Way back in Episode 58 of the Golden Age of Comic Books Podcast in 2008, I covered in detail the Superman-Batman team-ups from the Golden Age. Even though I did this podcast, I continue to receive emails asking what Golden Age comics should be read to learn the origins of the team-up of these two iconic characters. Instead of just referring everyone to the podcast, I thought I would do a brief chronological history of the team-ups in the comics for the readers of the blog. Please note that I will not spend time covering the Batman-Supeman (and Robin) team-ups from the Golden Age of Radio from 1945 (starting on September 5, 1945, to be exact) where they appeared in 13 serials together.
New York World’s Fair Comics (1940)
Although they did not appear in action together in the pages of this comic, Superman, Batman and Robin first appeared together in comics on the cover of this commemorative comic book. This issue features separate adventures of these characters at the 1940 World’s Fair in New York.
World’s Best Comics #1 (Spring 1941)
About a year after their World’s Fair appearances, our heroes again appeared together on the cover of World’s Best Comics #1. As in the case of World’s Fair Comics 1940, they did not appear together in a story in this issue, but they started a tradition of cover appearances on this title that became World’s Finest Comics with the second issue and continued for many years.
All-Star Comics #7 (November-December 1941)
The bottom right corner of All-Star Comics #7 tells the story here – Batman, Superman and Flash, honorary members of the JSA, help raise money for war orphans. Not only is the first time that Superman and Batman (sans Robin – although he is mentioned) appear together in a story, it’s the first time they appear with the members of the JSA. It is not clear from this story whether Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne enjoy the friendship they clearly have in later years (or even know their alter egos), but at least we get to very briefly see them together in a Golden Age comic book story for the first time.
All-Star Comics #36 (August-September 1947)
Our heroes were back in the pages of All-Star Comics with another cameo appearance together. In this story, “The Three Drowned Men”, they fill in for absentee JSA members to solve a mystery. Their brief joint appearances with the members of the JSA mark the second time they team-up in the pages of a Golden Age comic book.
Superman #76 (May-June 1952)
Twelve years after Superman and Batman were first depicted together on the cover of a comic book, a new cover heralds “The Mightiest Team on Earth!” Finally, in the pages of Superman #76, our heroes star in a full length adventure together. As a bonus, Clark and Bruce first learn each other’s secret identities and set the stage for many team-ups in the years to come. Unfortunately, for the readers of this story in 1952 who wanted to see more team-ups of DC top selling stars, two more years would pass before these adventures became a permanent addition to the DC Universe.
World’s Finest Comics #71 (July-August 1954)
Finally, in 1954 DC gave the readers what they wanted – regular adventures starring Superman, Batman and Robin together. This story in World’s Finest Comics #71 seems to be in continuity with the adventure from Superman #76, and kicks off the regular continuing team-ups of our heroes.
World’s Finest Comics #94 (May-June 1958)
Four years after the regular team-ups began in World’s Finest Comics, and two years after the dawn of the Silver Age of Comic Books, DC decided to completely change the origin story of the Superman-Batman team. Whether this is an Earth-1/Earth-2 issue, or just lapse in continuity by the editors, this origin story seems to eradicate the origin of the team-ups as told six years earlier in Superman #76.
Adventure Comics #275 (August 1960)
In another Silver Age story, DC decided to capitalize on the popularity of Superboy by providing a much earlier origin of the team when Clark and Bruce were boys. Although this story is about as implausible as I have ever read (a teenage Bruce Wayne moves to Smallville with his parents – yes – alive and well!), DC suggests that Clark and Bruce began their team in their teenage years. A teenage Lois Lane ever appears in this one! At the end of the story Superboy makes sure Bruce will not remember this adventure, but is comfortable in the knowledge that they will become close friends in the future.
If you are a fan and want to explore the origins of the Superman-Batman team ups, check out these stories. They have all been reprinted over the years.
By the way, for a very wacky and largely unknown Superman-Batman team-up from 1947 (well, sort of), check out the strange case of “The Pink Eyebrow”.