We’ve been talking a lot about Batman over the last few days/weeks/years/our entire lives, both here on the site and in our daily discussions around the office. With the recent Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer we were further introduced to the newest man to play the role of Bruce Wayne, Ben “Batfleck” Affleck. We’ve talked a lot about Bruce Wayne as a father, a hero, a partner, and the Batman. But he isn’t the only man to wear the cape and cowl.
All of the Robins have grown up to wear the mantle of the bat, at some time in the past, present, or future. Dick Grayson successfully replaced Batman when he was presumed dead, Jason Todd wore his own armored suit as Batman during Battle for the Cowl, which eventually landed Grayson the role. In 2 possible futures, Tim Drake grows into a ruthless murdering Batman along with an evil version of his fellow Teen Titans, and Damian Wayne has been shown on more than one occasion to grow into his father’s cape as the future protector of Gotham City. Even if we take these Robins out of the picture, there is still quite the selection of characters that have appeared as Batman over the years.
Most recently in the comics we’ve seen yet another man take over the mantle of the Bat, James Gordon. While this is a fairly unconventional Batman, with Gordon piloting a robotic suit and working for the GCPD, it has provided a fresh view on Gotham and Batman’s role in the city.
Of course we all know that Bruce Wayne is always going to return to the cave sooner rather than later, it’s always interesting to see how other characters can handle the daunting responsibilities of the Batman.
Today we are going to take a look at 6 other versions of Batman, some in-continuity and some spanning time and the multiverse. Starting with one of the worst fill-ins we’ve ever seen in the cowl…
Jean Paul Valley
Jean Paul Valley is one of the few in-continuity characters to wear the mantle on this list, assuming of course that he ‘survived’ the New 52 reboot. Trained from birth to wear the robes of Azreal the Avenging Angel, he was brainwashed by something called the System, which granted him his fighting prowess and abilities. Bruce encountered Azreal and decided to help Jean Paul deal with his forced training and become a better vigilante.
When Bruce Wayne is broken by Bane, he appoints Jean Paul as his replacement, much to the chagrin of both Robin (Tim Drake) and Nightwing. Jean Paul eventually loses his control of the System, updates the costume with spikes, armor, and lots of pouches. From here he becomes what fans have come to know as Az-Bats. This Batman broke the one rule of all Batmen, and murdered a villain (Abattoir). Eventually he is taken down by a recovered Bruce Wayne, and later became a member of the Bat family until the end of his series and death of the character.
Thomas Wayne is the father of Bruce Wayne, and was gunned down alongside his wife Martha, an event that would forever influence Bruce’s life. Bruce’s costume was even partially inspired (in some continuities) by a costume Thomas had worn at a Halloween party before his death.
But the best Thomas Wayne tale ever appeared during the events of Flashpoint. Here we saw a different timeline where instead of Thomas and Martha dying, it was in fact Bruce who dies. Thomas adopted the role of Batman and waged a war of vengeance on crime in Gotham, showing himself to be a more vicious version of Batman than Bruce was, which is saying quite a bit. Bruce’s death also greatly affected his mother, Martha, who became the Flashpoint timeline’s version of the Joker. Thomas helped Flash fix the timeline, sacrificing his life for his son.
The story of Eliot Ness is fairly well-known, which played out on the big screen in The Untouchables. Ness was a federal agent who led a squad to take down Al Capone. However, in Scar of the Bat we see a new side of Eliot Ness, as he becomes a masked vigilante to work both sides of the law.
Ness is inspired by the films Zorro and The Bat (much as the creators of Batman were) and costumed himself in the same manner, resembling a bat. He earned the name Batman not just from his appearance, but also one of his weapons of choice, a baseball bat. While this Batman doesn’t take on any members of the more common Gotham Rogues Gallery, he instills fear in the hearts of gangsters across the city in his war against Capone.
In the Elseworlds tale Speeding Bullets, baby Kal-El is found by Thomas and Martha Wayne instead of Jonathan and Martha Kent. He is named Bruce Wayne, which almost negates him from this list, but we’ll allow it. The mugger guns down Bruce’s parents, but is in turn incinerated by Bruce’s heat vision at the moment his powers activate.
The fact that the bullets had bounced off of him and not his parents, coupled with his exile from the rest of the world for years, causes him to become a little unstable, and he begins a career as a vicious and brutal Batman. Eventually, after a battle with that reality’s Lex Luthor who had become the Joker, Bruce adopts a new identity as Superman to better represent the man he thought he could be.
We never see the Batman of Superman: Red Son named, but the writer and the fans have affectionately referred to him as Batmankoff due to his Russian heritage. In Red Son we see a world where Superman’s rocket landed in communist USSR (Ukraine, to be specific), and Kal-El becomes a Communist force under the command of Joseph Stalin.
Pyotr Roskov, one of Stalin’s illegitimate children, kills the parents of a small boy for printing anti-Superman pamphlets. This small boy eventually grows up to become the Batman, who fights against the Communist rule and its warriors, Superman and his lover, Wonder Woman. He deals a heavy blow in his last battle with Superman that takes Wonder Woman out of the fight, but in the face of defeat he detonates an explosive he had swallowed earlier, martyring himself for the cause and inspiring more heroes to take up the fight.
Terry McGinnis is arguably the most well-known Batman on the list, having found fame in both TV and comics as the star of Batman Beyond. Terry takes on the mantle of the Bat in the future, after he meets an aged Bruce Wayne while running from a street gang known as the Jokerz. Helping Wayne into the house, Terry accidentally finds his way into the batcave and learns that Bruce was the legendary Batman.
After Terry’s father is killed, he begs Bruce to take up the mantle again and help him find his father’s murderer. With Wayne refusing, Terry steals the batsuit from the cave, and with the unwilling help of Bruce Wayne he becomes the newest member of the Bat family. Eventually he receives Bruce’s approval and guidance, and continues to wear the mantle of the bat in the future. Terry’s exploits have moved from the animated series to the comics, and his popularity continued to rise, until he was killed off following the events of Futures End.
There are a lot more characters out there who have worn the bat costume over the years, and will probably be more to come as the legend of the Batman continues to grow. Are there some characters we missed that have worn the mantle of the bat? Let us know in the comments section below!
Images: DC Comics