Today we look at when Batman killed Superman for real and Superman somehow got better. An alien cat was heavily involved, but not in the resurrection part, oddly enough!
It’s “And Of Course”, where I highlight some particularly outlandish/convoluted comic book plot resolutions.
This all unfolded in 1976’s World’s Finest Comics #240, in a story aptly titled, “How Do You Kill a Superman?” with illustrations by Dick Dillin and John Calnan and a story by Bob Haney. The Bob Haney part is, of course, important enough to understand why this story is so outlandish.
WHO IS BOB HANEY AND WHY DID HE LOVE TEAM-UP COMICS TOO?
As I’ve written many times in the past, Bob Haney has a special reputation in comics for the continuity of his team-based comics (primarily his long career as lead writer of the team-based Batman series, The Brave and the Bold). As I’ve also noted many times, the old newsstand format lent itself to popularizing team comics, because most (not all, of course, but most) comic book purchases at the time were impulse buys. In other words, you grabbed a comic when you were at the newsstand or drugstore and grabbed the comic you thought was the coolest. And if you liked Batman and, say, Green Lantern, if you’ve seen a comic featuring Batman AND Green Lantern, then you just got two heroes for the price of one. When we came to the direct market model, comic book customers came to the comic book store primarily for the comics they wanted before they got there. And then again, comic book readers wanted comics that “matter”. Unique stories between Batman and another superhero weren’t really going to affect either character’s continuity, so the team books were phased out.
However, while they were still popular, the whole idea of continuity was basically negligible, which is exactly where Bob Haney lived. He didn’t need to know what the deal was in your own comic, once you step into the pages of Brave and the Bold, you’re a Bob Haney character. People often joked that Haney’s Earth was a whole other world in the multiverse (Earth-B?), because the characters acted totally unlike themselves when they appeared in Brave and the Bold or other movies. other comics he has written. So yeah if you want cohesive characterization then Bob Haney’s crew comics aren’t for you but if you’re up for some totally weird but awesome comics that do everything they can to attract your attention on the spinner rack, then these stories are definitely for you! Haney had a real “throw everything against the wall” approach which is a real pleasure to read and that’s certainly the case in this Superman/Batman team-up (well, “teaming up” might be overkill, as Batman is all about KILL Superman in this comic!). Speaking of getting people to pick the comic off the shelf, check out this awesome cover from Ernie Chan and John Calnan!
WHY IS BATMAN TRYING TO KILL SUPERMAN?
It all starts when Superman stops a deadly sniper, but flips an antenna on him, nearly killing him…
Superman’s actions become increasingly dangerous, to the point that he intentionally starts a war by throwing a jet into a neutral zone and also sits there while a Metropolis skyscraper burns down as Superman notes that Metrpopolis is too overcrowded.
Batman notes that Superman’s Kandorian doppelganger, Van-Zee, traveled to Earth. Van-Zee, like all other Kandorians, is reduced to miniature size, but when outside of town (which is kept in a special bottle in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude) he has the superman powers…just tiny. Batman thinks that Van-Zee is investigating this problem and they each go to the Fortress of Solitude, but Van-Zee tries to stop Batman from entering. Batman offers a key trick that doesn’t make sense, but it sounds cool! Next time you lose a key, just spray some instant ice in your lock, it will… help? !
Once inside, Batman discovers the shocking truth. Kandor had fallen on hard times and their only solution was to ask Superman to come to Kandor and become their king. He does an amazing job, but at night he comes back to Earth and causes horrible things while being a nice guy in Kandor and not even knowing what he did.
Batman convinces the Kandorians to keep Superman captive at night (which they can since he has no powers in Kandor). Batman then leaves and is annoyed to once again find an alien cat Superman had in his fortress out of its cage.
Superman, however, somehow disappears and reappears on Earth, messing things up again. He causes so much damage that the President of the United States orders Batman to kill Superman! Dark Knight Falls reversal stuff here, huh?
Batman agrees and enters Kandor, but is instantly captured. Superman understands why Batman feels the need to kill him but Superman doesn’t want to die. Batman, however, has one more trick up his sleeve…or up his glove, so to speak, and he poisons Superman, killing him almost instantly…
HOW DID SUPERMAN COME BACK TO LIFE? AND HOW IS THIS ALIEN CAT INVOLVED?
During the funeral, Superman’s body suddenly begins to grow and he shatters the bottle wall of Kandor! The still-shrunken Batman and Van-Zee investigate and are shocked to learn that it’s all a plot by this super-evil alien cat!
However, luckily Superman is back to life and he takes care of the cat, who reveals that he was the one who brainwashed Superman into a Jekyll/Hyde personality. Alright, but how did he come back to life? Oooh man, get ready for this.
Okay so once he was dead his dead cells couldn’t sustain the effects of the shrinking rays (huh?), so he went back to normal size and once he was full size and in Outside of Kandor, his body regained his superpowers and one of his superpowers is invulnerability and nothing invulnerable can die, so Superman must have instantly come back to life!
How insanely crazy is that? Bob Haney was a mad genius!
I love that he didn’t even bother trying to figure out the whole “But what about Kandor? Didn’t they need a Superman king?”
That’s it for this episode. Please send ideas for other comics with convoluted or bizarre plot resolutions to [email protected]!
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