Author’s Note: If fan sentimentality of any kind repulses you, please avoid the following essay.
The relationship between Batman and Superman has fascinated me since I was a kid. Equal parts bickering couple, friends, and teammates, they are quite a combo. Their surface differences are interesting enough — Clark’s pastoral and idyllic upbringing (minus that whole exploding planet thing) vs. Bruce’s youth as the orphaned Prince of Gotham. But when a really good writer brings them together, you get a sense of their mutual respect and understanding, in spite of the way they often grate on one another. Though Bruce keeps almost everyone at arm’s length, there’s a certain we-don’t-have-to-discuss-it intimacy in his relationship with Clark. They are the Lennon-McCartney of the Justice League. Perhaps that ‘s why I responded so strongly to the image above (by Trocken via DeviantArt). I’m usually bothered by stories suggesting that Bruce and Clark encountered one another as kids, but there is something really believable and authentic about this.
It has been my experience that opposites attract in friendships and in love. Therefore, I can see sunny, optimistic Clark homing on in brooding, intense Bruce on the first day of middle school and befriending him. I’m not saying they’d be going on double dates, but given their extraordinary backgrounds and mutual brilliance (and let’s not forget that Superman is brilliant), it’s plausible that some kind of relationship would develop. If Lex Luthor hadn’t been such a mega-douche and used his powers for good, he might have been a lot like Bruce. To borrow V.’s brilliant term, Batman and Superman are oppo-sames. (And yes, I know that this scenario flies in the face of canon and would likely result in a very different outcome for these characters, but just indulge me today, OK?) Uh-oh. We gotta quash that Clayface situation by the monkey bars.
Some of my favorite stories involve these two, even when they’re about to scrap. Remember the scene in Darwyn Cook’s Justice League: The New Frontier where Batman almost defeats Superman using nothing but sheer will, cable, and a motorcycle? And then Superman is like, “I can’t be beaten by this … this … human!” More than a few times, Superman has said something along the lines of “You’re out of your mind, but I kinda like the way you roll.” And of course, they have kicked a lot of asses together (See: Public Enemies) and even saved each other’s lives. It’s significant that Clark entrusted Bruce with a bit of Kryptonite, just in case.
In the Dark Knight Returns movie, the Joker famously says to Batman, “You complete me!” I think that line applies more to this dynamic duo.