One of the most popular villains to debut during the DC Rebirth era has been the Batman Who Laughs, a terrifying incarnation of Bruce Wayne who led an invasion from the Dark Multiverse. When he debuted in the comic book crossover Dark Nights: Metal, he was part of a larger existential threat to the entire DC Universe.
Since then, the sneering villain has since appeared throughout DC's titles, leaving a trail of high-profile victims, even starring in his own miniseries that pitted him directly against his mainstream counterpart in the DC Universe. Now, we're taking a look back at the history of the Batman Who Laughs and what he's doing now as part of DC's Year of the Villain initiative.
WHO IS THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS?
Created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo in 2017's Dark Days: The Casting #1, the Batman Who Laughs was revealed to be an alternate incarnation of Bruce Wayne from one of the many worlds in the Dark Multiverse, a dark, twisted inversion of the main DC Multiverse. On Earth-22, the Joker successfully deduced Bruce's identity as Batman and killed Commissioner Gordon while unleashing a devastating attack on Gotham that left many children in the city orphaned. As Batman battled his foe, he throttled him to death, causing the Joker to unleash toxins from his dying body that infected the Dark Knight.
Warping Bruce's psyche into a blend of his keen, strategic mind and the Joker's deranged love of mass murder, Bruce brutally killed all his allies -- including most of the Bat Family and the Justice League -- before they could realize what had happened to him. Corrupting his own son Damian into a sinister Bat Boy along with several of Gotham's new orphans, the Batman Who Laughs was recruited by the Dark Bat God Barbatos to lead his invasion of the DC Multiverse.
Dark Nights: Metal
In the crossover, the Batman Who Laughs led the Dark Knights, other evil versions of Bruce Wayne who had transformed themselves to resemble other members of the Justice League. He quickly strands the main DCU's Batman and Superman in the Dark Multiverse, as he takes control of Gotham City and sets up his headquarters in Challengers Mountain through use of various mythical metals in the DCU, including Nth metal.
Initially giving Batman's greatest enemies free reign with reality-warping cards, the Batman Who Laughs' twisted associates are systemically defeated by their counterparts on the Justice League while Batman and Superman return to the DCU. To thwart his dark counterpart's expectations, a desperate Batman recruits the Joker, and the two enter a temporary partnership just long enough to thwart the Batman Who Laughs' plan to destroy reality by linking the Over-Monitor and Anti-Monitor's minds together. Batman keeps the defeated villain in a secret prison under the Justice League's headquarters in Washington, D.C. to keep an eye on him though the evil Bruce later revealed he could escape whenever he wanted due to his background as Batman.
DC's Year of the Villain
Despite the Joker's warnings, Lex Luthor recruits the Batman Who Laughs into the Legion of Doom as part of the villains' plans to defeat the Justice League once and for all. As the sneering Caped Crusader launches a new vendetta against Bruce and his closest associates, Batman is forced to go to extreme lengths to stop him -- but not before the Batman Who Laughs uses a toxin to infect Commissioner Gordon into becoming his corrupted ally. As the villain's plans continue, Billy Batson and Donna Troy are similarly corrupted by the Dark Multiverse toxin.
With the Batman Who Laughs still very much on the loose, the villain is forming his own twisted version of the Justice League as he steadily corrupts more familiar faces to join his cause. Just as calculating and tactically brilliant as his DCU counterpart and infinitely more devious, the villain is a terrifying vision of what Bruce Wayne could become if he abandoned his moral code and became closer to his hated enemy the Joker. And with his corrupting mission, he has already twisted several of the DCU's greatest heroes into insidious allies.