Superman and Batman’s latest team-up strategy has a strange history
Batman/Superman: World’s Finest has its own surprising twist on a classic DC Comics character as the Dark Knight and Man of Steel literally join forces to save the day
Of all the superhero partnerships in the DC Universe, the most iconic and effective of them all is between Superman and Batman, often referred to as the World’s Finest. Despite their differing perspectives on the DCU and approach to fighting crime, the two heroes regard each other as friends and close allies but their partnership has just brought them even closer together. In Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #4, written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettered by Aditya Bidikar, the two heroes merge into a single composite being in their latest mission to save the DCU. And oddly enough, this is not the first time something like this has visually happened to the two DC powerhouses in their shared comic book history before!
Here is how the Man of Steel of Steel and Dark Knight merged into a single superhero bearing visual hallmarks of both characters, how the current World’s Finest comic book series has been building to this moment, and when Superman and Batman have come together like Voltron to save the day in the past.
How did the Superman/Batman Fusion take place?
Superman and Batman’s merger is not the product of a Dragon Ball Z Fusion Dance or Potara earrings but rather facilitated through the cosmic energies of a Green Lantern Power Ring. While facing off against a magically brainwashed Hal Jordan, Batman and Superman combine their willpower to draw Hal’s Power Ring right off his finger and to them to put a stop to the hostilities. Successful, the two heroes are formed into a single being after an emerald flash of light, with the composite being possessing the abilities of Superman, Batman, and a Green Lantern through their shared power source.
Though occupying a single body, both Superman and Batman’s internal thoughts are depicted separately, implying that the two characters each have their own hand in controlling their composite form, not unlike a Pacific Rim Jaeger. With the Man of Tomorrow’s strength, speed, and endurance, Batman’s training and gadgets, and Green Lantern’s reality-shaping power, this composite hero is a force to be reckoned with. However, this merger visibly takes an accelerated consumption of the Power Ring’s energy, seamlessly splitting Batman and Superman back to their normal, separate selves once the ring is completely drained of power.
What’s been going on in Batman/Superman: World’s Finest?
Batman/Superman: World’s Finest launched this past March and marked Waid’s eagerly anticipated full-fledged return for his first DC Comics ongoing title in over a decade. Set in the DCU’s relative past as Superman and Batman were still figuring out their friendship and working relationship, the story saw the two heroes team up after the Man of Steel endures a harrowing attack from his recurring enemy Metallo. The World’s Finest consult the Doom Patrol for medical assistance while Robin and Supergirl went on a team-up of their own to learn more about the strange conspiracy targeting the heroes.
The culprit is revealed to be the ancient demon Nezha, who was imprisoned for over four millennia before escaping and rescuing his plot to subjugate humanity under his will. Using his dark magic, Nezha converts the world’s superheroes into his loyal vassals and has them attack the World’s Finest, with Green Lantern being among Nezha’s earliest converts. As Batman and Superman take the fight directly to Nezha, Supergirl and Robin find themselves transported to ancient China where they meet the heroes that defeated and imprisoned Nezha thousands of years ago.
The strange history of the Composite Superman/Batman
The initial iterations of an individual resembling a merged Batman and Superman were originally completely separate characters and, even more interestingly, supervillains. Introduced by Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan in 1964’s World’s Finest Comics #142, Joseph Meach grew to resent the Man of Steel while working as a janitor at the Superman Museum in Metropolis. After suffering a freak accident in the section of the museum dedicated to the Legion of Super-Heroes, Meach gains the Legion’s powers and uses Chameleon Boy’s powers to transform himself into a being resembling an individual that was half Superman and half Batman. Referring to himself as Composite Superman, Meach menaced Superman and Batman before losing his powers and eventually being killed by the extraterrestrial supervillain Xan.
In 2009’s Superman/Batman Annual #3 by Len Wein and Chris Batista, Professor Ivo clones the Justice League in an effort to replicate their powers and overwhelm them. This fiendish experiment fails, with the clones merging into a single being and wearing a makeshift costume combining Superman and Batman’s outfits. Growing increasingly unstable, this cloned Composite Superman would ultimately tear himself apart.
In 2004’s Superman/Batman #4, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness put a heroic twist on Composite Superman, with a towering robotic warrior constructed by the teenage Toyman Hiro Okamura to destroy a gigantic Kryptonite meteor barrelling towards the Earth. Intended to be piloted by the actual Batman and Superman, the robot was instead flown by Captain Atom to intercept the meteor, resulting in the robot’s destruction. Loeb and McGuinness revisited this concept at the end of their run in Superman/Batman #25, with Mister Mxyzptlk combining the Supermen and Batmen of multiple universes into a single being.
Most recently, Joshua Williamson and Max Raynor introduced their own version of Composite Superman in 2020’s Batman/Superman #14. After the Justice League’s moon base was taken over by a rogue artificial intelligence, it cybernetically crafted a merged Superman and Batman android body, before the two heroes convinced the formidable android to stand down.
Composite Superman takes the idea of having Superman and Batman team up to a whole other level, effectively making the concept of the heroes being stronger together quite literal. There’s also something inherently cool about the merged character look, with DC’s two most iconic characters merged into a single being. This sensibility has transitioned into animation and video games, with a form of Composite Superman appearing in Justice League Unlimited, Robot Chicken, and as a playable character in 2014’s Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.
The latest Composite Superman, appearing in World’s Finest #4, may have already separated but the character’s visual legacy has a surprisingly extensive history in the DCU. The merger of the Man of Tomorrow and the Caped Crusader brings the two heroes closer than ever, with Superman and Batman walking away with a better understanding of each other while working together to save the day. Superman and Batman are already considered the DCU’s finest and the Composite Superman/Batman is a figure that distills their best elements into a single being.
To see the continuing adventures of the new Composite Superman/Batman, the story continues in Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #5, written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Dan Mora, on sale July 19 from DC Comics.
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