For roughly 30 years now, Batman has been DC’s prized cash cow. Thanks largely to the massive success of the 1989 Batman film, DC picked up loud and clear that fans wanted more Batman, and they’ve been giving it to them ever since. He’s had more films, more toylines, and more cartoons than any other DC hero, and it’s not really even close. That’s not even counting comics, where Batman usually juggles no fewer than two, sometimes as high as four or five comic books.
When you’re featured this heavily, people are constantly forced to come up with new stories for you. And while Batman’s stories are usually great, they’re not always...”realistic”. After all, even if he’s more talented than all of us, he’s still just a human. So let’s take a look at ten events Batman should never have survived.
10 BATMAN: YEAR ONE
Back in 1987, Frank Miller did a four-issue story in Batman covering Bruce Wayne’s first year as Batman. Now it’s easy to believe that this should be fairly low stakes for a man who’s done battle with gods and survived. But that version of Bruce Wayne isn’t this version, and vice-versa.
Though Bruce is up against nothing more than random gangsters and corrupt cops, he’s got zero experience on the job. He gets attacked by sex workers and shot and nearly arrested by the cops. The first couple of days on the job he has no idea what to do, and it’s a wonder he survived in a city as dangerous as Gotham.
With this story, it’s a mystery anyone survived. In the late ’90s, the Batman line did a story about a lethal virus outbreak happening in Gotham City. It begins with Azrael alerting Batman about the plague, but this is long before Batman has any time to react, as people quickly begin dying left and right.
They actually manage to infect Tim Drake with the virus, who fights it off just long enough for them to develop a cure. But despite people everywhere getting infected and Gotham itself getting quarantined, the Dark Knight never has any issues.
8 NO MAN'S LAND
The ’90s were not a good time for Batman, as the Caped Crusader basically hopped from big problem to even bigger problems. The culmination of all this was No Man’s Land, where after being hit with a deadly virus and a massive Earthquake, the U.S. government cuts all ties with Gotham, declaring it no longer a part of the United States.
For a full twelve months, fans live in a world where Batman has to solve everything at once, and he does so while telling the JLA to stay out of his business. As if surviving the earthquakes themselves wasn’t hard enough, this story pushed Batman to limits he shouldn’t have been able to withstand. Forget trying to battle the 50th rogue for territory, he was lucky he didn’t get taken down by a random looter while fighting exhaustion.
7 DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
By now we’re all aware of the story of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. Bruce Wayne comes back from retirement as a darker, angrier man to an angrier, darker Gotham. Fortunately, he’s willing to do everything it takes to bring Gotham back under control. But first, Bruce winds up in a fight with a gang member and nearly gets killed.
His narrow survival comes down to being saved by Carrie Kelly. Then later, his actions stir the attention of the U.S. Government, who send their agent Superman to deal with Bruce. Now, it’s bad enough that Bruce is able to hold off Superman at all, but then he has an actual heart attack. We learn it’s just a feint though, as Bruce uses this as an excuse to return to being Batman.
6 BATMAN R.I.P.
The first half of Grant Morrison’s Batman storyline built towards this moment. A young woman infiltrating his life as the Batman. Taking advantage of mental triggers placed in his head before they ever even met.
When Batman is betrayed by Jezebel Jet, he’s already given up his identity and the location of his cave, and winds up passing out in front of Dr. Hurt and Jezebel herself. This honestly should’ve been the end of that story. If they’d truly wanted Batman killed, they could have done the job here. But since they didn’t, we learn Batman actually has a “back up personality” in case someone hacks his mind.
5 FINAL CRISIS
Bruce just barely survives the events of Batman: R.I.P., where his identity is taken from him and he’s subjected to immense mental trauma. Before that event is finished properly, he’s led into a case to discover who killed Orion of the New Gods. But while he’s still believing this is a simple mystery, he’s betrayed by a member of the Alpha Lanterns, which leads to him being used as a way to create new soldiers for Darkseid.
When Darkseid’s plan finally goes south, it frees Batman, who goes after Darkseid and uses the same weapon used to kill Orion to put Darkseid down once and for all...but not before being hit by the Omega Sanction. Going up against gods and cosmic beings and time itself, this entire event should’ve been the end for Batman.
4 RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE
Let’s assume we’re buying the fact that Batman wasn’t hit by the Omega Beams, but rather the Omega Sanction which sent him back in time. From then, we can also assume he was able to survive various reincarnations through time, most of which occurring through the Wayne bloodline.
But then we learn that the Omega Sanction is actually a weird god-bomb which activates once he manages to return to the present. He’s specifically brought to the end of time to try and avoid this, but pulling the hunter-killer from out of his body still leaves him clinically dead for a few minutes before he brings himself back through sheer will.
3 DARK NIGHTS METAL
Batman does battle against a being that’s as old as time itself, and someone who’s had all of human history to prepare for him. The story ties into Final Crisis, revealing Batman was introduced to Barbatos, a being who lived in the dark multiverse when he was flung back in time.
From here, we learn Barbatos has orchestrated Batman’s existence to allow him access into the other multiverse. The villain outwits Batman at seemingly every turn, with each new plan Bruce and the League can come up with ending up part of his plan to turn all of existence dark. Bruce only survives through the discovery of the 10th metal, made from the World Forge itself.
2 BATMAN: KNIGHTFALL
Knightfall is the story of the man who broke the bat...but also how the Bat put himself together again. Over the course of several issues, Bane enacts a genius plan to exhaust Bruce Wayne. He sets free all of Batman’s rogues, forcing him to find a way to bring them all back under control.
Every mission pushes Bruce further to his limits, but once he’s finally done he can find no peace. Instead, he’s attacked by Bane in his own home, losing a battle and having his back broken. This should have been the end for Batman, but his life is saved thanks to Robin and Alfred. Bruce would later have his spine healed through supernatural means, which is why Bane probably should’ve finished him when he had the chance.
1 EMPEROR JOKER
During the storyline Emperor Joker, the Joker somehow tricks Mr. Mxyzptlk into giving him all of his reality-warping powers. A world where the Joker has ultimate control isn’t exactly a positive one, and people die by the scores to entertain him. But for his “old friend” Batman, there was something much worse.
Every day Joker found new, inventive ways to murder him. Despite Superman beating Joker because Batman is too big of an idea for the Joker to overcome, Batman actually doesn’t survive this story. Retaining all his pain and deaths, his mind is completely broken. There’s no way back for him without a major sacrifice, and thus Superman is forced to take Batman’s memories, just to bring the Dark Knight to normal.