Two DC superheroes, Batman and Superman, are one of the most iconic characters in comic book fictional media. Both superheroes first appeared in the comics in the 1930s and were complete opposites – Superman was an alien with a secret life as a journalist in Metropolis, while Batman was a billionaire playboy by day and a vigilante by night in Gotham City. Of course, they evolved to be much more layered, with various stories fitting them together to form allyship and protect the world, but sometimes DC’s superheroes were pitted against each other – particularly in Frank Miller’s ‘Dark Knight Returns.’ In this article, we will explore why Batman hates Superman in some DC stories and discuss this topic in more detail.
Batman usually doesn’t hate Superman, but that notion changed for a moment in the famous Frank Miller’s ‘Dark Knight Returns’ comic book from 1986. In the story, aging Bruce Wayne left the mantle of Batman after the death of Jason Todd, but when the crime in Gotham City gets worse, he decides to return as the Caped Crusader. However, Superman is the agent of the U.S. Government, who “polices” other superheroes and even imprisons some of them. Other comic book stories (most of them Elseworlds like ‘Dark Knight Rises’) see Superman mostly being brainwashed and going overboard, like in the ‘Injustice’ series, or Batman seeing the Man of Tomorrow as a threat, like DCEU movie ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.‘
These iconic characters weren’t against each other before Frank Miller’s famous comic book story, but it seems that that concept was adapted multiple times over the years, prompting the notion that Batman truly hates Superman. He doesn’t, but we will mention circumstances where Batman truly hated Superman.
Did Batman ever hate Superman in DC comics?
One of the biggest misconceptions for younger fans is Batman’s hate for Superman. Why? Well, mostly because of Zack Snyder’s movie from 2016, which we will discuss later, and because Batman isn’t necessarily portrayed as a “sunny” character. If you ask any fan about the relationship between Batman and Superman, most will answer that Bats and Supes are best friends, which is true.
For example, the ‘Batman: Prelude to the Wedding: Nightwing vs. Hush’ comic book storyline from 2018 follows Dick Grayson taking his adoptive father, Bruce Wayne, on a night out before his wedding to Selina Kayle.
Among other things in that storyline, Bruce asks Kal-El to be his best man, which is strangely heartwarming since the superhero duo constantly bicker when working together.
Batman eventually gets “cold feet” and doesn’t appear at his own wedding, but the point still stands – Batman and Superman were always best friends. Even Pre-Crisis, Batman, and Superman were really good friends despite not always agreeing with their superhero methods. However, one non-canon story became a staple of DC comics and one of the most famous comic book storylines of all time, and it was called ‘Dark Knight Returns.’
In 1986, Frank Miller, with the help of the then-newly promoted editorial director of DC Comics, Dick Giordano, decided to bring Batman back to his original premise and theme – dark and tragic. Miller created the story of aging Batman, who retires after the death of his sidekick Robin, Jason Todd, and eventually returns to his vigilante work after realizing that Gotham City has high crime rates that only he can decrease.
However, the U.S. Government and Ronald Reagan stayed in the way of the old Caped Crusader since their new agent, none other than Superman, is the one who is pursuing justice and hunting superheroes and vigilantes who don’t answer to the United States of America.
In the story, Superman thinks he has no choice and that being a “puppet” to the government will let him fight crime more efficiently. This makes Batman a target to the U.S. Government, especially when he becomes active on the “streets of Gotham” once again.
This conflict worsens when Superman starts imprisoning his fellow superheroes and even severing Oliver Queen’s arm. Of course, the story is set in the dystopian Gotham City in 1986, in reality, where Bruce Wayne leaves his superhero mantle after the death of Jason Todd, his Robin.
Frank Miller’s famous story got a cult following and is regarded as the best Batman story of all time, but it’s considered non-canon since it’s not set in the main continuity of the DC Universe – Earth-31.
Despite Superman actually leaving Batman alone after the aging Caped Crusader faked his death, this storyline inspired many future comic book writers to pit the most famous DC superheroes against each other.
There are many Elseworlds stories like ‘Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man that Destroyed Everything?’ where Superman almost destroys Multiverse with his arrival from another universe, and Batman commits murder-suicide to stop the destruction.
Of course, some other storylines included Batman fighting brainwashed or turned insane Superman after a tragic event like the game and later comic book ‘Injustice: God Among Us.’ In that storyline, Joker tricks Superman into killing his pregnant wife, Lois Lane, and spirals into villainous ways, trying to exterminate every single criminal from the planet.
The ‘Injustice’ storyline sees Wonder Woman, Damian Wayne, Cyborg, and others siding with grief-driven Superman, while Batman with Blue Beetle, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Supergirl try to stop the Man of Tomorrow. Quite an interesting storyline and really good games and comic book series.
So, did Batman ever hate Superman? Yes, but only in Elseworlds storylines, not in the main continuity of DC comics – most notably, in one infamous DCEU movie from 2016, Batman even killed Superman. Let’s discuss that project.
DC Extended Universe saw Zack Snyder’s superhero movie showcasing Batman’s hate for Superman
We already established that the main continuity of DC Universe showcases strong friendship and sometimes rivalry between Batman and Superman, but after Frank Miller’s story in 1986, we saw a lot of variations of the same relationship in multiple media.
One stood out from the rest, not just because it was an average attempt at creating a DC Cinematic Universe (DC Extended Universe) but because Batman actually kills Superman in the movie. The movie ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘ was directed by Zack Snyder in 2016.
This project was mostly controversial for its underwhelming quality, but it also showcased Batman actively pursuing Superman to kill him. This was really surprising for the fans who got used to Batman and Superman being good buddies, but after ‘Injustice’ games and comic books, more exploration of the conflict between these characters was explored.
In the movie, Batman is portrayed as a cautious, serious superhero who wants to protect humanity at all costs. However, when he sees that an alien has literally destroyed half of the Metropolis to kill General Zod. Batman finds this problematic and tries to find a way to remove Superman from the Earth by developing kryptonite weapons. Lex Luthor manipulates the Caped Crusader as well, and even after Batman has a change of heart and tries to stop what he started, Superman dies after Luthor’s monster stabs the alien with a kryptonite spear.
Superman dies, and Batman is sad as Kents and Lois Lane, but we eventually see Superman returning from the dead afterward. Nevertheless, in the movie, Batman really hates Superman and what he represents (in his mind, the threat to the Earth), and the way he operates.
Personally, the whole premise was alright, but it was executed sloppily by Snyder and the writers.
In the end, Batman isn’t supposed to hate Superman, only challenge and scold him for his superhero methods, yet showcase respect for each other.
What is your opinion of the topic? Does Batman truly hate Superman? Let us know in the comments below!