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Best Battles in Comic History: TDKR Batman vs. Superman

Come see why Batman and Superman's showdown in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is easily one of the most iconic battles in comic book history.

Every week, we take some time to reflect on all of the awesome fights in the latest round of new comics. Why limit our praise to just the brand new brawls, though? Why not highlight some of the epic fights in comic book history? Well, ladies and gentlemen, that's exactly what we're going to do with this all-new monthly segment. And, when it comes to kicking-off a segment about iconic book fights, the first pick was blatantly obvious: Batman vs. Superman in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

In 1986, Frank Miller hit the world with the four-issue mini-series, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Written and illustrated by Miller, the story revealed a bleak future for Batman and Superman. Wayne, who's now in his fifties, has hung up the cowl and Superman's essentially become a weapon for the U.S. President to utilize. When Wayne decides to finally step back into the cowl (and even accept a new Robin), the powers that be aren't too pleased with the development. Ultimately, the President orders Clark to put the Dark Knight down and what follows is without question one of the most classic battles to ever take place within the pages of a comic. Who would have thought the signature Batman/Superman fight would take place in a non-canon book?

Upon being ordered by the President to take down his former ally, Superman reaches out to Wayne instead of getting the job done right away. Considering their decades of history, it's the respectful and right thing to do. Using his heat vision, he writes one simple word in the ground near Bruce: "where?" The Caped Crusader looks up and replies, "Crime Alley." The area's evacuated by the military so the two can battle without any collateral damage, but Superman made one critical mistake: he gave Bruce prep time. Now, we all know who's going to take this fight in a random encounter, but Kal isn't about to face your ordinary version of Batman. Instead, Bruce shows up to the fight sporting one heck of an armor and a whole lot of new toys. Utilizing his weapons and even the environment, he's able to give Clark all kinds of trouble when the fight kicks-off. It's worth noting this future version of Superman isn't quite up to par with what we're used to -- one nuclear warhead nearly killed him.

Sure, a slugfest between these two under Frank Miller is all kinds of good stuff, but what makes this battle particularly great is the fact it shows off Batman's tactical mind and resourceful nature. Even with all of his tech, Wayne knows he's not winning a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots style encounter with Kal-El. Because of that, this fight relies purely on Bruce's wit and the plan he crafted. Naturally, the details weren't revealed before the big showdown, so it's a glorious experience to watch it all play out.

Bruce uses every tool possible and it softens the alien just enough to the point where a regular strike (from a super-strong armor, of course) can faze Supes. Sonics, acid, electric -- Bruce unleashes it all against Clark. The offensive is definitely felt by the Kryptonian, yet it still pales compared to the damage the powerhouse sends back his way. With only a couple of hits, the Caped Crusader suffers three broken ribs and a crushed wrist. Bruce is giving it his all, but there's just no standing up to a hit from Superman, no matter how advanced your armor may be.

All good things must come to an end and the fight's conclusion is quite legendary. Seeing as it's such a fantastic and memorable read, we don't want to spoil it for you in case you haven't checked it out yet. That said, if you haven't already read Miller's story, we strongly recommend you jump into it as soon as possible. Seriously, it's often considered one of the top must read Batman stories for a reason, people. Plus, it's pretty much the least you can do to prepare for 2015's Batman vs. Superman, right?

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Posted by tikhunt

Meh didn't find the fight that good, I liked the story though. Kinda.

Posted by 2cool4fun

I always find the fight confusing

SPOILER:

The ending has batman saying he won, but yet superman was barely fighting and even on the picture says "I just broke three of your ribs" the dude is trying his hardest to hold back yet batman who passed out ( even though it was on his own doing ) won? I never understood that...

Edited by TheManInTheShoe

The art is kinds bad, I can't really see what's happening

Posted by Dark_Vengeance_

@2cool4fun:

Batman knew Superman was going to hold back. So take it whichever way you see it.

Posted by PapiNacho

@2cool4fun: SPOILER: Once he has the kryptonite, Superman is weak, and Batman could have pretty much killed him at that moment. Batman chose to pass out because that was the only way of beating Superman without killing him (i.e. proving Superman wrong about the whole capturing thing). The whole fight was pretty much a fight of ideologies, Superman thinking there is no other way and Batman showing him another way.

Edited by 2cool4fun

@papinacho: Oh, i must have forgot about the kryptonite, or they just never used it in the animated version, oh well thanks.

I still think this story is a bit overrated, it's not bad, but it's not as great as people say it is, but it's definitely miles better than what Miler did on All-Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder.

Posted by PapiNacho

@2cool4fun: To be fair, old stories often seem that way. I will be the first to say I wasn't impressed by Year One, but i could appreciate it for what it was. This particular moment however is one my favorite ones.

Posted by Rubear

This story shows the deeps of Batman guile and backstabbing. As Bruce said himself he is not a good man.

Posted by RBT

@2cool4fun: They did use it in animated version. The arrow Oliver fired was kryptonite.

Edited by TheAmazingImmortalMan

it's overrated. it was ok IMO.

Posted by Johnni_Kun

@papinacho: Oh, i must have forgot about the kryptonite, or they just never used it in the animated version, oh well thanks.

I still think this story is a bit overrated, it's not bad, but it's not as great as people say it is, but it's definitely miles better than what Miler did on All-Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder.

Go read the actual graphic novel, it's better.

@2cool4fun: SPOILER: Once he has the kryptonite, Superman is weak, and Batman could have pretty much killed him at that moment. Batman chose to pass out because that was the only way of beating Superman without killing him (i.e. proving Superman wrong about the whole capturing thing). The whole fight was pretty much a fight of ideologies, Superman thinking there is no other way and Batman showing him another way.

This is what certain people don't understand. This is not really a fight on a physical nature. Once Superman fanboys realize this, they will find this more enjoyable.

Posted by superior_prime_maybe

Superman was healing from a nuclear blast, and then holding back and then it was Green Arrow who took the winning shot.... also in this universe, superman was really out of character to me. So no... i did not like the story. It did not show enough respect to man of steel.

However, that being said, if i have to choose one superman vs batman moment it will have to be either from Hush or Injustice. I know... that wasnt the exact same superman as in the mainstream... and he was holding back... but that seemed a better moment wher i was shitting bricks.

Maybe im saying this because i didnt actually grow up with TDKR. Hush was where i first saw these two go against each other.

Oh... but if i have to pick an event that i would like to be recreated in the movie... it should be something like Batman/Superman the animated TV movie.

Edited by StMichalofWilson

They will always be the best of friends, but in this story, they are the greatest enemies. This was one of my favorite fights. Good article

Posted by RulerOfThisUniverse

Meh...TDKR is pretty overrated in my opinion, and this scene isn't any different.

Posted by Wilbertus

"I want you to remember the one man who beat you." Classic.

Edited by ReachDestroyer

So it's cool to hate TDKR now? Good to know, hipsters, good to know.

Edited by Omnicrono

Great book, and a great fight. Don't care what anyone says.

@k4tzm4n Also - I dislike how Comic Vine tends to use the word "canon." TDKR technically is canon according to the modern literary use of the word. TDKR just isn't mainstream DCU. There is a difference. But CV uses canon to mean mainstream, when that's simply not the proper usage.

Oh well... good article nevertheless.

ZOUNDS!

Posted by _Marc_74

an epic classic, a major event in comic history

Posted by TheBhramaBull

So it's cool to hate TDKR now? Good to know, hipsters, good to know.

Comicvine is full of hipsters, hence the large amount of dislike for batman on here.

Edited by 2cool4fun

@rbt: Oh he meant that kryptonite,

This is what certain people don't understand. This is not really a fight on a physical nature. Once Superman fanboys realize this, they will find this more enjoyable.

I know, it's just that when ever I see an argument in those superman vs batman debates, they come back to this fight.

Btw the animated version is pretty much the same as the graphic novel, it's the same thing page by page ( at least that's what they say ) and I'm not a big fan of the art :\

Edited by ALFMutant

I always recommends to anyone who are interested in this story to just skip the graphic novel and just watch the movie version. The art is way much more tolerable in the animated movie.

Edited by batmannflash

I'll be honest, I think the story is a little overrated, because well, I have a hard time reading older comics. But this fight is awesome.

My favorite Supes vs Bat fight would be from Hush

Edited by TheCheeseStabber

To be honest I hate TDKSB but the fight against Supes in that comic is far! Better

Posted by mark15

favourite

Posted by Z3RO180

I don't like frank millers batman story's at all. I read a bit of The DKR in HMV and I thought it was bad and highly over rated.

Posted by manofsteelrulez

I don't like the way Superman was written in this comic.

Edited by AllStarSuperman

Meh

Posted by Herokiller12344

Was this written by anyone but a bat fanboy like Miller, this fight would've gone a completely different way.

Posted by VeganDiet

So it's cool to hate TDKR now? Good to know, hipsters, good to know.

The story itself is fine, but the artwork is pretty hideous. I, personally, think Year One is head and shoulders above TDKR in both story ad artwork.

Also, people are allowed to not like things without being hipsters. Could be because the story is massively over-hyped

Edited by Mucklefluga

Hey look, its a crime to have an opinion again! If you dislike this book you're now a "hipster"! Yay!

Posted by PapiNacho

@mucklefluga: Out of morbid curiosity, since when did being a "hipster" become a crime?

Posted by ReachDestroyer

@vegandiet: I'm just saying it's pretty ridiculous how the vast majority of comments here are negative, with even some people saying they have never read it (or only flicked through it in HMV, seen the animated movie etc) and still jumping on the bandwagon.

Personally, TDKR was the first comic that I read (so I avoided any hype or overhype) and loved every panel of it so obviously I'm going to be biased and defend it. Remember though, it's overhyped because a great many people DO love it.

As for the art, it doesn't bother me and if anything I prefer it to the Jim Lee style everyone is now imitating in the mainstream comic book industry. But art's subjective and all that.

Obviously everyone has their own opinion that they are entitled to and if you want to hate TDKR then fine, it would be arrogant, narrow minded and even pretentious of me or anyone else to try and change your mind. However, advising new readers to avoid The Dark Knight Returns which has been suggested by some posters here is laughable, it is considered one of the great Comic books for a reason.

Edited by Sleepbutnodream15

So it's cool to hate TDKR now? Good to know, hipsters, good to know.

Haha, I've never seen a gathering of TDKR detractors this big before. I actually have a hard time reading older books, but I absolutely loved TDKR.

Edited by dcguy

This fight still impress me , the story started really good, then turned down (I still don't like the third issue) but finale is exellent. On the other hand making movie based on this story is stupid idea. Miller really screwed up Superman , it's acceptable for an alternate timeline story (Way more better than old man Logan which ruined Hulk) but for a live action movie it's not a good source expecially for Superman. I don't want a vs movie about my favorite two Superhero , I want a movie about world's finest.

Posted by TheNameIsWayne

@2cool4fun: He won because all fights are not about who is on the ground. He beat him by proving the point to everyone that he has risen above Government control and destroyed it. Bruce knows Superman wont really hurt him because thats his flaw and that is what Bruce has exploited.

Posted by Sleepbutnodream15

@mucklefluga: Ugh, I hate when people say that. So now it's a crime to to think that someone posting their opinion that disagrees with someone else's opinion is a crime?

Seems like the majority of comic fans like The Dark Knight Returns, so it's kinda surprising to see so many people show such indifference/dislike for it. I guess that doesn't kinda make them hipsters, haha.

Posted by kazekaine1

So it's cool to hate TDKR now? Good to know, hipsters, good to know.

pretty much this, whats next anti-monitor was a overrated villain in crisis on infinite earth.

Posted by ShadowHuntR

The art is kinds bad, I can't really see what's happening

How about you read the text to see when it came out?

Edited by Mia26

MEH ..... I found the story pretty good but the writing got pompous and childish. The fight to me is the least meorable, you got two chatacters that aren't being themeselves and are both acting like assholes. Superman a lapdog for the goverment ? Yeah no, and not only was he sevearly depowered and dumbed down Superman, which doesn't make it much of a fight but he didn't want to fight Batman so Superman pretty much let Batman win. Batman acts more assholeish then usual and he treats Alfred like his butler not his father or at least friend. Batman's inner monologue was funny as hell and childish. Serioulsy guys the book is pretty overrated, it relies on inner monologue to carry the story and that's always a sign of a medicore writer.

Were suppose to believe that a Batman who got his ass kicked by a mutant(that isn't even at this weak Superman's level) and who charged into a tv station that had swarms of police officers, was able to plan how to defeat Superman ? Nice try Frank Miller, but only an idiot would believe that.

Remeber Frank Miller, Superman is the champion of the oppressed, protector of the downtrodden and defenseless.

Also I found it stupid and silly how Miller used Regan against Batman, when Regan and Batman are so simmilar .... they both used fear and the precieved notion that they were crazy to accomplish their goals. If anything Batman should have been the goverment agent, seeing as he likes to have control and use fear.

Edited by Strider92

Isn't the only reason this is considered the best fight in DC simply because it has Batman Vs Superman? I've honestly seen fights with a better back story and art than those issues......

Edited by AllStarSuperman

I don't like the way Superman was written in this comic.

me neither

I always find the fight confusing

SPOILER:

The ending has batman saying he won, but yet superman was barely fighting and even on the picture says "I just broke three of your ribs" the dude is trying his hardest to hold back yet batman who passed out ( even though it was on his own doing ) won? I never understood that...

this, not to mention horrendous art and a story that felt drawn out. The only thing I liked was Carrie Kelly.

Posted by Dud317

Cool idea for an article , but I would prefer a more in-depth analysis. Talk more about why this is a classic fight. Maybe what the state of these characters were like in the 80s. I'm betting a few of the people who didn't like it is because they are used to the Batman we know today, as opposed to the Batman of yesterday. This is the comic version of Wizard of Oz in terms of being a classic. There were many versions before, but this is what we remember. The statute of limitations for spoilers on books like this is pretty much nonexistent. Still hesitant to include spoilers, black them out.

Posted by UltimateSMfan

I really don't care for this fight, Story was great aside from the way Superman was treated(hint: like a complete moron). It was an ok fight for me.

Edited by leokearon

Can we make suggestions for Greatest Fights Ever?

Posted by Alak

I liked this fight (and the book). It's sad to watch an old crime fighter clinging onto his pride as he tries to fight an impossible battle against an ageless god-like superhero. You want to cheer every time Bruce gets in a good hit, but then you immediately stop and cringe as Clark fires back a shot that could potentially end Batman's life. Lots of people like DKR and lots of people don't care for it. I belong to the former group.

Posted by Wolverine08

Meh, just Frank Miller wanking Batman as per usual. Nothing special to this at all.

Online
Edited by gambit_15

I really enjoyed this fight, the amped up 'bat suit' was a good enough explanation for me on how he was hanging in there. Also how the fight ends is all part of the plan so Batman could of won and didn't but still technically won. Carrie Kelly's use of a sling shot against Superman is a nice little bit of comedy thrown in.

But overall this represents the second best fight in this book as the 'Tunnel of Love' with the Joker is a better fight in my opinion.

I am a Batman loyalist and would recommend the animated movies as a great use of a couple hours.

Edited by TheManInTheShoe

@shadowhuntr: Why would that matter? I still can't see what's happening

Posted by V_Scarlotte_Rose

@reachdestroyer said:

So it's cool to hate TDKR now? Good to know, hipsters, good to know.

Comicvine is full of hipsters, hence the large amount of dislike for batman on here.

So people who don't like Batman are automatically hipsters?

@z3ro180 said:

I don't like frank millers batman story's at all. I read a bit of The DKR in HMV and I thought it was bad and highly over rated.

Your HMV sells graphic novels?

Posted by TheBhramaBull

@thebhramabull said:

@reachdestroyer said:

So it's cool to hate TDKR now? Good to know, hipsters, good to know.

Comicvine is full of hipsters, hence the large amount of dislike for batman on here.

So people who don't like Batman are automatically hipsters?

Na, I'm just making a reasonable guess I think. Granted there will be people who don't like Batman for reasons other than him being popular.

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