In a Batman/Captain America crossover, the Joker and Red Skull had formed an alliance, but that all changed when Joker learned Nazis were involved.
While the 1996 Batman & Captain America crossover has many positive things going for it, there’s one moment in the team-up story that’s surpassed them all and has long endured into the present, being shared by fans time and time again on the internet for being so perfect. While the crossover saw the Dark Knight and America’s Super Soldier joining forces, it also saw their respective villains coming together as well. However, the fateful first meeting of the Joker and Red Skull ended up revealing the true villains of both Marvel and DC’s Universes, causing the villains’ dark alliance to completely fall apart in spectacular fashion.
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In the epic Elseworlds crossover event from John Byrne, Captain America and Bucky are assigned to watch over Bruce Wayne due to his ties to the Gotham Project (a DC version of the Manhattan Project). Steve Rogers grows quite bored watching over the Gotham socialite due to the fact that neither he nor Bruce knows the other’s secret identity, despite the fact that Cap and Batman had recently worked together. However, Rogers’ interest becomes piqued when he overhears Bruce telling his ward Dick Grayson that he’s trying to find a way to ditch Steve so he “can keep his appointment with the Joker.” After tailing and then fighting Bruce, believing him to be a rogue, Rogers and Wayne quickly realize who they both really are and resolve to work together as Captain America and Batman. Meanwhile, Joker and his goons are set to deliver a large bomb to the mysterious organization the Clown Prince of Crime has been in contact with.
It’s only upon delivery of the bomb that Joker realizes who he’s been working for this whole time: The Red Skull. The Skull is quite pleased with Joker’s efforts, as some in the Third Reich believed that the Joker was too volatile to be trusted. Perhaps they were right. While Red Skull tells Joker that Adolf Hitler himself wants to give him Germany’s highest honors for his service, the Joker is shocked to hear that’s he’s been working with Nazis this entire time in Byrne’s Batman & Captain America crossover.
While Joker is a twisted maniac, even twisted maniacs have limits. Joker’s not just a super criminal. He’s an American super criminal and would never willingly work with the Nazis. Immediately, Joker and Red Skull turn on each other, dosing each other with Joker Venom and the Dust of Death, respectively. However, their toxins are too much alike, and subsequently have no effect. Red Skull then takes the unconscious Joker and the bomb he delivered aboard his jet, though Cap, Batman, and their sidekicks are in hot pursuit in the Bat-Plane. However, Joker eventually wakes up and inadvertently helps the heroes due to his hatred of the Axis powers, fighting and sabotaging the Skull’s efforts for Nazi Germany.
While Joker is the worst of the worst in the DC Universe, even he wouldn’t stoop so low as to work with the Nazis. It’s quite the comical and intriguing scene, showing readers that even Joker has a moral code when it comes to the worst regime in all of human history. His act of patriotism against the Red Skull would also serve as the foundation for his continued hatred of Nazis going forward as well, as is seen in Tom Taylor’s recent Injustice: Year Zero comic series. Joker may have done (and will continue to do) terrible things in the DC Universe, but there is a line he won’t cross, and that line is apparently Nazis, the true villains in any universe.
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