1. Public Enemies, Private Superbros
When you think of "animated Batman and Superman," this is probably a little different than what immediately comes to mind. Though the 90s animated series are second to none (and we'll definitely get to some of that soon), DC's recent slate of direct-to-video animated features have been pretty solid. Most fans agree that it's the one area Marvel hasn't beaten their Distinguished Competition.
There have been a couple dozen such releases at this point, and everyone has their favorites. Batman: Under the Red Hood would undoubtedly win a popularity contest, but there are plenty of other worthwhile entries in the initiative. Based on a Jeph Loeb-penned comic storyline "World's Finest," Batman/Superman: Public Enemies purposefully evokes artist Ed McGuinness' signature visual style. That is to say, both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are equipped with jawlines that could be classified as deadly weapons.
While the movie technically has a story that involves the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight teaming up to battle President Lex Luthor, what you're really here for is the Clark/Bruce friendship. More than anything, Public Enemies really nails the bromance.
We're looking at a Batman and a Superman that have known each other a long time. Both of them grew up without siblings, under the watch of guardians who weren't their parents. Each of them is probably the closest thing the other has ever had to a brother. That doesn't there aren't secrets between them, and it certainly doesn't mean that they always agree with each other, but they're both undeniably two sides of the same coin.
And that means they know how to push each other's buttons. Even when Batman is trying to pull a shard of Kryptonite out of his chest, Superman still pokes fun at his darker half.
But as Public Enemies shows, there's more to a superfriendship than cracking jokes at the brink of death. Clark and Bruce's bond goes so deep that, when somebody hurts one of them, the other has an... extreme reaction. Like when Superman thought that Luthor was responsible for Batman's demise, for instance.
Superman's pretty good at holding back. He's had to learn from a young age to restrain his abilities, because one wrong move could really hurt someone he cares about. But then Luthor had to go and send Batman to his doom, which in Superman's eyes is a no-no on the level of wearing plaid with stripes or texting a single eggplant emoji after the first date. For his grave transgression, Superman unshackles a fraction of a fraction of his power, which is enough to make Luthor cough up his own blood -- that's something you just don't see from the Man of Steel. You mess with Superman's BFF, and you'd better be ready for some organ damage.
Meanwhile, Bruce is piloting a rocket that's shaped like a human that's half-Batman and half-Superman, right into the path of a giant Kryptonite asteroid. It's just as awesomely stupid as it sounds.
If you're old enough to read this, you've probably been alive long enough to know whether the Dark Knight makes it out of this cosmic jam. Either way, if you're interested in seeing more of the Batman/Superman friendship embodied in a kickass giant robot, DC actually tossed the entire movie up on YouTube. Maybe keep that ready in a new tab though, because we're about to dig into the Animated Series.
2. Clark Kent takes on the mantle of Batman
Even though Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series come from the same animation studios, share a similar art style and often traded creative team members, the two actually didn't cross over all that much until the Justice League era. For the most part, Superman hung out in Metropolis fighting Metallo and Parasite, while Batman stalked Gotham and systematically crippled most of the city's mentally ill population. One fun exception comes in "Knight Time," an episode of Superman: TAS that feels very out of place. A lot of that probably has to do with how much of the story is set in Gotham City.
This is actually the first time Superman has stepped onto Batman's turf in this continuity; he only does so after hearing the Dark Knight has been notably absent. Bruce Wayne is indeed nowhere to be found, and his team is off chasing a lead across the globe that they think might lead to Ra's Al Ghul. The only one left to fend off the scum of Gotham is Robin, who tells Superman that crime has been getting worse and worse every time the Bat Signal is lit without a response.
This time, Batman does show up, but little does Commissioner Gordon know that this isn't the same man he's been meeting on that rooftop for all those years. Clark Kent has donned the cape and cowl in his friend's stead, and together with Robin they manage to fool the Commish into working with the Bat-impostor. It's not all Gordon's fault, either -- Supes knows his friend pretty well, and so was able to nail the the biting assholier-than-thou attitude Batman sometimes carries himself with. It helps that he was able to modulate his voice to sound exactly like Kevin Conroy, too, no doubt thanks to his Super-Ventriloquism skills.
That being said, Superman doesn't know everything about being Batman. Like say, how to not fumble around while trying to figure out which side of his belt his grappling hook is on.
Not content to just look the part, Superman also finds himself playing detective while on the trail of his missing friend. This inevitably leads him to your run-of-the-mill supervillain team-up, which Superbatman inevitably busts in on, and inevitably gets his ass handed to him by Bane.
Batman would have found a way out of that jam before it ever came to uh, being crushed by a giant Easter Island head, but Superman doesn't have to. To him, that statue landing on his face probably hurt as much as Marshmallows and Puppies Day at the pillow factory.
When "Batman" fights back boasting superhuman feats of strength, the bad guys are understandably horrified. Most of Gotham's rogues are used to dealing with very skilled mortal men and women; Superman is way out of their league. The sheer speed at which the villains are foiled almost makes you think Superman should make a flyby more often.
It's a fun scene, but it also explains why Superman is still dicking around in his friend's long underwear: Because it sets up bad guys with a false expectations. This comes especially handy when Superbatman and Robin find out that Brainiac kidnapped and brainwashed Bruce Wayne in order to carry out his evil plan.
Being an alien supercomputer and all, Brainiac should have probably figured that this savage third-degree burn would have immolated most humans -- but the fact remains that one of Superman's greatest foes has no idea what's coming for him. Especially important here is the fact that Brainiac somehow hasn't put together that Bruce Wayne is Batman, at least on most days of the week; that knowledge at least might have prepared Brainy for Superman inevitably coming to save his buddy. But instead, this happens:
Not only is Brainiac shocked, but his highly complex neural network cannot comprehend how Batman's costume melted off of Superman's body, leaving him naked, only to stand up seconds later with an entirely new suit. There wasn't much time for contemplation, since the rest of the episode hinges on your typical "Superman Punches Things Until He Wins" scenario. Still, while it lasted, I think we can all agree that Superman is a pretty damn good cosplayer.