BvS Comic Book Primer
Author: Ricky Church (Follow RICHARDCHURCH16)
July 27, 2015

With the recent release of the BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE!trailer, anticipation for this film has never been higher. In their first ever live-action encounter, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman once again as he fears what actions Superman might take after witnessing firsthand the destructive power of the Kryptonian race. The two heroes will eventually come to blows before, hopefully, uniting to stop a common enemy. While this may be the first time The Dark Knight and The Man of Steel have interacted onscreen, theyíve had several meetings, team-ups and physical encounters in the comics. To tide you over until March 23, 2016, here are a few recommendations on graphic novels or other storylines to pump you up for BATMAN v SUPERMAN!

THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller
Easily the most obvious influence on the film, at least from a visual perspective, The Dark Knight Returns saw Bruce Wayne come out of retirement as an old man to fight a new wave of crime. During his return he fought Two-Face, The Joker, the Gotham police and, eventually, Superman himself. Believing Batmanís actions to be a danger to the country, and an embarrassment after he accomplished more good than the government, the President sent Superman, now effectively a government enforcer, to bring Batman in.

Written and drawn by the legendary Frank Miller, this confrontation was unlike anything seen before as Batman utilized every trick he had at his disposal to defeat Superman. TDKRís influence is undeniable as Zack Snyder has modeled Batmanís armor in the trailer after what he wore during this fight. He also snuck in an homage to one of Returnís most famous panels, depicting Batmanís silhouette jumping through the air as lighting strikes behind him, into the trailer. This fight was also adapted in the animated film of The Dark Knight Returns, though its much more blockbuster worthy than the graphic novelís version.

HUSH by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee
When Batman investigates a mysterious new villain, one who seems to be unifying all of Batmanís main rogues, his case takes him to a brief visit in Metropolis to track down Poison Ivy. When he finds her, heís completely surprised to discover sheís somehow managed to control Supermanís mind. A tense fight between the two allies ensues, but thankfully Batman always packs a kryptonite ring whenever he comes to Metropolis.

Unlike the battle in The Dark Knight Returns, Batman had absolutely no time at all to plan his attack. He acted purely off instinct to stay one step ahead of Superman, a feat not so easily accomplished when fighting someone faster than a speeding bullet. Batman is able to see Superman is at least holding back from his full powers, despite being under Ivyís control, and uses this to his advantage, maneuvering Superman into situations where he canít use lethal force. In one instance, Batman takes the fight underground and claims heís ruptured a gas main, telling Superman he canít use his heat vision unless he wants to blow up several city blocks.

In the end, heís able to snap Superman out of Ivyís control and take her into custody. The Man of Steel admits this was his worst case scenario; being under someone elseís control to do their bidding. However, he also tells Batman heís never felt more sure that he gave the kryptonite ring to the right person, knowing Batman would stand the strongest chance of defeating him should he ever be controlled or just go bad.

RED SON by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson
What if Superman had never landed in Kansas? What if, instead, he landed in Soviet Russia at the height of its power and used as a tool of the government? And what if Superman eventually became the leader of Russia? Thatís the premise behind Red Son as Superman spreads the communist doctrine across the world, leaving it up to people like Lex Luthor to lead America to victory. For his part, Superman never had bad intentions, but simply took the step the regular Superman would never take by believing the world would be a better place under his rule.

However, Batman is also in the fight against Superman after witnessing his parents, Russians who spoke out against Joseph Stalinís regime, shot by Stalinís soldiers. He became a freedom fighter, a symbol against Supermanís oppressive reign. Eventually recruited by Luthor and the US government, Batman went on a suicide mission to assassinate Superman and nearly succeeded. Batman v Superman seems to be taking some inspiration from this storyline as the ďSuperman SoldiersĒ are seen wearing the ďSĒ logo and bowing down to Superman. Batman himself even sports a costume similar to the one he wears in Red Son, but what this sequence really is in the final film is anyoneís guess at this point.

PUBLIC ENEMIES by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGinniss
Unlike the previous entries, Batman and Superman actually work together in this story to prevent a kryptonite meteor from hitting Earth while also trying to topple President Lex Luthorís regime after he publicly blamed Superman for the meteor and placed a bounty on his head. The two heroes had to fight an onslaught on villains vying for the bounty and allies who wanted to bring Superman in.

This memorable action sequence displayed how a super-powered alien and a mortal man worked so well together in combat, each utilizing their unique skills to takedown their foes. Even a group of several powerful Justice League members are hesitant to take on the combined might of Batman and Superman. What really makes this story standout though is the emphasis on the duoís similarities as much as their differences. Jeph Loeb really understands what makes these two heroes click and why theyíre super-BFFs. This story was even adapted as an animated film in 2009.

TRINITY by Matt Wagner
This is an essential piece to read in the months before Batman v Supermanís release as it showcases DCís big three, their trinity of superheroes, in action together. Itís a depiction of the first time these three heroes came together to foil Raís al Ghulís latest plot to rule the world. Though Batman and Superman have worked together, itís the first time theyíve encountered Wonder Woman. Needless to say, she has problems with Batmanís unique style, viewing him more as a brute than a hero. Superman mostly played the role of mediator between them and defended Batman when Wonder Woman asked why he puts up with him when his tactics are so obviously violent. Superman told her Bruce grew up in a much harsher environment, but he also had no super powers and used his potential to save innocent lives, making Superman wonder if he would do the same were he not super powered.

Since Batman v Superman will also be the first time Wonder Woman will be brought to the big screen, this story deserves some extra attention (itís also getting a Deluxe Edition a couple months before BvSís release). Its very possible a scene like the one above will play out in the film, only it could be Wonder Woman defending Batman to Superman since the two former heroes may have a history together, according to Zack Snyder.

Those all my recommendations for the time being of which Batman/Superman stories you can read to get primed for their big film! If you have any suggestions or other stories that I missed, sound off in the comments below! - Ricky Church


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