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Image: Batman, Captain America
Warner Bros., Marvel Studios
Captain America's shield is pretty cool, and he's a dedicated patriot, but it's tough to beat the Batmobile, or the lifestyle of a billionaire playboy.
TODAY contributor
updated 7/19/2011 4:49:29 PM ET 2011-07-19T20:49:29

One of comics' most iconic superheroes gets his first major movie appearance on Friday in "Captain America: The First Avenger." But though the super-soldier has been around since World War Two, he's probably not as familiar to the average filmgoer as Batman, who'll return to theaters next year in "The Dark Knight Rises." How do the two of them stack up against each other? Let's count the ways.

Batman: After his parents are killed in a mugging gone wrong, orphan boy Bruce Wayne obsessively trains in secret for years until he's ready to dress up as a giant bat so he can fight crime.

Captain America: After he is rejected as physically unfit to serve in World War Two, patriotic weakling Steve Rogers volunteers for a medical experiment involving a "super-soldier" serum and Vita-Ray bombardment that transforms him into the perfect warrior so he can fight Nazis.

Advantage: Batman. Rogers went above and beyond the call of duty, sure, but Wayne devoted his entire life, starting from childhood, to a compulsive desire to combat evil.

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Batman: None, technically. But through long, grueling training he's become a formidable fighter in prime physical condition. Also, he's incredibly rich, tech-savvy, and a wily strategist.

Captain America: None, technically. But the super-soldier serum puts him in peak condition, with strength and reflexes at the maximum for normal humans. He's also got plenty of real combat experience under his belt, and is an expert tactician.

Advantage: A tie. It's hard to say who'd win in a fight — Cap would probably triumph in a straightforward punch-up, but don't bet against Batman in the long haul.

Interactive: Evolution of the movie (and TV) superhero (on this page)

Batman: Bruce Wayne, playboy billionaire.

Captain America: Steve Rogers, army private.

Advantage: Batman. C'mon. One guy dates supermodels. The other guy gets yelled at by his drill sergeant.

Batman: A bat, worn on his chest.

Captain America: The letter A, worn on his forehead.

Advantage: Batman. Cap's star-spangled costume, designed by the legendary Jack Kirby, looks pretty snazzy overall, but that A is seriously grade-Z.

Slideshow: Best and worst superhero costumes (on this page)

Batman: Batarangs, custom-made ninja throwing stars in the shape of his bat-symbol.

Captain America: A red-white-and-blue shield., made out of an unbreakable metal called vibranium. It's not only bulletproof, but can be thrown like a Frisbee, ricocheting off walls and pummeling his enemies.

Advantage: Cap. Batman has all kinds of impressive gadgets, but none of 'em are as cool as that shield.

Story: Five things to know about 'Captain America'
Imag: Heath Ledger
Warner Bros. via AP
The Joker

Batman: The Joker, real name unknown, a psychotic serial killer and self-described "agent of chaos." He dresses like a clown in purple and green, with a pale white face and a permanently fixed grin. He's motivated by a morbid, twisted sense of humor and an obsession with Batman.

Captain America: The Red Skull, real name Johann Schmidt, a Nazi and terrorist leader personally trained by Hitler who underwent the same super-soldier process that created Cap. He dresses in black leather and wears a frightening crimson-colored skull mask. He's motivated by plans for world domination.

Advantage: A tie. Both villains are justifiably among the most iconic in comic-book history, polar opposites on the spectrum of evil—insane anarchy for the Joker, and brutal fascism for the Skull. I wouldn't want to meet either of them in a dark alley, or anywhere else.

Batman: The Batmobile, usually portrayed as a stylish customized luxury sedan, but more recently as a military-grade urban assault vehicle tricked out with a secret escape module that turns into a motorcycle.

Captain America: Cap doesn't have an iconic vehicle to call his own. In the new movie, he'll ride around on an Army-issue motorcycle.

Advantage: Batman. And that's not even counting the Bat-boat, Bat-plane, Bat-copter, Bat-surfboard...

OVERALL WINNER: Batman. Captain America is a good army man and a devoted patriot, but he just can't overcome the style points earned by a billionaire with the world's coolest car.

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Video: Evans: It was 'terrifying' being Capt. America

Photos: Best and worst superhero costumes

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  1. Old-fashioned 'America'

    In the 2011 film "Captain America," Chris Evans' costume is meant to resemble a World War II airman's jumpsuit, director Joe Johnston told Entertainment Weekly. It's modest and practical, a far cry from the tight Spandex sported by many heroes. Evans told MTV News the costume was "not comfortable" but that the redesigned version he wears in "The Avengers" is more more modern and "looks fantastic." (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Costume of the gods

    "Thor" isn't just a superhero, he's a Norse god, and his armor and cape reflect that. The L.A. Times reported that Chris Hemsworth was so afraid he wouldn't look strong enough to play the role that he worked out too much -- and for a while, his costume was too tight. He reportedly backed off on the workouts and his costume was altered to fit. (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Cold as ice

    January Jones looks breathtakingly cold as Emma Frost in 2011's "X-Men: First Class." Jones told MTV her favorite costume from the film involved a fur cape. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Not easy being 'Green'

    In 2011's "Green Lantern," part of Ryan Reynolds' glowing costume was CGI-generated, a decision which did not delight fanboys. (Warner Bros) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. I am 'Iron Man'

    Anyone could be inside Robert Downey Jr's "Iron Man" costume, but it's still recognized as one of the cooler hero costumes in recent years. You may also see it at your doorstep come October -- it's a popular Halloween choice. (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Regular Joe

    Some superheroes don't really need Spandex. Seth Rogen pretty much just donned a mask to play 2011's "Green Hornet." (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Does whatever a spider can

    We're used to seeing Spider-Man in red, white and blue, but in 2007's "Spider-Man 3," Peter Parker's suit mysteriously changes to black, bringing out the dark side of the hero. (Sony Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Bluer than blue

    In 2000's "X-Men," Mystique's blue skin sets her apart from the other heroes. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Most embarrassing costume ever?

    Yes, that's George Clooney in the costume on the left, starring in 1997's "Batman & Robin." For some reason, the costume sported visible nipples, one of the oddest choices in superhero costuming ever. In the photo at right, Michael Keaton wears a more traditional batsuit in 1989's "Batman." (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Mrow!

    Some of the more notable comic-book costumes for women are that of slinky, sexy "Catwoman." Here, Michelle Pfeiffer plays her in 1992's "Batman Returns," while Halle Berry shows a little more skin in 2004's "Catwoman." Obviously, the costume designer took the words "cat suit" to heart. (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A classic

    Few superhero costumes stand the test of time as well as that worn by the late Christopher Reeve in 1978's "Superman." (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Above: Slideshow (11) Best and worst superhero costumes
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    Slideshow (10) Comics that should (and shouldn’t) be movies
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    Slideshow (22) Summer blockbusters

Timeline: Evolution of the movie (and TV) superhero

From George Reeves' tights-wearing "Superman" to Chris Evans' hunky "Captain America," the size and build of cinematic heroes has changed over the years.

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