Batman is a jerk. It’s the long-running gag that’s permeated pop culture and informed many takes on DC’s perennial Caped Crusader. Though downplayed (until recently) in the current Rebirth era of stories, Batman’s single mindedness and straightforward approach to everything has garnered him a number of frustrating relationships, if not outright enemies. Over the years, this has also brought him into friction with his own group of staunch allies, lovingly referred to by fans and creators as The Bat-Family.
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With a paternal figure like Batman and a snarky butler in your lives, it stands to reason that you’re going to develop some fangs when it comes to dealing with your super powered comrades, and the Bat Family have this in spades. Quick wit, a sharp tongue, and a snarky tone go a long way to helping to ease your own concerns about any situation you’re in, but the family has also used it as a defense mechanism against each other. The guardians of Gotham City give as good as they get, and the result is some of the most memorable panels in comic book history. Here are 15 Bat-family burns, comebacks and snarky retorts that we’ll be quoting until the next Crisis.
15. BRUCE WAYNE: MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER
Batman was in a really dark place when Infinite Crisis was getting started. In the past several months, he’d had his loyalty to the Justice League of America shaken to its core after the events of Identity Crisis. In his own books, the last decade of stories were turned on their head with the sudden return of long-dead Robin Jason Todd.
This Batman was at his peak Bat-dickery, and it shows. As Infinite Crisis began, the weary and distant Batman was lashing out against anyone who dared to cross his path. With the Justice League falling apart and the Trinity at each other’s throats, Batman let loose a piercing comment to Superman. Despite Superman’s insistence that he was no God, Batman pointed out that he was a point of inspiration — or at least, he was and hadn’t been once since he’d died all those years ago.
14. FAMILY RESEMBLANCE
File this one under the category of Damian Wayne,: royal pain in the ass. The kid’s got a ton of attitude, and runs his mouth when he really shouldn’t, especially when he’s in over his head. In the early days of the New 52, played up for laughs was the relationship between Damian and the other Robins, with Damian taking on the role of the annoying younger brother.
Where these moments truly shined, though, was with how it informed the strained relationship between Dick, Jason and Tim. Dick and Tim found themselves fond of poking and prodding at middle son Jason, known for his irascible demeanor and high strung personality. Never afraid to poke fun with love, Dick and Tim were quick to point out how much the fiery Damian reminded them of Jason, much to his chagrin.
13. ALFRED’S GRIEF COUNSELING
In 2001, the Batman family of titles were going through a resurgence. In the wake of the critically acclaimed No Man’s Land, Gotham City was in the process of slowly rebuilding. In the midst of this, during an era collectively known as “New Gotham,” the much-hyped “Officer Down” hit shelves and saw Commissioner Jim Gordon shot in the line of duty.
With Gordon so senselessly wounded, Batman, of course, came apart at the seams. With Batman refusing to leave Gordon’s bedside, Alfred aimed to cut deep to motivate Batman into action but instead wounded the relationship. Alfred would actually leave Bruce’s employment temporarily after “Officer Down,” a rift between the two leading to Alfred temporarily appearing in the ongoing Robin series while Tim was away from Gotham temporarily.
12. KCIS NURB
The DC Universe was turned upside down with 2004’s Identity Crisis. An intense retcon, to say the least, it was established that members of the JLA during the late ‘80s Satellite era of stories had secretly decided to brainwash the villainous Doctor Light after he sexually assaulted Sue Dibny. And when Batman walked in on them, they elected to wipe his memory, too.
Flash forward nearly 30 years, and the truth comes out, though it’s argued that Batman may have known or at least suspected all along. The breach of trust nearly broke the Justice League and alienated Batman even further from friends and allies, including close friend Zatanna Zatarra. When Jason Todd returned from the dead, he sought out Zatanna for her expertise in the realms of magic and on Lazarus Pits. But despite this, Batman refused to hide his contempt and made sure Zatanna knew it.
11. BATMAN’S ROBOT DINOSAUR FASCINATION
Justice League/Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers is a bit of an underrated gem. A joint venture between DC Comics and Boom! Studios, the series sees Saban’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers cross paths with DC’s classic Justice League franchise. The pairing has worked fairly well, drawing strong reviews and fan support despite a few shipping delays.
The first encounter the series features is Zack Taylor, the Black Power Ranger, accidentally being dropped off in the DC Universe and encountering the Justice League, most notably Batman. The two tussle briefly before the two teams come to an understanding thanks to the Lasso of Truth. However, as expected, Batman refuses to let well enough alone. Batman’s biting wit shows through to the bitter end, letting Zack know in no uncertain terms just what he’s got planned for his next encounter with a Zord.
10. A SMALL PRICE TOUPEE
Ah, the wondrous Silver Age. Batman was struggling a bit, losing his edge as sales lagged. The end result is this amazing installment, Detective Comics #399. It opens with Batman helping train the Gotham Police Academy in martial arts when his sparring partner, Khan, becomes furious. Donning knuckle dusters, he proceeds to attack Batman.
Batman subsequently knocks out Khan, but the attending public works coordinator, Arthur Reeves doesn’t care too much for the show of violence and demands to know why Batman hides behind a mask. Ever the rational thinker, Batman deals a crushing blow to his ego, plucking off his toupee and embarrassing him in front of the entire Gotham PD array of cadets. Reeves would spend the issue trying to one-up Batman but ultimately come up short against his superior detective skills and sharp tongue.
9. BATGIRL VS ROBIN
Damian Wayne and Stephanie Brown had a surreal relationship. Stephanie, the erstwhile Robin successor to Tim Drake before he reassumed the mantle, had adopted the Batgirl identity following the death of Bruce Wayne. Simultaneously, Tim’s true successor, Damian, had adopted the Robin identity as his stepbrother Dick Grayson assumed the Mantle of the Bat.
The two had a bit of a snippy relationship, as one would expect from two their age, constantly bickering and fighting with each other. The two would take pot shots at each other, much like quarreling siblings, though you could argue that Damian’s repeated shots at Stephanie’s bust size were unwarranted. The two eventually developed a begrudging respect for each other, but with Flashpoint, the relationship was wiped away along with Stephanie’s time as Batgirl. Though Stephanie was recently reintroduced to the DC Universe, she’s yet to have any meaningful interaction with Damian.
8. THE JOKE’S ON YOU
Something of a companion piece to the classic Alan Moore tale “Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?,” 2009’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” is the finale to an era of Batman stories with the supposed death of Bruce Wayne. At a wake for the now deceased Batman, a number of allies and villains pass through, all paying their respects in one way or another to the fallen Dark Knight.
The Joker is notably there and lands a biting, snarky comment. How did we justify sneaking Joker onto a list of Bat-family snarks, though? In this mind-bending tale, The Joker is implied to be Alfred Pennyworth! After seeing Bruce fail to get any headway as Batman and becoming increasingly depressed, Alfred uses his theatrical training to create an arch-nemesis for Batman to fight, adopting the identity of The Joker, a secret he never confessed.
7. GENERATIONAL SNARK
Dick Grayson absolutely hated being Batman, and all of his friends knew it. But you couldn’t deny that he had an excellent run in the costume, and the pairing of Dick and Damian as Batman and Robin is hailed as a favorite by fans. There was obviously the expectation that Bruce would return sooner rather than later, but the era of the reborn Batman and Robin is one that’s fondly remembered.
When it came time for Bruce to return, the Bat-family, of course, handled it with their trademark biting wit. Returning to save Dick and Damian in the midst of a brutal fight, a weak and injured Dick still finds the energy to quip. One has to wonder if he’s being honest though, or if he’s secretly relieved that Bruce would show up to help him in a fight versus turning up on his doorstep one night.
6. SUPER SNARKY
The relationship between Dick Grayson and Superman has long been an important one. After hearing Superman’s tale of the heroes of the bottled city of Kandor, Dick adopted the moniker Nightwing as an homage to both his mentors. The close relationship between the two has long been an important element of their interactions, and it pays off in spades whenever they’re together.
The relationship is very respectful, but Dick can’t help but let his typical smart-ass side fly with friends, and Superman is no exception. The two paired up for an adventure in Metropolis as Dick investigated Intergang in Action Comics #771, a story that reaffirms the bond the two have. Though hailing from different backgrounds, Nightwing and Superman share a relationship almost as strong as Superman and Batman’s, though the two enjoy a much healthier sense of trust.
5. SLEEP REMEDY
Damian Wayne’s unexpected death in 2013’s Batman Inc #8 was a shocking and senseless act that sent the Batman titles into a spiral for over a year as Bruce struggled with grief following his inability to save his son. After years scouring the Earth for a way to absolve his own soul, Bruce would find salvation and Damian would be revived in the story Robin Rises: Omega with an unseen side effect: super powers.
Revived on Apokolips by the Chaos Shard, Damian returned to the living and found himself bulletproof and capable of flight, with enhanced strength. There was, naturally, a growing period as Damian adjusted and tensions ran high, but both Bruce and Alfred coped the only way they know how: biting sarcasm. Though Bruce was harsher, Alfred took a lighter approach, playfully offering Damian hot chocolate after he’d flown through the floor.
4. GONE FISHIN’
Damian eventually would manage to get a grip on his powers, even traveling to Atlantis to free the deformed clones his mother had made of him. Much like his father and Alfred, Damian adopts a snarky tone, but his level of smart ass is much more cutting and abrupt. It must be the Ra’s al Ghul in him speaking,
Damian’s powers were frustrating for everyone, but he had a hard time adjusting because of Bruce’s naturally overprotective nature. As a result, Damian found himself lashing out in unusual ways, such as spearing a fish and flying the boat back home on a mandatory fishing trip they were sent on by Alfred. Fortunately for everyone involved, Robin’s powers proved to be temporary and Batman managed to exhaust them by taking him on a mission with the Justice League.
3. MOTIVATIONAL EFFORTS
Who your ideal match for Dick Grayson is depends largely on when you started reading comics, but it’s almost always Dick and Barbara Gordon and it very nearly happened. Just before Infinite Crisis, Dick proposed and it looked like it was going to finally work out. So, naturally, fans were a little upset when the “One Year Later” Nightwing story opened up with Dick in bed with someone else.
Readers found out after the fact in Nightwing Annual #2, a great story about Babs nursing Dick back to health after he nearly died in Infinite Crisis and the perils of their relationship. Barbara spent much of this time giving Dick hell and even snuck in a few cheap shots about his recently returned surrogate brother Jason’s Red Hood identity! But she did prove she was at least a more reasonable trainer than Bruce, using foam spikes instead of iron ones.
2. THE TERROR THAT BLOWS IN A SOFT BREEZE
Wise beyond his years and sarcastic beyond his station, there are few comic book characters as beloved as Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred has been the mentor, confidant, cook, cleaner, and doctor for the Bat-family since very nearly the inception, but above all else, he has been a father and source of strength.
That doesn’t mean Alfred is happy with the decisions of his family. One such moment is highlighted in 2009’s Batman #682, part of the “Last Rites” series of stories. Bruce is trapped in his own memories and remembers an early moment of Alfred patching him up, heartbroken and begrudgingly furious as he typically is over the nights of pain Bruce puts himself through as Batman. Their relationship has seen its ups and downs over the years, but today remains one of DC’s strongest and most memorable.
1. DOCTOR’S ORDERS
Alfred isn’t just dissatisfied with the decisions Bruce has made. He’s been shown speaking out against Bruce’s repeated decisions to bring surrogate sons into the fold, training Robins to fight by his side. Alfred eventually relents, as Batman and his Robins prove to be just as beneficial for Batman’s well-being. But Alfred has taken on a father-figure role as well and isn’t afraid to put them in their place.
The finale of “War Games” saw the Bat-family at possibly their darkest hour. Having been shot in the leg, Nightwing was laid up as Barbara Gordon was held captive by Black Mask. While Alfred has come to accept the importance of Batman and his proteges to the existence of Gotham City, he’s still not going to let his family get killed, and he’s more than willing to threaten them with additional violence to keep them safe.
Do you know any other sick burns shared by the Bat-Fam? Let us know in the comments!
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