Would you jump at the chance to be Batman for a day? Yes? Well, you might want to think twice before pulling on that cowl.
As cool as Batman is (and he is so very cool), it’s not always good to be Gotham’s protector. Sure, there are the toys, the car, the genius-level intellect, the martial arts mastery, and the peak physical condition… who could say no to all of that? Well, you might refuse, if you had to live through even one of the Dark Knight’s worst days.
One of the things that makes Batman such an incredible figure is the strength of his character. Bruce Wayne is a man who has suffered more tragedy and heartbreak in his life than most people can even conceive of.
Give the average person just a taste of the pain and anguish that Bruce has endured and they’d probably be struck catatonic for life. However, Batman– no matter what– keeps going, keeps fighting. He never gives up, even when everything he loves is burning down around him… and that’s happened a few times.
These are some of the Dark Knight’s worst days, so prepare for the 15 Worst Things That Have Ever Happened To Batman.
15. Death of Jason Todd
Jason Todd’s death haunted Batman for years, and his guilt was only compounded when the second Robin returned from the grave (more on that in a minute).
Batman’s relationship with his second youthful sidekick was always challenging, as he struggled to rein in Jason’s anger and impetuousness. It was a losing battle, as Jason continued to beat criminals mercilessly and even challenged Batman’s sacred “no killing” rule. The crime-fighting duo was estranged when the Joker kidnapped him (with the help of Jason’s birth mother, no less), beat him with a crowbar, and left him to die in an explosion.
Batman never forgave himself for his inability to protect Jason from his greatest nemesis, or for his failure to change the troubled Robin’s nature. When Jason returned to life, he wasn’t interested in forgiving Batman either…
14. Jason Todd’s Return as Red Hood
In comics, nobody stays dead forever (well, except Uncle Ben). So it wasn’t a big surprise to readers when Jason Todd returned to the land of the living. It was a shock to Batman, though, especially when his old sidekick launched a vengeful war against him.
Jason’s mental state was never the healthiest, and it only gets worse when he returns from the dead to find that his killer, the Joker, is still breathing. He’s furious with Batman for not avenging his death by killing the Clown Prince of Crime, and his discovery that there is a new Robin (Tim Drake) drives him further over the edge.
Kidnapping the Joker and drawing Batman to him, he lashes out at his old mentor in an emotional confrontation. An explosion brings the violent reunion to an inconclusive end. Since then, Todd has worked with Batman and his allies on occasion, but their relationship remains fractured.
13. Lost In Time
Nobody stays dead in comics, but pretty much everybody dies at one point or another. Batman avoided that fate for a while, but was finally sent to the great beyond by Darkseid’s Omega Sanction. Or was he?
Well, while everyone in Gotham (and the world at large) was mourning the loss of the Dark Knight, it turned out Batman wasn’t really dead at all. He was just… in the past. Instead of killing Batman, Darkseid had zapped him back in time.
Suffering from amnesia, Batman battles cavemen in the prehistoric era before jumping forward in time to a number of iconic periods. As his memories gradually return to him, he experiences the persecution of suspected witches, the glory days of piracy, and even the wild west.
Long story short, Darkseid filled Batman with Omega energy and sent him through time in a scheme to create a devastating effect that would ultimately destroy reality. Of course, Batman averts catastrophe and returns to Gotham City… because he’s Batman.
12. Tortured by Emperor Joker
What’s Batman’s worst nightmare? It might just be his greatest enemy gaining reality-bending powers and using them to become a God– or “Emperor Joker,” if you will. Unfortunately for Batman, that actually happened.
When The Joker tricks Mr. Mxyzptlk into giving him all of his power, he creates a world in his own image, which is as twisted and scary as you might imagine. However, if it’s bad for your average citizen, it’s absolute hell for Batman.
In this ideal world, Joker tortures and kills Batman, only to immediately return him to life so he can do it all over again. Eventually he decides to get really creative and crucify the Dark Knight. Then he uses his magic powers to remove Batman’s mouth (and his ability to scream) and calls in a bunch of vultures to eat the poor guy alive. Now that is a bad day at the office.
11. Gotham Becomes a Warzone
In many ways, Batman is Gotham City. The crime-ridden city is a part of him, which is why he will never stop fighting to make it safe, even in the face of impossible odds.
Given that, the events of the No Man’s Land story are an absolute nightmare for him. After a cataclysmic earthquake shatters the city, the government destroys all the bridges connecting it to the mainland and declares it a no man’s land, abandoning all the people inside: heroes, villains, police, and average citizens alike.
Supervillains become gang lords as they carve up sections of the city to call their own, while the police form their own gang to desperately fight back. Heroes– like the Huntress– try to keep the peace while Batman is nowhere to be found, as Bruce Wayne wasn’t in the city when the blockade was enacted.
10. Beaten By The Court Of Owls
A lot of villains have tried to break the Bat, but the Court of Owls may have come the closest of all to actually doing it.
Unraveling a conspiracy, Batman discovers the existence of the Court, which is an affront in and of itself. Gotham’s protector comes to learn that there has been a secret society at work within his city for generations, exerting their will and murdering anyone who gets in their way.
Determined to drag the Court out of the shadows, Batman is captured by the mysterious organization and trapped in a maze. Left to starve for over a week, his mental state begins to deteriorate and he suffers from hallucinations.
His plight gets worse when the Court’s powerful assassin (known as Talon) viciously beats him, almost to the point of death. Of course, Batman is Batman, so he is able to marshal his willpower and turn the tables on his captors. However, his ordeal at the Court’s hands will never be forgotten.
9. Addicted to Venom
Bruce Wayne is a man of incredible inner strength and willpower. It’s almost impossible to imagine him succumbing to any kind of addiction, but there was a time when he was in thrall to a powerful drug.
As part of the anthology Legends of the Dark Knight, the Venom storyline manages to posit a scenario in which Batman’s sudden turn to narcotics is plausible. Haunted by his failure to save a little girl from peril, he turns to the experimental drug known as venom, which enhances his strength considerably. Of course, as his nemesis Bane would later come to learn, venom comes with a host of unpleasant side effects.
8. Trapped in Arkham Asylum
Of all the places to be trapped for a night, Arkham Asylum might just be the worst. Filled to the brim with the craziest, most dangerous criminals in all of Gotham City, it’s the kind of place that would drive anyone to insanity.
In the celebrated graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Batman is lured to Arkham when the inmates escape and take over the madhouse. To save the hostages, the Dark Knight must walk right into the proverbial hornets nest– an asylum full of his worst enemies. It’s a long night for Batman, from matching wits with The Joker and Two-Face to brawling with Killer Croc.
7. War With the Black Glove
You might think that a storyline called Batman R.I.P. would feature the death of the Dark Knight, but instead it probably just made him wish he was dead.
Bruce Wayne’s life begins to unravel thanks to the machinations of Simon Hurt, the leader of the shadowy Black Glove organization. Hurt wages psychological warfare against Batman over the course of the story arc and manages to infiltrate the Batcave. Alfred is brutally beaten and Bruce is injected with heroin and winds up on the streets, where he loses his memory and stitches together a twisted iteration of his Batman persona.
Among the other calamities suffered by Bruce in R.I.P., he learns that a woman he trusted enough to share his secrets with, Jezebel Jet, is actually a member of Black Glove. He is also buried alive, albeit for a short time.
6. Hunted By The Police, Government and Superman
The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most celebrated Batman stories of all. Unfortunately for Batman, most of his best stories revolve around him suffering to some degree, and this one is no different.
An older Batman returns to Gotham City after years of inactivity, and the criminal underworld has only strengthened in his absence. He finds himself outgunned in the war against The Mutants, the most powerful gang in the city.
Then Joker escapes Arkham (again) and draws Batman in for one final confrontation that ends with the villain’s death: a suicide meant to frame Batman for murder. His old friend Commissioner Gordon has retired and the new police chief views Batman as a dangerous vigilante who should be arrested or killed on sight. Worst of all, his old friend Superman has been reduced to a government puppet and is sent after him.
5. Son Murdered, Wife Goes Insane (Flashpoint Batman)
Who could forget the terrible night that made Batman who he is? The night when Thomas Wayne’s son Bruce was senselessly murdered, and his wife began her descent into insanity… wait, that’s not how it happened, is it?
It is in the world of Flashpoint, the timeline created by The Flash when he ran back in time to save his mother. By doing so, the hero unknowingly sets off a chain of events that create a much darker world than the one he once knew.
In this world, Bruce Wayne died in Crime Alley as a child, and his father Thomas began a merciless war on crime. His wife Martha, driven to insanity by her grief, carved into her face to create a macabre smile and became Flashpoint’s version of the Joker.
4. Death of Damian Wayne
Batman has endured unimaginable loss in his life, including the death of one of his beloved sidekicks, Jason Todd. However, even that pain couldn’t have prepared him for the death of his son, Damian Wayne.
As the offspring of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, Damian is raised by the League of Assassins and his existence is hidden from his father until he’s an adolescent. When they finally meet, they struggle to relate to one another.
Damian, arrogant in his abilities and already a practiced assassin, is disdainful of his father’s comparatively gentle approach to dealing with criminals. Father and son do ultimately form a bond, however: a bond that is shattered when Damian is killed by the Heretic, an older clone of himself.
Driven to fury by Damian’s death, Batman hunts down the Heretic with every intention of killing him, and he probably would have finished the job if not for seeing an older version of his son’s face staring back at him.
3. Alfred Is Murdered By Zsasz
The Injustice video games are great. While they’re certainly not the first fighting games to feature comic book heroes and villains, they may be the best. The story of the games, however, is pretty depressing, especially where Batman is considered. The Dark Knight’s life isn’t easy in any universe, but in Injustice it’s almost unbearable.
This version of Batman has to watch his friend Superman become a power-mad villain who enslaves humanity under his iron will. Then the most important relationships in his life are shattered when his son Damian accidentally kills the original Robin, Dick Grayson.
As if all that wasn’t enough, his oldest friend and confidant Alfred is murdered by psychopath Victor Zsasz. Worse, Superman himself sent Zsasz after Alfred, ostensibly for information, but he must have known the lengths the killer would go to.
2. Bane Breaks His Back
Bane is one of Batman’s most dangerous enemies not just for his incredible, venom-enhanced strength, but for his considerable intellect. When Bane plots his assault on Gotham’s protector in Knightfall, he actually learns from the failures of all the other villains who have tried to defeat Batman and failed.
Instead of attacking Batman directly, he frees scores of criminals from Arkham Asylum and sits back as Batman runs himself ragged rounding them all up. Only after Batman is at his lowest point does Bane appear (at Wayne Manor, having figured out his secret identity) and pummels the Dark Knight into submission before brutally (and famously) “breaking” the Bat across his knee.
It may be Batman’s most crushing defeat of all, and the consequences of this attack are considerable. Bruce Wayne is out of commission for months, while his successor in the cowl, Jean-Paul Valley, utilizes brutal methods that make Batman a hated figure in Gotham.
1. The Murder Of His Parents
A lot of terrible things have happened to Bruce Wayne, but nothing will ever compare to the night his life changed forever. Batman’s origin story has been told countless times in comics, television, films and even video games, but even if we’d only seen it once, it would be unforgettable.
An innocent young boy leaves a movie theater with his loving parents, takes a shortcut down an alley, and falls victim to a random, senseless crime. A robbery goes wrong, gunshots pierce the night, and a frightened and suddenly orphaned child is left all alone.
Without this tragedy, Batman doesn’t exist. Without the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne doesn’t grow up with a thirst for justice, an almost primal need to ensure that what happened to him never happens to anyone else. Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s the worst thing that ever has or will happen to Bruce Wayne.
What moments do you consider to be Batman‘s worst day? Let us know in the comments.
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