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Bat-Manslaughter: 15 Times Batman Killed

by  in Comics, Lists, Comic News Comment
Bat-Manslaughter: 15 Times Batman Killed

During the recent blockbuster film, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”, Batman surprised some fans by racking up a sizable body count. This wasn’t the first time Batman had killed in films, of course, but killing tends to be a lot rarer for Batman in the comics (despite what some people erroneously think about Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”).

RELATED: 15 Reasons Why Batman ’66 Was The Best

However, Batman is not a complete stranger to killing bad guys in his comic books. So let us now take a look through Batman’s history of comic book killing. NOTE: We’re only talking “regular” continuity, so no alternate universe stuff like “Elseworlds” or “All Star Batman and Robin.” In addition, these are only instances where Batman actively and knowingly caused someone to die. So no killing done while under mind control and no killing where Batman accidentally offed someone (like if he punched someone and they then tripped over something and fell out a window). Now, if Batman intentionally punched a guy out of a window, that’d be different. These are 15 times Batman thought that killing a bad guy was acceptable.

15. Detective Comics #27

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Right off the… bat… in Batman’s very first appearance in “Detective Comics” #27 (by Bill Finger and Bob Kane), he quickly showed how little he cares if bad guys die while in his pursuit of justice. In “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” Batman investigated an intriguing murder plot where four businessmen who co-own a chemical company were being killed off one by one.

Amusingly enough, Batman solved the mystery almost immediately, as the killers of the second businessman didn’t escape with the document that they stole from the victim’s safe that proves the motive behind the crime (that the cash-poor fourth partner had worked out a deal where he would pay off the three others via a secret instalment plan to hide his money issues). Batman took the contract from one of the two killers as they were escaping on the victim’s roof. Batman flung one of them off of the roof and likely killed him (he is seen lying on the ground when the police arrive), but it is not absolutely clear how tall the roof was.

In the end, Batman saved the third partner from his murderous associate and when the killer tries to attack Batman while they’re atop a catwalk over a pit of acid, Batman punches him into the acid and notes it as a “fitting end” for the killer. So right away, it’s clear that Batman is totally fine with killing people.

14. Detective Comics #28

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The second Batman story ever, “Detective Comics” #28’s “Frenchy Blake’s Jewel Gang” (by Bill Finger and Bob Kane), is a much simpler tale than the “Criminal Syndicate” story. In it, Batman is tipped off about a jewel heist. He stopped the crooks and in the process, just chucks one of the crooks off of the top of the building. Now, you might wonder, “But maybe he somehow survived?” Maybe! Also, maybe not. Later in the story, it is confirmed that the crook Batman threw off the roof died.

The police arrived and saw Batman there with the stolen jewels and for some reason assumed he was part of the jewel thief gang. The newspapers thus reported that Batman was the head of the gang. This emboldened Frenchy Blake, the real head of the gang, to commit some more jobs, since they assumed Batman would have to hide himself. As it turned out, that was precisely what Batman wanted to happen, to lull them into a false sense of security. On their next job, Batman captured them easily. So yes, Batman killed a guy as part of a plot to capture some jewel thieves.

13. Detective Comics #29

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New writer Gardner Fox (as soon as the feature was a hit, Bob Kane brought in a more established writer for a few issues before going back to Bill Finger) introduced the first recurring Batman villain in “Detective Comics” #29’s “The Batman Meets Doctor Death.” However, Batman sure didn’t think that the character would become a recurring one!

Doctor Death was a scientist who came up with a special poison. He would threaten rich people to pay him or he would have them killed. Batman foiled his first assassination attempt and then tracked Doctor Death’s Cossack servant, Jabah, back to Doctor Death’s lair. Doctor Death tried to find a fiery chemical compound that he could throw at Batman, but the Dark Knight instead threw a fire extinguisher at it before it could leave Doctor Death’s hands. It exploded and presumably burned Doctor Death to death. The next issue, however, Batman discovered Doctor Death somehow survived. Because of that, you might think that this death doesn’t count… until you remember that before he “killed” Doctor Death, he straight up strangled Jabah to death.

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There’s a wonderfully disturbing panel on the next page where Batman just walks past the strangled corpse of Jabah to get at Doctor Death.

12. Detective Comics #30

In America in the late 1930s, isolationism was the name of the game. Xenophobia was rampant, so it comes as no surprise that most of Batman’s victims in the early years were foreigners, like Jabah in the previous issue. In the sequel in “Detective Comics” #30, “The Return of Doctor Death” (by Gardner Fox and Bob Kane, who now had Sheldon Moldoff doing background art), Batman was shocked to learn that Doctor Death was alive and was back in the “threatening to murder rich people unless they give him money” game.

This time around, Death had a new Cossack working for him named Mikhail. This being Bob Kane, Mikhail looked exactly like Jabah, the previous Cossack who worked for Doctor Death (Kane would often just re-use the same drawing of a figure in different panels, like how the killer in “Detective Comics” #27 was also the killer of the Waynes in “Detective Comics” #33). Batman used the same exact strategy he used in last issue, tracking the Cossack back to Doctor Death’s headquarters. First, though, Batman committed his most brutal killing of the Golden Age, snapping Mikhail’s neck with a kick. Doctor Death was taken into custody alive (with a badly burned face from the previous issue’s fire, but alive).

11. Detective Comics #32

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Gardner Fox’s second story arc on “Detective Comics” is famous for introducing Bruce Wayne’s fiancee, Julie Madison, as well as both the Batgyro and the Baterang (later spelled as the more familiar-looking “Batarang”). It was also a classic two-parter called “Batman vs. The Vampire” (by Gardner Fox, Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff), as Julie was taken under the spell of a mysterious red-cloaked man known as the Monk.

As it turned out, the Monk was a vampire. Another vampire agreed to help Batman by telling him where the Monk had taken the kidnapped Julie if Batman agreed to kill the Monk. She ended up betraying Batman and the Monk put him into an elaborate death trap, which Batman naturally escaped. Batman then went back to the Monk’s hideout and killed all the vampires there so that Julie would be free of their control. It’s true that they were “only” vampires, but it’s still pretty strange to see Batman walk into a room with a gun and shoot a bunch of people while they were asleep in their coffins.

10. Detective Comics #33

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“Detective Comics” #33 is most famous for including the two-page origin of Batman at the beginning of the story, but that is just s brief interlude before the main story, “The Batman Wars against the Dirigible of Doom” (by Gardner Fox, Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff), which opened up with a stunning instance of innocents being slaughtered. You see, Dr. Carl Kruger had invented a powerful “death-ray” that he mounted on a dirigible and then used it to attack Gotham City, destroying a number of buildings and killing thousands! This was some high stakes slaughter here!

Batman managed to sneak aboard the dirigible and learned how the death ray worked. He was almost killed but escaped. When he returned with his Batplane the next time that the dirigible went into action, Batman had coated his plane with a special chemical that countered the effects of the death ray. Batman then used his Batplane to ram into the dirigible, destroying it. This likely killed a bunch of Kruger’s underlings, but we can’t know for sure. Batman had parachuted out of the Batplane before it blew up the dirigible, of course, but Kruger had escaped in his own plane. Batman landed on Kruger’s wing and threw some choking gas at him, forcing Kruger to crash land, killing Kruger (Batman jumped off at just the right time to survive the crash).

9. Detective Comics #35

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Bill Finger returned to “Detective Comics” with #35’s “The Case of the Ruby Idol,” which saw an ancient ruby statute of the Indian god of destruction, Kila (a misspelling, intentional or not, of the actual Indian god of death, Kali), play a role in some deaths. An explorer discovered the statue and claimed that there was a curse connected to the statue. He then died, but not before a millionaire purchased it. The ruby statue was then stolen.

Batman tracked the statue to Chinatown, where he was attacked by two “Mongols” with swords — remember what we said about how foreigners fared very poorly in early Batman stories? During their fight, Batman managed to knock one of the Mongols onto the sword of the other, killing him. It appeared as though it was intentional. Batman then discovered that the Chinese gang leader was actually the explorer, who had faked his death so that he could own the statue (he owed too much money to not sell the statue). After he pulled a gun on Batman, Batman threw the statue at him, which knocked him out a window, killing him. It did not appear as though Batman intended for the statue to knock him out the window, so we’re not counting that as Batman having killed him. That sword thing, though? That was straight-up wilful.

8. Detective Comics #37

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“Detective Comics” #37’s “The Screaming House” (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson) began with Batman driving by a house when he heard screams coming from inside. A man was being beaten for information about how he had betrayed his boss. Batman knocked out the guys beating on the man and then freed him. However, he then knocked out Batman and killed the men who were beating on him so that they could not betray him to his boss. This, naturally, got Batman interested in the gang.

As it turned out, however, the mob boss was secretly a foreign agent working against the United States and the man Batman saved was a spy for the United States. Batman foiled their plot of blowing up a ship and blaming it on another country. He then visited a distinguished count, who was really the mob boss in disguise. They fought, and Batman ultimately punched him so that he would impale himself on his own sword (they repeated stuff a lot in those early Batman comics, including how people died). Batman noted that it is better that he died, as his actions almost killed thousands.

7. Detective Comics #39

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Bill Finger returned to Chinatown with “The Horde of the Green Dragon!” (by Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson) where Batman once again got help from Wong, the unofficial “mayor” of Gotham City’s Chinatown (Wong led him to the thieves of the ruby statue back in “Detective Comics” #35), when two rich businessmen are kidnapped by a mysterious new crime organization. It turned out that they were taken by a new Chinese gang that was also selling opium in Chinatown.

Tragically, Wong was murdered when one of the members of the gang, calling themselves the Green Horde, discovered that he had told Batman about them. Batman himself was almost killed by the Horde, falling out of a building with an assassin. Luckily, he managed to use the bad guy to break his fall, though it knocked him out. Robin had just joined Batman as his partner the previous issue, so the Boy Wonder was on his own with the Green Horde until Batman showed up to save the day by pushing a giant green dragon statue on top of the Chinese gangsters, killing dozens of them at once. It was pretty gruesome, not to mention the depiction of the Chinese gangsters was pretty gross in and of itself, in terms of racist caricatures.

6. Batman #1

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“The Giants of Hugo Strange” from the first issue of the “Batman” ongoing series, by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, might be one of the bloodiest Batman stories ever. Hugo Strange was one of Batman’s earliest recurring foes (and unlike Doctor Death, he still shows up today) and in this story, Strange discovered a way to transform men into giant monster men, with an appetite for murder. Strange actually injected Batman with the serum and left him to transform into a monster man. However, Batman was able to break free and turned the monster men who were guarding him on each other. They tore each other apart, killing each other (which Batman noted was part of his plan). He managed to come up with an antidote before he transformed, himself.

Batman then set off to take down the two remaining monster men, who were being transported in trucks by Strange’s henchmen. First, Batman gunned down the drivers of the truck carrying the first monster man using the machine gun on his Batplane. Then he used a hook to strangle the monster man to death. It’s pretty disturbing.

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Batman gunned down the drivers of the second truck, but the monster man got away. It began to climb a tall building in Gotham City, a la King Kong climbing the Empire State Building. Once he got to the top of the building, Batman used knockout gas on him, causing him to fall to his death.

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Batman then tracked down Hugo Strange, who appeared to die by falling into the ocean, but Batman was pretty sure he survived his fall (SPOILER: He was right).

5. Batman #2

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“Batman” #2 was the first issue to have the classic early 1940s Batman creative team of Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos. One of the issues they did in that second issue was “The Case of the Missing Link,” where a Professor Drake discovered a giant Neanderthal in the jungles of Africa. He planned to have the “Missing Link” studied for science and turned down two sketchy circus owners who wanted to have the giant in their circus act. They hired a man to kill the Professor and disguise it as a suicide. They succeeded.

The “Missing Link” was now in the circus, but one day he spotted the man who he had seen kill the professor, so he went nuts and fatally wounded the killer. The Goliath then went on a rampage at the circus. Batman and Robin had to show up and they had quite a hard time fighting the giant. They ultimately managed to get him to climb to the top of the mast where the trapeze artists did their act and Robin hit the giant with a metal pellet. With the Missing Link disoriented, Batman pulled him to the ground, killing him. While tragic, at least the killer confessed to his crime before he died from the attack by the giant, so the circus owners were arrested for murder.

4. Detective Comics #45

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“The Case of the Laughing Death!” from “Detective Comics” #45 (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos) was the Joker’s first appearance in the pages of “Detective Comics;” it also was the first of a remarkable string of four straight appearances where the Joker is seemingly killed when he falls to his death after being punched by Batman! Four straight appearances!

In an issue following one of these “deaths,” Batman even remarked to Robin, “I guess the Joker did die after all. When he plunged down that trap door.” Even Batman is incredulous over the repetitiveness of these deaths! That is likely why, when Batman seemingly kills the Joker by punching him off of a moving train while the train is on the edge of a cliff, he shouts, “This is it, Joker!” And when the Joker showed up again, only to go to prison for a change (to break the streak), when Batman then seemingly killed the Joker again by punching him off of the top of a dirigible. He shouts, “Okay, Joker… this is it!” It’s like Batman was trying to convince himself!

3. Detective Comics #46

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Just like how Joker began his streak of “deaths” in “Detective Comics” #45, an issue later, in “Professor Strange’s Fear Dust” (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos), Professor Hugo Strange showed up again after his similar “death” in “Batman” #1 (although, as noted earlier, even Batman didn’t think that this particular death was for real). At the end of the issue, Batman and Strange fought atop a cliff, with the Caped Crusader punching him off of it. Batman noted to Robin, “Well… this time it really looks like the end of the evil career of Professor Hugo Strange.” Once again, it seems like Batman is trying to convince himself!

After the Joker’s fifth “punched to his apparent death” story ending in “Batman” #12, the title really cut down on the killing. Editor Whitney Ellsworth had already cut down on the violence a lot (not only eliminating Batman’s earlier practice of carrying a gun, but specifically having Batman explain that he never shoots one). After that point, the violence was curtailed even further (outside of an imaginary story in “Batman” #15 where Batman and Robin kill some bad guys during a war). Batman strictly arrested bad guys now. As the decades went by, this no-killing stance had become rather solidified.

2. Batman #420

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Jim Starlin was clearly not a fan of the idea of Batman never killing. Starlin had started on Batman in the prestige mini-series, “Batman: The Cult,” which was heavily influenced by Frank Miller‘s “The Dark Knight Returns.” In “The Cult,” drawn by Bernie Wrightson, Batman killed someone while brainwashed. Starlin then became the writer on the “Batman” ongoing series. Early in his run, he wrote a mini-series within a series (much like “Batman: Year One,” only this time the story arc “Ten Nights of the Beast!” was given its own unique trade dress for the covers of the issues). In it, Batman had to match wits with a Soviet assassin known as the KGBeast, who was in Gotham City to kill President Ronald Reagan.

In “Batman” #420, the final issue of the story (drawn by Jim Aparo and Mike DeCarlo), Batman ultimately realized that he could not take the KGBEast in a straight fight, so he instead used his greater knowledge of the Gotham City sewer system to trick the Beast into a sealed off room, where Batman trapped him to starve to death. Marv Wolfman followed Starlin on “Batman” and very early on made a point to reveal that Batman changed his mind later on, but the Beast had already escaped on his own.

1. Final Crisis #6

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In Grant Morrison’s “Final Crisis,” Darkseid fired a Radion bullet (Radion is a substance that is fatally toxic to New Gods) from the future into the past and murdered his own son, Orion. Batman began to investigate Orion’s murder, which took a turn for the worse when one of the Green Lanterns assisting in the case turned out to be possessed by Granny Goodness. Batman was captured and used to create an army of Batman clones. However, while mentally connected to the clones, so that they would learn his knowledge of fighting, Batman ended up overloading their minds. It turned out that the only person who could put up with all of the pain that Batman had suffered in his life was, well, Batman. So, the clones all destroyed themselves.

Batman then freed himself and in “Final Crisis” #6 (by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones), he used the Radion bullet, which he had taken as evidence of Darkseid’s crime, to make an exception to his rule never to use a gun. This, after all, was a guy who had taken over the entire Earth! Batman then shot Darkseid with the Radion bullet, mortally wounding him, but not before Darkseid got off a blast of his Omega beams, which seemingly destroyed Batman. In reality, it had only sent him into a trap in time — the dead body people found after Darkseid’s attack was actually one of the aforementioned dead Batman clones.

Do you think Batman should be willing to kill or do you like Batman to have a “no killing” policy? Let us know in the comments!

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