When Batman and Superman team up to fight evil, they are generally known as the World’s Finest. And yet just because they’re called that doesn’t mean that all their adventures are necessarily good — some are quite wretched, in fact. Here’s 15 tales from the original World’s Finest comics that never need to be retold.
1) "Superman and Batman: Swamis, Inc.!"
Batman is the World’s Greatest Detective, but he didn’t get that title overnight. In his earlier days, he was merely the World’s Most Unnecessarily Elaborate Detective, as evidenced by the time he became a fortune-teller at a carnival for several weeks in order to create a believable persona in order to capture a criminal who believed in the supernatural. Superman — who was covering the Gotham carnival for god knows what reason — discovers “Swami Ananda” is Batman when Bats “guesses” his secret identity, then Superman sticks around to help the Swami’s predictions comes true. Eventually the bad guy is foiled when Superman makes a “lucky sword” appear to move on its own by moving so fast he can’t be seen (just don't even ask). Seems like taking some fingerprints or something would be a lot easier. (World’s Finest #73)
2) "The Super-Newspaper of Gotham City!"
The Gotham Gazette is having troubles. When publisher John Hall asks billionaire Bruce Wayne for help, Bruce — instead of giving him cash, which probably what he actually wanted — calls Superman, who makes fun of the Gazette in Perry White’s presence expressly to get he and Lois Lane sent there as a punishment. Lois becomes the publisher and hires completely inexperienced Bruce Wayne as a reporter, then he and Clark try to find time to fight crime while reporting and/or trying to one-up each other. Eventually a bad guy named The Mole has a ridiculous scheme to make a fake sewer system for Gotham; Supes and Bats stop him, Bruce gets the scoop, Superman delivers the papers at lightning speed, and a problem that could have been solved in seconds with a check is instead fixed with maximum effort. (WF #80)
3) "The Super-Rivals!"
When Princess Varina of Balkania comes to visit, both Batman and Superman woo her to the complete fury of reporters Vicki Vale and Lois Lane, who immediately abandon all pretense of covering the princess’ arrival for their newspapers and set about retrieving their men. As it turns out, Varina actually just wants to marry her commoner captain of the guard Stefan, and the Balkanian prime minister has called Batman and Superman to keep Varina away from him so the marriage doesn’t start a civil war. So Batman and Superman are literally fighting love. Eventually, some crooks decide to steal the mountain of diamonds Batman and Superman have given her, Stefan (with a little surreptitious help from the Finest) saves the day, the fickle people of Balkania change their mind, and Lois and Vicki call off their plan to assassinate a princess. (WF #85)
4) "The Caveman from Krypton!"
Do you know how obsessed Silver Age comics were with cavemen? Well, you’re about to find out. Let’s begin with this tale, in which a meteor falls to earth with a Kryptonian caveman inside, in suspended animation. The caveman has all of Superman’s powers except the ability to use the pronoun “I” instead of “me,” and raises merry hell. Two criminals named Jo-jo Graff and Peter Weller (star of Robocop) decide this is the perfect opportunity to commit crimes while dressed as cavemen, which results in the Kyptonian caveman thinking they’re pals, even rescuing them from Batman and Superman. Eventually Batman and Robin are tied up while Superman and Supercaveman fight, and the crooks throw some kryptonite at them hoping to defeat them both. But Batman gets free, kicks the kryptonite away, Superman and Supercaveman instantly become pals, and they all catch the crooks. And then Spacecaveman drops dead like an hour later. (WF #102)
5) "Superman’s Secret Kingdom!"
When Superman goes missing while searching for a crook in South America, Batman and Robin look for their friend. They are a touch surprised to discover him ruling a primitive Incan tribe after an exploding volcano gave him amnesia (#supermanproblems). The Incans, who had a legend about just this sort of thing, immediately crowned him their king. This in no way explains how the crook has become Superman’s advisor, though, and of course he immediately advises Superman to have the Dynamic Duo killed. Batman and Robin escape and paint a picture of Clark Kent turning into Superman, which is all it takes to restore his memory. (WF #111)
6) "Batman and Robin, Medieval Bandits!"
Professor Carter Nichols calls Superman in concern after he shoots Batman and Robin back into 1497 and they don’t return. Superman heads back in time to find the duo about to be executed, and allows himself to be captured so he can free them. Superman grows slightly suspicious when “Batman and “Robin” take him to a band of thieves, and slightly more suspicious when they knock him out with kryptonite they very fortuitously had an alchemist make. Turns out two hoodlums somehow defeated Batman and Robin during a routine robbery, captured them, took their costumes, learned their identities, and then decided to go back to the 15th century because they thought it would be swell. In the present, Batman and Robin eventually free themselves, grab their spare costumes, head back in time too and save the day, which also results in the two thieves running into the alchemist’s lab and knocking some chemicals over which makes them forget the whole thing, including Batman and Robin’s identities. Oh, and this all takes place in Italy for some reason. (WF #132)
7) "Secret of the Captured Cavemen!"
A shockingly unprepared alien comes to Gotham City to conquer humanity. I say “unprepared” because when he fires his Z-Beam at Batman and Robin and it doesn’t work, he’s forced to go to the Gotham library to find out why. Turns out it doesn’t work on modern humans, so the aliens go back in time to conquer cavemen. Of course, Batman, Superman and Robin also go back in time, courtesy of Professor Nichols’ time machine, and disguise themselves as cavemen. When the aliens arrive, they force the cavemen to mine something called Drakkium, which is deadly to them, but can be refined into something deadly to humans. That’s all the trio needs to hear! They simply don’t refine the Drakkium, a bunch of the aliens die, and the rest flee. They everybody returns to the present, presumably to figure out how a green bug alien was allowed into the Gotham library. (WF #138)
8) "Batman, Son of Krypton!"
When Bruce Wayne starts having memories of Krypton and discovers a picture of himself as a young boy, apparently exhibiting super powers, he decides he must be Kryptonian as well and starts calling himself Bruce-El. Superman, to his credit, doesn’t punch his fucking head off, but asks why he hasn’t had any superpowers for the last 30 or so years; Batman assumes that he was exposed to gold kryptonite, which took them away. As it turns out, the answer is that young Bruce used to be babysat by a gent named Dr. Thomas Ellison, who 1) constantly watched Krypton through his telescope, 2) constantly sat young Bruce in front of the telescope and let him watch what was going on, and 3) posed Bruce in ways to make him look like he had super powers and then took photos of him (even though Kryptonians didn’t have superpowers while on Krypton and the doctor would have had to infer they would get them on Earth). This is the weirdest fucking thing ever, although the comic doesn’t posit this guy as a dangerous lunatic, just an unorthodox babysitter. Anyways, Batman ends up looking like a complete asshole, so at least that’s something. (WF #146)
9) "The Infinite Evolutions of Superman and Batman!"
More. Goddamned. Cavemen. Superman and Batman get ahold of a Kryptonian scientist’s evolutionary ray. Batman instantly decides to use it on himself, evolving himself 800,000 years, which means he has a huge cranium and is even more of an asshole than usual. I say this with confidence because when he offers to use the ray on Superman, he does’t actually want a superpowered equal and thus devolves Superman, turning into a caveman (i.e. gives him a beard and poor grammar). (WF #151)
10) "Exit Batman, Enter Nightman!"
As Batman and Superman approach their 1000th case together, Batman resigns as he’s been completely upstaged by the new hero Nightman, who's been partnering with Supes. Superman tells Batman to try and solve Nightman’s identity, in some sort of Silver Age version of How Stella Got Her Groove Back. It takes the despondent Batman an entire week to figure it out, but he does — he’s Nightman, because Superman hypnotized him into running around as a new superhero as a present for their 1000th case. That… that is fucked up, man. (WF #155)
11) “The Bat-Witch Must Burn!” and “The Demon Superman!”
When Batman discovers a bust of his Revolutionary War-era ancestor Mad Anthony Wayne looks just like him, Superman takes him back in time to investigate and have a laugh. Unfortunately, Superman is promptly possessed by a demon and 1) frames Batman for witchcraft, 2) gets him locked in the town stockade, 3) gets him sentenced to be burned at the stake, 4) prevents Benjamin Franklin from saving him and 5) uses his heat vision to light the fire in order to make it look like God has passed divine judgment down on his ol' pal Batman. Obviously Batman escapes, and then drives the demon away with kryptonite. Oh, and it turns out the bust was of Bruce, sculpted from the time he face-planted in the mud and made an impression. So I’m sure that answer was worth all that trouble. (WF #186-87)
12) "The Man with Superman’s Heart!"
Only a two-issue adventure could contain this much superdickery! When Superman dies, his heart, lungs, ears and eyes are harvested for worthy recipients; Batman is offered Superman’s heart, but he refuses, saying he’s not worthy, but also possibly because he has a perfectly fine heart already. It ultimately doesn’t matter, because Lex Luthor steals the organs and sells them to four major crime bosses, who all somehow gain superpowers from them. This is even weirder than you think, because of course Superman isn’t dead at all, and the organs are from a mechanical android — which probably shouldn't bestow superpowers in the first place. This is an all an impossibly weird way to get info on the crimebosses, which has the easily foreseen result of all four criminals’ bodies rejecting their organs simultaneously, with the dude who got the lungs actually dying before they can get him to a hospital. I don’t know what info Superman and Batman got out of this scheme, but these criminals ended up blind, deaf, dead or without a functional heart, so I guess they won’t be committing crimes any more. …yay? (WF #189-90)
13) "The Truth About Superman’s Twin Brother!"
Yes, DC really went to the “deformed family member kept hidden in the basement” well. The summary for this story at the DC Wikia reads “The world becomes convinced that Superman has a long-lost brother, a misshapen hunchback named Kor-El, whom he exiled into space in a Kryptonite asteroid and subsequently blotted out from his memory,” which seems to me to be something that could use a bit more explanation, but apparently not. At any rate, when Supes frees “Kor-El” he’s immediately incapacitated, and then Kor-El becomes dictator of Earth. Batman and Superman figure out it’s actually Parasite in disguise, but not before “Kor-El” co-opts the “Heil Hitler!” for his new dictatorship. (WF #246-247)
14) Omniscient Bag Lady
A homeless woman find an alien creature that makes her wishes come true, and Batman and Superman battle her to make sure she remains at her previous socio-economic level. Seriously, Batman and Superman fight a bag lady. That's it. (WF #257)
15) The Biggest Asshole in the DC Universe
While Superman and the “urban” hero Sonik are busy protecting the embarrassingly named rock star Marlon Monroe, Batman is searching for the most diabolical villain in the entirety of the DC universe — a villain whose evil cannot be measured. Is it the Joker? Darkseid? In fact, it’s a dude that keeps poking holes in the plastic bubble of a boy without an immune system. Even Lex Luthor thinks that’s fucked up. (WF #318)