It’s gotta suck being Batman. We’ve all daydreamed about how awesome it would be to be the Dark Knight at some point or another, but when you think about it, it’s a really awful job. Every day you go out to defend Gotham there’s a pretty good chance you might not come back. And even if you do, there’s an even bigger chance that it’ll be with a bunch of bruises, broken bones, and internal injuries. The multiple characters who have taken up the mantle of the bat can definitely attest to this.
Batman has been around since the 1940s, and has been beaten, battered, and mutilated in every way imaginable. It’s more of shock these days if Batman gets out of a story without some sort of major mental or physical damage. But then there are those that are so horrific or gruesome that they stick in readers’ minds for years. Maybe they were part of an iconic Batman tale, or maybe they were just so terrible to see that you can’t get the image out of your head. Either way, here are Batman’s 17 Most Brutal Injuries.
17. Burned Alive (Batman Begins)
After having been dormant for ten years, the Dark Knight’s film franchise was revived in 2005 with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. It was a fresh start for the character; we got to see Batman’s training for the first time ever and were treated to villains that we had never seen in a Batman film before. Ra’s Al Ghul and Dr. Jonathan Crane were the antagonists of the movie, providing Batman with a threat he hadn’t seen since the Burton days. This becomes apparent about halfway through the film, when the Caped Crusader is investigating a wave of new drugs that’ve been plaguing Gotham.
The investigation brings him to an old abandoned building, where Batman takes down two of Scarecrow’s thugs before getting sprayed with a heavy dose of the villain’s fear toxin. As he starts to hallucinate his biggest fears, Dr. Crane throws a bottle of alcohol on the Dark Knight before telling him to “lighten up.”
Batman gets set on fire and is forced to jump out the window without a safety net; he crashes into the ground and then limps out of sight before calling for Alfred to come and save him. This was the moment we realized these villains meant business.
16. Tortured and Brainwashed (The Cult)
1988s Batman: The Cult was a four issue mini series that introduced us to the villain Deacon Blackfire and his band of homeless zealots. The story begins with Batman having disappeared without a trace. While the characters in the story are unaware of the Dark Knight’s whereabouts, the readers are shown that he has been captured by Blackfire’s cult. In Batman’s absence, the cult sets into a motion a plot to assassinate several of Gotham’s biggest political players. It gets so bad that the National Guard has to be called into the city to suppress Blackfire’s men.
Throughout the story Batman held underground by the cult. He is forced to stay in a room with dozens of corpses while he is beaten and brainwashed the same way many of Blackfire’s men had been before him. When Robin finally finds the Dark Knight, he keeps repeating the phrase, “Welcome to Hell” in a creepy manner. This was arguably the most psychologically damaged the character has ever been; it took Batman weeks to break out of his indoctrination.
15. Spine Shattered in a Rematch with Bane (Batman #10)
Whenever Bane takes on the Bat, it’s a fight for the ages. Juiced up from his mega-steroid drug “Venom,” the villain is near unstoppable when at full power. Bruce Wayne knows this all too well; every time he runs into Bane it ends badly for the Dark Knight. We all remember what happened in their first match, which was also adapted for the screen in The Dark Knight Rises. In Batman #10, the events don’t play out much better.
The Caped Crusader tracks down one of his villains, Psycho-Pirate, to Bane’s lair. As he approaches the lair, Bane’s henchmen shoot the Batwing down. Batman survives the crash, but he’s in pretty rough shape when he is brought before the supervillain. After a long spiel about how he has freed himself from his addiction to Venom, Bane meticulously starts beating on the Dark Knight. After a bunch of body blows, Bane thrusts his knee into Batman’s spine, shattering his vertebrae once again! The villain then throws Batman into the same cell that he himself was imprisoned in for seventeen years, leaving the Caped Crusader to die.
14. Exposed to Joker Venom (Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker)
In 2000, Warner Brothers released an animated film based off of their hit Batman Beyond series. For the unaware, this show took place in the near future; Bruce Wayne has grown too old to be the Dark Knight anymore, so he passes on the mantle to a teenager named Terry McGinnis. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was a tale about (what else?) the Joker’s resurrection within this neo-noir Gotham City. It was an incredible addition to the DC Animated Universe lore. And even after his retirement, Bruce can’t stop getting injured.
In the film we learn that the Joker has returned thanks to an implant within the head of Tim Drake (the third Robin) that was put there by the clown shortly before his death (also at the hands of Drake). Early on in the story, the Joker breaks into the Batcave and hits Bruce Wayne with a dose of his patented Joker Toxin before completely wrecking the place.
When Terry arrives at the scene he is horrified to find Bruce slumped over his computer with the horrifying smile on his face. The new Batman is able to give him a dose of life-saving anti-venom before the effects become fatal, but Wayne spends a majority of the rest of the movie laid up in a hospital bed.
13. Pummeled by the Predator (Batman vs. Predator)
What could be more ’80s than the Predator? The two Predator films are just about the most quintessential action/horror movies all time (next to the Alien series, of course). In the early ’90s DC figured it would be a great idea to capitalize on the character’s popularity by doing a crossover with their own Caped Crusader. It was actually pretty awesome, so much so that there were two sequels to the Batman vs. Predator story, as well as a spinoff called Superman and Batman vs. Aliens and Predator.
As much as we love the Dark Knight, it’s hard to argue that he’s a decent match for the Predator without any sort of enhancements. And boy, is that true! Batman gets absolutely pummeled in his first encounter with the alien. He gets stabbed, tossed around like a rag doll, and even takes a blast from the hunter’s laser to the shoulder and face! Bats barely escapes with his life, and that’s only after a stroke of luck allows him to escape.
12. Stabbed repeatedly by Devil Pigs (Batman #45)
For a brief time in 2015, Bruce Wayne ceased to be the Batman. After an intense battle with the Joker (which we’ll get to later) the Caped Crusader was thought to be dead. In his absence, Commissioner James Gordon chose to take up the mantle. Though he only held the title for ten issues, Jim Gordon’s Batman was really fun to read. Everyone who had ever held the title before was a member of Bruce Wayne’s “family,” so seeing somebody completely new in the suit was refreshing. Unfortunately for Gordon, he learned very quickly how much suffering the Dark Knight has to endure.
Jim had spent the last few issues trying to take down the new villain, Mr. Bloom, and his henchmen, the Devil Pigs. Batman #45 starts with the character narrowly escaping a fiery trap. As he emerges, he finds a group of Devil Pigs and tries to take them out. Gordon suddenly realizes that he’s surrounded, without the backup he’d always enjoyed as a cop. The Devil Pigs dogpile on Batman and one proceeds to violently and repeatedly stab him.
We know that the Caped Crusader gets stabbed a lot, but look at that picture! That’s got to be one of the more graphic frames in Batman history. Thankfully Jim’s automated mech suit (don’t ask) intervenes in the nick of time and saves him from a most brutal death.
11. PTSD (Batman: Zero Year, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Given the nature of Batman’s work, it’s not a stretch to imagine that he has some mental issues. Even the character’s rogues have figured as much; they constantly rib on the Caped Crusader as having “bats in the belfry” and being crazy for dressing up like a giant bat and fighting crime. They have a point… Batman may not be crazy, but there are definitely some underlying psychological issues at hand here. Mainly people have speculated that Bruce Wayne suffers from PTSD.
This theory was more or less confirmed in both Batman: Zero Year and the recent Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. In Zero Year, Bruce Wayne is constantly haunted by graphic images of his dead mother and her funeral, completely crippling him emotionally and physically at times. He even admits to Alfred that he underwent controversial shock therapy in order to “reboot” himself mentally.
In BvS, we see the effects a lifetime of crime fighting has had on Batman. The death of Robin and mass destruction he witnessed in Man of Steel have obviously affected him mentally, which led to the much more dark, brooding, and extreme version of the character we saw in BvS.
10. His Reputation (Batman & Robin)
Oh boy, we have to talk about Batman & Robin. The Batman film franchise started off really strong with Tim Burton’s original film; the movie was partially responsible for making the Dark Knight a “dark” character within the eyes of the public after decades of lighthearted TV shows. However, Burton went a little overboard with his sequel; Batman Returns was deemed too dark for kids, and thus the director was booted off the third film.
Enter Joel Schumacher and Batman Forever. Granted, Forever wasn’t horrible. But it wasn’t necessarily good, either. Either way, the movie was a huge commercial success, prompting Warner Bros. to bring back Schumacher for a sequel, Batman & Robin.
What followed is arguably the worst superhero film ever made. Instead of Gothic set pieces, layered characters, and threatening villains, we got Arnold Schwarzenegger running around yelling lines like “chill!” and “cool party!” while Batman and Robin fought his henchmen on ice skates. Then there was the Bat Credit Card. And the Bat Nipples. We shudder to even think about that one…
9. Fight with the Mutant Leader (The Dark Knight Returns)
The Dark Knight Returns was the graphic novel that revolutionized Batman as a character. After years of being represented by the Adam West show and the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, the image of the Caped Crusader in the eyes of the public wasn’t very serious or intimidating. Then along came Frank Miller. In 1986 he released this four-issue miniseries, about an older Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to fight crime, to great acclaim. This is still the quintessential Batman tale; it’s been adapted into episodes of TV shows, it was the inspiration for the DCEU’s Batman, it got its own animated feature film… Heck, even The Lego Batman Movie has a few references thrown in!
If you want to know just how brutal and gritty this story is, look no further than Batman’s first confrontation with the mutant leader. The aged Dark Knight doesn’t fair very well. Though Bruce still has his combat skill from his years as Batman, they’re really rusty in his first confrontation with the leader. As a result he’s beaten really bad, getting repeatedly hit with a crowbar and having his arm snapped before he collapses. If not for the intervention of Carrie Kelley, Bruce Wayne would have been toast.
8. Knee Cartilage Degeneration (The Dark Knight Rises)
Although it’s widely considered to be the weakest of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, the third installment, The Dark Knight Rises, gave us the conclusion to Bruce Wayne’s story that we always felt he deserved. After years of fighting crime and supervillains, Bruce fakes his death and slips away to Europe with Selina Kyle to start a new life. Even if you weren’t a fan of the story, you had to admit that Tom Hardy killed it as Bane and the action set pieces were pretty cool. It also did a great job showing audiences the physical toll it takes to be Batman.
Early on in the film we see that Bruce Wayne, eight years into his retirement, is hobbling around with a cane. When Bruce decides to visit Jim Gordon in the hospital he uses the alibi of a doctor’s appointment; here it is revealed that he has absolutely no cartilage in his knee. Now, this may seem tame compared to some of the other injuries on this list. But think about it: He retired from crime fighting after the events of the second movie, meaning that he’s been living with this kind of an injury for years. Also, think about how painful it would be; without knee cartilage your bones rub together whenever you walk. The fact that Batman has to create a special mechanical knee brace just to move like a normal human being should tell you everything you need to know about this one.
7. Insanity Via Forced Isolation (Robin Dies at Dawn)
As much as we like to rag on the “non-serious” issues of the Batman comics, we still enjoy them. Yeah, some are completely over the top and corny to the point that they’re hard to read, but then there are others that reminds us why we started reading in the first place. Every now and then one of these older tales will have a well-thought out plot or deal with a deeper issue than just punching bad guys. Robin Dies at Dawn is one of these stories.
In this tale we finally see the Batman being broken. It isn’t by Bane, or the Joker, or any one of his many rogues. No, Batman is broken by the fear of Dick Grayson’s death. The Dark Knight volunteers to partake in a science experiment focused on how long the human brain can last in isolation before it begins to have repercussions on their psyche.
Batman starts to have dreams about Robin being killed. When these dreams start to become hallucinations and start interfering with his work, he gives up his vigilante ways for good. Of course “for good” means “until the end of the issue,” but still! Seeing Batman being mentally broken is not something we’re used to seeing.
6. Hospitalized by Superman (Adventures of Superman #642)
Let’s get real here for a second. Without Kryptonite to help him, Batman doesn’t stand a chance against Superman. As much as the fans like to debate the issue there’s just no contest; a non-powered Caped Crusader vs a full-powered Man of Steel will always end with the image above (or worse). Batman himself gets reminded of this in The Adventures of Superman #642 when Superman has his mind manipulated by the villain Maxwell Lord.
Lord is able to put hallucinations into Superman’s head, causing him to go into violent rages. At the Justice League Watchtower he has a vision of Darkseid killing Lois Lane; this makes Superman go ballistic. Despite having his gauntlets laced with Kryptonite, he brutally beast down the villain, to the horror of the rest of the League. When the mind control wears off Superman realizes that he wasn’t fighting Darkseid at all, but rather the Caped Crusader. Bruce Wayne spends the rest of the story in the hospital fighting for his life.
5. Omega Beam Through the Head (Final Crisis)
As the third and (intended) final part of the “Crisis” trilogy of DC crossovers, Final Crisis definitely went out with a bang. The plot follows the New God Darkseid as he attempts to overthrow the universe and destroy reality itself. You know, typical crossover things! Along the way the villain and his henchmen are able to kill Martian Manhunter, imprison Batman and Green Lantern, infect Wonder Woman with a virus, and even convince Superman to leave Earth undefended. Everything was coming up Darkseid, but he forgot one thing… Batman was still alive and well.
The Dark Knight breaks out of his cell and confronts Darkseid. He taunts the New God, saying that although he took a solid vow never to use guns, he’d make an exception in this case. Batman then pulls out a gun and shoots Darkseid with a radion bullet (a substance that is toxic to his entities). However, before he dies, Darkseid shoots an Omega Beam through Batman’s skull and chest. The Dark Knight instantly succumbs to his wounds, his flesh disintegrating off his body as he dies.
4. Brain Damage Inflicted and Repaired by Hush (Batman: Hush)
Jeph Loeb’s Batman: Hush offers everything a good Batman story should. It features a mind-boggling mystery, all of the Caped Crusader’s rogues, introduces a new villain, and delves into the psyche of Bruce Wayne, all while being able to stand on its own. Unlike so many other stories on this list, you don’t have to read numerous titles to understand what is going on. On top of this, it’s just a downright good story that keeps you guessing all the way through.
Near this arc’s beginning, Batman is chasing Catwoman across the skyline of Gotham City. Out of nowhere, the rope of his grappling hook gets cut, sending him careening towards the ground and brutally fracturing his skull in the process. If that wasn’t bad enough, Batman falls right in front of a group of criminals who proceed to beat the ever-loving crap out of him. He escapes with a little help from the Huntress, but he fears there could be long-term brain damage due to skull fragments in the brain. This ailment is cured by his old friend and renowned brain surgeon, Thomas Elliot.
As the story progresses, however, we discover that Elliot is really Hush and is behind everything (including the fall). It’s brutally sadistic if you think about it… Hush cut the rope, causing Batman to call Thomas Elliot out of necessity. Elliot re-entering Bruce Wayne’s life is the source of even more pain and suffering. And then he finds out that Hush and Elliot are the same? Talk about cruel.
3. Tortured and Blade Ran Through The Gut (Court of Owls)
If you haven’t been keeping up with Scott Snyder’s Batman comics, you’ve been missing out. In just a few short years, the writer has created some truly amazing stories; Zero Year, Endgame, and Court of Owls are great additions to the already fantastic Batman lore. One thing that fans have noticed during Snyder’s run is that he loves putting the Dark Knight through the wringer. This should have been apparent right off the bat with his Court of Owls arc.
The Court of Owls is a secret society that has plagued Gotham for hundreds of years. Its members are made up of the wealthiest families in the city who kidnap children, brainwash them, and then use them as assassins to do their political bidding.
One of these assassins (the “Talons”) tries to kill Bruce Wayne, prompting Batman to seek out their hideout. One of the Talons gets the jump on the Dark Knight, captures him, and then throws him in an underground labyrinth that the Court uses to torture its enemies. For the next week, Batman wonders around the endless maze with no food, all the while being mentally tortured by members of the court. Suddenly a Talon appears behind him and stabs him through the gut with a blade. They almost succeed in killing our hero, but Batman is able to muster up just enough strength to fight off the Court and escape.
2. Broken Back (Knightfall)
This is probably the one that everyone thinks of when they think of Batman getting injured. But its with good reason! The Knightfall storyline from the ’90s was shocking when it was released. It teased us that Batman was “going away” with the introduction of the new supervillain, Bane. The story was pretty straightforward – Bane wants to rule Gotham City and Batman is in his way. He stages a massive jailbreak at Arkham Asylum and releases all of the Dark Knight’s enemies to terrorize the town. Much to Robin’s dismay, Batman tries to go about and apprehend the criminals in the course of a few days. He succeeds, but by the end of the event he is weak and exhausted.
The story climaxes when Batman returns home and finds Bane waiting for him. The two fight, but it’s really no contest. Batman gets tossed around like a rag doll before Bane picks him up, raises him over his head, and delivers a devastating blow by shattering his back with his knee. He then takes the Dark Knight to the roof of a building in downtown Gotham and flings him off for the terrified citizens to see. Bruce Wayne was out of commission for a very long time after this iconic injury.
1. Stabbed Repeatedly, Joker Card in the Eye, Burned, and Crushed (Batman: Endgame)
Remember how we said Scott Snyder likes to see Batman get brutalized? Yeah…It’s going to be hard for anyone to top what happened in Endgame. This arc saw the return of the Joker, who tried to trick Bruce Wayne into believing he was some sort of immortal being destined to act as the yin to Batman’s yang for all eternity. Being the detective that he is, Bruce spends the story investigating the claim while also trying to fight off the repeated torments of the Clown Prince of Crime. The two eventually meet in a system of caves underground, where the Joker has been storing pools of a chemical that allows him to heal.
Booby traps go off, causing the entire cave to begin collapsing. The Joker then stabs Batman in the back with two knives and uses a third to carve a smiley face. He then smashes Bruce’s face with a piece of burning wood, which leaves a third-degree burn on the Dark Knight’s face. The fight doesn’t end there; Joker throws a razor-sharp card into Batman’s eye and two more into his chest before he can be stopped. This scene of carnage only ends when a falling rock falls on the Joker and breaks his back. The cave finally collapses, crushing the two as they lie in pools of their own blood. Is that brutal enough for you?
Ouch. What do you think of our list? Could you stomach all these brutal beatings Batman has taken through the years? Let us know in the comments!