By Steve Morris
What happens when the Man of Steel bunks up on a crowded cruiseliner with The Caped Crusader? That’ll be Superman #76, the issue which first brought the two characters together for a caper aboard a cruise liner which includes mistaken identity, diamond bullets, iceberg juggling, and a hugely charming story from the team of Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan, John Fishchetti and Stan Kaye.
Things start next to the famous Gotham City windmill, as Batman and Robin catch a dastardly criminal – he’s wearing a purple jacket and green tie, so can tell he’s especially despicable specimen. He’s apparently the very last criminal left on the “most wanted” list, so Bruce decides he can finally go take that cruise he’s… always wanted to go on? This isn’t what all those depressing comics theorised Bruce Wayne would do if he had no reason to be Batman anymore, it’s almost as though depressing comics are stupid!
Meanwhile, Superman flies in holding a complete and whole fossil from the Gobi Desert and drops it off at the “Hall of Learning”, which is just down the road from the Hall of Justice and arguably a less engaging school trip to take, all things considered. He has just enough time for a quick date with Lois Lane before he goes off on… a cruise? I think I know what’s going on here.
Sure enough, they’re both told that there’s been a booking error and they’re going to have to share a room. Team-up! And handily, at that very moment somebody fires bullets at a petrol truck so he can steal a nearby shipment of diamonds. He gets away and escapes, but Lois – who naturally ran straight into the fire to cover the story, as though she were planning to interview the truck – is trapped. Bruce and Clark run back to their room, neither knowing that the other is a Superhero. Bruce, the smart one, awkwardly asks if he can turn off the lights, which Clark agrees to. They both get changed in the dark, but a light at the porthole illuminates the room and catches them both.
“Why — why, you’re Superman!”
“And you, Bruce Wayne… you’re Batman!”
They race down together to save the day. Superman grabs the flaming truck and squeezes the bullet holes choking oxygen from the vehicle. He then inhales a cloud and blows the moisture into the flames, putting the fire out entirely. Batman, meanwhile, swings over and grabs Lois, who is immediately totally all over Batman. Um, who just picked up an exploding truck and saved the day using the awesome power of convection, Lois? Hint: not the dark knight!
Superman and Batman make a pact to look after each other, already pretty solid bros despite the whole Lois-stealing situation. They decide to board the ship, because the culprit is probably onboard somewhere. Happily, the captain agrees, and lets them have his cabin. They’re pretty happy about this until they realise this leaves their old cabin empty – and sure enough, intrepid journalist Lois Lane books it, persuading her editor to let her have the cabin so she can pursue her lead.
The heroes immediately have to rush off, jump through the porthole into their room and change back into their clothes – lights on this time. Clark gets into bed and pretends he’s sick, and Bruce pretends he’s the sort of person who’d care about strangers enough to spend their holiday looking after a sick person in his cabin. Lois, saint of patience as she is, yells at Clark and then leaves, never to return. The steely knights then decide that the best way to keep Lois occupied is for Batman to pretend he totally fancies her, because then she’ll be too flustered to be a detective.
Little do they know that she overhears them! She plays right into the idea, cosying up to Batman whilst telling Superman to go “smooth the waves” so the trip will be easier… which Superman actually then does? He picks up the ship and carries it along for a bit, and whilst there decides to use his x-ray vision to scan the ship for miscreants, spotting a guy with a gun. Batman heads off to interrogate the man while Superman distracts Lois by legitimately acting wounded about her fancying Batman more than him. What was this plan supposed to achieve, again?
It seems like the man with a hidden pistol and who blatantly lies to Batman about being an “electrical engineer” despite wearing what Bats recognises as incorrect shoes may be the villain. But Lois wanders over and asks Batman if he could please perform a stuntshow that evening for all the guests, and he agrees to do it for her. Isn’t this meant to have been a way to distract Lois? She’s walking all over these two.
As Batman does some of his famous stunts (grappling hook swandives and all), Superman gets super-jealous again, and joins in by stealing some nearby icebergs and juggling them for the crowd. Lois quite rightly declares this “corny”, which makes you realise that canonically it’s probably she’d have been on the original DC-Universe first season of America’s Got Talent. Superman overhears her, as she intended, and gets sad about Batman being better than him. Batman, the consumate wingman (get it?) consoles him and turns their attention back to the mission.
Because right at that very minute, as everybody is distracted by the superpowered alien in red and blue juggling frozen ice right in front of them… the villain plans to get away via helicopter! Lois, who snuck out the performance in boredom, is obviously the first one to spot him making his escape, so he captures her for no apparent reason and forces her into the escape helicopter too! To signify his turn towards complete villainy, he pops on a green flat cap and purple trousers – the colours of evil, just like at the start of the issue!!
Batman thinks the mission is lost, but Superman knows better, grabbing Batman by the trunks and throwing him at the helicopter, which he grabs onto perfectly. Batman knocks some criminal heads together and turns the helicopter back round, whilst Superman drags the liner back to the nearest port. The authorities are waiting, and arrest the criminal – who turns out to have smuggled the diamonds inside his bullets! That’s a pretty smart trick, really.
The caped men of tomorrow leave the cruise, but then sneak back in so they can be Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent onboard again. Lois finds it mighty suspicious that the two men are suddenly feeling well just as soon as the superheroes have left, but they have a plan to keep her from finding out their plans! Superman flies Batman back to Gotham at superspeed so he can pose for the cameras a bit before returning back to the ship to watch himself on TV. That’s one secret identity covered, and Batman knows just how to save Superman’s identity.
He dressed up as Clark Kent – that’s how little attention Lois actually pays to Clark at this point – so the real Clark can greet them at the docks whilst dressed as Superman. That’s enough to convince Lois! The heroes congratulate themselves on a job truly well done – but realise they won’t know who Lois likes more until they find out which one of them she wants to take out for dinner that night.
They head back to her… just in time to find out that she’s taking Robin, the Boy Wonder, out to dinner instead. How did Robin get the budget to pay for a night out with Lois Lane? “Oh no!” they both cry in unison, realising that they will neither of them ever be able to match Lois Lane. They’ll just have to go to dinner with each other instead, I guess.
Written by Edmond Hamilton
Pencilled by Curt Swan
Inked by John Fischetti
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.