Long before The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel were scheduled to face-off in Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman feature film, the heroes had already fought-out their differences in comic books on multiple occasions. Previously, we explained how Batman could beat Superman in a fight, borrowing examples from over fifty years of source material battles between the two Justice Leaguers.
Batman V Superman is reported to take a lot of cues from Frank Miller's seminal Batman graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns but the director has previously stated that other comic book storylines have also impacted development of the feature film. No doubt, it's unlikely that the fight in Batman V Superman will involve mind-control spores or alternate dimensions but, with the two heroes finally set to share the big screen in 2016, readers can still prep for Dawn of Justice by studying past battles between the two heroes.
Our list doesn't include every single altercation between Batman and Superman, and admittedly many of the actual fights each come with a caveat (Batman wasn't prepared, Superman was holding back, etc); nevertheless, we've culled through years of DC Comics to gather our favorite Batman versus Superman stories. As usual, feel free to share your own favorites in the comments below!
12 The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
Issues: The Dark Knight Returns #1 - 4
Backstory: After a lengthy retirement, an aged Batman returns to his vigilante ways - employing brutal tactics that blur the lines between crime-fighting and outright violence. As a result, the U.S. military sends in Superman to incapacitate The Dark Knight and bring him to justice.
The Batman V Superman Fight: One of DC's most tech savvy Batman depictions (and the inspiration for Zack Snyder's version seen in Batman V Superman), The Dark Knight utilizes hydraulic power armor, sonic technology, electric gauntlets, and Kryptonite arrows (courtesy of Green Arrow).
Winner: Batman pummels Superman - until Bruce Wayne induces a non-lethal heart attack on himself (using the fight as a way to publicly fake his own death and continue crimefighting in Gotham City undercover).
11 Batman: Hush (2002)
Issues: Batman #608 - 619
Backstory: Under the control of Poison Ivy's neurotoxin spores, Superman takes-on Batman; though, the Man of Steel is "holding back" (as a result of Kal-El's subconscious simultaneously attempting to fight-off the mind-control poison).
The Batman V Superman Fight: With no time to plan, Batman runs away from Superman but employs the use of pre-made anti-Superman gadgets that Wayne had prepared, including a kryptonite ring, should the Man of Steel ever lose control (we always wondered what he kept in the center of his utility belt). Ultimately, Batman gains the upper hand by manipulating Kal-El through emotional attachments, endangering Lois Lane (with the help of Catwoman) to snap Superman out of Ivy's mind-control.
Winner: Batman stands his ground - but only because the Kryptonian's spore-controlled body was being held back by Superman's conflicted will.
10 The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2002)
Issues: The Dark Knight Strikes Again #1 - 3
Backstory: Following the events of The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again sees Batman back in the cape and cowl - this time battling a Lex Luthor backed military dictatorship. While superheroes like Green Arrow and the Atom assist Batman, several other Justice League heroes (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Shazam!) are coerced, via lethal threats to their loved ones, to aid the U.S. government in stopping rogue vigilantes, The Dark Knight included.
The Batman V Superman Fight: Under command of "President Rickard," Superman is ordered to hunt down Batman. However, when the Dark Knight lures Superman into the Batcave, he beats the Man of Steel into submission with kryptonite gauntlets (with aid from fellow Justice League heroes).
9 Superman: Red Son (2003)
Issues: Superman: Red Son #1 - 3
Backstory: An Elseworld story, Kal-El's escape pod lands in the Soviet Union (rather than Kansas) - where he is raised to be a Russian military commander. Turning the country into Earth's preeminent world power, Superman rules over the Soviet Union with harsh dictatorial intimidation. When the parents of Batmankoff (not Bruce Wayne) are killed by communists, the future-vigilante begins training to take the Kryptonian down alongside the malevolent government he serves.
The Batman V Superman Fight: Russian Batman tricks Soviet Superman into entering a room filled with solar lamps, which (unknown to Kal-El) emit the same radiation as Krypton's red sun. Weakened, Superman is helpless as Batman beats him into submission.
Winner: Russian Batman wins - until Superman is saved by Wonder Woman. Fearing retribution from Superman, Batman commits suicide (via an explosive device implanted in his own chest).
8 Lex Luthor: Man of Steel (2005)
Issues: Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #1 - 5
Backstory: Bruce Wayne receives a piece of Kryptonite from Lex Luthor - and uses it to attack the Man of Steel (who he perceives to be a potential threat to humanity).
The Batman V Superman Fight: More a showcase for how strong a fully-powered, non-brainwashed Superman would be in a battle with Batman, than an actual fight, the Man of Steel uses super-breath to blow Luthor's gifted Kryptonite out of The Dark Knight's hands - then grabs Batman, flies him into the sky, and tosses him back onto the street below. To prove his superiority, Superman throws a lethal punch toward Batman's face - but stops short.
Winner: Superman wins.
7 Superman Sacrifice (2005)
Issues: Superman #219 (Part 1), Action Comics #829 (Part 2), Adventures of Superman #642 (Part 3), and Wonder Woman #219 (Part 4)
Backstory: After hacking the bat computer to discover the weaknesses of each Justice League member, Maxwell Lord mind-controls Superman, tricking the Kryptonian into fighting his fellow Justice League team members - believing that he's actually battling his greatest enemies (such as the villain Darkseid).
The Batman V Superman Fight: Superman ambushes a completely unprepared Batman in the Batcave. Blindsided by the all-powerful Superman, who believes he's in a life-or-death battle with Darkseid to protect his friends, Batman takes a beating. Eventually Wonder Woman intervenes, snapping Maxwell Lord's neck, and severing his control over Superman.
Winner: Everyone loses. Batman suffers severe injuries and Superman is distraught when he awakens from his brainwashing (discovering he had attacked his teammates).
6 Superman/Batman: Super-Bat (2008)
Issues: Superman/Batman #53 - 57
Backstory: During a fight with Silver Banshee, Superman's powers are transferred to Batman - who goes on to purge Gotham City of all crime. Powerless, Superman is finally able to lead a normal life - free from the burden of being a god-like hero. However, with no one to stop him, Batman grows drunk with power, becoming increasingly aggressive and dangerous, while Clark, unsatisfied by his normal life, is crippled by depression.
The Batman V Superman Fight: After Batman defeats Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Firestorm, Red Tornado, and Hawkgirl, Supergirl appeals to Bruce Wayne's sense of reason - while Zatanna uses magic to distract him. Clark Kent confronts Batman - taking punches from the Dark Knight until Zatanna can reverse the spell.
Winner: Kent takes a beating from Batman but achieves the moral victory - willing to suffer injury in order to save his friend.
5 Justice League: Origin (2011)
Issues: Justice League: Origin #1 - 6
Backstory: As part of the New 52 relaunch, Justice League: Origin features the "first" Batman versus Superman fight in the new continuity - pairing a newcomer Superman against an established Batman (who believes the super-powered alien could be a danger to Earth).
The Batman V Superman Fight: Since Superman is fresh on the scene, Batman is unaware of the Kryptonian's superhuman abilities. Employing various bat-gadgets, to no avail, Batman is outmatched. Even with the aid of Green Lantern, Batman is defeated at every turn by the Man of Steel - until the two talk-it-out.
Winner: Superman wins but Batman learns the value of communication.
4 Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013)
Issue: Injustice: Gods Among Us #36
Backstory: After the Joker detonates a nuclear device in Metropolis, and tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane (as well as the pair's unborn child), Kal-El decides the only way to protect Earth is to impose a totalitarian government ruled by former superheroes and super villains - appointing himself High Councillor. Batman, on the other hand, leads an insurgency determined to restore freedom to the world.
The Batman V Superman Fight: The Man of Steel enters the batcave and breaks The Dark Knight's back over his knee (Bane-style).
Winner: A painfully brief Batman versus Superman fight wins - until Alfred intervenes (armed with a super-power giving nanotech pill), headbutts the Man of Steel, and rescues Batman.
3 Batman: End Game (2014)
Issues: Batman: End Game #1 - 6
Backstory: Under the control of a poison that transforms Justice Leaguers into Joker hybrids, each member of the team takes-on Batman. In spite of unchecked use of their powers, The Dark Knight battles each Justice League hero until only one remains: Superman.
The Batman V Superman Fight: Batman dons power armor - trading out his usual Kryptonite gloves for gauntlets with microscopic red son attachments. After taking a red sun-fueled beating, the insane Man of Steel unleashes a super-powered barrage on Batman, Metropolis, and innocent bystanders - until Batman spits a piece of Kryptonite laced synthetic polymer (read: gum) into Superman's eye.
Winner: Weakened by the Kryptonite, Superman is defeated but, overlooking the destruction of Metropolis, Batman outright states that nobody "won" the fight.
2 Dis(honorable) Mentions:
Superman #76 (1952) - Retold in Superman/Batman Annual #1 (2006)
Exhausted from their dual lives of crimefighting, Bruce Wayne and Kal-El independently book tickets for an ocean cruise - only to arrive and discover the ship has been overbooked. Rather than give up their spots, the two agree to share a room - in the same bed, wrestling for space and control of the covers.
World's Finest #142 (1964)
Batman and Superman team-up to defeat a Superman Museum janitor - who was transformed into a half-Batman, half-Man of Steel evildoer, known as Composite Superman, after being struck by lightning while cleaning the Legion of Super-Heroes trophy case.
1 Dis(honorable) Mentions:
World's Finest #151 (1965)
Blasted by a ray that evolves him 800,000 years, the Batman of 800,000 A.D. (complete with oversized cranium) then zaps Superman back to the stone age - turning the Man of Steel into the Caveman of Steel (complete with neanderthal beard).
Superman/Batman #23 (2005)
After traveling to an alternate dimension, Batman is possessed by the malevolent Kryptonite Man. The presence of Kryptonite Man both strengthens Batman while weakening Superman - though Batman is not in control to enjoy his new-found power.