Since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 (1939), Batman has protected Gotham from DC’s darkest, most deranged villains. And in so doing, he has become synonymous with the dark, one with the night. Taking on the mantle of the Bat, he lies in waiting for would-be criminals and attacks in the shadows without a sound. It is no wonder criminals fear him. As superstitious as they are, the Dark Knight’s visage is real. And once you become a blip on his radar, you are done. Let us be honest, even Superman has feared Batman at one time or another.
But “man” is really the key word here. Under the cape and cowl, behind the billions of dollars, and underneath all those wonderful toys, Batman is still just a man. And all men make mistakes. Over the course of his career, Batman has fallen in love with the wrong women, inadvertently provided criminals with the means to take down the Justice League and taken on a protege who got killed. Those are pretty hefty mistakes and they definitely count among his worst. But some may say are they are far from his most embarrassing. Here are 15 of the most shameful images from Batman’s 8-decade career:
15. BATMAN’S VIRAL SLAP
If you have spent more than two minutes on the internet, you have likely seen this infamous slap in one meme or another. There is Batman slapping Robin, Spider-man slapping Robin, Batman slapping Superman and literally a few hundred more versions. As it turns out, the original came from World’s Finest #153, (1965). This particular story takes place on an alternate Earth where Batman believes Superman killed Thomas Wayne.
Robin tries to talk Batman out of pursuing Superman and bam, a slap is heard across the internet 43 years later when the meme goes viral in 2008. In DC’s defense, 1965 was more of a “spare the rod, spoil the child” decade. Writers didn’t likely know the image would one day seem tantamount to super-hero child abuse.
14. BATMAN HAS AN ACCIDENT
Kevin Smith is known more for his comedic films and less for his comic book work such as his Green Arrow run, which brought back Oliver Queen to the DC Universe. He also wrote a Batman story called The Widening Gyre that featured one of the most unforgettable and controversially funny moments in Batman’s history.
It should come as no surprise that it was Kevin Smith who had the guts to write about DC’s most feared character peeing his pants. Really? Even worse, what kind of Batman would admit to having a bladder spasm? If there ever was a Batman who would admit it, he is long gone by now. Today, he doesn’t even let you know when he is breathing, much less talk about other bodily functions.
13. BATMAN USES THE ‘R’ WORD
Did everyone see Batman slapping Robin in the face? Well, maybe fans can excuse that since it was 1965. Fast forward to 2005 and Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman & Robin drops the tone down to verbal abuse when Batman rhetorically asks Robin if he is retarded. Admittedly, it sounds pretty cool when Bruce goes on to say “I’m the G-d Damn Batman”. This line has become an iconic fan favorite over the last decade. But somehow,readers just can’t get past the ‘R’ word.
How many charities does Wayne Enterprises support? Let’s just agree that Bruce would never use the word when speaking at a charity event for the disabled. Or is the phrase differently-abled? Fans can just chalk this one up to a bad mood and consider Robin lucky. Not many people can make Batman lose his temper without regretting it.
12. BUZZ-SAW BATMAN
Between the Batman TV show and a comic book title that got wackier with every issue, the ’60s weren’t kind to Batman. From a can of female-villain-repellent spray to collapsible jet skates, the Silver Age Batman was outfitted with ludicrousy. But in retrospect, perhaps if he had kept that female-repellent spray, he might not have gotten so many headaches from Talia and Catwoman.
Sadly, nothing in the world can fix our eyes after seeing buzz-saw Batman slice through statues and such. And it isn’t just the image that ruins Batman’s mystique. It is the entire story behind World’s Finest #128 entitled “The Power That Transformed Batman”. Although a better title might have been “The Power That Almost Made Us Stop Reading Batman Comics”.
11. BAT-BABY AND ROBIN
The ’60s strikes again. In Batman Vol 1 #147, The Dark Knight risks having a dark-diaper incident which is somehow a little easier to swallow after the bladder spasm. The short story is a criminal scientist irradiates Batman with a ray that reverts his body back to its baby sized state, while leaving his adult strength and intelligence intact. So naturally, Baby-Bruce gets fitted for a toddler-sized Bat-suit and continues to wage war against crime.
If ever Robin wanted a chance to get a little payback, this would have been the day. Needless to say, this particular issue has been billed as one of the worst Silver Age comic books ever written. Perhaps its infamy is why a mint condition issue is worth $270.00 USD today.
10. BATMAN GOES POSTAL
Batman: Odyssey is perhaps one of the most insanely different modern Batman story arcs. When a train car is at risk of exploding, Batman aims a couple of pistols at the car’s passengers and threatens to “blow their brains out” if they don’t exit the car. Assuming he has gone nuts, the passengers just stand around staring at him. So Batman starts unloading clips. The scary part is he doesn’t even think to shoot in the air or provide a gentle warning shot. He simply goes postal shooting right into the crowd.
In the end, he saves the day and no one dies. Good intentions or not, he must have broken at least a few city ordinances with that move and he certainly left half of Gotham’s good citizens more scared of him than the criminals he fights. But then again, he doesn’t wear the suit to win popularity contests.
9. HOLY SEXISM BATMAN
On its surface, this image might look like Robin’s moment of shame. But if Dick is the big sexist here, one has to ask how he got that way. Batman is his mentor after all. That said, the buck doesn’t stop at the Batcave. The Silver Age of comics was peppered with sexist commentary and images even in the heroine titles. Wonder Woman mentioned her “feminine vanity” more than once. And Batgirl would stop a fight to make sure her cowl was centered just right.
There is also the matter of Batman’s prioritization skills back then. Was the Silver Age truly such a peaceful time frame that Batman’s biggest priority was preventing criminals from stealing a silk handkerchief? Perhaps Batgirl didn’t show up at the factory because she was busy tackling some of Batman’s more maniacal foes, like The Joker.
8. BATMAN SNAPS A MAN’S NECK
Batman v. Superman (BVS) sparked a lot controversial conversation. Many fans and moviegoers felt Batman was misrepresented, believing he had never killed in the comic books. Not only has Batman killed people, he actually started out killing people. From his original appearance in 1939 throughout a great deal of 1940, he flat out murdered, maimed and slaughtered bad guys. This was not a Batman to be trifled with.
The guy had no qualms knocking a man into acid or kicking someone off of a roof. All you’d have to do is replace the Bat emblem with a skull and you could call him the Punisher. But at the end of 1940, Batman adopted his “no killing” rule along with a fresh new sidekick to draw in younger readers.
7. TAKEN DOWN BY ROBIN
In this moment Bruce has got to be asking himself why in the world he ever starting adopting sidekicks as they turn out to become nothing but giant headaches for the Dark Knight. All of them stole the Batmobile on one occasion or another. Damian kidnapped the Teen Titans. Jason got himself killed. Dick barely likes him and apparently, Bats can’t even take a shower in peace.
But the worst part here is no one sneaks up on the Bat. It is hard to tell whether Bruce should be embarrassed about letting Robin get the drop on him, or if he should be proud of how well he trained Robin. At least everyone can agree it is a good thing the water was hot enough to get a good steam going.
6. BATMAN AND ROBIN DOO
This little gem of a moment occurred in Scooby-Doo! Team-Up #2, as if one team-up wasn’t enough. And no. Two team-ups weren’t even enough. Scooby Doo shared pages with the Dynamic Duo throughout the first three issues of Scooby’s team-up series. Fortunately, Scooby and the gang went on to bother Wonder Woman, Teen Titans and a plethora of other heroes in the successive issues of the title comic book, leaving the Dark Knight alone for at least a little while.
In this particular issue, Scooby stood in for Robin to help Batman stop the Riddler, Penguin, and the Joker all in one fell swoop. The only real mystery here is whether Batman’s utility belt had enough room for Scooby Snax because if the dog did all the work, he certainly deserved a treat.
5. SPANKS DICK GRAYSON
Birthday’s are usually a time for celebration. And most kids look forward to them, except perhaps, Dick Grayson. There are two very interesting points readers can glean from this image. The first is Dick’s obviously used to being spanked when he does something wrong. The second is if it is your birthday, stay clear of Bruce Wayne. He isn’t just wailing on Grayson, he is really enjoying it.
Bruce certainly doesn’t smile like that when he’s beating up on criminals. No. This is payback for all those times Robin stole the Batmobile. But at least he wasn’t sticking his girlfriend over his knee like the other guy did with Lois Lane as seen in Superman’s most shameful images linked above. Apparently, spanking was all-the-rage during the Silver Age of comics.
4. BATMAN SINGS X-MAS CAROLS
In Batman #219 (1970), Commissioner Gordon summons Batman on Christmas Eve. Responding in quick fashion, Bruce is blindsided by Gordon asking him to accompany police and sing Christmas carols on the streets of Gotham. Batman reluctantly agrees. While he sings, a few crimes are almost committed and end up being thwarted by reminders of Batman. One criminal sees a kid wearing a Batman costume and rethinks his position. Another kid steals a Batman doll, feels guilty and returns it.
Before he knows it, Bruce realizes he has spent the entire night singing which is all well and good. Or is it? There aren’t a lot of criminals who would run in mortal terror from a man who goes door-to-door singing Christmas Carols. In truth, Batman probably had to spend most of 1971 rebuilding his reputation.
3. HANGS A MENTAL PATIENT
This is a particularly gruesome scene, even for Batman’s early days. Batman uses the Batplane’s turrets to mow down the driver and front passenger of a truck, causing the truck to crash. He then drops a steel cable which wraps around a mentally ill man’s neck and pulls him into the air. The frames very clearly show and state what is happening as the man struggles against a noose tightening around his neck. And a few moments later, the man stops struggling.
Batman says “He’s probably better off this way”, as he flies into the night sky with the man’s lifeless body in tow. On the bright side, he didn’t use the ‘R’ word. Today’s Batman may be darker in some ways, but as is the case with most superheroes, he would never treat life so callously.
2. BATMAN: RACIAL PROFILER
Here readers see Batman involved in another rail car incident. This time he sees two African Pygmies walking on a railcar and instantly decides something must be queer. He jumps onto the railcar, slams their heads together, calls them “little men” and literally kicks them off of the train. Batman then receives wholehearted thanks from a man named Professor Drake.
In the end, it seems the Pygmies were there following a giant man whom Professor Drake had kidnapped from their homeland. Being perfectly okay with the kidnapping, Batman bids the Professor farewell and goes about his day. Where does one start? There are so many things wrong with this sequence of frames? Not only does Batman seem to be guilty of racial profiling, but after attacking the wrong guys, he just bows out, leaving a victimized giant with his kidnapper.
1. BATMAN UNDER HEEL
Most fans know Wonder Woman is the toughest woman in the DC multiverse. And on a good day, she is possibly the toughest person in the DC multiverse. She has beaten Supergirl, Power Girl, The Martian Manhunter and even Superman. So it shouldn’t bruise Batman’s ego too badly to be beaten by her, right? Wrong. In this particular fight, Wonder Woman didn’t just beat the Bat and hold his head under-heel, she made him admit it out loud.
In a world where most hero-against-hero fights leave some room doubt, Wonder Woman walked away with one of the most decisive victories one can imagine. Still, Batman has beaten Wonder Woman in the past. He generally has a contingency plan for everybody. But this is an image that clearly reminds us Batman is but a man among titans.
Which of these Batman moments is the worst? Let us know in the comments!
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