Flipping channels the other night, I happened across a film from a few years back that featured Superman and Batman grimacing and sneering at each other while a weirdly floppy-haired Luthor gads about the screen. Rather than subject myself to that, I climbed into the Wayback Machine and headed for June of 1952, when The Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader really did meet for the first time, in the pages of SUPERMAN #76, in “The Mightiest Team in the World!”, courtesy of writer Edmond Hamilton and penciller Curt Swan.
Our story begins in Gotham City, where, having just put away the last crook on Gotham’s “Most Wanted” list, Batman decides to take a much–needed vacation:
As it happens, over in Metropolis, mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent has very similar plans:
Unfortunately for both, fate intervenes, in the form of an overbooked cruise:
By the way, Bruce Wayne’s a freaking millionaire, and they can’t get him his own room? Someone’s getting a bad Yelp review for this. Bruce and Clark meet, and share a common paranoid reaction:
And of course, bad goes to worse when a robbery on the dock leads to a dangerous fire. Both Clark and Bruce try to trick the other into allowing them to change:
Of course, they don’t account for light from an open porthole:
While Superman douses the fire, Batman takes on Superman’s other major job responsibility, saving Lois Lane:
The fire averted, Superman and Batman pause to exchange confidences:
Now determined that the robber has remained on the cruise ship, Superman and Batman elect to stay onboard both as their costumed selves and their civilian selves so as not to raise suspicion, especially since another unexpected passenger has signed on:
And with that, the first of many wacky hijinks involving Superman, Batman and Lois and secret identities is underway, as a concerned Superman explains to Batman:
First, Clark Kent has to get “sick,” requiring Wayne to play nursemaid, accounting for their absence for much of the cruise:
Next up, a plot to toy with Lois’ emotions, an idea that unfortunately these two knuckleheads will come up with again and again over the next two decades:
Follow that up with a little actual jealousy on Superman’s part:
Oh, and somewhere Batman finds the time to do some real detective work:
At least in this story, compared to the stories to come in countless future issues of LOIS LANE, Lois gives as good as she gets, feigning disinterest in Superman’s show during the cruise banquet:
Eventually, the thief is caught, after an escape attempt via helicopter with a hostage Lois is thwarted by a projectiled Batman:
Now it’s all mopping up, as S & B set about allaying the suspicions of a certain girl reporter:
Said suspicions are allayed when Clark and Lois are met by the Man of Steel when the cruise ship returns to Metropolis.
…which, of course, was accomplished by Batman appearing in disguise as Clark Kent, something he’ll do so often from now in that Superman really oughtta put him on the payroll:
Overly pleased with themselves, Superman and Batman decide to see who Lois really likes best by seeing who she’ll go out with, and –
Good for you, Lois. Robin won’t play those games.