Batman is one the most popular superheroes on the planet. Fanboy battles rage between people who think Batman can’t be beat and others who think he is massively overrated. But did you know that Bruce Wayne isn’t the only one to have ever don the cape and cowl? The Bat-mythos has expanded so much since the character came to life that there is a whole pantheon of different versions of Batman. Most of the old Robins, some villains and even an alien have been different variations of our beloved caped crusader.
What would make a character better than Batman, though? Would powers help? Possibly, a different driving force behind his actions? Honestly any number of things could help bring a character to a level of being “better.” A child trained by the League of Assassins would make for a deadly adversary. What about a little boy who lost his family but always tries to see the good in people? Could he make for a more compassionate — and more effective — Batman? While some are even more dark than our Dark Knight, Batman’s battle for justice always leads to a good time.
15. JIM GORDON
James Gordon has been at Batman’s side in his fight against crime in Gotham City since almost the beginning. In certain depictions, Gordon even knows that Batman’s secret identity is Bruce Wayne. Gordon’s alliance with Batman, however, took on a whole new meaning for the police commissioner when he was asked to take up a brand new — and partially robotic — cowl.
After the apparent death of Batman and the Joker during a cave in that occurred as a result of the Joker’s latest plot, the city of Gotham decided that it still needed a Batman, and that this one would be fully sanctioned and funded by the GCPD. Originally hesitant to take the offer, Gordon eventually winds up accepting and dons his own version of the Batsuit to fight crime “by the book.”
14. DAMIAN WAYNE
In an alternate reality, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne remained the Dynamic Duo well into Damian’s young adulthood… until the death of Dick Grayson in the first issue of Damian: Son of Batman. In this first issue, written and drawn by Andy Kubert, we see Damian go on a rampage through Gotham as he murders each villain he comes across, trying to figure out who exactly planted the bomb that killed Batman.
While Damian reacts in a less than pleasing fashion to the death of his friend, it is a large step toward the character finding his bearings and (in his eyes) finally taking up what is his birthright. Even though he has always wanted to take up the mantle, Damian never wanted to do so at the cost of his friend’s life, which he blames himself for.
During the events of Forever Evil, Bane himself took on the mantle of the Bat. In Forever Evil: Arkham War, the inmates of Arkham Asylum had already taken over the city and split it evenly between themselves… and then came Bane. Bane had every intention of prying the city away from the lunatics and taking control of the city for himself, feeling only he could be the leader of the new order.
At one point in the story, however, Penguin tells Bane that the Arkham inmates aren’t afraid of him, that he’s no Batman. To rectify this situation, Bane builds himself a Batsuit and screams “Batman lives!” This helped get the job done he was trying to accomplish… until Batman showed up and promptly put Bane right back in his place.
At different points in time, Superman himself has put on the cowl for one reason or another. One of his more popular outings as the caped crusader came from Superman: The Animated Series. Roxy Rocket gets caught by Superman in Metropolis during a theft and she informs him that she had to leave Gotham because it was overrun with crooks since Batman stopped showing his face.
This information leads to a meet-up with Robin and ends with a partnership between the Man of Steel and the Boy Wonder. The two not only figure out that Brainiac kidnapped Batman, but also have a confrontation with Mad Hatter, Riddler and Bane, which ends hilariously after being outmatched by the Bat of Steel. One thing became certain from this encounter, Bane can most definitely feel fear.
11. HARVEY DENT (CITIZEN WAYNE)
A noir style story set in the 1930s, Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #4: Citizen Wayne was written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn. In the story, we see the popular D.A. Harvey Dent, not Bruce Wayne, become Batman in a twist of fate when he has his infamous acid accident.
While not one of the most popular Elseworlds stories, it’s good to get to see a different take on what could have happened to Harvey under different circumstances. The art style of Joe Staton in the comic portrays perfectly the inspiration which came from the 1941 classic Citizen Kane starring Orson Welles. Two-Face also showed up in his own version of a Batsuit in Battle for the Cowl, sadly though, this was only a hallucination and wasn’t enough for its own spot.
10. TIM DRAKE (BATTLE FOR THE COWL)
Battle for the Cowl was a particularly turbulent time for everyone in the Bat-Family. Tim Drake as one of the more affected members because not only had Damian Wayne pretty much usurped Tim’s position as Robin, he felt that he was just shoved to the side by Bruce. While he was upset with Bruce, that didn’t mean he didn’t still love the man. When Dick Grayson continually refused to take up the mantle of Batman, Tim took matters into his own hands and became the bat himself.
Stealing the classic Blue and Grey Batsuit, Tim took off after the murderous person masquerading as Batman in a prototype Batsuit (more on him later). While not the best or well thought-out idea that Tim ever had, he did become Batman for a short while in the absence of anyone else willing.
In the original story of Batman’s multi colored counterpart, by France Herron and Dick Sprang, the Batman of Zur-en arrh was an alien named Tlano who had been watching Bruce and decided to become a Batman for his own people. Tlano wanted Bruce’s help fighting off an invasion of robots, which is shown to be rather easy when Batman exhibits Superman-like qualities upon being in Tlano’s alien environment.
A more recent version of the Batman of Zur-en-arrh was first shown in Grant Morrison and Tony S. Daniel’s Batman # 678 as a backup personality that Bruce developed as a protective measure should his mind ever be compromised. This version of himself was designed to be Batman when Bruce was taken out of the equation and was only tempered by Bat-Mite, who is shown to be guiding Bruce as he tries to find himself while under the Zur-en-arrh persona.
8. CARRIE KELLY
One of the (if not THE) most recent addition to the roster of Batmen is none other than Carrie Kelly, the Robin turned Batgirl of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns universe. In the newest title, Dark Knight Returns: The Master Race someone has been showing up and putting the beatdown on criminals once again. Reports indicate that Batman is the person responsible for the violence, and Gotham’s police commissioner leads a team to intercept the culprit.
It is revealed rather quickly that the person dressed as Batman was Carrie Kelly, known to be the last Robin to Bruce Wayne’s Batman. When the commissioner interrogates her to try and find out where her boss is, Carrie’s response is very simply “Bruce Wayne is dead,” before she passes out from the fight.
7. BATMAN (STAN LEE VERSION)
Wayne Williams (gotta love Stan Lee’s names) was framed and sent to prison for a crime he did not commit by a gang leader named “Handz.” While in prison, Williams learns of his mother’s death and blames Handz, leading him to strike up a friendship with scientist Frederick Grant. Grant teaches Williams how to “develop his mind” and shows him how to sew and build his body.
After Williams saves the Warden of the prison during a riot, he receives a full pardon. To keep a low profile from Handz, Williams shaves his head and becomes a professional masked wrestler. As “Batman,” Williams develops a large fortune and entrusts his secret identity with Grant. Eventually finding and fighting Handz, Williams gets his vengeance when Handz accidentally fell to his death.
6. TIM DRAKE (BATMAN BEYOND)
You just can’t keep a good character down. Following the Battle of Paris in the Earth 2 War, all of the Teen Titans appeared to have fallen. The lone survivor of the onslaught, Tim Drake couldn’t handle losing everyone he cared about in the war and exiled himself. Changing his name to Cal Corcoran, Tim moved to New York City and started working as a bartender at the Wounded Duck, doing his best to leave his old life behind him.
That all changed when Lois Lane came around asking questions accusing him of being Red Robin. Things start going from bad to worse for Tim, and when a future version of Batman saves him from a hybrid assassin, Tim decides to start helping again. After the sacrifice of Terry, Tim Drake takes up the mantle of Batman and goes back in time to stop the war from ever happening.
5. TERRY MCGUINESS
The original Batman Beyond came to us in his television show, which was based as a follow-up to Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. Set in New Gotham, Terry McGuiness was basically a punk who had a good heart. While a much older version of Bruce Wayne initially wanted nothing to do with him, eventually he gave the mantle of Batman over willingly, becoming the Alfred to Terry’s Batman.
Fighting a new breed of criminal to match New Gotham, Terry has taken on characters like Inque and The Jokerz to name a couple. By far one of his most popular outings as Batman was in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, where the audience got to see the new Bat take on the original Clown Prince of Crime.
Although at this point in time, Azrael has become a hero in his own right and is even working alongside the Bat-Family again in the current run of Detective Comics, originally, he was a brain-washed assassin who was trying to live with what he learned about himself. Fighting alongside Batman after he learned that he was secretly a highly-trained killer, Jean Paul Valley truly wanted to be good.
When Batman became unable to protect the people of Gotham because his back was broken by Bane, he appointed Azrael to take his place. Initially, Jean Paul did a great job and made his own (admittedly garish) Batsuit. Unfortunately, Jean Paul starts to become increasingly more violent as time goes on without Batman to temper him. After Batman’s back is fixed, he’s forced to take the mantle away from Jean Paul. Forcibly.
3. THOMAS WAYNE
Thomas Wayne’s story is very similar to that of his son, but with a few obvious differences. In the fateful alleyway shooting, it was Bruce, not Thomas and Martha, who was killed. This sent Thomas into a rage and he beat the shooter to death. At the same time, Martha lost her mind upon seeing her son dead on the ground. The two would become Batman and the Joker of the alternate timeline Flashpoint in a poignant tragedy.
One day, when a man claiming to be Barry Allen from “our” timeline showed up and told him that his son was alive and how the events in the alley should have gone, he made a change in himself to do what was right and helped The Flash get his speed back to fix the timeline, sending an interdimensional letter to him with the Scarlet Speedster.
2. JASON TODD
Jason Todd was a rather troubled youth, to put it mildly. Bruce took him in as his way of trying to help, but realized as time went on that Jason was tough, brutal and had a few anger issues. Eventually, the impetuous Jason was murdered by the Joker with a crowbar and a bomb. Of course, this being comics, he got better when Superboy punched a hole in the universe (it was a thing) and started killing mob bosses as the Red Hood. Standard stuff, really.
After the death of Batman, Jason broke into the Batcave and stole an experimental Batsuit with which he could take up the mantle from his predecessor and do what he never could: murder bad guys. Jason’s much more lethal approach to fighting crime meant that there would be more bodies than criminals after a while. While short lived, Jason’s version of Batman is one of the most visually frightening, and awesome.
1. DICK GRAYSON
Dick Grayson has been by far the most reluctant out of all the Bat-Kids to take up the mantle of Batman. In Battle for the Cowl, he was trying his best to follow Bruce’s wishes that were left in a hologram will to NOT be Batman. Bruce felt that Nightwing, Robin and the other heroes were more than enough to take care of Gotham and that Batman as a symbol was no longer needed.
In that same story, however, we see not only street criminals and supervillains alike tearing up the city, we also have to deal with someone who had recently stolen a prototype Batsuit from the Batcave. Through this story, we see Dick come to terms with that face that even though he wanted Bruce to be right, Gotham still needed Batman; and he was the best man for the job. he and Damian Wayne served as the Dynamic Duo for some time, becoming a fan favorite coupling that many were sad to see go upon Bruce’s eventual return.
Who is your favorite non-Bruce Wayne Batman? Let us know in the comments!