During the second season of Superman: The Animated Series, Superman had already met The Flash earlier in the season. So many suspected that it was only a matter of time before Batman himself guest starred. Lo and behold, a few episodes later and viewers were treated to the three part episode, “The World’s Finest”. The title is based off of the old team up book between Superman and Batman. It was only fitting as this would be the name of the episode marking the first meeting between the two. This also establishes that Batman: The Animated Series was in the same universe as this series where there were a couple of throwaway gags in earlier episodes that hinted that they might be.
The first part immediately starts with The Joker stealing a “jade” dragon statue. The scene quickly shifts into something many Batman fans are familiar with. We see Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock investigating when Batman makes his entrance. Returning to the cave and noting that the jade is not actually jade but kryptonite, Batman notes to Alfred that he needs to take an “overdue” trip to Metropolis. In Metropolis we are also introduced to a familiar scenario as Lois Lane is in a precarious situation and Superman has to save her. The attraction between the two is noted but Superman quickly leaves the scene before he and Lois can talk about their connection with one another. These two scenes highlight the differences between Batman and Superman. Batman deals with much more intimate crimes while Superman deals with a terrorist hijacking of a plane.
Clark Kent and Lois Lane are at the airport to meet Bruce Wayne who is arriving in Metropolis. The cover story is that Bruce Wayne is there to meet with Lex Luthor about a joint venture. Immediately Bruce Wayne is somewhat standoffish to Clark Kent while developing an instant attraction with Lois Lane. This obviously sparks a jealousy in Clark as Bruce and Lois begin dating one another. The two ultimately meet again later in the superhero identities. After a tense standoff that is ultimately a bit of a pissing contest between the two, Superman discovers who Batman really is and Batman returns the favor.
Meanwhile, The Joker and Harley Quinn meet with Lex Luthor and Mercy Graves. Joker agrees to kill Lex Luthor for a fortune and Lex is skeptical but agrees because this is something that cannot be traced back to him. It is interesting to note that during the scene with Batman interrogating the local thugs, everyone is scared of The Joker. Not Lex Luthor. He is his calm and collected self during the entire exchange between them. They also note how they think of each other’s archenemies as a joke. There is no doubt that there is something wrong with The Joker but this scene solidifies that there is something wrong about Lex. While he may appear to be “normal” there is something wrong with him. It’s also interesting to note how the feud between Superman and Luthor is private but The Joker seems to know about it.
Batman and Superman’s interactions are tense but filled with a growing respect with one another. Batman is no match for the ingenuity and pure power of Lex Luthor’s devices while Superman is not used to the unpredictability of The Joker. The biggest divide between the two is Lois Lane. Batman notes that Lois loves Bruce Wayne but hates Batman and likes Clark Kent but loves Superman. This all comes to a head when Lois discovers who Batman actually is and the two agree to go their separate ways. Clark and Bruce also go their separate ways but the respect between the two is there. Both men were standoffish in their first meeting but by the end they were coming to each other’s aids and noting how the other worked best. There is also a beat where they say that they shouldn’t team up on regular basis. Well we all know how that is going to turn out.
The partnership between Luthor and Joker slowly falls apart. As Joker is not prepared to deal with Superman and Luthor is not prepared for Batman, they slowly crack under the pressure. It eventually turns into Joker betraying Lex, stealing one of his latest military prototypes and going on a killing spree. In the end, Joker is “killed” in a plane crash and Lex once again escapes jail time as he has plausible deniability. Though things ended on a sour note between the two, this would not be the last time that these two teamed up with one another either.
This event is noteworthy for many things. The biggest is that it avoids the hero versus hero cliche. Batman and Superman only have one skirmish and it’s clear that Batman is no match. It’s never touched up on again. The true conflict lies within their egos and learning to work together. Sure there is the whole love triangle element but even then neither hero uses Lois Lane as a tool. The two started off wary of one another and by the end it is obvious that they will be teammates in the future.
This three part crossover is a definite must see for any fan of Batman and Superman. It really highlights the differences between the two. But also highlighting why these two together are pretty much unstoppable. It also lays the foundation for the future Justice League animated series.
Fun note: look up the fight between Harley Quinn and Mercy Graves. Both characters were created for the animated series and are the women sidekicks of The Joker and Harley Quinn. It is a hilarious background event.