The concept of Batman has always been a little spooky. After all, the character was inspired by pulp hero The Shadow’s signature brand of weird detective fiction. From the very early design phase, Bob Kane and Bill Finger seemed to be interested in creating an iconic character who would go bump in the night. And so the Batman, a stalker in the night, was born. But despite his supernatural appearance and superhuman intelligence, Batman is a mortal man who can somehow perform miracles through pure strength of will and determination. Still, that’s not stopped the supernatural from creeping into quite a few Batman stories over the years.
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Batman has fought all types of supernatural threats, from vampires (the most common monsters in Batman lore) and ghosts to golems and Hugo Strange’s Monster Men. The Dark Knight doesn’t just attract costumed weirdos with a taste for murder, he also causes the creatures of the night to rise and terrorize Gotham. Just last month, Batman’s latest supernatural foe arrived in Dark Nights: Metal, which is as bonkers a tale as you can get in the Caped Crusader’s world. Or is it?
15. BATMAN & DRACULA TRILOGY
Batman has fought more vampires than we can count (pun intended). You can’t blame creators for pitting Batman against vicious bloodsuckers, though. After all, he’s a hero dressed as a Bat. In Doug Moench and Kelley Jones’ Batman & Dracula Trilogy, the Dark Knight faced off against the most famous vampire of them all, the dreaded Count Dracula! While Batman initially defeats Dracula in the first book of the series, Red Rain, he doesn’t leave the fight unscathed. In fact, Dracula manages to bite and drain the Dark Knight of all of his blood, turning him into a vampire in the process.
In the remaining two books, Bloodstorm and Crimson Mist, Gotham witnesses the vampiric Batman’s reign of terror, as the undead Bruce implements a much more savage brand of justice, draining his enemies of their blood. It takes pretty much everyone left standing to finally take down the bloodthirsty Bat.
14. BATMAN RIP
Things got weird in the Grant Morrison era of Batman comics. First, Bruce had a son named Damian who would become the new Robin. Then his dad showed up as a villain named Dr. Hurt, who wished to destroy Bruce once and for all. Hurt and his criminal organization, the Black Glove, almost succeeded too! After planting a mental trigger in Bruce’s head years before the events of “Batman R.I.P.,” Dr. Hurt manages to strip him of all of his memories, leaving him to rot in the Gotham City streets.
Little did Dr. Hurt know that Bruce had planned for this. You see, Bruce created a backup personality for himself, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, who would be guided by Bat-Mite, a being from the “fifth dimension,” in case his mind was ever attacked. He also donned a very colorful costume out of rags he found on the street. Pretty bizarre.
13. DARK KNIGHT, DARK CITY
Speaking of bizarre, you might want to pay attention to this one if you’re enjoying Dark Nights: Metal at the moment. In “Dark Knight, Dark City” by Peter Milligan and Kieron Dwyer, the Dark Knight faces off against Barbathos, an ancient “Bat daemon” who lives underneath Gotham City and may be responsible for Batman’s entire existence. The Riddler discovers the ritual with which he can summon Barbathos, which involves putting Batman through all kinds of messed up things.
These include making him bathe in blood and kill a baby (Bats doesn’t actually murder an infant, don’t worry). When Barbathos does arrive on the scene, he reveals that he’s the reason Bruce’s parents were murdered and he decided to become Batman. All along, the demon had been preparing Bruce as a gateway for his return. In a way, Dark Nights: Metal continues this tale.
12. THE DOOM THAT CAME TO GOTHAM
The Doom That Came to Gotham is a Batman Elseworlds tale that’s definitely worth the price of admission, in no small part due to Mike Mignola, the creator of the Hellboy universe. Mignola co-wrote this story with Richard Pace, while also drawing the iconic covers! In the story, Mignola imagines Batman as a 1920s pulp hero adventurer, not unlike his Lobster Johnson character, who is basically an analog for Batman in the Hellboy comics. In this three-issue limited series, a gun-toting Batman protects Gotham City from supernatural threats.
The story is full of Lovecraft-inspired versions of Batman’s rogues gallery, including a gruesome Two-Face as well as a Rasputin-like Ra’s al Ghul, and various other sorcerers and reptile men. The main antagonist is a being known as the Lurker on the Threshold, who is actually based on a short novel by August Derleth, a contributor to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos story cycle.
11. HAUNTED KNIGHT
Think A Christmas Carol but with Batman visited by the “ghosts” of Poison Ivy, Joker and the Grim Reaper, and you’ve got the third Batman Halloween special from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. In “Ghosts,” Loeb and Sale actually wrote three really great Halloween issues that were collected in Haunted Knight. “Ghosts” is the best of the three stories, though.
While the events of “Ghosts” are explained away as a dream Bruce has on the eve of Halloween, something much more supernatural might be at play, as Thomas Wayne sends three ghosts to show Bruce that being Batman can’t be all there is to his life. The appearance of the Grim Reaper is especially spooky and effective. What’s behind the Reaper’s hood may surprise you…
10. HAUNTED GOTHAM
The particularly gothic team of Doug Moench and Kelley Jones reunited for another supernatural tale starring the Dark Knight. This Elseworlds tale has Batman once again defending Gotham City from all kinds of monsters and ghouls, including demons, zombies, werewolves and many other creatures of the night. Moench and Jones basically throw everything they can at the Caped Crusader, who must survive an onslaught from the forces of evil.
Haunted Gotham isn’t the most highly regarded Batman tale — the nonsensical plot and inconsistent art make this book mostly a dud — but it’s bonkers in all of the right ways (and a few wrong ones). If you like a werewolf killing Bruce’s parents and a patchwork Joker who wears the head of Thomas Wayne, you’ll probably be into this one. Haunted Gotham is just such a strange curiosity, it’s a legit Batman yarn.
9. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
In the comics, Ra’s al Ghul is basically immortal, thanks to the Lazarus Pit, which has restored him for centuries. The leader of the League of Assassins is basically unstoppable; even if Batman defeats him a thousand times, Ra’s will always rise again. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy tackles this aspect of the character in an interesting way: by never confirming whether Ra’s is actually immortal.
Nolan’s films, of course, were about bringing realism to Batman. The director tried to explain how a man could become a costumed vigilante and actually survive for more than an hour (the answer mostly had to do with money, high tech gadgets and determination). So, when Ra’s died in Batman Begins and later appeared in The Dark Knight Rises, it was a stunning moment. It was almost certainly a vision Bruce was having while in incredible pain, but perhaps Ra’s ghost lives on to haunt Batman?
8. BATMAN IN BETHLEHEM
When your son is named Damian, you can pretty much expect Satan to show up at some point down the line. That’s exactly what happened in Grant Morrison’s Batman #666, an issue number that he took very literally. In this story, titled “Batman in Bethlehem,” the world is covered in fire. On the night of his father’s death, Damian sold his soul to the Devil in order to protect Gotham. The son of Bruce Wayne then took the cowl for himself, becoming a more extreme Batman who’s not afraid to kill some bad guys.
Then the Bat-Devil shows up: a villain claiming to be the Anti-Christ, to cause some chaos. But Damian is ready for him. The two face off in a battle of Biblical proportions and Damian is victorious. As the son of Batman says at the end of the story, “The apocalypse is canceled… until I say so.”
In the aftermath of Geoff Johns’ Infinite Crisis, Earth-33 was introduced as a world fueled by magic. Even the superheroes were powerful magic-users, such as Bat-Mage, a master of the dark arts who is the analog of Batman on this particularly strange Earth. He’s a member of the League of Shamans, who use their magic powers to protect the city of Gotharcanum. Sound familiar?
This is just but one example of Batman using magic powers. The Dark Knight has had to use magic several times over the years, usually alongside Zatanna, with whom he has a history. One time, Batman used magic to exorcise Deadman from Superman’s body. That said, the paranoid Dark Knight doesn’t really trust magic and usually stays away from it.
6. COUNTDOWN: ARENA
Countdown: Arena is another nuts DC miniseries where different versions of the same hero are pitted against each other. This story features Captain Atom (in Monarch armor), who plans to amass an army of alternate superheroes to fight a war against the Monitors. But in order to draft the best army, he decides to make these different versions fight to see which one is best. Monarch puts three different Batmen to the test: Earth-19 Batman from Gotham by Gaslight, the Earth-40 version from JSA: The Liberty Files, and the vampiric Batman of Earth-43 from the Batman & Dracula Trilogy.
While we already mentioned the latter vampire Batman earlier on this list, Countdown: Arena actually introduces yet another bloodthirsty Batman when 43 bites 19 during the fight, turning the Victorian Caped Crusader into a bloodsucker. It’s pretty gruesome stuff, as you can see from the picture above.
5. HEART OF A VAMPIRE
Bats has fought A LOT of vampires, okay? He’s basically a vampire magnet. In Detective Comics #455, titled “Heart of a Vampire,” Bruce and Alfred break down on their way back to Gotham and are forced to search a creepy old house for supplies. It’s a classic horror story setup! In the house, Bruce and Alfred encounter Gustav Decobra, a vampire who was once a 19th century scientist experimenting with heart transplants.
At first, Batman is no match for Decobra, who seems to be impervious to damage, including a wooden beam through his chest. Fortunately, Batman figures out why the usual “wooden stake through the heart” method of killing vampires didn’t work on Decobra: the creature had transplanted his heart into a grandfather clock!
4. THE MONK
Batman’s first encounter with a vampire took place pretty early in his career. In fact, it was Detective Comics #31, only the Dark Knight’s fifth appearance ever! The story introduced the Monk, a vampire with the powers of a werewolf who dresses in a creepy red robe and a hood with a skull and crossbones on it. The Monk uses Bruce’s girlfriend, Julie Madison (in her first appearance), to bait him back to his lab in Paris and later his castle in Hungary. After some traps and a struggle, Batman manages to dispose of the Monk using silver bullets.
The Monk story has become pretty iconic over the years. In fact, the story has been reimagined at least twice throughout Batman’s history. First by Gerry Conway and Don Newton in Detective Comics #515 and then by Matt Wagner in Batman and the Mad Monk.
3. CASTLE OF THE BAT
Over the years, Batman has been combined with pretty much every type of classic monster. Vampires? Yes. Werewolves? Check. Ghosts? You bet. Thanks to Jack C. Harris and Bo Hampton’s Elseworlds tale, Castle of the Bat, you can add Frankenstein’s Monster to the list. In this alternate universe, Bruce’s parents are killed by a highway robber in Germany, which leaves him an orphan. But instead of becoming a vigilante, Bruce becomes a doctor at a university.
One night, Bruce finds his father’s preserved brain in the underground vaults of the university and decides that he is going to build Thomas a new body from other body parts. While the monster is afraid and traumatized at first, Bruce eventually decides to inject his father with a serum that will give him the abilities of a bat. The result is quite terrifying.
2. PETER MILLIGAN’S GOTHAM
If there’s one Batman run in which things got weird, it’s Peter Milligan’s brief time on Detective Comics. Milligan wrote seven issues of Detective Comics, from #629 to 633, plus 638 and 643. In that short span, the Caped Crusader faced off against a golem, a supernatural identity crisis, and many other strange foes. In “The Golem of Gotham,” a man who fears the Nazis might rise again creates a monster known as a golem to defeat the anti-Semitic gangs that are attacking Jewish immigrants. It’s up to Batman to take the monster down once it’s been unleashed.
In “Identity Crisis,” Bruce inexplicably wakes up next to a river without any knowledge of how he got there. Neither Alfred or Tim Drake remember his life as Batman and the Batcave seems to be missing. Strangest of all, there seems to be another Batman running around in his place!
1. GODS & MONSTER
Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett created a different take on the Justice League in the Gods & Monsters animated film. In the movie, it’s Dr. Kirk Langstrom (best known as Man-Bat) who wears the cape and cowl and stalks the streets of Gotham as a vampiric Batman voiced by Michael C. Hall, which is pretty perfect casting. Langstrom’s Batman was first introduced in a short ahead of the release of the movie in which he kills Harley Quinn by drinking all of her blood. That’s one way to stop criminals…
This isn’t your usual Batman vampire story, as the Caped Crusader mostly uses his power for good in the film, even though some of his methods are questionable. The best thing about Justice League: Gods and Monsters is that it incorporates a bit of Timm’s original art style from Batman: The Animated Series.
Can you remember any other time Batman crossed swords with the supernatural? Let us know in the comments!
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