Superheroes have been labeled as the modern equivalent to the Greek myths; their stories have entranced audiences for decades and show no sign of slowing anytime soon. While there are plenty of these modern legends to pick from, one of the most famous and during is the Caped Crusader himself, Batman. Created in 1939 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman has become one of the most well-known comic characters in mainstream pop culture, appearing in countless films, comics, and television series.
While fans have their own reasons as to why Batman has become so celebrated, one of the most mentioned is how the stories aren’t afraid to go into dark areas. While it is not uncommon for mainstream comics to showcase dark stories and events, Batman practically perfects this by having the beloved DC character go through some of the most brutal events ever printed in comics.
10 The Death Of Thomas And Martha Wayne (Various)
The origin story of Batman is iconic. Young Bruce Wayne went to the theatre with his parents, Thomas and Martha. After the show, they take a back alley and are met with fate. An armed robber shoots the elder Waynes, while a young Bruce watches in horror.
This traumatic event shapes Bruce’s future and causes him to vow to his deceased parents that he will one day fight for justice in their name. Bruce is good on his word and becomes Gotham’s Dark Knight. While this event isn’t the most violent thing to happen to Bruce, a child watching such a horrible event is enough to make any reader feel emotional and cheer when he finally starts his journey of vengeance.
9 Bane Breaks The Bat (Batman #497)
It is never easy to see a favorite hero defeated. While a humbling experience, showing the reader that the hero is not as indestructible as they seem it isn’t fun to witness. This is especially true for Batman when he had a now-infamous confrontation with Bane. Bane proved a formidable foe, besting Batman in battle almost immediately.
This fight came to an end when Bane raised Batman into the air and broke his back over his knee. This started Bruce’s journey to recover and take Gotham back from Bane in the famous Knightfall story arc. This violent confrontation has been adapted multiple times, and for good reason. Seeing Batman in this shape wasn’t easy, but this made seeing him come back for round two all the more engaging.
8 The Death Of Bruce Wayne (Flashpoint: Batman-Knight Of Venagnce #1)
The idea of a multiverse in comics has become fairly popular in recent years. Seeing alternate versions of favorite heroes is a fun way to view what-if stories. One of the more well-known is Flashpoint. Through a series of events, The Flash enters an alternate timeline where his fellow Justice League members aren’t the same as he remembers.
Among these changes is a much deadlier Batman, who, instead of Bruce, is his father Thomas. This change came about on that faithful night in Crime Alley. Instead of the Wayne parents being shot, it is Bruce himself. This causes Thomas to take the title of Batman, while his mother, Martha, becomes this timeline’s Joker.
7 “This Is An Operating Table” (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns)
Frank Miller’s Iconic The Dark Knight Returns is one of the Batman stories that made readers take the character seriously once again. After the popular Adam West series, the character took on a more campy, lighthearted approach.
With the 80s, however, the comics began to take Batman back to his darker roots, and Frank miller helped usher in this darker era. This Bruce Wayne is older and has hung up the cape and cowl some years prior. After a new enemy threatens his city, Bruce is inspired to once again take to the rooftops of Gotham to bring justice to her people. When a rumor spreads of Batman’s return, people are understandably skeptical. That is until Batman faces the mutant leader head-on and reminds them why criminals used to fear him.
6 Batgirl’s Last Stand (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Batman’s Rouge’s Gallery is one of the most iconic in comic book history. From Penguin to Riddler to everyone in between, the Batman stories have offered some of the greatest villains in the medium’s history. The character that has become synonymous with Batman is The Joker. The legendary Clown Prince of Crime has tormented the Caped Crusader from his very first appearance in 1940.
The Joker has committed many heinous acts over his long run, but one of the most well-known and diabolical was his crippling of Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl. Simply using her as a way to get to her father, Commissioner James Gordon, Joker shoots Barbara in her spine and takes pictures of her body to taunt James with. Barbara survives the attack, although she is permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Confined to a wheelchair, Barbra continues to aid in Bruce’s fight for justice as Oracle.
5 Joker Attacks Robin (Batman #428)
Batman’s sidekick Robin remains one of his loyal allies. There have been several people to don the moniker of the Boy Wonder over the years, the second of which is Jason Todd. After Dick Grayson became Nightwing, Jason became Batman’s new Robin, although his story leads to a much more sinister path.
Joker kidnaps and tortures Robin over the course of days just for the fun of it. Right before Batman can save him, the building he is being kept in explodes, leaving Batman to watch his ward seemingly die in the carnage.
4 Batman Nearly Breaks His One Rule (Batman #614)
As merciless as Batman can sometimes be, his one rule is that he refuses to kill. The one enemy who constantly pushes the Dark Knight to this end is of course The Joker. Joker has one more than one occasion committed horrible acts to try to shove Batman into the abyss by making him murder him. In the popular Hush story arc, Bruce Wayne’s closest friend Thomas Elliot is murdered, and all signs point to Joker.
In a fit of violent rage, Batman relentlessly attacks Joker, even knocking out Harley Quinn and Catwoman in the process. Batman only stops when Commissioner Gordon talks him off of Joker. The most gut-wrenching part is that, if Batman would have gone through with it, it would have been for nothing, as, for once, Joker was truly innocent.
3 Superman’s Vengeance (Injustice: Gods Among Us #2)
An example when Joker was not innocent and created unspeakable mayhem just for the fun of it was when he tricked Superman into killing his beloved Lois Lane. If this wasn’t terrible enough, a bomb was connected to Lois’ heart, meaning that, when she died, Metropolis went up in flames.
This series of events proved too much for the Man of Steel to handle, prompting him to kill Joker while Batman watched in horror. This act pushed Superman over the edge, creating a terrifying dictator who decided to enslave humanity.
2 Joker’s Facelift (New 52 – Detective Comics #1)
In Batman’s New 52 introduction, he sees that this new Gotham is just as demented as it has ever been, as are the citizens. A new killer, Dollmaker, is proven to be one of the more gruesome Batman foes, and what he helps Joker accomplish proves this. Joker has Dollmaker actually remove his face, which he later reattaches with hooks.
This terrifying new look for The Joker has haunted the Death Of The Family story arc and the eyes of fans since it appeared in 2011, and it has yet to be topped.
1 Batman Who Laughs (Dark Knights: Metal)
The Joker Toxin is one of the most deadly weapons in the DC Universe. It is a gas that essentially turns the victim into the Joker until they die, with their mouths stretched into a grin. When Bruce Wayne is introduced to this toxin, an entirely new monster is born.
After killing the entire Bat-Family, Batman Who Laughs becomes one of the darkest villains to even be placed in a comic book. Unrecognizable from his heroic counterpart, Batman Who Laughs is completely terrifying in appearance and even worse in his acts.
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