A week or so back the “news” was broken that the next DC direct-to-DVD animated feature after Green Lantern: First Flight will be Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. I was rather excited to hear this. While Superman/Batman as a title has fallen on hard times and is now an obligation buy more than a just gotta have it buy I really liked the series when it first came out back in 2003. Sure I wanted it to be called Worlds Finest but I can be rather old school when I want to be.
Superman/Batman was a big deal when it premiered, though. It came out a month after the first issue Superman: Birthright hit the stands and was part of an attempt to reinvigorate the Superman line of comics. It was a weird era for me as a regular follower of the Man of Steel as it was the first time I really questioned the lifelong dedication that I had sworn. There wasn’t much that was lighting my fire with the regular titles and the announcement of a new origin didn’t exactly fill me with elation. Despite those feelings I was definitely excited when it was announced that Jeph Loeb was coming back to a Superman title.
I know that Superman/Batman is technically a Superman and Batman title, but I file it with my Superman books so to me it’s a Superman title. I can make a firm decision on this because it is so inconsequential.
The opening arc was called Worlds Finest. Yeah, I know. The trade is called Public Enemies and thus the movie is going to be called Public Enemies even though Superman/Batman: Worlds Finest would have been just as good if not better, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, I liked the story. I had some problems with it to be sure but I liked it a lot. It was fun. For a while there Superman/Batman was my favorite Superman book, which made me kind of sad at the time. I mean shouldn’t one of the regular Superman books be my favorite and not a team-up book?
Thankfully that has changed, but I digress.
In a story arc filled with great character moments and fun super hero on super hero action it is Superman/Batman #4 that has become the issue that I remember the most. Sadly it wasn’t the events of that issue that make it so unforgettable though I did enjoy the fight with Hawkman and Captain Marvel. The whole castling thing was well played and while it was part of an overall story it was still a satisfying read on its own. Despite that there are two bits of business that are unrelated to the plot that stick with me lo all these years later.
The first bit is the fact that the initial copy I bought of this issue was all kinds of messed up. The pages were out of order. It was really weird. It was the first time I came across such a thing. Sure I have had comics where the first page wasn’t trimmed correctly and stuck out a bit at the bottom right corner but this was something different. I called Titans, secured another copy and kept the misprinted version just for kicks. I didn’t think it would be worth any money. I rarely buy comics because they might be worth some money. I figured it was something of a conversation piece that I could tell people about at some point and it looks like I was right.
The second and vastly more interesting bit is the difference between the original, single issue version of the story and the reprinted version in the hardcover and eventually the softcover edition. During the big Hawkman/Captain Marvel throw down Superman and Batman switch partners and Marvel proves that he indeed has the wisdom of Solomon and changes back into Billy Batson. It looked a lot like this. Click on the image to get a better look at the page.
That’s a good scene. The pacing is nice and I thought that Loeb was rather clever in having the dialogue play out as it did. I thought it was amusing then and I still feel that way. The problem is that Batman should have known that Captain Marvel was also Billy Batson and I wasn’t the only one that felt this way because it was a common complaint on message boards and forums when it came out. I didn’t pay it much mind after that even after buying the hardcover version. Then as now I buy the softcover and/or hardcover editions of Superman stories I own in single issue form. It’s an addiction really. I could play it off as something else but what would be the point? There is no rational justification for buying multiple copies of the same story outside of, “I just wanted it, okay? DON’T JUDGE ME!”
In any case sometime after buying the hardcover, renamed version of Worlds Finest I read on a forum that the dialogue in that scene was changed for the collected edition. I walked over to the bookshelf, cracked open the hardcover for the first time and sure enough it was different. In fact it looked a lot like this. I apologize in advance for the poor quality to this image. Scanning from a hardcover is problematic. Again, click on the image to get a better look.
This wouldn’t be the last time that DC would change something for the collected edition of one of their books. Coloring errors have been fixed and in some cases, such as Infinite Crisis, major plot points are altered. It’s annoying really but I understand why they do it. I guess they felt that when you get an opportunity to change something to fix a continuity issue or in the case of the Judd Winick written Outsiders alter something to avoid the more general collected edition audience getting offended then they should jump at the chance.
I guess in the end it really doesn’t matter. Both versions work, though the original has more punch to it. I am curious which version the producers of the animated version will use if they include the scene.
Only time will tell.
More to follow…