Unleashed during a brutal battle between Batman and the Joker, The Batman Who Laughs emerged as one of the most haunting entities in the DC Universe. A lethal combination of the Dark Knight's brilliant intellect and the Clown Prince of Crime's sadistic cruelty, this evil hybrid wreaked havoc upon Gotham and throughout the Multiverse. Spreading darkness upon the DCU that threatened to wipe out any remaining glimmer of hope, The Batman Who Laughs momentarily succeeded in destroying every superhero team that challenged his reign and expanded his reach by forming his legion of Dark Knights and army of Rabid Robins.
The character, created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, was born from the Dark Nights: Metal series and given his own tie-in spinoff that introduced his origin story and connection to the larger overarching storyline. During the events of the comic, it's revealed a Dark Multiverse exists alongside the established DC Multiverse and The Batman Who Laughs is essentially an evil, darker version of Batman from Earth-22. Aligning himself with the Bat God Barbatos, The Batman Who Laughs expands his chaotic reach to destroy the Justice League and any other threat to his reign. In the end, he is taken down by an unexpected enemy and retreats into the shadows of other villainous teams. Remaining several steps ahead of his opponents, The Batman Who Laughs allies himself with another power-hungry villain to continue his legacy of mayhem and bloodshed.
15 BEST: WORST NIGHTMARE COME TRUE
The Batman Who Laughs is created from the single act Batman swore he would never commit. Brought to the breaking point, a fit of rage led the Dark Knight to end one of the most complex relationships between a hero and villain in the DC Universe. With his passing, the toxic chemicals that spawned Joker's unnatural birth are released and consume Bruce Wayne, turning him into a hellish monster.
The cautionary horror story reveals how far a hero will go to maintain justice and to what ends a villain will go to corrupt him. Pushed to the point of no return, Batman shows no matter the determination to do good, even the best of heroes can be driven over the edge.
14 BEST: BRAINS AND BRAWN
The Batman Who Laughs is comprised of all the "best" parts of Batman and the "worst" parts of the Joker. Possessing Bruce Wayne's intelligence and strategic thinking and Batman's unlimited technology and training, Laughs is able to expose the weaknesses of the Caped Crusader's extended family. His leadership skills prove beneficial when he takes on the role as leader of The Dark Knights.
Having the Joker's unhinged moral compass, The Batman Who Laughs feels no remorse as he eliminates every challenge thrown his way. He revels in the chaos and violence that spreads through Gotham and incites terror with every release of his ravenous Robins. Stripped from the confines of the strict rules Batman relied on, Laughs has no code of conduct to hold him back.
13 BEST: BYE BYE BAT-FAMILY
A week after being exposed to Joker's toxin, Bruce Wayne assembles his Bat-Family to continue training in the Batcave. Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood and Red Robin notice their combat session is more intense than usual and begin to suspect a deeper meaning behind the lesson. Voicing their concerns, Wayne reveals to them the Joker's chemicals have severely altered his mental and physical state.
Believing they were summoned to aid Bruce in finding a cure for the disease, the team is interrupted in their brainstorming efforts by their leader's harsh refusal for help. Stating he can't risk his family exposing his secret, Batman unleashes a surprise attack on his teammates and eliminates each one in a swift act of violence.
12 BEST: SO LONG SUPERMAN
After eliminating the Bat-Family, The Batman Who Laughs turns his attention to Superman and his extended family. Targeting the Justice League Watchtower, Laughs unleashes the weapons the team has gathered over the years on the members, saving the Man of Steel for last. Exposing Superman and his son Jon to Black Kryptonite, the two undergo a violent transformation leading to a feeding frenzy that takes the life of Lois Lane.
Laughs had previously tested the element on Supergirl, Clark's cousin, to the same devastating end and revels in the bloodshed he has caused. He then releases his Robins to clean up the mess while he plans his next target.
11 BEST: NIGHTMARES UNLEASHED
Defeating both the Bat-Family and the Justice League, The Batman Who Laughs is able to eliminate every threat-- from alien races to immortal deities--sent his way. Believing there is nothing left to conquer, Laughs is greeted by the Bat God Barbatos who is impressed at how easily he has conquered his world. Recognizing him as "the perfect weapon" to unleash upon the Multiverse, Barbatos shows Laughs the infinite universes left to destroy.
As the perfect hybrid of Batman and the Joker, Barbatos sees potential in The Batman Who Laughs and refers to him as "The Bat-King." Assembling an army of the worst nightmares ever conceived in the Multiverse, Laughs prepares to unleash darkness across every Earth.
10 BEST: WRATH OF A GOD
Laughs allies himself with the most powerful being of the Dark Multiverse to ensure his reign during the destruction of the various Earths. Barbatos dwelled in the "sea of possibility" where he was dispatched by the Forger whose duty was to watch over the creations within the Multiverse. Consuming the unstable worlds and returning their energy to The Forge, Barbatos grew hungry for destruction and rose up against his master.
Worshipped by the Tribe of Judas (renamed the Court of Owls) as a Bat-God, Barbatos lay in wait to be resurrected through Batman's sacrifice and the use of the Dark Universe's Five Metals. It is during this time he discovers The Batman Who Laughs and offers him a place by his side.
9 BEST: RISE OF THE DARK KNIGHTS
Conquering his universe, The Batman Who Laughs is then shown the infinite multiverses outside his own by the powerful entity Barbatos. Shown the Dark Universe, Laughs is tasked with collecting the various dark versions of Batman throughout the various Earths to aid in the destruction of the central Multiverse.
Once assembled, the Dark Knights consist of Red Death (Earth-52), The Murder Machine (Earth-44), The Dawnbreaker (Earth-32), The Drowned (Earth-11), The Merciless (Earth-12), and The Devastator (Earth-1). Each version of Batman had their own conflict with each Justice League member of their home planet and after dealing with a traumatic loss, devoted themselves to their inner darkness.
8 BEST: LOYAL TO THE END
After assembling the Dark Knights, The Batman Who Laughs uses The Murder Machine to take over the Justice League Watchtower. On Earth-44, Bruce Wayne witnesses the brutal beating of his beloved butler Alfred at the hands of the Rogue Gallery. Distraught by such a devastating loss, Wayne seeks out Victor Stone's help in successfully installing "The Alfred Protocol."
Created as an A.I program to assist Batman, the system begins to clone itself in the desire to always protect Bruce Wayne and eliminates every inmate at Arkham Asylum. Infecting Wayne's body and turning him into The Murder Machine, the program destroys Cyborg with the rest of the Dark Knights. Together they alter the Watchtower to resemble a dark omen hovering over Earth.
7 BEST: RUFFLING SOME FEATHERS
The Court of Owls is revealed to be merely a branch in the expansive league known as the Parliament of Owls. Worshipping the Bat God Barbatos, the group attempts to summon him to Prime Earth to infect a "son from the House of Wayne." If successful, the cult was promised that they would rule alongside their idol.
During the ritual, the leaders believe they are resurrecting their beloved deity only to realize they've released something more horrifying. In a surprise attack, the Court is devoured by the Robins and due to the members' ignorance, The Batman Who Laughs and his army of Dark Knights is unleashed upon the world.
6 BEST: ARKHAM ALLIES
Breaking out members of Batman's Rogue Gallery from Arkham Asylum, The Batman Who Laughs gives Poison Ivy, Riddler, Bane, Firefly, Mr. Freeze and Mad Hatter a card made from Cosmic Metallurgy to manipulate reality and bend it to their will. Given a territory of Gotham to rule, with Laughs reigning over Challengers Mountain, each member is tasked with providing a barrier against potential threats.
Though the Teen Titans and Suicide Squad are able to easily defeat the Riddler, the other territories prove challenging especially when Laughs decides to introduce faithful son Damian into the game. Having corrupted members of both teams, Damian unleashes his warped army to wreak havoc in Poison Ivy and Bane's realms in an attempt to prevent both groups from reaching Challengers Mountain.
5 WORST: MASTER MANIPULATOR
While assembling The Dark Knights, Laughs entrusts each one into joining his quest for darkness not because he believes in their powers, but because he wants to exploit them. Since every Knight is a version of Batman, Laughs uses the trauma each one has experienced to lure them into becoming a member of his legion.
Catering to the Knights' need for acceptance in a harsh world, Laughs offers them a place of their own to alter as they see fit. Using the "one bad day" that broke each Knight, Laughs uses their pain to fuel his desire for vengeance and unrestrained justice. Free from their fears, The Dark Knights are promised a place alongside Barbatos as they unleash a nightmare upon the Multiverse.
4 WORST: BAD PARENTING SKILLS
Instead of family, The Batman Who Laughs treats his allies as pawns in his elaborate game to create a world of endless darkness. Exposing his own son to the Joker's toxic chemicals, Damian became a slave to his father's cause and was sent to eliminate various threats against his plans.
Laughs' worst exploitation comes in the form of his "Rabid Robins." Believed to be clones of Batman's sidekick over the years, a disturbing detail about their behavior led to an even more horrifying theory. The only word the boys speak is "Crow" and when instructed to heel, respond to the word "Bar." Combining the two phrases leads to the weapon used to torture Jason Todd, whose uniform is worn by all four Robins.
3 WORST: THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY
Ultimately, The Batman Who Laughs' arrogance proves to be his undoing. Believing victory at hand, Laughs is surprised by the appearance of Batman (from Prime-Earth) in his Batcave and states he's far superior than his former self due to his lack of restraint. Shooting Batman with the with the gun used in his parents' passing, Laughs rejoices that he has brought the Dark Knight to his knees.
He is then shocked when he receives a similar blow in the form of Joker's prop "BANG" gun. Delighted by Laugh's reaction, the Joker teases how unprepared the entity was for their arrival. The unexpected team-up between Gotham's greatest rivals proves to be Laughs' greatest weakness as the pair unite to take down their enemy.
2 WILDCARD: A TROUBLING PARTNERSHIP
In Justice League #8, it's revealed after his battle with Batman and the Joker, The Batman Who Laughs wound up as a prisoner of Lex Luthor, locked away in the basement of the Hall of Doom. Seeing Luthor's potential, Laughs offers a proposition to the businessman who seeks to put a permanent end to Superman and the Justice League.
Exploiting Luthor's ego and desperation to become a god among morals, Laughs reveals Lex must let go of his selfishness in order to gain the other-worldly power he seeks. Recognizing each other as the "apex predator" of their respective universes, the two agree to not interfere in one another's plans and Laughs is reluctantly set free to share with Luthor the secrets of the universe and creation itself.
1 WILDCARD: BEYOND THE STARS
Laughs' cosmic knowledge gives him the upper hand during his conversation with Lex Luthor. Eager to reveal his understand of the universe, Laughs explains the power Luthor seeks was hidden away. A prison known as "The Source Wall" was created to keep a being known as Perpetua from using "The Seven Powers" to wreak havoc on the universe.
Toward the end of Justice League #8, it's revealed the Justice League is in possession of "The Totality" and in the last panel, a female figure can be seen imprisoned in a yellowish glow of energy. It remains to be seen as to what the league plans to do with this entity and if Luthor and his Legion of Doom will be successful in their attempt to wield this other-worldly power for themselves.