The Dark Knight is easily one of the most iconic superhero characters of all time. With a history dating back nearly 80 years, his legacy is undeniable. But when a character is that popular, they often take on an archetypal level of importance for the industry they’re a part of, at which point it’s only a matter of time until they have to deal with copycats. Whether creators just wanted to poke fun at Batman or tell stories about a Batman-type character without having to do so at DC, or even tell stories about Batman at DC without writing Batman, the Caped Crusader has ended up with an unsurprisingly large number of rip-offs over the decades. Some have been unique, interesting, and successful… and some not so much.
That’s where CBR comes in, as we count down eight of the worst Batman rip-offs in comics, and seven that actually turned out better than the Dark Knight. Since “better” and “worse” are largely subjective, they’re defined here as either being more or less useful inside their respective universes, or how well they understand the core concepts that make the Bat such an appealing character to begin with. With that said, hope you’re ready for a lot of stories about dead parents.
15. WORSE: THE FIXER
Frank Miller’s “Fixer” is what happens when you take Batman and make him unflinchingly racist. Initially meant to be a Batman comic, Miller eventually decided to drop the Caped Crusader altogether so the story could have a character that could “commit terrible acts of violence on very evil people”. Now, let’s remember that Batman hands out beatings every night that could be considered “terrible acts of violence”, and then realize that somehow, that wasn’t far enough enough for Miller.
Essentially Miller’s “the goddamn Batman” without the possibility that it might be a clever parody, The Fixer takes gleeful pride in torturing Al Qaeda members. A response to 9/11 that came ten years after the national tragedy, he’s not only a bad rip-off of Batman…he couldn’t even be timely about it.
14. BETTER: THE CONFESSOR
Kurt Busiek’s wonderful Astro City series is a pastiche of superheroes from every era, not only from DC and Marvel but also other, more obscure publishers. One of its most standout creations is the universe’s Batman analog, The Confessor. First appearing in Astro City Vol. 2 #4, The Confessor is a Roman Catholic priest named Jeremiah Parrish who was attacked by a vampire in the 19th century, passing on her curse to him.
Believing this to be a punishment for being tempted by the opposite sex, Jeremiah chose to become a superhero in Astro City as a way of making up for his sin. Though not nearly as popular, The Confessor pays homage to the weird, supernatural side of Batman that can often be forgotten…and has a lot of cool vampiric abilities that make him much more effective on the field.
13. WORSE: NEMESIS
Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Nemesis had a simple enough premise that it used as a tagline: “What if Batman was The Joker?” From there, Millar introduced a supervillain decked in an all-white outfit that terrorized America for his own amusement. The story would eventually reveal that Nemesis was a rich kid whose father committed suicide after being nearly put in jail for hunting runaway teens.
Eventually, Nemesis took advantage of his great wealth to travel the world and learn how to be the best criminal — both for revenge and for his own amusement. With no Batman to stop him, Nemesis has his way with the world for the duration of his miniseries until meeting his maker at the end. He’s not really a failure, as he excels at being a supervillain — but without any real challenges he’s no comparison to the Dark Knight.
12. BETTER: MIDNIGHTER
Midnighter is as clear a rip-off of Batman as you’re going to get. He was clearly created to give the WildStorm universe a version of Batman so creator Warren Ellis could tell stories about Batman without using him. A human that’s been heavily enhanced, Midnighter doesn’t just have the training of Batman, but he’s got the healing factor and super strength and speed necessary for a Batman-type character to not die in a more realistic world.
On top of having much of the same training as Batman but with an actual powerset to help him keep up with the other heroes, Midnighter also has Apollo. That seems small, but despite being clearly just as bad or worse mentally as the original Batman, Midnighter seems perfectly capable of maintaining a healthy, working relationship — something Batman’s failed to do for years now.
11. WORSE: NIGHT THRASHER
Marvel loves Batman so much they’ve made multiple versions of the guy, but few of them are as egregious a rip-off as Night Thrasher. Created by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz and appearing in 1989’s Thor #411, Night Thrasher started out as Dwayne Taylor, a child with rich parents who were killed in front of him. Driven by this horrific event, Dwayne began to train in secret in order to fight crime — spending his nights improving himself while using his days to run his corporation, the Taylor Foundation.
Appearing just a year before the “extreme” craze of the ’90s, Night Thrasher is no less a product of what would begin in that era. A super-serious character clad in body armor, Dwayne would be cooler if he weren’t such an obvious rip-off. Even his New Warriors team is just a ’90s Fantastic Four.
10. BETTER: DAREDEVIL
As the biggest two operations in their industry, rival companies Marvel and DC copy each other all the time. Sometimes the copies are more obvious, other times it’s not as pronounced, but there’s no question that Daredevil’s roots are pretty strongly based in the ideas of Batman. A young boy suffers a tragic event that costs him his childhood, then as an adult devotes his life to fighting crime.
One of Marvel’s most enduring and consistently well-written characters, Daredevil not only manages to fight crime as well as Batman, he does it without his sight, though he does have some nifty radar vision to make up for it. More importantly, he also fights crime off the job as a lawyer, while Bruce typically just writes a few charity checks and calls it a day.
9. WORSE: NIGHT MAN
Not exactly one of the most popular characters ever, Night Man was Malibu’s version of Batman. Originally a saxophone player named Johnny Domino, Night Man was created by former Batman scribe Steve Englehart, in 1993’s The Night Man #1. When Johnny’s car was struck by a cable car, a piece of shrapnel planted itself in his brain which gave him the power to hear evil thoughts, literal night vision and taking away his need to sleep.
Since Malibu folded so easily, Night Man was kind of doomed out of the gate. Between possessing useless powers — most of which Batman can replicate with a gadget — and having a comic book that only lasted 27 issues across two volumes, it’s safe to say Night Man isn’t giving Bruce any kind of real competition, unless you count his short-lived ’90s television series.
8. BETTER: GREEN ARROW
Oliver Queen was meant to be more of a superhero Robin Hood than a rip-off of Batman, but the two characters have a lot in common. Despite changes to his origin, Oliver has always started out as rich playboy who gets lost at sea, and learns to to master the bow in order to survive on the island until he’s discovered one day by another ship. Upon returning, he decides to make his city a safer place by putting his skills as an archer to use as the Green Arrow.
Though this origin isn’t quite Batman, it’s still fairly reminiscent, right down to all the trick arrows that match Batman’s bottomless utility belt. And while he isn’t a Bruce-level fighter, he’s also become the mayor of his city, which offers more potentially wide-reaching effects for someone wanting to save their city than putting on a domino mask to fight crime.
7. WORSE: NIGHTHAWK
Nighthawk is another blatant rip-off of Batman from Marvel. Initially a member of Squadron Sinister, a group of villains modeled after the Justice League, we would eventually get several versions of the character from parallel Earths that were instead apart of the superhero team Squadron Supreme — and that’s where the failure comes in.
Over nearly 80 years Batman has been almost always been Bruce Wayne with only three very notable exceptions. On the other hand, in nearly 50 years Nighthawk has been six different guys — most of them not even from the same parallel Earth. The character lacks any sort of staying power or consistency, getting remade time and again because the main version wasn’t popular enough, something that the guy he’s an homage of has never had any short supply of in his years on the stands.
6. WORSE: OWLMAN
Due to the mercurial nature of DC’s multiverse, Owlman has a handful of different origin stories. But essentially the character is from the parallel world of Earth-3, where all the heroes have become supervillains, and Owlman is Batman’s counterpart, and a member of Earth-3’s Crime Syndicate of America, that world’s evil Justice League.
The post New 52 version of Owlman, introduced during the “Forever Evil” crossover in 2013, started his career when his butler Alfred murdered his family, eventually becoming a crimelord in his world’s Gotham. And while that might be a pretty cool origin, it doesn’t stop him from having lost pretty much every single battle where he and Batman have faced off. That’s as literal a definition of failed as you’re going to get.
5. BETTER: DARK CLAW
Coming out of the Amalgam universe, where DC and Marvel’s most popular characters united in the ultimate fusion dance, Dark Claw is technically Batman. First appearing in Legends of the Dark Claw #1 by Larry Hama and Jim Balent in 1996, Dark Claw is the combined version of Batman and Wolverine. Known as Logan Wayne, he was sent to live with his uncle in Canada after his parents were murdered, and joined the country’s Super Soldier program Weapon X. After the program’s dissolution, Logan traveled the world training in martial arts and various other disciplines to help him fight crime.
Dark Claw tops Batman by literally being Batman if you gave him Wolverine’s metal claws, healing factor, and enhanced senses. He’s the kind of character that could literally only exist in a world as absurd as the Amalgam universe, lest he solve all of Gotham’s problems in a single night.
4. WORSE: PROMETHEUS
Prometheus is very nearly a cooler character than Batman. Created by Grant Morrison and Arnie Jorgensen in the New Year’s Evil: Prometheus one-shot, Prometheus was a unique twist on the Batman idea. Born to two career criminal parents, Prometheus’ life was forever changed when he watched his parents get gunned down by police officers. Vowing to destroy the forces of justice, Prometheus went on his own journey to become the most effective fighter ever.
His most useful skill was the ability to “download” fighting styles directly into his brain in order to perfectly emulate the talents of some of the world’s best martial artists, and using that he was able to bring down Batman, while also shutting down one of the most powerful versions of the Justice League… but he was also brought down by a whip to the family jewels from Catwoman. Batman would’ve remembered to wear a cup.
3. BETTER: NIGHTWING
Nightwing isn’t really a rip-off of Batman, but he’s definitely a successor. And no matter how you look at it, he’s better than Bruce at the job. While Bruce had to cobble together all these disparate ideologies and skills to figure out how to be Batman, Dick Grayson got to learn the same things Bruce did, distilled down and with the added experience of someone who’s done the job.
He’s also better adjusted than Bruce ever was, making him more willing to accept his limitations and ask for help rather than risk his life working alone. Finally, connected to both the Justice League through Bruce and leader of the Titans, Nightwing is a galvanizing force in the DC Universe — with nearly every hero being willing to work with him or under him. This is one time the student surpasses the master.
2. WORSE: NITE OWL
Alan Moore’s Watchmen consisted largely of ersatz versions of the Charlton heroes, with Nite Owl roughly correlating to Charlton’s Blue Beetle characters. Still, from the costume to the gadgets, there’s no denying the visual similarities of the second Nite Owl to Batman. Daniel Dreiberg was a genius engineer, designing all of his complex gadgets himself and using them to fight crime, though he would retire from the crimefighting when the Keene Act outlawed the practice of masked vigilantism.
Since Watchmen was always meant to be a deconstruction of the superhero, it almost feels unfair to point out just how ineffective Nite Owl is, since that’s supposed to be the point. Still, between proving unable to stop Ozymandias and being too afraid of the government to continue being a superhero, this hero can’t hope to compare to the Caped Crusader.
1. BETTER: MOON KNIGHT
Moon Knight just might be the most inspired Batman rip-off on this list, or in general. Debuting in the 1975 comic “Werewolf by Night #32” by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, Moon Knight is really Marc Spector, a former U.S. Marine and mercenary who gets introduced to the Egyptian god Khonshu after a near-death battle with the African mercenary Raoul Bushman. Agreeing to become Khonshu’s avatar on Earth, Spector decides to become a crime fighter when he returns to the States.
What helps Moon Knight stand out so well is that he’s just so different from Batman. He’s still a rich dude with a lot of gadgets that fights street-level crime, but due to him having multiple personality disorder he can also tell stories about mental disorders that creators wouldn’t be able to go near while writing Batman.
What rip-off did you think should make it on this list? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
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