BATMAN #36 By Tom King, Clay Mann, and Seth Mann
BATMAN #36 is a beautiful dedication to the 65 years of Superman and Batman's friendship. Tom King nails the dialogue, writing, and story in another terrific issue. Clay and Seth Mann deliver thoughtful, rich panels that capture these larger-than-life heroes
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Friendship is Stronger Than Punches
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Are Batman and Superman friends? That’s the question that BATMAN #36 sets out to decisively answer. Tom King once again proves his skill with dialogue and characters in this splendid, touching new issue of BATMAN. The comic successfully combines this fantastic writing with gorgeous, symbolic art from Clay and Seth Mann. As the start of the “SuperFriends” arc, BATMAN #36 combines levity with an emotional depth that makes it a resounding story, adding to the mythos of both Batman and Superman.

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65 Years in the Making

Ever since Batman and Superman first met in SUPERMAN #76 back in 1952, the question of the two heroes’ relationship to each other arose. As two of the figureheads of the Justice League, they clearly became strong allies but it was unclear how close the two felt towards one another. In recent years, media like BATMAN V SUPERMAN and INJUSTICE decided to focus on conflicts between the Dark Knight and Man of Steel.

BATMAN #36 page 16. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

BATMAN #36 understands that the distinct natures of Batman and Superman don’t drive them apart. Their differences are the reason they have such great respect for each other. However, said differences also make Clark and Bruce too afraid to call the other their friend.

Day and Night

Batman and Superman both think that they aren’t deserving of the other’s friendship. For Clark, he finds it amazing that Bruce could overcome the grief of his parent’s death and turn it into something positive. For Bruce, he’s stunned that a person as powerful and different as Clark became a force for good rather than an alien oppressor. Each of them looks up to their fellow hero in different ways.

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King shows us that, in actuality, Bruce and Clark are the best of friends. To the outside world, they’re two solitary figures who seem larger than life. Yet inside, Batman and Superman are people who feel the same insecurities that we all do. Clark provides Batman with hope for a better tomorrow and reminds him not to give into the darkness. Bruce serves as an example to Clark of humanity’s ability to overcome grief and fight to make the world a better place. In the end, Batman and Superman don’t have clashing ideologies but symbiotic ones. They’re day and night; neither could exist without the other, and that’s how King proves to the reader that they’re best friends.

The Women Behind the Men

“Behind every great man, there’s a great woman” is an extremely accurate saying for both Batman and Superman. The two heroes are only able to admit their friendship because of their significant others, Catwoman and Lois Lane, egging them on. Both Selina and Lois think that it’s important for the two friends to meet up to discuss the former’s engagement with Bruce.

BATMAN #36 page 11. Image Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Clark and Bruce are two of the smartest, most competent people on the planet. That doesn’t mean they’re the best with relationships or expressing their feelings. It’s up to Selina and Lois to cut through their loves’ insecurities and worries and make them talk to each other. However, Bruce and Clark are both too proud to pick up the phone and express their feelings to the other.

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It’s hilarious to see the greatest heroes of all time act like nervous schoolboys next to such mature women. Clearly, Selina and Lois have the emotional understanding to realize what their partners really want. They know how close Bruce and Clark’s friendship really is. More than that, Selina and Lois are genuinely interested in meeting each other. BATMAN #36 allows the women to be strong, capable partners in their relationships rather than figures wholly dependent on their men.

Art of BATMAN #36

One thing that is awesome about BATMAN #36 is that it feels like a timeless tale. Despite the fact that it’s set during Bruce’s engagement to Catwoman, it could have taken place during any Batman or Superman comic. The art reflects the timeless nature of this moment between Superman and Batman. Clay draws Clark Kent in his classic reporter suit, tie, and hat. He even references the iconic revolving doors that Clark would use to change into his costume. The effect is a Clark Kent very reminiscent of the Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve’s SUPERMAN.

BATMAN #36 page 10. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Meanwhile, Batman and Catwoman’s style evokes the classic noir and gothic vibe of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and the Tim Burton films. These styles are effective because they help contrast the two worlds of Batman and Superman. You can tell the Batman or Superman panels apart even without seeing who’s in the picture. The Manns make sure to color and shade the panels differently depending on the character. For the Batman panels, the Manns use a lot of blues, grays, and purples. For the Superman panels, there is more yellows, reds, and browns. Overall the Batman panels are much darker, as the Superman panels all seem to glow with light.

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Yet Clay makes sure that almost every pair of Superman and Batman panels mirror each other. It’s like they saw that one famous cover by Jim Lee of Superman and Batman on parallel gargoyles and then decided to make it into an entire comic book. This device reminds readers of how Superman and Batman are two sides of the same coin; they’re two different representations of what it means to be a hero.

Final Thoughts

Batman and Superman’s friendship is a message to everyone about how our differences should bring us together and not divide us. These two men have such fondness for the other based on observing their different life experiences. We don’t get enough stories about healthy male friendships and that’s why it’s important to have positive examples of this. I’m so grateful that King, Clay, and Seth have given us this fantastic story about the greatest of Super Friends.

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