In 1980, Christopher Reeve–generally considered the best Superman of the big screen–starred in Superman 2, the successful sequel to his earlier blockbuster Superman: The Movie (1978). The box office windfall of that film guaranteed that Superman would fly again on movie screens. (He ultimately made two more sequels.)
Only a year before, Adam West had reprised his career-defining role of Batman in the mini-series Legends of the Super-Heroes (1979). He’d originally portrayed the caped crusader in the TV series Batman, which ran from 1966-1968. West additionally supplied the voice of Batman in several animated projects throughout the 70s. West loved playing the dark knight detective and would later lobby for a part when Tim Burton announced that he was making a big-budget Batman movie.
Also in 1979, lovely Lynda Carter finished her four-year stint as Amazonian Princess Diana in the TV show Wonder Woman, which aired from 1975-79. Much like West, she enjoyed playing her super hero character and would have reprised the role if she’d been offered the opportunity.
With all three of these actors eager and able to reenact their most famous roles, there’s no doubt that West and Carter would have appeared in a Superman sequel with Christopher Reeve if DC had approached them to do so. Suppose that sequel had been Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
No superhero crossover film had ever been done before at that point but it was not unheard of for DC to have their characters meet on TV. Batman and Robin had already met the Green Hornet and Kato on TV, and the small screen versions of Shazam and Isis crossed paths occasionally. Shared universes had been done prior to that. Look at the Universal monsters of the 1930s/40s (Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man had met in several films) and the giant Kaiju creatures of Godzilla’s universe, that frequently crossed paths. Imagine that DC decided to create a X-over universe back in the early 1980s. That would have changed the landscape of the film industry and moved the super hero renaissance up by three decades. They would have left poor Marvel in the dust!
The Dawn of Justice story could actually fit into the Reeve/Superman continuity, with a little alteration. In Superman 2, our Kryptonian hero fought General Zod and his henchmen, wreaking havoc in Metropolis, much like the scenario we saw in Man of Steel. The damage to the city was not quite as bad in the Reeves film because his version of Superman was smart enough to bait the bad guys out of the city, but regardless, there was a lot of destruction done in Superman 2, and it was all the fault of the Kryptonians.
A follow-up to Superman 2 could utilize the same story, albeit with some changes. The plot: We can imagine West’s upright and moral caped crusader getting very upset at seeing such destruction in Metropolis at the time. Suppose his loyal companion Dick Greyson/Robin (Burt Ward) were injured or killed while accompanying Bruce on a trip. Certainly that would make Batman hostile toward the aliens. It’s true that the West Batman is nicer and more understanding than the big screen Batmen we’ve seen but there are ways to get him riled up. Maybe the film could even include Superman being framed for a crime in Gotham City by Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), and Commissioner Gordon calling Batman in for help. (As he always does.) And while all this is going on, suppose IADC agent Diana Prince arrives from Washington DC and gets involved in this whole mess.
Obviously there was no Doomsday back in the early 80s but Luthor could make himself a Bizarro instead. And rather than stealing the dead body of Zodd to build Bizarro, he could meet with the incarcerated General Zodd (Terrance Stamp) who was captured at the end of Superman 2, in order to get a blood sample. Of course, Luthor himself was arrested at the end of Superman 2 but he could always escape again. Where would he get his resources from, you may ask? Maybe he could team up with Batman’s foe the Penguin, (Burgess Meredith) who has made a lot of money pretending to be an honest businessman since the 60s. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman vs. Bizarro, Luthor and the Penguin. Now that’s entertainment!
If a film like this had been made in the early-mid 1980s, it would have perpetually changed the state of the film industry as we know it today and DC would have had a huge head start over Marvel who would be the ones playing catch-up today.