Great heroes rely on great villains. One of the many reasons a character like Wonder Woman hasn’t been adapted successfully is because she lacks an iconic enemy. When it comes to guys like Superman, Batman, the choice for their first on-screen foe is obvious: Lex Luthor and the Joker, respectively. It’s almost too easy.
But what if these villains weren’t properly applied? What if Batman and Superman accidentally ended up with arch-enemy that is perfect for the other?
1. Luthor is Batman’s Dark Reflection
A brilliant multi-billionaire whose name can be found on buildings all around his city and who uses his genius to build advanced technology to assist his endeavors. Whom did I just describe? Bruce Wayne or Lex Luthor? The answer is both. Imagine Luthor as a Moriarty of Gotham City, simultaneously causing problems in the underworld for Batman while giving Wayne Enterprises trouble in the business world. Sure, Joker is a mastermind himself, but Lex Luthor is a mastermind who can’t be thrown into Arkham Asylum. Also, Batman can’t just decide to kill someone so famous and well-respected. While Bruce Wayne’s origin involves his parents being murdered and inheriting their fortune, Luthor murdered his parents for the insurance money. A battle of wits between them is very compelling. (Batman and Luthor matched wits in Bruce Wayne: Murderer? when Luthor framed him for a crime he didn’t commit.)
2. It Solves the Joker Problem
Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker? Whenever he escapes (and he always escapes), the body count is unforgivable. Aside from the obvious real-world reasons, there really is no reason for Batman not to kill the Joker. We’ve all had the debates online. But you know who should never kill? Superman. After Man of Steel came out, it was obvious that pretty much everyone and their brother believes that Superman should never kill, not once, ever. Seeing Superman, who knows he can rip the Joker apart with two fingers, try to stop an unreasonable maniac who does not fear death and is actively trying to get Superman to kill him grabs the attention. (Of course, Superman has battled the Joker in the past, particularly in Emperor Joker. But in Action Comics #719, Superman has to choose between killing the Joker and letting Lois Lane die.)
3. Order and Chaos
When he first debuted, Superman was an outsider, a crusader for the downtrodden. He was going after crooked politicians and exposing flaws in the system, but by the ‘50s he was a symbol of moral order and the American way. The same thing happened to Batman, who became a deputized member of the Gotham Police in the Silver Age, but he was assisted by Frank Miller’s gritty Dark Knight Returns and his image became much more edgy. Superman didn’t really get the same help and has yet to shed his Big Blue Boyscout reputation. Batman is a lone vigilante of the night, reliant on fear and superstition; Superman is someone you’d expect to cut the ribbon at the opening of an orphanage. He’s the symbol of order and seriousness, which is why he’s contrasted by his enemy the Toyman. I say, ditch the Toyman entirely and just give the Joker some murderous playthings. Nobody cares about Toyman.
4. Different Motivations
When he’s fighting Superman, all Luthor cares about is establishing his dominance and taking the Man of Steel down a peg. But fighting Batman? The guy who is single handedly taking apart his criminal empire, costing him money and respect? That’s no longer an ideological battle; Lex is fighting to survive. And the Joker just wants to get Batman to smile, right? Since getting Batman to lighten up kind of shatters the whole concept. Well, against Superman, the Joker wants to make Superman kill because as soon as he’s crossed that line, he really has no business being Superman anymore. (Again, see the reactions to Man of Steel.)
5. It Would Change Things Up
Switching arch-enemies would help revitalize both Superman and Batman, who at the time of this article have gone through some bizarre changes in order to shake up the status quo. Superman is losing his powers, shaved his head, and has had his identity exposed publically. Batman is currently Jim Gordon wearing a robotic rabbit suit.
Would switching Luthor and the Joker really be THAT big of a deal? Let us know in the comments!