First Published: October 2007
Contents: Superman/Batman story from Superman #76 (May-June 1952); Superman, Batman, and Robin stories from World’s Finest Comics #71 (July-August 1954) to #111 (August 1960)
Key Creator Credits: Curt Swan, Dick Sprang, Edmond Hamilton, Bill Finger, Jerry Coleman, and others
Story Continues In: Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2
Overview: They are arguably the two most recognizable heroes in comic books. Superman – more powerful than a locomotive; able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Batman – defender of Gotham City, avenging the death of parents by striking back at crime. Each are stars in their own right, having moved from the comics to newspaper strips, radio dramas, and movie serials. At some point, it seemed natural that these two forces for good must cross paths, and that finally occurred in 1952 in Superman #76, Clark Kent schedules a cruise (because everyone knows that the Daily Planet has a very generous vacation policy), but due to overbooking, he is asked to share a room with millionaire Bruce Wayne. Before the ship can leave port, an explosion on the docks prompts both men to change into their costumed identities. accidentally revealing their secrets to each other. Promising to keep each other’s secret, Superman and Batman work together, making for one of the most important comic book team-ups of all time.
Two years later, the Superman and Batman features in World’s Finest are combined, teaming up the two heroes (plus Robin, the Boy Wonder!) issue after issue after issue. The reasons for the team-ups vary from the reasonable to the absurd – whether fighting aliens or giant robots; traveling through time to the future, or into the past; stopping Lex Luthor on his next scheme to rule the world, or having Batman pose as Superman to keep Lois Lane from discovering Superman’s secret identity.
The supporting casts for both characters make numerous appearances. From Metropolis, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry cross paths with Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and Batwoman from Gotham City. In later Showcase Presents World’s Finest volumes, we will see a friendship develop between Jimmy Olsen and Robin, leading to a junior World’s Finest team-up.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: If you can think of this volume as a collection of imaginary stories, than this is a fun and interesting volume. If you are a continuity nerd, this book will make your head explode. These are all one-and-done stories, and should never be referenced again in any other story. The plots are absurd, and would never be published into today’s publishing environment. But it’s stories like this that inspired writers like Grant Morrison to create wonderful tribute stories, such as All-Star Superman and Batman: Incorporated.
Footnotes: Superman and Batman (with Robin) had been the stars of World’s Finest Comics since the first issue, which was initially published as World’s Best Comics #1. (The title changed to World’s Finest Comics with issue #2.) However, these characters were each featured in their own stories within the magazine. In 1954, due to declining interest in comic books, World’s Finest Comics was reduced from a 64-page book to a 32-page book. In order to keep both of the stars of the book featured in the title, Superman and Batman started teaming up together in one story beginning with issue #71, which is where this Showcase Presents volume begins.
If you like this volume, try: the first story arc Superman/Batman from 2003. Created by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, the Public Enemies story brought back together the World’s Finest team in a monthly comic book. In this volume, President Lex Luthor accuses Superman of treasonous crimes, and calls upon the super-hero community to bring him in dead or alive. Batman and Superman work together to uncover Luthor’s scheme, and to prove Superman’s innocence. Loeb takes an interesting approach to the story, showing us Superman through the eyes of Batman, and vice versa. The art by McGuinness is perfect for this title: Superman is big and bold and his muscles have muscles, while Batman is sleek and dark and mysterious. in 1987. This title ran for eight years, and some story arcs are better than others. For my money, Public Enemies is among the best and is the perfect way to return to the World’s Finest team.