If you dig into the long history of DC Comics, you might just find that more characters have worn Batman‘s cape and cowl than those who haven’t.
OK, that’s an exaggeration. But not by much. Whether standing in for an ailing or missing (or dead) Bruce Wayne, or succeeding him in storylines set in the future, there are many men (and yes, women) who have called themselves Batman. Most of them come from “Elseworlds” tales, or stories set across the Multiverse (DC’s 52 parallel Earths). But in the “real” DC Comics universe, there have still been plenty of Batmen.
Here are 11 Characters Who Have Been Batman Besides Bruce Wayne.
11. Alfred Pennyworth
Even Alred Pennyworth, Batman’s own personal batman and butler, donned on the cowl. This happened in the most recent issue of Batman: Rebirth.
Gotham, a hero-turned-villain, is about to wreak havoc on Gotham, the city. Needing a way to keep him distracted, Bruce enlists Alfred to to slow him down before the real Batman can arrive. Knowing only the caped crusader can possibly occupy Gotham (the villain), everyone’s favorite butler gets in the suit and gets behind the wheel of the Batmobile. Alfred doesn’t so much wear the costume as he does swim in it, though; he possesses a slightly slimmer physique than Bruce’s.
Still, his mission is a success. He drives the Batmobile straight into Gotham (both the villain and the city) at about 200 miles per hour, dazing his target. Alfred then emerges from the wreckage, announces “I’m Batman,” before being given the go-ahead to flee the scene – which he does, spectacularly.
10. Dick Grayson
Dick Grayson has gone by many names over the years — Robin (the first), Nightwing, Agent 37 — but he’s also acted as the Caped Crusader on several occasions. By our reckoning, in mainstream continuity, Dick has taken up the Batman mantle on two major occasions.
The first time was immediately following Jean-Paul Valley’s stint, which he helped Batman and Robin bring to an end. This story arc was called “Prodigal,” and even though Bruce Wayne had recovered from his broken back, he opted not to return as Batman. Later, after the “Battle for the Cowl” story, Dick became Batman again in Bruce Wayne’s absence, even serving on the Justice League for a time.
Dick Grayson has also served as Batman in multiple “Elseworlds” and stories set on alternate Earths. More recently, after his secret identity was exposed, Dick signed up with a government agency to serve as an elite secret agent.
9. Jason Todd
During the “Battle for the Cowl” story, Jason Todd, aka Red Hood, made a bid to become Bruce Wayne’s true successor. He fashioned his own batsuit and brandished his now-signature dual pistols, while attempting to become a more fear-inducing, mythical type of Batman than the public figure that Batman had been in the past.
A brutal fight against Dick Grayson and Tim Drake put a swift end to Todd’s attempt to become the Bat — but not before he’d nearly killed Tim with a batarang through the chest!
Jason continues to fight crime, albeit a bit more brutally than Batman would. He’s now heading up his own trinity of not-quite-heroes in Red Hood And The Outlaws, where he’s teamed up with Bizarro and Artemis.
Like Dick and Jason before him, Tim Drake briefly donned a batsuit to patrol the streets as Batman during “Battle for the Cowl.” Unlike the other two, Tim never really had any desire to be the new Batman. He only wore the suit to counter the brutal, murderous reputation that Jason was giving to the Bat. His time as Batman was probably the shortest of all.
But Tim’s had other opportunities. In one possible future, an adult Tim becomes Batman in Batman Beyond, after Terry McGinnis dies. This Batman gets by far the fanciest, most technologically advanced batsuit ever made.
Another story from Teen Titans called “Titans Tomorrow” found Tim and his young super-pals accidentally visiting themselves ten years in the future. Tim was shocked to discover that he would eventually become a bleak, harsh Batman who ruled Gotham with an iron fist and had given up on hope and altruism. The other heroes had adopted the same mindset and tactics. Upon returning to the present, the Teen Titans promised one another to never let that version of the future come to pass.
7. Damian Wayne
At just 10 years old, little Damian probably seems like the least likely person to turn up as Batman, despite his incredible level of skill and ability. But Bruce’s son sees himself as the only person worthy to succeed his dad, due to the whole bloodline thing.
In Grant Morrison’s Batman #666, a possible future is presented in which Damian has become Batman. But here, Damian made a deal with the devil to make himself both immortal and able to heal himself of any injury instantly. His Gotham is a darker place where he’s not afraid to execute criminals or destroy entire buildings to bring down a super-villain.
In Morrison’s Multiversity, Earth-16’s Batman is Damian Wayne in a world where the children of all of the heroes and villains have succeeded their parents. But those same parents also eliminated all of the crime and villainy, creating a utopian society, which has left the new generation of heroes nothing to fight.
6. Thomas Wayne
Serious DC Comics fans are already aware that Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, was the Batman of the Flashpoint universe, having survived that night at the theater instead of his son. Thomas also became the Batman of Earth-2 after adult Bruce died saving the world. Earth-2’s Thomas (that’s him in the picture above) had faked his own death earlier in life, and used a dangerous, lethal drug to enhance his strength and skill for a time, to make up for his past as the new Batman.
But did you know Thomas was actually the “first Batman” of the main DC universe? It’s true. Way, way back in the early days of Batman comics, a story explained that Thomas and Martha Wayne attended a masquerade ball one evening that was themed around flying creatures. Thomas opted to wear a costume that he dubbed the “Bat-Man,” and that same night, he stopped some criminals while still wearing his costume. As an adult, Bruce would cite his father’s costume and heroics that night as part of his inspiration for Batman.
5. Terry McGinnis
Like Harley Quinn before him, Terry McGinnis was created for an animated TV series and later ushered into the comics based on his popularity. The cartoon in question in Terry’s case was, of course, Batman Beyond. This series told the story of an older Bruce Wayne, thirty years or so in the future, who passes the Bat-mantle to a talented youth, and bestowing him with a super-high-tech batsuit in the process.
Terry’s comic book story is basically the same, with only a few minor changes that alter nothing about the character. Just as in the TV show, Terry fights the criminals of “Neo-Gotham,” while revealing surprising secrets about Batman’s history. In the comics, it’s even suggested that Terry McGinnis could be Bruce’s illegitimate son!
4. Jean-Paul Valley
The vigilante known as Azrael started out as a secretly-programmed assassin for the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. Activated at the time of his father’s death, he became the new Azrael and met Batman soon after. Although they tangled at first, Valley came to believe in Bruce Wayne’s way of doing things, and agreed to live in Gotham as another soldier in Batman’s war on crime. Bruce also began training Valley, grooming him as a potential replacement, should the need arise. (Bruce and Dick Grayson were estranged at the time.)
When Bane came to town and broke Batman’s back, Valley got his chance much sooner than expected. Wayne passed the mantle on to Jean-Paul, who took the opportunity to design a more colorful and technologically advanced batsuit (which was designed as the lovechild of Spawn and a Butterfinger). But Valley’s methods proved far too brutal, and his mind was broken by the Order’s conditioning. He was eventually defeated and replaced by Dick Grayson.
3. Hugo Strange
Doctor Hugo Strange is a psychologist who is incurably obsessed with Batman. He’s incredibly intelligent and extremely dangerous, having worked for Arkham Asylum and elsewhere, honing his skills and experimenting on inmates. Strange is also the only Batman villain ever who is able to deduce the hero’s secret identity entirely on his own.
In a title called Batman: Prey, Hugo goes to work as a consultant for the Gotham City Police Department, in a new initiative designed to clamp down on vigilantes. As he works to psychologically profile Batman, his own behavior becomes increasingly unstable. Strange goes so far as to fashion his own batsuit and dress as Batman, though he claims it’s in the name of trying to “get inside Batman’s head.”
His obsession turns from figuring Batman out, to taking Batman’s place. The villain would go on to star in many other story arcs over the years, but his dream of destroying Bruce Wayne to become the new Batman never dies.
2. Jim Gordon
Following the Joker’s “Endgame” plot, which resulted in Bruce Wayne’s death and rebirth without his memories or crime-fighting skills, Gotham was in need of a new Bat. With no immediate successor available, Gotham City’s government decided to take action and install a police-sanctioned Batman.
Commissioner Gordon had been framed for murder and imprisoned, and more recently exonerated and released, so the powers that be decided that with his reputation and his knowledge of Gotham, he was the perfect candidate. Gordon was outfitted with a high-tech armored suit not unlike something Tony Stark might invent and sent out to fight crime. But he soon realized that fighting crime within the letter of the law was very different than the freedom that true vigilantism allowed Bruce Wayne.
1. Clark Kent
Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne have traded uniforms or stood-in for one another several times over the years. One of the most memorable instances was in the pages of 2009’s Superman/Batman #55, where Batman received Superman‘s powers. Superbaddie Silver Banshee worked some kind of medieval mojo that caused Superman’s powers to transfer to Batman.
Unfortunately, absolute power goes straight to Bruce’s head and causes him to lose control. At first, he just wants to use his new powers to make the world better, to stop more crimes and save more people. But when he encounters Bane, he becomes enraged and punches a hole through the villain’s chest. The Justice League questions his actions, but he warns them to keep their distance. Even after he wipes the floor with Catwoman and Nightwing, he doesn’t snap out of it.
Alfred creates a modified batsuit for Superman, to protect his now-mortal frame. It looks very much like Batman’s suit, but with a specially modified symbol on the chest, and no cowl. With Zatana’s help, Clark finally puts things back to normal.
Do you know of any other characters who took on the batsuit to save Gotham? Let us know in the comments!