Superman and Batman: 1977: The Devil to Pay, Prologue, 1987: The Wake

by HarveyKent

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November, 1987:

The asteroid was a lonely, barren chunk of rock floating in space. Men and women in brightly colored costumes stood on its stony surface, protected inside an atmospheric bubble created by Green Lantern’s power ring. They stood solemnly before a large golden statue depicting the muscular form and grim face of one of their own number. Ordinarily, a fallen hero would be memorialized in a special cemetery on Earth designed for that purpose. However, it was decided that the world at large, especially the criminal element, must not know that Batman had passed from this world. (*) His protégé had taken up the role, and his friends had gathered here to mourn him in private.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman: Bruce Wayne: Missing and Presumed Dead, Book 1: Snowbound.]

“I can never replace you, Bruce,” the young man in the familiar blue and gray costume said, his voice wavering, on the verge of breaking. “The legacy you created is too large for any man to fill. But I swear to you, your good work shall go on. The Batman will watch over Gotham City as long as Dick Grayson draws a breath. Goodbye, Bruce,” Dick finished, his voice finally breaking on the last words. Batwoman put a kindly arm around his shoulders, sharing his pain.

Superman, Batman’s closest friend, stared out into the starry skies beyond the green bubble. He was filling his usual role as the Justice League of America’s pillar of strength, the one the others looked up to. Inside, he was broken more than any of them, with the possible exception of Dick.

“He was the standard I measured myself against,” Green Arrow said, something he would never have admitted to otherwise. “When I started out in this business, I guess I subconsciously patterned myself after him, adopted a lot of his gimmicks. Later on, I felt I outgrew them, called them old hat and out-of-date; but I never lost my respect for the man. You were one of the greatest heroes I ever met, Bruce. Rest easy, buddy. You’ve earned it.”

Superman listened to the words, the affirmations of friendship, the testimonials to one of their greatest. It all fell short of describing the man they had come to say farewell to. But there were no words to truly describe an individual like Bruce Wayne.

“On Mars, we believe that when a good man dies, a small part of every life he has touched dies, too,” said J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter. “Thus the death touches all whom the life has touched. I can think of few persons who have touched more lives than Bruce Wayne, the Batman. Farewell, my good friend. A small part of a great, great many people has died today. But your spirit will live on in them.”

Superman thought of all the friends he had buried — Diana, although she had been reborn as an infant; Barry; Lori; his own cousin, Kara. He had grieved at every death, but none had touched him quite so much as this one. He wondered how many other friends he would have to bury. Could he even die? Had the yellow rays of the sun, which had turned him into something more than mortal, made him immune to death itself? If so, it would be the cruelest punishment of all, to live on after all his friends were passed.

“I was chosen to be a Green Lantern because I had no fears,” Green Lantern said. “At first, I thought that made me something pretty special, and I was kind of proud of myself. Then I met Bruce, and I couldn’t help but wonder if Abin Sur hadn’t made a mistake. He risked his life every single day, without benefit of special powers or magic ring, and never hesitated to step into danger to protect an innocent life. Brave and bold as I am, I know I could never touch him for sheer courage. Goodbye, Bruce, and when you get to that place reserved for the truly brave, well, say hello to Barry for me.”

Superman knew the truth of those words. It was one thing to place yourself in harm’s way when you were invulnerable, but Bruce had taught him the meaning of true courage. He remembered a time, ten years earlier, when he and Bruce, and Dick as well, faced the ultimate terror, and Bruce’s courage had never wavered.

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