(INTRODUCTION TO SUPERMAN/BATMAN)
Superman/Batman (Clark/Bruce) is arguably the most popular m/m slash pairing in DC Comics fandom. They are two of DC’s most popular heroes and enjoy a rich history together, which will help explain their appeal as a slash couple.
In the Golden Age, Superman and Batman appeared on the covers of World’s Finest, a book that contained their adventures, but not with each other. Their stories were separate, but the covers were amusing, showing our heroes in often whimsical situations, such as playing baseball or in a foot race (which they let Robin win). Robin was usually on the covers with them, creating a nice, happy little family. ;) There were symbolic wartime covers, too, one of the most famous showing the World’s Finest trio astride a destroyer’s big guns. Ahem. ;)
After the war, the spectacular sales of superhero comics dropped, but the World’s Finest endured. In 1954, someone at DC got the bright idea of teaming their two most famous heroes together, and the story involved Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne ending up as cabinmates on a cruise ship (infamously and lovingly spoofed in Superman/Batman Annual #1, aka Brokeback Titanic). The team-up was a hit, and the covers started reflecting shared adventures, usually with Dick Grayson’s Robin. Occasionally it would just be Superman and Batman when Robin was off on a Teen Titans mission (later in the Silver Age).
The formula remained pretty much the same in the Silver Age, and the heroes would guest star in each other’s books on occasion. Their relationship was that of close chums, helping each other out when Lois got too close to exposing Clark’s secret identity or Bruce had similar troubles with Vicki Vale. They continued their special friendship when they helped found the Justice League of America in the Silver Age, and the World’s Finest book continued to be their showcase.
In the Bronze Age, the relationship became more nuanced as their differences were more emphasized and they even had a rift during the early ‘80s, but was eventually patched up. They starred in the World’s Finest usually by themselves, since Dick was off to college, but he occasionally joined them.
After the Crisis On Infinite Earths blew up the DC Universe, the characters were brought back as mistrustful of each other, more enemies than friends, their methods portrayed as too different for them to work together or like each other as in the past (possibly a reaction to the extremely slashy World’s Finest #289, which still makes slash fans gleeful that this story ever got past the censors). They barely spoke for a period of about five years in any book at all, but by the early 21st century, began to rebuild that old, close friendship. Their differences, which included Batman’s pessimism and instilling of fear in criminals versus Superman’s optimism and helpful, cheerful public persona, was only the surface of a thirst for justice and a wish to help people with their special gifts. They eventually got a book with a title that makes slash fans’ hearts pitter-patter: Superman/Batman. ;)
Question: What other similarities and differences in their approach to crimefighting do you see?
What’s the appeal of this couple for slash fans? As in their working lives, their personal lives appear wildly dissimilar: Clark is the son of farmers who grew up in the working class in a small town in the Midwest and works for a living as a reporter for The Daily Planet in Metropolis. Bruce Wayne was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, heir to one of the richest fortunes on the planet, and grew up in Wayne Manor on the outskirts of Gotham City. Clark had a happy childhood with his adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha, while Bruce’s happiness was cut short by the murder of his parents, Thomas and Martha.
So how do two such different personalities come together for romance? Is it merely Opposites Attract, or something else?
A fanfic writer must keep in mind that their backgrounds and personalities will give them different perspectives on things, and their approach to relationships will be different, too. While Bruce will automatically push anyone away who comes to close to him emotionally, Clark will patiently work past that barrier, knowing that it’s worth it. Clark may be more of the classic romantic, but Bruce has been shown in various stories to become more accustomed to romantic gestures, though he often won’t be able to say, “I love you.” Still, Clark knows that he does love him, and his actions will speak louder than words.
Bruce needs someone to lighten his gloom and remind him that there is good in humanity while Clark needs someone to keep him from trusting too much in certain situations. Their yin and yang is excellent fodder for stories.
Their superhero lives give them a good foundation for a life together, because they understand each other’s dedication to service. That may mean a hectic life of snatching time together when they can, but they’re the World’s Finest. They can figure it out! :)
Question: As a Clark/Bruce fan, you can see them eventually working out their differences to become committed to each other. Are there any scenarios you see when they can’t?
Both men need control in their lives, and for different reasons: Clark must control his powers in order that he doesn’t hurt anyone inadvertently, which means while he is one of the leaders of the superhero community, he is more willing to listen and cooperate with his JLA teammates, and his World’s Finest partner.
Batman needs iron control to push himself to the peak of physical and mental perfection, since he has no powers. He needs to keep aggressively pushing his view of things, which can cause friction with other heroes, including Clark. Their approach to the control they need in their lives makes for good fanfic.
Question: Is the control not only necessary for both men, but desired by them? Or is it simply a matter of different kinds of control?
Even the World’s Finest can’t operate without back-up. Dick Grayson was Bruce’s partner for years, and he also worked with Clark on many cases, separately and with Bruce, usually in the pages of World's Finest. He had a case of hero worship for Superman when he was a child (and still retains some of that), and can be an invaluable ally for them both. They have all known each other for years and have formed a family as well as a team.
In canon, Lois is Clark’s wife, but if you wish to write a slash story in which Lois is work partner and friend, that still works, because she has been both to Clark for years. Her grit and determination also makes her an ideal ally for Clark and Bruce, whether in helping them take down the bad guys or keeping their identities secret, or just arranging a romantic rendezvous from prying eyes.
Both Lois and Dick are well-suited as sympathetic ears. Dick possesses remarkable empathy and a lifetime of knowledge of Bruce, and Lois has keen insight into Clark, and won’t hesitate to kick either his butt or Bruce’s when they’re acting silly! ;) Stories from their POVs can be an insightful window into our two heroes.
Question: What other characters can fill the roles of Lois and Dick?
Clark and Bruce can fit into just about any genre. They can be written into grim and serious stories that include hurt/comfort, deathfic, and other dark themes, and also work well with light and fluffy tales all the way to crackfic. Romance is a popular genre, because it’s generally written as Clark able to get past Bruce’s barriers and get the Dark Knight to enjoy a little schmoop. ;) Considering their long canon histories and appearances in varied storylines, they can pull off the wildly-different genres and stay in-character.
Question: What genres do you think suits them best? Which ones are your favorites to read and/or write?
Finally, their chemistry just works! Like the unlikely pairing of Batman and Robin in 1940, the team-up of Superman and Batman in 1954 just clicked. On the surface, the issues of the most super-powered being in the world teaming up with the least-powered would look absurd on the face of things, but chemistry often doesn’t follow logic. :)
Bruce’s brains keep him in the game, along with his gadgets and physical perfection, and Clark appreciates a hero who despite lack of powers is on his level. Very few are. Diana is the only other one to reach that level of excellence.
Not that the other heroes are slackers, there just is a gold standard, and Clark and Bruce are two-thirds of the standard. It makes sense that Clark and Bruce would find common ground through mutual respect and admiration, though Clark is far more likely to express that than Bruce is.
So, the world of the World’s Finest is rich and exciting, with excellent chemistry and practical reasons for their coming together as a couple. If you’re already a fan, glory in their fabulousness, and if you’re a newbie, definitely check them out! They can give you many hours of reading pleasure. :)