In the world of comics there are few names that carry as much weight and meaning behind them than Superman and Batman. Both are considered cultural phenomena in their own right while simultaneously acting as foils to each other. The differences in strengths, methods, and principles are so clashing that it often leads to disagreement between the two; sometimes even straight up altercation, as happens in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Though it may seem that Superman would obviously have the upper hand in these moments, one should never underestimate the resourcefulness of The World’s Greatest Detective. Time and time again Batman has proven not only formidable, but even superior, to the Man of Steel. How has Batman, a man with no inherent super powers, managed to defeat the Man of Steel over and over again?
1. Kryptonite ring
What do you do if you’re a writer and you’ve created a character like Superman with a never-ending list of abilities including complete invulnerability? You make up kryptonite, the fictional mineral that conveniently takes away all of your hero’s super powers. While it’s not the most creative plot device, it is unquestionably the most useful tool when bringing down the Man of Steel.
Batman is actually given a kryptonite ring by Superman under the pretense that someone needs to be able to stop the Kryptonian if he were to ever go rogue, which has happened on multiple occasions, usually in the form of mind control. One such example occurs in the Batman story arc known as Hush, which ran from December 2002 until September 2003. In it, Poison Ivy has Superman under her control and Batman is forced to use the ring against his friend. It’s important to note that the ring is not the only thing that ensures Batman’s victory. According to Batman, Superman’s biggest weakness isn’t kryptonite; it’s that deep down Clark Kent is a good person, while Batman is not.
2. Lois Lane
As stated above, kryptonite is not the only weakness Superman has. In the same comic, Hush, Superman is fully capable of overpowering Batman and crushing him, ring or no ring. Being fully aware of this fact, Batman comes up with a fool-proof plan to defeat his old friend. The fight itself is essentially a ruse to distract Superman, while Catwoman, under Batman’s orders, kidnaps Lois Lane, Superman/Clark Kent’s love. Batman then plans to have Catwoman drop Lois Lane off a skyscraper in plain view of Superman. Upon seeing the love of his life falling to her death, Superman snaps out of Poison Ivy’s mind control and rescues Lois, flying her to safety.
This indirectly foils Poison Ivy’s scheme and directly ends the fight with Superman on Batman’s own terms. Not only is this ruthless plan a perfect illustration of Batman’s differing opinion between himself and Superman as mentioned above (it’s hard to believe that a “good” person would be willing to drop an innocent bystander from a building), but it is also an excellent example of Bruce’s near-omniscient knowledge of his opponents.
3. Kryptonite Arrow
When fighting Superman, it almost always comes back to kryptonite (assuming Superman’s girlfriend isn’t around to toss off of a skyscraper). In Frank Miller’s 1986 comic, The Dark Knight Returns, Superman is charged with bringing in an aging Batman who won’t give up his (illegal) vigilantism. In an iconic battle, Batman famously goes toe to toe with Superman wearing a fully armored Batsuit. The battle rages throughout the streets of Gotham as Bruce uses every trick in his book to bring down his former ally and friend.
Hunter missiles, sonic guns, and the entirety of Gotham’s electrical grid are just a sample of what Batman puts Superman through. Though none of it really has any effect other than making him angry, what ultimately brings Big Blue down is a kryptonite tipped arrow shot by Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow). Even though Batman isn’t the one who fired it, the win still goes to him, as the kryptonite was completely synthesized by Bruce. The arrow doesn’t kill Superman, but it’s made abundantly clear that if Batman wanted it to kill him, he could have. This brawl, and Batman’s victory over the Man of Steel, culminates in one of the most chilling Batman quotes of comic history: “I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come, in your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you!”
4. Red Kryptonite
Speaking of synthesizing kryptonite, Batman has gone out of his way to make multiple forms of the substance in the past. One particular type was known as red kryptonite and was used in the JLA comic book arch Tower of Babel from July through October of 2000. It’s important to note when discussing Batman’s many victories over Superman, that Tower of Babel wasn’t technically Batman defeating Superman. The story centers around Ra’s al Ghul enacting a sort of failsafe program created by Batman to take out every prominent hero of the Justice League. So even though it is only Batman’s plan that is defeating Superman in this case, that technicality is overshadowed by the fact he has devised a plan for taking out every one of the planets strongest heroes.
The use of red kryptonite on Superman has an opposite effect on him than traditional green colored kryptonite; it makes him stronger…by turning his skin transparent. Superman gets his powers from the rays of Earth’s yellow sun, so with transparent skin he absorbs way more solar energy and his powers completely sky rocket beyond control. According to Martian Manhunter, it takes all of Superman’s concentration to keep from exploding due to the excess energy coursing – excruciatingly — through his body. Batman honestly had a plan to defeat the most powerful hero on earth by making him even more powerful.
5. Kryptonite gas grenades and a spear
The DC/Warner Bros. movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice guaranteed fans some sort of altercation between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel by the title alone. But some were surprised by the ending of the climactic battle, which showed Batman utilizing both Kryptonite gas grenades and a Kryptonite-tipped spear to weaken and eventually beat the Man of Steel.
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