Batman has been around for almost 80 years — Detective Comics is set to hit issue #1000 next spring — so it’s not surprising that a few crazy things have happened to the Dark Knight along the way. The Caped Crusader has fought Superman and won, fallen in love and asked for Catwoman’s hand in marriage, defeated an Apokoliptian god, and even died and been resurrected. There’s not much the guy can’t do. Heck, he’s even sure that when he truly does die, there will be another Bruce Wayne to replace him. (We’ll get to that in just a second.) It all revolves around the one rule of Batman stories: the Dark Knight must always win. Even if the odds are staggering, if he’s bound to die in the end, the Caped Crusader must triumph. There’s no room for losing.
But that doesn’t mean that all of Batman’s feats have been epic. In fact, there a few things that have happened to the Dark Knight over the years that we kind of wish we could forget. Who doesn’t wish the Joel Schumacher years had never happened, or that the All-Star Batman and Robin version of the Caped Crusader hadn’t been so ready to burn criminals alive and verbally abuse his sidekick? The answer is that there are probably plenty of people who think this stuff’s great, and good for them! However, sometimes creators cross the line with Batman with less than glowing results. Below is a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly of Batman’s long and mostly awesome history:
18. HE CLONES HIMSELF
All-star Batman writer Scott Snyder once said in an interview that, no matter how many other characters don the cape and cowl, Bruce Wayne is the only person who could ever truly be Batman. Bruce seems to know it, too. In Detective Comics Vol. 2 #27, a New 52 anniversary issue featuring a short story by Snyder called “27,” it’s revealed that the Dark Knight has figured out a way to clone himself so that his war on crime can continue after he is gone.
Every 27 years, a new Bruce Wayne clone wakes up in the machine to replace an older, worn down Bruce. That clone has the choice to become Batman or finally live a life of peace. Guess which they always pick.
17. HE HATES ROBIN
Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder is certainly something. Taking place in Miller’s beloved Dark Knight Universe of stories, the book covers the era before Bruce retired and was still teaming up with Dick Grayson, the first Robin. While the Batman in The Dark Knight Returns isn’t the friendliest guy, nothing could prepare readers for his younger years.
Exhibit A: Batman verbally abusing young Dick, whom he’s recruited as a “soldier” for his war on crime. It’s pretty messed up and a perfect explanation for why Dick turned into a weird Joker monster in The Dark Knight Strikes Again.
16. HE LOVES PUNCHING ANIMALS
The supervillains of Gotham City aren’t the only ones who have come face to face with Batman’s wrath. Plenty of animals have met Batman’s fist, too. From punching horses to wrestling lions to knocking out dogs, let’s just say PETA won’t be making the Caped Crusader an honorary member any time soon.
The panels above have become a running joke among fans of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s seminal Batman run. In “Death of the Family,” Batman enters Arkham Asylum for a ghoulish night full of bad guys and charging horses. Batman has no choice but to punch one straight in the head at one point.
15. THE ANATOMICALLY-CORRECT BATSUIT
Joel Schumacher will probably never be able to live his Batman movies down. Despite the fact that Batman Forever was a massive success that rebuilt the franchise after Batman Returns left it in a questionable spot, Schumacher is also the man who made Batman & Robin, the movie that almost destroyed the Dark Knight for the big screen.
On top of all those puntastic Mr. Freeze lines and the Bat skates (we’ll get to those), one of Schumacher’s biggest crimes is the anatomically-correct Batsuit he used for his movies. Just look at the magnificent picture above. You can’t make this stuff up.
14. HIS SECOND ALTER EGO
Matches Malone was a small-time crook who appeared in the 1970s, but it wasn’t his life of crime that immortalized him in the world of Batman comics. In fact, it wasn’t until his death that Matches became one of the most important figures of Gotham City, namely because Bruce decided to revive the dead man as another alter ego.
As Matches Malone, Bruce can infiltrate the criminal underground to follow leads and acquire the information he needs to solve his cases. Also, he looks super smooth with the aviator sunglasses and the mustache. We’d love to see this guy pop up in Tom King’s Batman run.
13. USED A GUN, TEAMED WITH WORST ENEMY
When Mike W. Barr writes a Batman story, you know it’s going to be crazy. Known for his series of bonkers Detective Comics stories, Barr might have topped himself with “Year Two,” a follow up to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight origin opus that was just too weird for continuity.
In “Year Two,” Batman faces off against the Reaper, a veteran vigilante who had previously “protected” Gotham and didn’t mind putting evildoers down permanently. The Reaper’s methods put him in direct opposition to Batman. When the Reaper proves to be too strong for Batman, the Dark Knight apparently has no choice but to start carrying a gun and team up with the man who killed his parents, Joe Chill.
12. HIS FAST FOOD CHAIN
Leave it to Tom King to create Bat Burger, the Dark Knight’s ultimate mark on the modern zeitgeist. At a time when Hollywood is pushing assembly line superhero blockbusters catering to the largest, four-quadrant audience possible, it only makes sense that someone would try to commercialize Batman’s image in the form of burgers and fries.
Batman #16 introduces us to the Bat-themed fast food chain, where the employees dress up like superheroes and you can Jokerize your fries. The real headline that dominated the Bat Burger scenes, though, was the fact that Bruce Wayne eats his burgers with a FORK AND KNIFE.
11. HIS BATSUIT HAS ICE SKATES
Joel Schumacher gets a second spot on this list because how could he not? He directed a scene where Batman and Robin tap their boots and ice skates pop out at the bottom. It is one of the (unintentionally?) funniest moments in all Batman & Robin; a secret Bat parody so good that it’s deserving of a reevaluation.
This scene has Batman and Robin playing ice hockey against Mr. Freeze’s goons, with a rare diamond as the puck. It is followed a few minutes later by the Dynamic Duo sky surfing through Gotham. If you can’t laugh at this stuff, then you’re probably still really angry at some of the other entries on this list.
10. HE SHOT DARKSEID
Batman may be nothing more than a human with lots of money and gadgets, but that doesn’t mean he’s afraid to go up against gods. Even Darkseid, the evil Apokoliptian god who has threatened the DC Multiverse on more than one occasion, has faced the wrath of Batman and been defeated.
In Final Crisis, Darkseid unleashed the reality-altering Anti-Life Equation on Earth and only a small band of heroes were left to challenge the evil god. Batman eventually shoots Darkseid with a bullet made of a substance that can kill New Gods called radion and puts him down. Darkseid’s “essence” shows up again later in the story, but that doesn’t make Batman’s feat any less impressive.
9. HE USED TO PERISH SUCKAS
Batman has a long history of terminating the lives of bad guys, from ending the Joker in The Killing Joke to mortally wounding Darkseid, but nothing could top his rampage in his early adventures. In fact, the Dark Knight puts a bad guy six feet under in his very first appearance, Detective Comics #27, when he punches a criminal into a vat of chemicals (this would later be retconned as the origin story of the Joker).
The Caped Crusader wasn’t done, though. In subsequent issues, he also skewered a man on a sword, snapped a dude’s neck on a windowsill, and hung a mental patient from the Batplane. Jeez, Bats, cool out already!
8. HIS EARS ARE WEAPONS
We already went over the Bat skates, but they’re not the only ridiculous additions to the Dark Knight’s oeuvre of gadgets and weapons. How about the blades that launch out of his gauntlets or those crazy brass knuckles shaped like bats? He also has wax lips for making out with Poison Ivy and “shark repellent” to keep King Shark (or painfully fake rubber sharks) away.
If you ever wondered why Batman’s ears seem to change size, it’s probably because sometimes they’re also projectile weapons, as a villain named White Knight painfully discovered. Basically, every part of Batman’s suit is potentially lethal, just like his body!
7. GOT TOO CLOSE TO BATGIRL
This one makes us particularly uncomfortable. For some inexplicable reason known only to comic book veteran and screenwriter Brian Azzarello, The Killing Joke animated movie features a romantic storyline between Batman and Batgirl… because the source material wasn’t already creepy enough?
On top of Batgirl facing a terrible fate at the hands of the Joker, she’s also made to have a crush on the man who is supposed to be her mentor (and is WAY older than her). It isn’t just flirting, either. Things get hot and heavy on a roof top and that’s about all we can say before we start vomiting…
6. CREATED BY AN EVIL BAT GOD
It was Peter Milligan who introduced the idea that there was something way more sinister behind the evils of Gotham City and the origin of Batman. Barbatos, who we’d later find out was a god-like creature tasked with destroying dying planets in World Forge (or something), revealed himself to Bruce in the storyline “Dark Knight, Dark City,” claiming that he was behind the formation of Gotham and the willed the death of the Waynes.
Barbatos would pop up again in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights: Metal to inflict terror on Batman and his friends, as he lifted a nightmare universe from the Dark Multiverse to engulf the Earth. It was very metal.
5. THE NIGHTMARE BATMEN
As if Batman’s often fascist antics weren’t enough, things got way worse when a team of nightmare Batmen arrived on Earth in Dark Nights: Metal. But they weren’t just physical manifestations of the Caped Crusader’s darkest qualities. They were amalgams of all of Batman’s Justice League buddies as well. So you had an evil Batman-infused Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and Green Lantern. There was even a Batman-Joker fusion, too!
These Dark Knights all had tie-in origin issues during the event that weren’t written by Scott Snyder and focused on the fall of Batman on dark, alternate Earths where he became the one thing he swore to vanquish: evil. The stories were overwhelmingly grim and sometimes not all that fun.
4. INSPIRED BY HIS FATHER’S PARTY COSTUME
Batman has had many origin stories over the years. From “The Legend of the Batman – Who He is, and How he Came to Be” to “Year One” to “Zero Year,” the story has been retold time and again, and we continue to be fascinated by it. What drives a billionaire with every advantage in the world to dress up like a bat and risk his life night after night?
Bill Finger provided an unexpected answer to the bat portion of the question in Detective Comics #235. In a story titled “The First Batman,” it’s revealed that the Dark Knight decided to dress up as a bat because his father once wore bat costume to a masquerade party.
3. HIS MOTHER BECAME THE JOKER
Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert’s Flashpoint proved to be disastrous for plenty of reasons, including the formation of the New 52 timeline, which erased quite a few characters and tons of history from the DC Universe. (Johns has actually been in the process of bringing the old DC Universe back since the Rebirth relaunch in 2016.)
One of the big tragedies of the Flash altering the timeline was the death of Bruce Wayne, which pushed Thomas Wayne to become a more extreme version of Batman. Martha also turned into the Joker in this timeline, a shocking turn of events that somehow managed to turn the origin story of Batman into something even more horrifying. Thankfully, this didn’t stick.
2. HE TEAMED UP WITH THE SHADOW
Bill Finger and Bob Kane were inspired by the pulp heroes and detectives of the 1930s when designing the new star of Detective Comics: the Bat-Man. His many inspirations include the Phantom, Dick Tracy, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, Zorro, and the Shadow — the very best of that era of genre storytelling.
So when DC Comics and Dynamite Entertainment teamed up to bring Batman and The Shadow to the same universe to fight the Joker and a serial killer called the Stag, it was a big deal. This was Batman fighting alongside one of the vigilantes that inspired his creation. The story is from Scott Snyder, Steve Orlando, and Riley Rossmo too, so you know it’s good!
1. HE ONCE ONCE FUSED WITH WOLVERINE
While it’s hard to imagine DC Comics and Marvel Comics crossing over nowadays, it’s happened a few times in the past. In 1996, the companies put together the DC Versus Marvel/Marvel Versus DC crossover, which brought the greatest heroes from both universes into a clash like the world of comics had never seen. But this wasn’t just Superman versus Captain America or Aquaman versus Namor.
There was also a pocket universe created where DC and Marvel characters were combined to create new heroes. Batman was fused with Wolverine to create Logan Wayne, also known as the Dark Claw. It was a bit extra and very ’90s to say the least.
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