The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team"
World's Finest #94 - "The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team"
May-June 1958, reprinted in Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years (DC, 2014 series)
Dick Sprang's artwork for "The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team" mixes together the two different worlds of the DC superheroes by emphasizing the black inky shadows of Batman's milieu, and then the sky-blue world of the flying Man from Krypton.
Since the mood of Batman tales were often tinted with long shadows and Superman's stories shown as virtually wide-open with a horizon in view or Clark Kent in a nice, clean office (or the clean city of Metropolis) Sprang puts that all together in an effective way in this World's Finest tale, juggling the two different environments but marginally weighing the visuals toward Batman (not too hard to understand why: Dick Sprang drew hundreds of DC Comics stories, starting with Batman stories in 1941).
In "The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team," writer Edmond Hamilton has Bats and Supes relating to one another through mutual admiration, and that respect creates the mystery of why Superman eschews Batman and Robin's help by relying instead on Powerman as he goes up against the most recent effort of Lex Luthor to "take revenge on Metropolis".
Mystified by Superman going up against Luthor (who has obtained some kryptonite) without their help, the story flashbacks to a different episode in which Batman fooled Luthor by dressing as Superman and therefore kryptonite was useless, shocking Superman's foe and bringing about a quick conclusion, something which begs the question: why isn't Batman involved in defeating Luthor this time?
When confronted by Batman and Robin who want answers for Superman's strange change in behavior, Powerman explains with "we don't want you around," and "I'm all the help Superman needs."
"The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team" is only 12 pages long, told efficiently with 132 panels (6 per page) with a single splash-page intro to kick the tale off.
Hamilton's theme is sacrifice, bravery, cleverness and loyalty, and between Batman's detective work and Superman's refusal to explain, the reader is compelled to assemble the various pieces leading toward the satisfactory explanation, one that slips some science fiction a little deeper into the story.
But Sprang's art keeps us mostly rooted in Batman's world of shadow and "figuring things out," with Superman providing displays of his strength but also so dependent on Powerman that suspicion builds toward what hold the interloper has over him. Sprang's visuals also features a rather unique to Batman story distortion of physical reality: a helicopter is hidden "in plain view" by placing it inside a windmill with its blades replacing the windmill blades, something possible in a comic book since the art shows how similar the two differing objects are. In "real life" such a switcheroo would be difficult to pull off, the blades are not really that alike.
Though the story is quite dated by 21st century standards of superhero comic books, the simple but meticulous craftsmanship (the storytelling itself is flawless) of this World's Finest #94 is good, and it is easy to see how this tale is a template for so many stories that followed that featured a disturbed Batman-Superman relationship mystery.
More Comic Book Reviews
Original Page December 31, 2021