things. I fight with my brother about video games, I don’t necessarily want to murder my brother because of it (yet). So saying who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman isn’t really asking anything. As a fight could constitute anything from a minor fracas to the fate of the world. So in order to see who would win in a fight I am going to have to look at all the times the two fought in the comics. And try to extrapolate some major themes in all their conflicts.

Suffice it to say that Batman, for the most part, has pretty much kicked Superman’s ass every time they’ve met in the comics. Batman nerds are quick to point about how in The Dark Knight Returns Batman pretty much embarrassed Superman. After beating him to a pulp Batman would tell Superman

I want you to remember Clark. In all the years to come. In your most private moments. I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you

Batman wanted to show Superman what it meant to be human. He wanted him to know the despair he felt as a kid when his parents were murdered in front of him. Batman held a god in his hands and showed him that he, did in fact, bleed.

Fast forward to the Dark Knight III: (the sequel to the Dark Knight Returns also written by Frank Miller). An evil cult of Kryptonians are trying to take control of the earth. So Batman and Superman put aside their respective differences for the greater good (you know comic book stuff). The 9 part series ends with Superman having to confront five Kryptonians who are younger, faster and stronger than him. Batman steps up to help, Superman puts his hand on Batman’s chest.

 Batman would proclaim that It felt “like the whole world pressing against my chest.”

“No” Superman exclaimed, “the world needs a Batman.”

Superman nonchalantly walks up to a group of murderous, psychopathic Kryptonians.

At first, he wanted to feel them out. He was probably wondering, how much do I need to hold back?

This is because when Superman fights, he’s not fighting to win. He’s fighting to not hurt you. Because it’s just so damn easy for him to do so. In the animated series Justice League: Unlimited Superman has to fight Darkside (who for all intent and purposes is a god).

Darkside pushes Superman to the side.

Batman tries to take Darkside out.

He fails miserably.

What’s a king to a god?

Superman gets up, punches Darkside across the room. And opens up for some introspection.

He tells the New God.

I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard. Always taking constant care not to break something. Not to break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control […] because someone could die. But you can take it, can’t you big man?

When Superman fights people who “can take it.” He is presented in his words “with a real opportunity to cut loose.” From that point, Darkside was nothing but a toy to him. One of the most powerful beings in all the universe is to Superman what a toddler is to Mike Tyson.

So when Superman confronts the Kryptonians, he lets them kick him around for a few panels. After seeing their power levels. He catches a punch, then begins to throw a few of his own.

Batman can be heard in the back.

He would ask himself, “Dear God.”

As if God is not in front of him.

That son of a bitch has been holding back all these years”.

So after all these years. In his most private moments, Superman didn’t remember the only man who could beat him. He remembered the only man who he let beat him.

After all, in the Dark Knight Returns Superman just recovered from averting a nuke and was not quite himself. Which is understandable, the man just got nuked. Batman even admitted as such prior to two meeting. And after all that while Batman was trying to make a god bleed Superman wanted to talk him out of it. He did not take Batman seriously as a threat.

After all why would he?

He’s fucking Superman.

Another one of my favorite times these two fought was in Batman: Endgame. The Joker managed to infect most of the Justice League with Joker Venom and instructed them to all come for the caped crusader.

In his home city.

In front of his people.

Batman would beat Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Flash.

In the brief respite of battle, he was thinking about how he would dispatch the Green Lantern and Cyborg. Then he paused and hoped against all hope that Superman would be off planet.

[Because] the truth is, when gods come down. It’s terrifying, because you never know what they’re going to do-Batman

Batman would try to fight the god. But then realized that the suit he was wearing was designed for Superman. The person he was fighting was no longer Superman. This person was without morals, without inhibition.

At the point, Batman realised if Superman wanted to kill you “there’s likely nothing on earth that could stop it”.

Superman would proceed to strip Batman from the suit of armor he was wearing all the way to the top of the Batman’s city. The city where everyone either respected him or feared him.

Superman asks Batman to beg.

Batman spits in his face.

The Dark Knight does not beg.

But it wasn’t saliva. It was a liquidize version of Kryptonite that he keeps in his cowl at all times. Think about that. You hold the only thing that kills your “best friend” with you at all times. Batman, the tactician, always three steps ahead.

But again.

The only reason Batman even had the opportunity to do that is because Superman let him. If he wanted him to die, he could have killed even before Batman could even think of kryptonite gum.

However, I do not believe we are being completely fair to Batman here. Because not taking your opponent seriously is a big character flaw. And we should not be making excuses for Superman. In the much-maligned Dawn of Justice movie we see this theme play out. Where Superman doesn’t take Batman seriously up until he pulls out the shotgun with the Krypto-farts. And by that point, it’s too late.

Also at no point in these movies (except for Dawn of Justice) did Batman actually try to kill Superman. Something he would have a far easier job of doing, rather than just beating him in a non-lethal way. Batman even says so as much in the Injustice comics, where he still wins the war even though he is undermanned and outgunned at every turn. If Batman wanted to kill. Superman would be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life.

After all in the Justice League of America: Tower of Babel story arc. Ra’s Al Ghul managed to increase the half-life of Kryptonite to significantly harm Superman. So if it all boiled down to one fight to the death for the soul of the earth.

Who would win in a fight?

As much as it pains my nerd heart to say this. But I’ll have to go with the man of tomorrow.

But if this fight happened over time. You’d have to be joking if you think Superman would be able to outmaneuver and outsmart Batman.

So I’d have to go with Batman. But only slightly.

So to quote Batman on who would in a fight between he and Superman.

“The answer is always the same.

Neither of us.”

Does Batman need a sidekick?

Given the fact that we refer to people who work well together as “Batman and Robin.” It seems stupid, nay blasphemous to ask if Batman should have a sidekick. It’s kind of like asking if hamburgers need fries, if movies need sound and if Lebron needs two All-Stars to win a title.

But to better understand why this is a valid question. We need to first know the history of Batman and Robin and how they evolved over time. Because Batman, and by extension, Robin will always be a reflection of the zeitgeist, with each era vying for the soul of the Bat.

In the case of Batman when he first appeared (solo I may add) in Detective Comics issue #27 he was very different from the Batman we know now. Firstly, the Golden Age Batman kills *nerds gasp at a distance*, he used guns and, he protected the rich from the poor. This wouldn’t last for long as comic book publishers felt that Batman needed a younger sidekick to be more appealing to kids. The logic went that pre-pubescent children would not be able to see themselves as the physical manifestation of vengeance, but they could see themselves as the kid in the booty shorts. This type of reasoning was not unique to Batman, at the time everyone from Captain America (Bucky) to the Human Torch (Toro) were adjacent to small children. It was, by many accounts, a much simpler time.

This was before the great inward shift that comic books went through. Where comic book publishers spent less time worrying about the kids market, and more time worrying about the nerds.

Introducing Dick Grayson, the first Robin, in Detective Comics #37 allowed for changes in the tone of the character. Because Batman actually had someone to talk to, writers could make his stories lighter, use fewer guns and more puns. Dick was in every way shape and form the embodiment of the ideal American youth of the time. And as writers started to make Batman, dare I say it, happier, they lost track of who the character was meant to be. The Silver Age Batman was very weird, to say the least but very much ahead of his time with his fashion sense:


This trend of making Batman less gritty and campier continued through the 60’s with the Batman TV show on ABC. This is where Batman had his own dance move, the very aptly named Batusi.

This trend of making Batman, more or less a joke, continued until editor Dennis O’Neal took him back to his more serious origin.

And how did he manage to do so?

Well by sending Robin off to college. But this time, instead of Batman protecting the rich from the poor, he would now protect the poor from the rich.

Again it is worth repeating that Batman, more so than almost anyone in fiction, represents the zeitgeist of the era of the comic book. Back in the 30’s America was trying to escape from the great depression. So where better to escape than in the life of a playboy millionaire? By the time 1970 rolled around, people we more cynical. So who better to protect the people without power from the people with power. Then the person with the most power?

By the time the aptly named Dark Ages of comics rolled around, a new Robin, Jason Todd was introduced. Although at the beginning he was literally a carbon copy of Dick Grayson (the first Robin) with his parents also being circus acrobats murdered by mobsters. After the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, his story was redrawn. Gone were the days of tights and tightropes, Jason was now a boy from the streets who Batman caught trying to steal the Batmobile’s tires in the same alley, on the anniversary of his parent’s murder.

Which, begs the question what size rims does the Batman have?

Introducing this new Robin is very important to the comics because up until now Batman was the character in flux, with the boy wonder being a constant. But the introduction of Jason kickstarted the cycle where Robins could oscillate from light to dark from good to well, bad.

With his new backstory, Robin started to become more and more insufferable to the point where most Batman fans began to hate the little dick (pun intended). After a couple issues of being comics version of King Joffrey, the editors of Batman had the Joker kidnap the boy wonder and let fans decide if the new Robin lives or dies via a dedicated hotline. After the 10,614 calls were counted.

The people decided.

Robin dies at dawn.

Jason Todd would be ruthlessly, mercilessly and relentlessly beaten into oblivion.

Most cheered.

The pretender was finally dead.

Not everyone was happy with the way this turned out in the comic book world. Author Frank Miller described it as “the most cynical thing DC has ever done. [Where] an actual toll-free number where fans can call in to put an ax to a little boy’s head.”

By this point in the lore, we saw Batman without a Robin, but we’ve never seen Batman after he lost a Robin. In Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns the death of Batman’s “greatest failure” Jason Todd prompted him into retirement. Fading into the darkness would be one way to react to the death of your ward at the hands of your greatest enemy. Another way would be to go on a full week long ass kicking spree without sleep or sustenance. By the end of it, the Batman could barely take down street thugs let alone anyone of minor importance.

Again let us remind ourselves as to why Robin was introduced in the first place. As Glen Weldon wrote in Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture:

Robin Serves to define and delineate Batman. Batman’s status as the ultimate mentor is a base principle, inasmuch it speaks directly as to who he is: he saves others because, on one terrible night, there was no one to save him

For Batman having a sidekick isn’t exactly ideal. Yes, you have someone to bond with and mentor. But at the same time, you are responsible for them in battle and in the household. Batman even hints at this multiple times in the comics. For example in the Knightfall comics, Batman was so exhausted he asks Robin not to accompany him on his missions because “he couldn’t watch both [their] backs.” In a recent Deathstroke comic featuring Batman, the current Robin was taken. But Batman wouldn’t chase after him “because what is the point of a partner that always needs saving?” Apparently, no one told Adam West that because if that were the case, we’d have to cancel about 90% his old Batman TV show.

So when Robin is taken from him, by the Joker no less, there is no one left to center him. A Batman without a Robin is like a Batman without inhibition. Without someone to guide him, Batman will always go back to that night in crime alley, where his parents were killed in front of him, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Which is where the third Robin, Tim Drake enters the mix. After seeing Batman being pushed to the break of physical and emotional exhaustion. Young Tim deduced Batman’s real identity, and as his reward, he was bestowed upon the mantle of Robin. Tim Drake becoming Robin would take us full circle from light to dark not back to like. Although he is Jason’s physical successor, he is Dick’s emotional one.

Everything was fine in the Batman universe until young Damian Wayne was introduced to the fold. Bruce’s biological son who was conceived after he was date raped by Talia Al Ghul, daughter of the infamous Ra’s Al Ghul. Damian was introduced to Batman after years of being a member of the League of Assassin. So he was probably the furthest thing from Dick Grayson.

So to answer the original question. Does Batman need a sidekick?

In terms of the physical aspect, Batman clearly doesn’t need a sidekick. He works best when he is unencumbered and unworried about his allies in battle. That fine with the Justice League but less so when you’re leading a pre-pubescent child in spandex into battle. Furthermore, Batman is at his most effective when he is the weak link in the team, not when he needs to be heroic and put himself in harm’s way to save someone far less skilled than he.

From a writing perspective, Batman most certainly doesn’t need a sidekick. As most people would agree that some of the best Batman comics happened when he would work alone.

But from an emotional side, he most certainly does. Because without someone to remind him about why he fights. It’s far too easy to lose yourself in the anger and in vengeance.

But he only needed one boy wonder.

Not four.

One Robin to help him live the life of a child he never could live. One Robin to save him from the worst part of himself. One Robin for him to care for and view as a son.

But for him to operate at his peak, the only thing that Batman needs to worry about is the mission at hand. Because we know, he damn sure isn’t worried about himself.