This week, Batman teams up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a DC Comics/IDW crossover, a pairing that is, by any metric, a bit odd. However, Batman is no stranger to off-the-wall team-ups.
Over the decades, the Dark Knight has had plenty of interesting encounters with characters — and real life people — you might not otherwise have thought to team the hero with. From celebrities of the past, unexpected comic book foils and a meta-encounter with a DC Comics artist, here are the ten oddest Batman team-ups we’ve ever seen.
“Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire” was an excellent 2003 miniseries by Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo and Tim Bradstreet (with Mick Gray and Richard Friend). The dark knight and dark government operative, Michael Cray, aka Deathblow, were well matched in style. However, Deathblow had sacrificed himself to save the day in the 1996 Wildstorm crossover “Fire From Heaven,” and he notably was not brought back to life, so this was a crossover with Batman and a comic character who had not had his own title or been alive for seven years at the time. Additionally, Batman and Deathblow never actually physically meet in the story, which is set in two timelines — ten years ago, with Deathblow, and then in the present with Batman. A good series, to be sure, but odd idea for a team-up.
In “Detective Comics” #167 (by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris), Batman and Robin travel back in time to ancient Egypt, where they end up becoming Cleopatra’s bodyguards! The famous Queen of the Nile ends up falling in love with Batman and tries to make him her king, but Batman and Robin return to the present before anything can happen between the hero and .
Given away as a free comic at Camden Yards to celebrate Cal Ripken Jr.’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, this one-shot (written by Ernest Mayes and Spinnaraque and drawn by Christopher Jones) finds the Penguin kidnapping the Orioles’ All-Star shortstop, as well as young boy who was trying to get Ripken’s autograph at the time. While Batman attempts to save him, Ripken ends up freeing himself, using some Big League Chew bubblegum to create a large ball that he uses to break himself out of the bird cage Penguin had him and the boy imprisoned in.
This one is a bit tricky, since it is not technically the Beatles (the band is called the Oliver Twists, and Paul McCartney is Saul Cartwright), but I still think this odd team-up deserves to be mentioned. In “Batman” #222 (by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano), Batman and Robin address the popular “Paul is Dead!” urban legend of the time by trying to solve it themselves. In the end, it turns out Saul is the only one who is not dead! The other three members of the fab four are imposters he has trained to replace his friends, who died in a plane crash while visiting India.
In 1966, to tie-in with the success of the “Batman” TV series, a new Batman comic strip was launched (Whitney Ellsworth wrote it and Joe Giella and Al Plastino were the main artists on it). Early on, it tried to capture the feel of the celebrity appearances on the Adam West-starring series, where celebrities would appear as either villains or popping their heads out windows as Batman and Robin climbed buildings, by having real-life celebrities appear in the strip. In this particular strip, famous hotel developer, Conrad Hilton (grandfather to Paris Hilton), tries to convince Batman and Robin to make a Batman-theme hotel.
Famous comedian Jack Benny also got in on the 1966 comic strip, hiring Batman and Robin at $1,000 an hour to find his stolen violin. And for a miser like Benny, $1,000 was a whole lot of money to spend!
Kay Kyser was a popular radio show host who hosted a music/quiz show called the Kollege of Musical Knowledge. In “Detective Comics” #144 (drawn by Dick Sprang and Charles Paris), some bad guys are holding Kyser hostage, so he sends musical clues through the radio to lure Batman and Robin to his show to rescue him. Batman ends up competing on the show and eventually the day is saved. Comics Should Be Good did a spotlight on the story, if you’re interested in learning more about it.
In the 2000 miniseries “Superman and Bugs Bunny” (by Mark Evanier, Joe Staton, Tom Palmer and Mike DeCarlo), Batman and Daffy Duck don’t precisely team-up, but rather switch places. However, this is more a placeholder for the crossover in general, and Batman does end up teaming with Bugs Bunny and the Tazmanian Devil along the way.
When the “Batman” TV series hit big, everyone started doing take-offs of the show, and DC Comics’ “The Adventures of Jerry Lewis” was no exception. In #97 (by Arnold Drake and Bob Oksner), Jerry and his nephew became the “super” duo Ratman and Rotten. They end up getting in over their heads and have to be rescued by Batman and Robin, who are exhausted at trying to keep up with all the people who are doing take-offs on them.
In “Brave and the Bold” #124 (by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo, edited by Murray Boltinoff) some bad guys have a novel idea — if they don’t want to lose to Batman, they just have to kill Jim Aparo before he finishes drawing the issue where they lose to Batman! They almost succeed in their murderous plan, but the artist gets away. However, now he doesn’t know how to finish drawing the issue, as the villains abscond with the script Bob Haney wrote! So Haney and editor Murray Boltinoff work together to tell Aparo the script over the phone so he can draw it, stop the bad guys and save Batman’s life — along with Sgt. Rock, who has teamed with Batman in the issue!
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