The Curious Case of the Cap & the Bat

Sychronicity, not just a plot device in a Grant Morrison JLA story arc, but it is actually the term for the coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related that are causally unrelated. Essentially, a fancy term for when two events that are unrelated to each other that then through accident or luck become very much alike. Something like, say, the plot lines of two different comic books from two different comic book companies that somehow end up following almost the same exact story-arc as each other. What stories have lined up, and what does it mean? Why does this kind of thing happen? Hit the jump for the article.

The Curious Case of The Cap and The Bat

Let me describe for you the recent story-arc for a character, and let me see if you can guess who I'm talking about. Super-star creator takes over a comic character and in his first issue has the main antagonist shot by a new villain, which changes the status quo for the antagonist dramatically. Hero of the book discovers that his long-thought dead sidekick (L-TDSK) is alive but is now a villain that stands for the opposite of what the hero stands for. Hero fights L-TDSK. Hero is forced to do something that no one ever thought he would do, and dies shortly afterwards. L-TDSK fights other heroes mentored by the now dead hero over the right to wear the mantle. Sidekick wins the mantle, is torn about whether he should become the hero before finally taking on the costume of the dead hero. "Dead" hero is discovered to not really be dead but is instead trapped in time, and it's up to the heroes to find him. So who is it?

If you said that it was Captain America, then you were right. But if you said Batman, then you were right. What I discribed was the last couple years of story from both of them, and while granted I did simplify some things I did not actually change any of the things that have happened in any of their books. Ed Brubaker and Grant Morrison have both revitalized Captain America and Batman, respectively, with new and imaginative stories that have actually succeeded in capturing the imagination of the readers. But with the recent announcement from DC's Blog the Source about the Return of Bruce Wayne as he travels through time to get back to the present day, I had to call shennanigans as it comes on the heels of Captain America: Reborn which featured Steve Rogers traveling through time to get back to the present day. I'm going to go step-by-step through the story points of both Bats and Cap and examine who was there first for it, and describe in detail the similarities through the events, and then I'm going to try and see if I can hypothesize why these two have lined up the way that they have.

Long-Thought Dead Sidekick Returns

In Batman #635 released February 2005, Judd Winick introduces the Red Hood, a vigilante who uses explosives and guns to kill criminals instead of apprehending them as he starts a one man war on the Black Mask. Eventually, Batman fights him, and the Red Hood reveals himself to be Jason Todd, the second Robin that was beaten to death by the Joker and blown up years ago and was believed dead, but is now very much alive.

But in Captain America #1, which was published November of 2004 (3 months before Under the Hood started), the Winter Soldier shoots and kills the Red Skull (he gets better) and is later revealed to be Bucky Barnes, the dead sidekick of Captain America who was blown up in an exploding plane but was taken by Russians and turned into a communist super-assassain. Here are two similar story-arcs that started only 3 months apart from each other, which both featured the creators doing what most believed to be impossible by bringing back two of the most untouchable dead characters in all of comicdom. Which is probably the weirdest coincidence and the reason why this is such a big deal, because it wouldn't have mattered if it was like Hawkman, who is resurrected every other week, and the Rocket Racer that were the resurrected character. Instead, it was Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes, the two that have been on the "Do Not Resusitate" list for decades. Decades! And then they both are brought back within months, both as villains that are the anti-thesis of their mentors. Shocking.

Superstar Creator Enters, Villain Exits Due to Gunshot

This is a quick one. As I've mentioned before, Ed Brubaker took over Cap with Captain America #1 and proceeded to introduce the Winter Soldier by having him gun down the Red Skull, who was then forced to share a body with a scumbag Russian businessman. Well, when Grant Morrison took over Bats in July 2006 with Batman #655, the opening of that issue saw an "evil Batman" shoot the Joker in the face with a gun, which then left the Joker disfigured and caused probably one of the worst uses of prose in any medium. If you don't know what I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky. But here we have two issues that are a year and a half removed from each other, and yet you could argue that the same exact event occured in both books. It's blatantly obvious that no one in DC has the stones to say no to Grant Morrison, but shouldn't someone have caught this obvious overlap, especially in the wake of the Winter Soldier/Red Hood story overlap?

Hero Turns His Back On His Beliefs in a Big Event & Dies

Alright, the title may not be completely true, but stick with me for a little bit here. In Civil War #7 which came out in March 2007, Captain America realized that he was wrong and surrendered to the Pro-Registration forces, turning his back on the beliefs that he had espoused to his followers. Then, in Captain America #25 that same month, Cap is "killed" but is really shot with time-bullets (I'm serious) on his way to court and is stranded in time. Well, in Final Crisis #6, Batman uses a gun (something that he would ordinarily never do because his parents were killed with a gun) to shoot Darkseid and save the world, but is then "killed" but is really sent back in time to the Stone Age through eye-beams (Again, totally serious). In both situations, you can see that the event that leads directly into them being "killed" is something that the character is either like Batman intrinsically oppossed to it or in Cap's case was fighting against it the entire event.

I understand why in these events it happend, since in the case with Batman it is always infinitely more appealing to watch a hero do something that he swore he would never do since this is an easy and cheap way to raise the stakes on your incredibly crappy and forgettable event. And with Cap, Mark Millar (who wrote Civil War) was kind of building to the idea that even if registration is wrong, by fighting against it physically you're proving that Iron Man and the Pro-Regs were right the whole time, not to mention that it had to have some sort of ending. Look, I'll be honest, I really liked Civil War and I hated Final Crisis because to me FC epitomized everything that has gone wrong with Grant Morrison's writing since New X-Men: being constantly hung up on "gradiose" Silver Age throwbacks, trying to cram every single idea into a story at the expense of having an enjoyable plot or interesting characters, cookie-cutter characters that do not reflect what they characters are actually like anymore, the list goes on. But the big thing with FC was just how unimportant the event was that it did not end up impacting a single God damn thing. Seriously, look at the landscape after Final Crisis, did it change one iota? And keep in mind that Batman R.I.P ended with the ambigous Batman "death" scene so if you just read that and skipped Final Crisis you wouldn't be confused that everyone thought Batman was dead and there was a "battle for the cowl" cause you would have already seen why people thought he was dead. And now I'm off my little tangent, but that does lead nicely into my next point

Sidekicks Fight For the Mantle

Obviously, in Batman the big thing for this is the Battle for the Cowl miniseries what came out this past summer of '09, where Dick Grayson fought a dark version of Batman with Jason Todd and clashed against another student of Batman mostly ideologically with Tim Drake before finally earning the mantle of Batman.

Well, starting in Captain America #27 in June 2007 and running through that title in the storyarc "Death of the Dream", Bucky Barnes fought against dark version of Captain America with evil 1950's Cap and clashed against another student of Captain America mostly ideologically with Clint Barton before finally earning the mantle of Captain America. Huh. Now granted, the situation was different with Jason Todd as oppossed to 50's Cap, but the same basic principal applies here since both are deranged individuals who represent what could happen to the hero in question if they were to fall from grace. But the really funny thing is that the reactions from Clint and Tim are just the reverse of each other but play out completely alike when you think about it, and the Clint Barton scene from Cap #27 came out a good two years before Battle for the Cowl, which means that it was published before Tony Daniel started writing that mini. Something to think about.

New Hero Joins the Team of the Old Hero

I am not a Bendis fan. This is hard for me to admit, since it was his Avengers Disassembled and New Avengers run that got me back into comic books in the first place during college. But the simple fact is, if you read more than 12 issues of any Bendis comic book, you start to realize that almost every issue is the same or at least follows the exact same formula with no payoff and awful dialogue along the way. (I'm planning a Put it Out to Pasture on Bendis's Avengers run, so look for that in the new year) With that out of the way, my favorite part of the Secret Invasion was the team-up of Bucky Cap with Thor and Iron Man to fight the Skrulls, and since then Bucky has been on the New Avengers since #48 from December 2008 (I think it's Bucky, Bendis writes him to be nothing like what he actually is as a character that it's hard to tell). So Bucky Cap has now become a part of the team that Captain America has been a key part of since just after it's inception.

Now this coming January Dick Grayson Batman, or Dick Bats [uh...no] er, Bat Dick [still no], is joining up with the Justice League of America with JLofA  #41 in a new line-up that is mostly notable for being so shitty. I mean, it's a really shitty line-up. Made up of not interesting teen superheroes (Donna Troy, Starfire, Cyborg), C-list losers shoved down our throats (Congorilla, The Guardian, Mon-El, Dr. Light), and incredibly over-exposed heroes (Dick Bats, Hal Jordan, Ollie Queen). The only person I'm excited to see is on this team is the Atom since I'm a big fan of the little guy, but since this is James "Welcome to pain" Robinson writing it that means that it's going to have all the depth and complexity of a Paris Hilton interview. Anyway, the key issue here is again for me to point out that the Batman part of this story comes a good year after the Captain America part, which is becoming an ongoing theme here. Now I know that it is impossible to keep Batman out of the Justice League for long, and that this isn't Dick Grayson's first stint in the JLA (he led the team during the Obsidian Age storyarc), but with Bruce returning relatively soon there's no point in sticking Dick Bats in the JLA for a couple months. It just rings hollow to me.

Person Close to Hero Refuses to Believe That They Are Dead

This is a quick and easy one, Sharon Carter was sure that she saw Steve when hooked up to the Red Skull's time platform and started trying to piece everything together to prove that Cap was alive in the time-stream after discovering, in Captain America #600, the "time gun" she shot Steve with. Tim Drake was sure that Bruce Wayne wasn't dead so he took on the guise of Red Robin in order to track down clues as to where (or when) Bruce had actually gone to and discovered Bruce's cave drawings to prove that Bats was alive in the time-stream. These are actually the closest chronologically to each other in terms of when the issue where the discovery was made was actually published, with Cap #600 being released June of 2009 and Red Robin #3 being released August '09, however the seeds of Sharon's discovery were laid back in Captain America #42 which came out in September of '08. Which means that the set-up for Captain America's return was printed in comics several months before Batman's "death" cause at that point Bruce Wayne was very much alive and well.

Trapped in Time: Reborn and Return

Which brings us to the final step, the return of both of these iconic characters to the roles that everyone in the World knows them in. Captain America: Reborn #1 was released in early July of 2009 and saw Sharon Carter along with several of Cap's friends teaming up to investigate the gun that "killed" Cap and led them to discover that he was in fact trapped within the time-stream, which set them off on an adventure to track down Steve and bring him home. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers (Cap) is stuck traveling randomly through time and reliving huge events in his life without any control over what is happening to him and forced to let the same things happen for fear of damaging time as we know it. Well, starting this coming April, 2010, the Return of Bruce Wayne starts which is described on the Source like this:
 Lost in the timestream, believed to be dead by his friends and enemies alike, Bruce Wayne must use every bit of intelligence, every ounce of strength and training he’s acquired over the years to find his way back to the city, and adopted family of vigilantes, he’d left behind.

Blasted by the mysterious and powerful Omega Effect in the pages of FINAL CRISIS during a deadly battle with the malevolent New God Darkseid, Bruce Wayne must battle back through the waves of time to reclaim what was his – his city, his life…his cowl?

Now we all knew that Bruce Wayne would be back, but to be back so soon after Dick Grayson took over, without almost any real time devoted to building up his old sidekick as Batman makes this whole exercise just seem that much more pointless. Say what you will about how they've gone about bringing Steve Rogers back, but at least Bucky Barnes got almost two whole years as the lead in Captain America and over a year in his own Captain America suit. Dick got six months before they confirm that Bruce Wayne will be back, and it isn't as if it really mattered at that point since we all assumed that Bruce would be back it was just a question of when. Look, we all knew that Steve Rogers wasn't going to stay dead, but at the very least when they "killed" him it was done a manner that left serious doubt that Rogers would be back, or at least that it was going to be a long time before he came back. With Bruce Wayne, the same damn event showed us clearly "Nope, Bruce is alive he's just stuck in the Stone Age." so there wasn't any chance for that doubt to creep in. That's why Dick Bats got short-changed in comparison to Bucky Cap. Plus, it looks like Bucky Cap might still be running around with the shield for a while after Steve comes back, which would be awesome since I really like Bucky as Captain America, and really as a character in general.


Two or three things are a coincidence, but to find seven examples of story overlap within the same two titles spanning five years of stories is incredible. I didn't even mention how Morrison's Batman had a son and then Ed Brubaker's Captain America knocked up Sharon Carter in the same year. But what does it mean? I honestly don't know, I don't have any "insider" knowledge of any kind (I'm just a regular comic book reader who follows a lot of different comic sites and blogs) so I wish I could dig into the reasons why they've doubled up in the way that they have. What I do know, is that comic books take several months to create, and even longer to plan out the overall story for an entire line of comics. In the case of Necrosha and Blackest Night where they overlapped content-wise, Kyle and Yost had mapped out the run of X-Force up to Necrosha around the same time that the teaser image for Blackest Night was released. Now there was not a huge difference in time between these two events, since both started this summer, but with both events centering around the dead rising and striking against their old friends it had lots of fans crying foul over what boiled down to be really just bad luck for Necrosha.

The Cap/Bat situation is different from that, however, since the majority of the story overlap happened with a good year at least between the two stories. What is most interesting is that Captain America's stories were always published first, which means that the Batman books were always the second stories published, and therefore planned. Now, I'm not accusing Morrison of stealing plots from another book, because in all seriousness none of these stories are completely original as there have been several comic book stories that involved a hero dying, or believed to have died, only to have their sidekick fill their shoes. So it isn't as if Brubaker invented the wheel with his Captain America run but he did make the wheel completely badass. But I do think that Morrison has kind of followed some of the same patterns that Brubaker has laid out, either intentionally or unintentionally. And also, what I really think, is that while Morrison did not steal the ideas from Brubaker, Bru did them first and much, much better. At the end of the day, Captain America has consistently been one of the best books on the stands while Morrison's Batman has been incredibly lackluster and one-note. And really, what matters the most to me is the quality of the books. Not which one came first.


  1. Judd Winick wrote the basic plot for BFTC, with an editorial mandate on direction from, well, the editors.

    Something to think about.

  2. I know, and by no means am I blaming Tony Daniel for it. You also have to remember that the main beats of everything Batman related the last several years is all from Grant Morrison and the editors, everybody else just gets given a specific area to explore from them.