I’d bought World’s Finest #300 new off the stands not having any idea that was what was going on.

§ May 1st, 2024 § Filed under batman, byrne reboot, superman § 10 Comments

Another big change to the Superman mythos made in John Byrne’s 1986 reboot mini-series Man of Steel was the bustin’ up of the long friendship between Supes and the Dark Knight his own self, Batman.

The two characters have been buddy/buddy for decades, almost from their very inception, as seen here on the cover of World’s Best Comics #1 from 1941:

This of course was the first issue of the series that would become known as World’s Finest starting with #2. And the early issues of the comic would feature covers pairing the two (along with Robin, usually) and showing them doing something fun, like, oh, I don’t know, fishing:

The team-ups were just on the covers, however, as Batman and Superman had separate stories inside, along with other characters and their own stories. Eventually the extra-sized comic reduced its page count, and instead of cutting either Superman or Batman out of the book, the two were squeezed together into one story (starting with issue #71). And aside from a brief stint of team-ups featuring Superman with other characters in the early ’70s, and the whole “Super Sons” thing, this was the Supes/Bats crimefighting pals team book ’til its end in 1986.


There was a short storyline in this series regarding a split between Batman and Superman, spiraling off from Batman’s resignation from the Justice League in Batman and the Outsiders #1:

This development gets followed up in World’s Finest #294 (1983) which presents further acrimony between the two old friends:

See, it says right there in the footnote, “see Batman and the Outsiders #1,” I didn’t lie to you.

Anyway, the two of them are at odds with each other for the next few issues, until this particular storyline comes to its conclusion at the end of the extra-sized anniversary issue #300 (1984):

And all was right with the world until 1986, when John Byrne presented his new status quo for the Superman/Batman relationship in Man of Steel #3:

In that preview article from Amazing Heroes #96, Byrne’s ideas on what the relationship between Superman and Batman are made clear:

And sure enough, in Man of Steel this new more adversarial interaction is revealed right out of the gate as Superman shows up in Gotham to take in this infamous vigilante:

Once Superman sees Batman in action over the course of the story, he softens his stance — i.e. he won’t immediately haul Bats off to the grey-bar hotel — but he’s still not entirely on board:

…leaving Batman with this wistful wink to the audience who just saw the Old Ways swept out the door for the Way Things Are Now:

And that was the status quo for…well, a little while, ’til, like all post-Crisis changes, folks started to turn things back to how they were in little ways. The UnCrisis-ening continues to this day, but this particular portrayal of the Superman/Batman relationship, coupled with what we saw between the two in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, has had a little more staying power.

I mean, obviously not the “you’re a criminal who should be turned in” part, but definitely the emphasis on “our approaches to crimefighting are different” has remained to a far greater extent than it ever did in the older books. It was probably also an influence on Batman’s general gruffness and reluctance to open up to friendships and such in recent years, not to mention the idea of his having contingency plans to take down the whole Justice League, that sort of thing.

However, the Superman/Batman pairing is too strong an idea, with too much inertia behind it, for it to be forever relegated to “frenemies.” We’ve had multiple Superman/Batman team-up mini-series and regular series, certainly with an emphasis on their differences, but definitely having them as pals again. The current World’s Finest absolutely feels more like the original series with that name.

I appreciate Byrne’s point about Superman and Batman just being too different to be friends…but honestly, having them at such odds with each other was the aberration. It’s having them as friends that feels like the correct, logical, choice.

10 Responses to “I’d bought World’s Finest #300 new off the stands not having any idea that was what was going on.”

  • Jacob Levy says:

    The fantastic Gibbons-Rude three-issue prestige format “World’s Finest” miniseries did *such* a good job of splitting the difference. It respected everything Byrne says about their differences, and was thoroughly committed to post-Crisis continuity, but made it absolutely work for them to draw closer to each other in multiple ways.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Seeing that panel where Batman rebukes Superman while slapping his hand away makes me think of the infamous Batman slapping Robin panel, and that makes me think about Batman punching Guy Gardner, and now I’m wondering, beyond Superman, Robin,and Guy Gardner, just how many of his fellow superheroes has Batman either Bat-slapped or Bat-punched?

    Also, I agree that the classic standard of Batman and Superman as friends should prevail… generally their differences complement each other. It does seem odd that in that one reconciliation panel in World’s Finest no. 300 it reads: “The titans meet–hand-to-hand–” considering that the New Teen Titans were the top selling comic at DC at that time…I think the caption would have read better as: “the world’s finest duo meet–hand-to-hand–” or something like that. But it is quite sweet and oh so appropriate that Wonder Woman was the peacemaker!

  • DK says:

    Superman: Anyways, I just returned from the 30th Century where I roll with a team made up of members from three dozen different planets and cultures and they have personalities ranging from cloying suck-ups to openly hostile, how are you Batman?

    Batman: Get lost, we can’t be friends Clark! We are too different!!!!

    The Justice Society has members ranging from “special sunglasses” to ‘literal wrath of the Almighty” but sure Batman and Superman are just too far apart.

    Don’t even get me started on Frank Miller, I could do a whole book on how DARK KNIGHT RETURNS gets Superman perhaps the wrongest he has ever been written. And yes I’m including BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.

    Chapter One is “How does a nuclear bomb hurt Superman when he literally gets his powers from a nuclear explosion in space constantly emitting radiation at him?”

    Earth-Whatever Lex Luthor: Let’s kill Superman by opening up a giant Yellow Sun radiation generation device in his face. Oh, wait. Shit!!!!!!!!

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    From what I’ve come to know about JB, he’s definitely the type to rule out any semblance of cordiality much less friendship with people over philosophical difference, however minor…

  • Sean Mageean says:


    I’ve long felt Dark Knight Returns is way overrated. Miller was, what, 29 years old when he created it? Considering that the JSA were in their fifties or even early sixties by the early 1980s, and none of them looked bloated and weird in the fashion that Miller depicted future Batman in his fifties in DKR, so it makes me wonder. I guess he was on steroids?

    Even Earth-2 Batman, who was killed off in a JSA story in Adventure Comics in 1979 or thereabouts in his late fifties was never depicted like that. And since Neal Adams’, Jim Aparo’s and Marshall Rogers’ depictions of Batman during the 1970s Bronze Age were the gold standard, a fifty year old Batman should have still been relatively muscular yet lean and toned.

    But then I’m also of the opinion that after Robin Frank Miller’s art started to go down hill. And his Dark Knight follow up book, what was it called Dark Knight Y2K or something… that’s just plain awful.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    *Ronin, not Robin… autocorrect strikes again…

  • Thom H. says:

    I love the embarrassed look on Superman’s face on that World’s Finest #43 cover. Too small, Smallville.

    And speaking of covers, Byrne hit it out of the park on the Man of Steel covers every time. The cover to #3 above is just perfect.

    Regardless of how Byrne changed their friendship in the ’80s, I really like where it’s ended up: a begrudging respect for one another’s methods mixed with a bit of competition and occasional concern. The complexity lends it realism.

    For my money, Jeph Loeb, Darwyn Cooke, and Tom King have all written the Batman/Superman relationship well. Frank Miller’s version is…lacking, I agree. But Dark Knight Returns is at least as much political allegory as anything else. I’m happy to read it as a product of its time, warts and all.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “this wistful wink to the audience”

    I liked that bit!

    ” that after Robin Frank Miller’s art started to go down hill”

    I looked at that B&W HC he did several years ago, once. Some of the WORST art I’ve ever see, printed on cheap paper, in B&W, which I’m sure didn’t help.

    “Ronin, not Robin”

    I’d buy Batman & Ronin! And I didn’t even like Ronin!

    “And speaking of covers, Byrne hit it out of the park on the Man of Steel covers every time.”

    Agreed! Excellent! I can’t even decide which version of the cover for #1 I prefer. The open-shirt “S” symbol is iiconic, but the other version goes with the rest of the series, and is damn good, itself.

  • Was there any discussion to the comics press at the time as to why Superman wouldn’t be part of the Justice League post-Crisis? Did the Superman office want full control over the character’s development, or was there a feeling that the League should stand on their own for a while without the big guns (excepting Batman in just the first year and Wonder Woman turning up only for little more than a cameo in JLE)?

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