For over half a century, comic fans have staged theoretical match-ups between some of the biggest superheroes and villains ever to hit the printed page. The super-powered showdowns weren’t limited to good guys vs. bad guys either: fans young and old have debated which iconic heroes would come out on top in an all-out brawl. Green Lantern vs. The Flash; Wolverine vs. Deadpool; Wonder Woman vs. Captain Marvel – with strengths and weaknesses on both sides, die-hard readers have enjoyed smart (and sometimes outrageous) debates – going to bat for heir personal favorites.
However, one matchup is especially fun to revisit: Batman vs. Superman. On the surface, a god-like superhuman with the Man of Steel’s powers would make quick work of a billionaire in a cape and cowl; yet, Bruce Wayne is more than your usual costumed vigilante. Even before Batman V Superman was officially announced, we explained why moviegoers shouldn’t assume it would be a piece of cake for the Kryptonian. But with the Batman V Superman marketing machine kicking into gear, it’s time to dismiss all the naysaying and explain how the Dark Knight actually could beat the Man of Steel in a fight.
Throughout DC Comics history (not to mention non-print media), Batman and Superman have gone toe-to-toe on multiple occasions. Whatever the reason for their conflict – mind-control, differences in ideology, etc. – the Dark Knight and Man of Steel haven’t always been on the best of terms. As often as they set aside their differences and fight shoulder-to-shoulder, at the most basic level, the pair have different perspectives on exactly how to best dispense justice.
In particular, the Caped Crusader is often depicted as wary of the Man of Steel – and has, in the past, created myriad contingency plans in the event that the Kryptonian becomes power-hungry, goes insane (recently depicted in the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game), or simply loses his patience. For that reason, it’s no surprise Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight in Batman V Superman seems suspicious, looking to actively knock “Metropolis’ Savior” off his high horse.
But how can a mere human beat a superpowered extraterrestrial? Fans will have their own theories (which they are free to share and discuss in the comments below) but for readers who are less familiar with prior Batman vs. Superman showdowns, here are four ways the Dark Knight can beat the Man of Steel.
Weaken Superman with Kryptonite
The most obvious explanation that die-hard comic readers and casual fans will likely point out is that although Superman is near-impervious to human weapons, he does have an achilles heel: Kryptonite. Kryptonite was never introduced in Man of Steel, but without Kryptonite somewhere in the DC Movie Universe, Superman would be unstoppable – at least until magic-powered heroes (like Shazam) come onto the scene. Obviously, an invincible Superman wouldn’t be very fun in a face-off with Batman or Lex Luthor, so there’s reason to expect that pieces of Kal-El’s home planet will eventually appear in the Justice League film universe.
That said, viewers expecting a repeat of Superman: The Movie (where the hero is harmed by any Kryptonite nearby) are seriously underestimating Batman’s cunning – having, on more than one occasion, found ways to outright inject Superman with weaponized Kryptonite.
We already know that director Zack Snyder is borrowing heavily from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel – which featured a brutal face-off between Batman and Superman in which Green Arrow attempts to fire a Krytonite-infused arrow into the Big Blue Boy Scouot.
Still, audiences and readers have seen Superman weakened by Kryptonite again and again in prior stories – meaning that if Snyder doesn’t find a new, and memorable way for Batman to weaken Superman with the substance, the highly-anticipated matchup could ultimately prove underwhelming.
Fortunately, other methods of Kryptonite delivery have been featured in the comic books: including Kryptonite gas (“Kingdom Come”), a Kryptonite ring (“Batman: Hush”), or outright Kryptonite impalement (seen on screen in Superman Returns), among others. So, assuming Bruce Wayne knows about Kryptonite, it wouldn’t be too hard for the Batman V Superman writers to find a creative way for the Dark Knight to introduce Kryptonite and, in the process, put his rival on a more even playing field.
Control Superman with Threats Against Others
While Superman’s physical weakness to Kryptonite is well known, it’s not his only weakness. Throughout comic history, Lex Luthor, Batman, and others have controlled the Man of Steel through the threat of violence against innocent lives – especially those closest to Clark Kent/Superman. In John Byrne’s “Man of Steel” origin story, Superman interrupts Batman mid-mission (while the Caped Crusader is hot on the trail of supervillain Magpie) to express disapproval of the Dark Knight’s vigilante ways.
Unable to combat Superman’s brawn, Batman exploits the Kryptonian’s bleeding heart – explaining that he had hidden a bomb somewhere in Gotham and the explosive will detonate should Superman breach an invisible field surrounding the Batsuit. In short, should Superman touch Batman, innocent lives could be lost. A deadly threat… except Batman, arguably, knows no lives are really in danger – since he knows Superman would never risk them.
It might be hard to imagine Batman harming innocent lives simply to prove a point – but it’s important to keep in mind that there’s no one definitive version of the hero (just like there isn’t a definitive version of the Man of Steel either). As a result, while Adam West’s Batman would never think of sacrificing innocents in favor of hunting a villain or keeping Superman off his tail, other variations of the character have been less virtuous (not so coincidentally, Frank Miller’s version).
We know that Affleck’s Batman will be a battled-hardened veteran – a man that has lost friends to the fight against crime. For that reason, it’s not hard to imagine that when we first meet this Batman, he may not be adverse to collateral damage. After all, in the first Batman V Superman teaser, viewers hear Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons) speaking about good men turned cruel: “That’s how it starts: the fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness, that turns good men cruel.”
If the Batman V Superman Dark Knight has turned cruel, after a string of personal loss and feelings of powerlessness, what’s to stop Bruce Wayne from using Clark Kent’s love for Lois Lane and the people of Metropolis against him? Whether using a threat of future violence, rigging explosives, or outright taking hostages, it’s possible that this Batman, at this stage in his career, will use innocent lives to gain an upper hand in the Batman V Superman brawl. In which case, it won’t only be up to the Man of Steel to beat the jaded former superhero, it’ll also be his job to instill a new sense of purpose and hope in Bruce Wayne.
It also sets the stage for a Justice League universe in which Batman is willing to do things that his fellow heroes and “defenders of the innocent” simply aren’t willing to do – one of the unexplored aspects of the hero we hoped to see in this version. It can prove useful, as it did when threatening Darkseid (and his entire planet), in “The Supergirl From Krypton.”
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