Superheroes are no longer the niche fare that they once were. Where once they were mostly obscure commodities whose names were known only to a handful of true believers, now they are pop culture's stock-in-trade. While names like Superman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman have always carried a measure of pop culture currency, the rise of the superhero blockbuster has made our beloved comic book characters ubiquitous to the mainstream. Today the likes of Iron Man, Deadpool, The Flash and Aquaman are household names. But while all superheroes have enjoyed something of a renaissance in the cultural zeitgeist there's one name that we as a collective consciousness can't seem to get enough of... Batman.
What is it that makes us so in love with The Dark Knight Detective? Is it his tragic origin rooted in our fear of the loaded gun that could lurk in any dark alley? Is it his incredible design -- equal parts inspiring and intimidating? Is it the way that we recognize our own darker id in the character? Or is it the way in which he represents our ultimate wish fulfillment. If we only had enough karate lessons, did enough push-ups and happened to be heir to a tech conglomerate, any one of us could be Batman. Indeed, this mere mortal has had the audacity to trade blows with gods! While he may be on the side of the angels, his controversial methods have seen him at odds with many of his fellow heroes inside and outside of the DC pantheon. Some of whom he has defeated easily... but others put him definitively in his place...
20 BEAT HIM: AQUAMAN
Very soon we'll get to see the King of Atlantis grace the big screen in his very own movie. Early reactions seem resoundingly positive, but even so the prospect of seeing Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Ben Affleck's Batman share the screen in a Justice League sequel seems sadly remote. Still, if their relationship is as contentious as at the start of the New 52, perhaps this will be a blessing for Bats.
Geoff Johns' work on both the Aquaman and Justice League titles proved that Arthur Curry was not a man to be trifled with, as Batman found to his chagrin. In the "Throne Of Atlantis" story, Batman faced Arthur's wrath in a brawl which raged from Aquaman #15 to Justice League #16.
19 HE DEFEATED: JUDGE DREDD
Batman often comes into ideological conflicts with his heroes. However, this usually occurs when more liberal heroes take exception to The Batman's draconian and often violent measures. In the 1991 Batman/Judge Dredd crossover Judgement On Gotham, however, Batman looks like a regular bleeding heart compared to the lawman of the future.
When it seems that Judge Dredd is more than happy to let Judge Death roam free in 20th century Gotham, Batman unleashes a devastating blow that shatters Dredd's visor and earning him a 10 year sentence for assaulting a Judge. Batman's response? He invites Dredd to make it 20 and doles out a savage kick to the supine lawman.
18 BEAT HIM: CASSANDRA CAIN
While she may be known to today's readers as Orphan, throughout the late '90s and early '00s Cassandra Cain was the heir to the mantle of Batgirl. It was a persona she assumed with the blessing of Barbara Gordon herself during the "No Man's Land" saga. The daughter of an elite assassin, Cassandra has had a lifetime of combat training combined with near-metahuman speed.
She is such a skilled combatant that she even put Batman himself through his paces. In Batgirl #50 mentor and student came to blows when Cassandra was in the thrall of a rage drug. This saw her relinquish her usual restraint and gave Batman the full force of her combat capabilities.
17 HE DEFEATED: THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
It will come as a surprise to few that Batman has come into contact with the heroes in a half shell numerous times throughout comics history. After all, their martial arts training and stealthy crime fighting methods make them seem like natural companions (although Batman would be unlikely to pollute his body with pizza or announce his presence by shouting "Cowabunga!").
At the start of Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2 we are treated to the obligatory brawl where our two protagonists face off due to a misunderstanding before reconciling, in the predictable but-oh-so satisfying way these things play out. Batman males short work of the teen heroes, however, only relenting when Master Splinter intervenes on his adopted sons' behalf.
16 BEAT HIM: SPAWN
Over-sized muscles. Lots of jagged edges. Endlessly flowing capes... Yup! It's a '90s comic crossover! The 1994 Batman/Spawn crossover series was a one-shot comic that united two of the biggest names in comics: Frank Miller who was still riding high on the success of the seminal The Dark Knight Returns, and Spawn creator/enfant terrible of the '90s comic scene Todd McFarlane.
The two come to blows repeatedly in the story and despite his legendary combat prowess, Batman is no match for Spawn's supernatural abilities. Even Batman's usual bag of tricks like nerve gas proved ineffective against the undead assassin. Shortly after the brawl we see Batman lying battered in an alley, although Spawn later uses his abilities to heal Batman's wounds.
15 HE DEFEATED: CAPTAIN AMERICA
Many a hypothesis has been ventured by DC and Marvel fans as to whom would emerge the victor between Captain America and Batman. Can the Super Soldier Serum give Steve Rogers the edge over a lifetime of martial arts training and arguably the strongest will in comics? Indeed the Youtube channel Screw Attack scrutinized stacks of comics and other canonical sources to determine the result of their fight before announcing that Batman would be the victor.
Whizz and Boomstick should, however, simply have looked to the DC and Marvel crossovers of the '90s. In the 1996 crossover the two engaged in an epic brawl that saw Batman claim the victory by using his knowledge of his city to his advantage. Mind your surroundings, Steve!
14 BEAT HIM: WILDCAT
Before the Justice League, there was the Justice Society of America. Ted Grant, aka Wildcat, is a founding member of the JSA and a world champion boxer as well as being proficient in a range of other fighting disciplines.
While Grant is perceived as an avuncular figure by many heroes and even helped to train Batman and Black Canary, he came to blows with Bats in The Brave And The Bold #118. In this typically bizarre issue, the Joker forced the two to fight by holding a gun to a puppy's head. Both puglists are bloodied and bruised and the fight ends in a mutual haymaker that knocks out both fighters. Still, Wildcat would have won on points!
13 HE DEFEATED: RED HOOD
Poor Jason Todd. Perceived by fans as a whining usurper to the mantle of Robin DC comics fans voted in a phone-in poll for Dick Grayson's successor to perish at the hands of The Joker. Ever since he was resurrected in the "Under The Red Hood" storyline, Jason Todd has been determined to prove that he could be a more effective protector of Gotham than his mentor.
Still, Bruce has proven time and again that his methods are superior. While the two have fought to a standstill a couple of times in the canonical comic (although in the "Hush" storyline Clayface took over halfway through the fight) Jason has never been able to gain the upper hand in battle.
12 BEAT HIM: GREEN LANTERN
Batman is a creature of darkness, dealing out justice from the shadows. It stands to reason then, that a crime fighter whose modus operandi relies entirely on light would be irksome to him. This is a shame, because both Bruce Wayne and Hal Jordan share an indomitable will and in an Elseworlds story Bruce even joins the Green Lantern Corps himself.
Towards the climax of Geoff Johns' iconic Green Lantern: Rebirth series, Batman voiced his distrust in Hal. While this was somewhat understandable (Hal had spent some time as a marauding villain known as Parallax) Batman was standing in Jordan's way when the world needed saving. Thus, Green Lantern floored Batman with one punch.
11 HE DEFEATED: DAREDEVIL
Batman and Daredevil are without a doubt among the coolest and most interesting characters in their respective universes. Still, if their worlds were ever to collide it would stand to reason that they would not be firm friends. Matt Murdock is, after all, The Man Without Fear. And fear is... well, it's pretty much Batman's stock in trade.
In the first of two Batman/Daredevil crossovers, "Eye For An Eye" the pair briefly come to blows. However, Batman clearly controls the pace of the fight no matter how much Daredevil's cocky retorts may indicate otherwise. Later, however, Batman does voice a grudging respect for Daredevil's fighting abilities.
10 BEAT HIM: NIGHTWING
There are few people for whom Batman has more love than Dick Grayson. After all, Dick was the original Robin and his constant companion throughout decades of crime fighting even after he became his own man and donned the mantle of Nightwing. Nonetheless, there has always been a simmering tension between the two. Who could have a perfectly relationship with a man who made you dress in green pixie boots and fight criminals armed with machine guns?
Aside from the episode of Batman: The Animated Series where Dick floors Batman with one punch, there's also a fight in Nightwing #30 where the two trade blows and Dick lets out all his years of frustration, making him the clear victor over Bruce.
9 HE DEFEATED: ORION
Despite his mortality, there are times when Batman can be an insufferable Mary Sue. Indeed, for years he seemed so omnipotent that many a DC writer jokingly referred to him as Bat-God. Perhaps it's fitting then that Batman has gone toe to toe with one of the New Gods and prevailed. Orion, the son of Darkseid is one of the most powerful New Gods... but no match for Bat-God.
In 1988's Cosmic Odyssey miniseries, Batman teams up with an alien character named Forager to disarm a bomb in Apokolips' idyllic sister planet New Genesis. Forager dies in the process and when Orion speaks ill of his perished companion, Batman punches out his lights. Orion leaves rather than escalate the confrontation. That's right, you better run!
8 BEAT HIM: WONDER WOMAN
Sometime's Batman's uncompromising idea of justice can lead him to be somewhat myopic. Often this puts him at odds with other heroes with a more nuanced idea of right and wrong. So it in Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman storyline "The Hiketeia" in which a young woman invokes an ancient tradition to seek protection from Wonder Woman.
When Batman pursues her to answer for her crime (the end of the people who took her and ended her sister), he finds himself at odds with his fellow Justice League member. Batman does not stand a chance against Diana's Amazon might. The image of Wonder Woman's boot on a supine Batman's cowl by celebrated artist Alex Ross is an excellent depiction of the end result.
7 HE DEFEATED: THE SPECTRE
Apologies to the late Jim Corrigan, but there's only room for one cowled, shadowy figure of vengeance in the DC Universe! The Spectre is a supernatural force that is the spirit of judgement and vengeance in the DC Universe. Several prominent characters have assumed the shadowy mantle including one Hal Jordan.
The Spectre may be one of the most omniscient and powerful characters in the DC Universe... but that didn't stop Batman from kicking him in the face in Tales Of The Unexpected #4 when he came to enact his fatal judgment upon the criminals of Gotham. The spirit of vengeance's reprisal for this act? He turned tail and left Gotham.... because Batman!
6 BEAT HIM: SWAMP THING
Climate change is no longer something to which we can turn a blind eye. The late great Stephen Hawking once told Wired magazine that unless we change our ways we'll likely have rendered our planet uninhabitable within a century. In this context a face-off between Swamp Thing (an elemental servant of the forces of nature that thinks it's a deceased scientist) and Batman (a wealthy industrialist and corporatist) is all the more resonant.
When his beloved Abbie Arcade is brought to Gotham to be tried as a criminal in Swamp Thing #53 Swamp Thing enacts a terrible vengeance on Batman's city. While Batman puts up a valiant fight, Swamp Thing proves that in the battle of man versus nature, nature always wins.
5 HE DEFEATED: THE PUNISHER
There's a fine moral line that separates Bruce Wayne from Frank Castle. Neither is above using threats, intimidation and even torture in the pursuit of justice. But while the former has vowed never to take a life, the latter has racked up an extraordinary body count in his 44 years of publication.
The Punisher has actually encountered two Batmen in the Marvel/DC crossovers of the '90s: Bruce Wayne and his temporary replacement Jean Paul Valley (affectionately known as Azbats). Both were able to best Castle with relative ease. In the crossover titled "Deadly Knights" Castle manages to get a hit in, but it does little to phase The Dark Knight.
4 BEAT HIM: ROBIN
There have, to date, been several Robins and most of them can claim to have gotten the upper hand over their mentor once or twice over the years. The current Robin, Damian Wayne, however has actually gotten the better of his teacher and father on several separate occasions. This makes a modicum of sense. He was, after all, trained from infancy by the League Of Assassins.
In Batman & Robin #12 Damian's body is controlled by Slade Wilson and he is forced to fight and subdue Dick Grayson's Batman. Over in the Injustice universe, the teenage Damian was able to best Bruce Wayne himself in combat. In a heartbreaking confrontation in Injustice: Gods Among Us #13 Robin floored his father with a savage knee strike.
3 HE DEFEATED: AZREAL
The "Knightfall" saga of the early '90s was a sprawling epic which saw Bruce Wayne temporarily crippled by Bane and replaced by a young warrior monk by the name of Jean Paul Valley. While he seemed a worthy heir to the cowl, Valley had been brainwashed by the Order Of St. Dumas and had been trained to become Azreal, the order's mercenary.
It wasn't long before Valley's Azreal persona kicked in and caused him to warp the Batman persona into a violent, armored travesty. As soon as Bruce regained his mobility, a battle for the Batman mantle ensued. Bruce used Valley's armor against him, temporarily blinding him with light after he activated his night vision lenses. Valley admitted defeat and relinquished the mantle.
2 BEAT HIM: SUPERMAN
When the DC continuity was reset in the wake of 2011's "Flashpoint" the emergent New 52 made some serious alterations to the formation of the Justice League. Under Geoff Johns and Jim Lee the superteam had a much more disparate dynamic and there was a great deal of conflict before they accepted one another as allies.
As such, Batman, Green Lantern and The Flash approach Superman with some trepidation in Justice League #2 when it appears that he is linked to some Parademon attacks. In the ensuing altercation Superman is able to subdue not just Batman but the nascent 'League without breaking a sweat.
1 HE DEFEATED: SUPERMAN
For the World's Finest team, Batman and Superman sure have had some scuffles over the years. Despite their mutual respect and grudging friendship, the pair have come into ideological conflict and even traded blows a number of times since they were first united in 1941's World's Finest #1.
By far the most famous and influential confrontation came at the climax of Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In the miniseries (a clear influence on 2016's Batman V Superman Dawn Of Justice) Batman uses sonics, electricity, an armored suit and Kryptonite gas to beat The Man Of Steel to within an inch of his life. It was an epochal confrontation that changed comics forever!