Superman and Batman had already met and worked together in comics, and on radio, before they began to function together as an ongoing team. Despite having been pictured together, along with Robin, in some form of group activity since the outset of World’s Finest Comics, the trio did not begin having stories together in the book until issue 71. The labelling was irritating, simply due to the logos. “Your two favourite heroes…Superman and Batman and Robin!” But it was really a duo series, and would become much moreso as years went on. The pair were brought together not because of any burning desire to create a new super-team, but simply because of a reduction in page count for the book. It was a damn good solution to the problem.
Their first team-up in the book, in World’s Finest Comics 71, opens with a flashback to the issue of Superman in which the two learned each other’s identities. The story then sails off into an amazing complicated variation of the “convincing Lois that Clark is not Superman” formula, after sees him change in order to save Batman and Robin.
Superman and Batman switch costumes, and Bruce Wayne starts hanging around Lois, doing his best to make it appear that he is secretly Superman. Clark’s Batman impersonation does not go as well, as he wanders into a room containing kryptonite, and collapses. Lois begins to believe that Bruce Wayne is Superman, while Bruce and Dick worry about where Clark is. There are some criminals involved in the story, but they are secondary, and really just there for the action scenes.
Playing with Lois Lane’s mind is the core of the tale. They do succeed at confusing her, and possibly the reader as well. Frankly, not that auspicious a beginning, and it would take a while for the series to find its feet.
The second Superman/Batman team-up, in World’s Finest 72, puts the heroes into action from the get go. The story has Superman and Batman each pursuing the same gang. Two get caught, but break free and take Clark Kent and Lois Lane hostage. They head to a convenient castle just outside Metropolis, and Batman leads the siege.
It’s an effective scenario. Clark has to use his powers without giving away his identity, while Batman and Robin get medieval battlements to jump around on.
Many of these early team-up stories for the duo would be retold and expanded in different ways in later years.
The Superman/Batman team-up in World’s Finest 73 would become a far more elaborate tale in the 1960s, but the original is fun as well. Clark Kent and Lois Lane come to a fair to check out a swami who has been giving amazingly accurate predictions. He stuns Clark by announcing that he is Superman. It’s kind of shameful that he never figures out this is Batman until the “swami” unmasks.
Batman then enlists Superman in his phony swami scam, which he has been carrying off with the aid of Robin, in the hopes of luring a wanted felon out of hiding. Superman joins the con, and Batman gives people wild predictions, which Superman makes come true. The guy comes out of hiding, but Robin gets caught and the plan messes up. For a while at least. This patsy never had a chance.
There is a fairly simple tale in World’s Finest 74, but the story concludes with a visual that would endure for decades. An alien shapeshifter comes to Earth, encountering first Batman, and then Superman. The heroes aren’t sure what to make of the creature at first. Eventually they determine that the being is simply playing, having fun. It adopts the forms of Batman and Superman because it admires them.
They get the creature to head back home. In the final panel, we see it adopt a body that is split between the two heroes.
It would be a number of years before this visual returned, as the Composite Superman. All later version of this would have the chest symbol split as well, rather than showing both, as this one does.
Some teams switching creates a classic tale in World’s Finest 75. Batman gets injured in a battle with the purple mask mob, and winds up in a cast.
Robin teams up with Superman to take down the gang as Batman recuperates. Batman’s jealousy is what makes this story so funny.
He throws away trophies to clear room for the new team, just to show that he is taking things ok. In fact, he is acquiring the trophies to deduct the gang’s hideout. There is a second twist as the story ends. Batman’s leg was never broken!
He had fallen sick with a disease that would have killed him if he didn’t get rest, and Superman and Robin conned him into thinking his leg was broken, until he recovered. Silly, but entertaining. The story was re-written with Batgirl shortly after that character’s introduction, and what is homosexual subtext here becomes overt when the rival is a woman.
The Superman/Batman team-up in World’s Finest 77 gives birth the first of many, many versions of a tale that would be told in these pages. One of the most obvious notions, the two changing powers. Or gaining and losing powers, to be more accurate. An evil scientist builds a ray that will remove Superman’s powers, and give them to the scientist.
Batman steps in front of the ray at the crucial moment, and gains Superman’s range of abilities. Superman gets a cool Supermobile to drive around in, but otherwise relies on his costume’s invulnerability, and faking out criminals. Pretty straightforward, they are both glad to return to the status quo as the story ends.
Basic tales, which really didn’t scratch beyond the surface of the two characters. But at this point, there wasn’t a lot under there.
The Superman/Batman team continue in the next period, 1955 – 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age.