When Batman and Superman come together in this week’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it will be far from the first time that the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel have crossed paths.
Shortly after Batman’s 1939 introduction, the two characters were appearing on comic-book covers together, but they generally stayed apart from one another in the stories inside. That changed, however briefly, in 1941, when they both helped raise money for WWII orphans.
In All-Star Comics #7, that October, the Justice Society of America (a group of mostly lower-level superheroes) makes a promise to raise $1 million for the cause. Though Batman and Superman are not central to the story, they appear in a few panels at the end to help the heroes make their fundraising goal.
Even if the two heroes’ joint participation was unusual, there was a close relationship between the war effort and the American comics industry. The events taking place in the real world quickly trickled down into the stories of superheroes. One 1940 story had Superman preventing the U.S. from having to enter the war by exposing a fictional dictator as a mockery. In other cases, the stories were more directly related to world news—as was the case when the Justice Society addressed the very real concern of children who lost parents in the fighting.
For Superman, at least, that close link between comics and world news caused plot problems, as TIME reported in 1942:
It wasn’t until 1952 that Superman and Batman appeared in a real story together. In Superman #76, they both appear in a story called “The Mightiest Team in the World”—and it wasn’t exactly war-orphans levels of serious. Bruce Wayne decides to go on a cruise so he can “forget crime, for a change”…and he happens to choose the same ship on which Clark Kent is vacationing.
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