Batman & Captain America Once Swapped Sidekicks (Seriously)
One of the greatest resources in the arsenal of a superhero is a good sidekick, and while many costumed do-gooders have taken on masked wards, few have sidekicks as iconic as those working under Batman and Captain America. The Caped Crusader’s partner in crime-fighting, Robin the Boy Wonder, made his smashing debut in comics in 1940, just one year prior to his Marvel counterpart James “Bucky” Barnes in Captain America #1. Both characters have a long history fighting alongside their respective mentors, but one crossover story in 1996 saw the two iconic sidekicks trading places in order to take down the dastardly duo of Joker and Red Skull.
It can be hard to believe there was a time when Marvel and DC collaborated on projects together, but from the late ‘70s all the way through the ‘90s the two companies co-published on a fairly regular basis. In an era full of DC/Marvel crossovers, one such “Elseworld” story teamed Batman and Robin up with Captain America and Bucky. Written and drawn by John Byrne, Batman & Captain America personifies the crossover age; complete with light-hearted humor and heroics—and plenty of Nazi punching.
Taking place during WWII, the story follows Batman and Captain America as fate unexpectedly forces their paths to collide. Captain Rogers, who was previously stationed in Europe with DC’s own wartime hero Sgt. Rock, is sent to Gotham on a top-secret mission—to serve as Bruce Wayne’s bodyguard. When the Joker attempts to steal assets associated with the “Gotham Project,” the government wrongly believes Bruce Wayne (one of the project’s biggest backers) is the one feeding the Clown Prince inside information.
It doesn’t take long for Wayne and Rogers to uncover the other’s identity, and the two quickly team up to take down Joker and his mysterious benefactor—later revealed to be Red Skull. With the villains working in tandem, the Dark Knight and the Star-Spangled Avenger divide their resources to bring them down. While Cap meets with Commissioner Gordon (taking Robin with him to make the introduction), Batman runs an algorithm in the Batcomputer to locate the Joker’s lair (with Bucky at his side as potential backup).
Ironically, it isn’t Cap and Robin or Batman and Bucky who bring down Red Skull, but the Joker himself. As it turned out, Joker was unaware his secret partner was a Nazi agent. Upon seeing the swastika emblazoned on Red Skull’s uniform, the Clown Prince immediately turns on him and sabotages the Third Reich’s plan to nuke Washington D.C. with America’s own prototype atomic bomb. Apparently, even the Joker finds Nazis repulsive.
So how did Batman and Captain America handle their sidekick swap? Robin predictably fanboys all over America’s greatest patriot, but Bucky on the other hand exhibits a level of aggressive snark that would make Jason Todd jealous. He refers to Robin as “shrimp,” claims the Batmobile would never survive in a war zone and even suggests that Robin might be jealous of him for having “the better partner.” But Bucky does eventually warm up to the Dark Knight after he breaks them out of one of Red Skull’s deathtraps. Overall, the character interactions are fun, if not a bit one dimensional and cheesy at times, but considering all four characters at one point in their long histories fought Nazis during WWII, Batman and Captain America is one Marvel/DC crossover that actually stays fairly true to the source material.