Batman first appeared in Detective Comics in 1939, and has been a legendary figure in pop culture ever since. Even when interest in comic books waned for a time period, the Batman franchise remained strong. There is something about his character and the stories of Gotham City that resonates with readers; he is just an average guy who lacks superpowers, but still manages to fight villains and prevent crime, which sets him apart from other known heroes.
When a character has been a prominent figure in comic books for over 70 years there are bound to be more than a few odd moments. Many things that were acceptable to publish in the 1940s and 1950s now seem wildly inappropriate. This is understandable, but it doesn’t excuse the few stories from later years that still manage to cross the line.
Writers and artists are always trying to push the limits, and sometimes they push too far. Some of these scenes merely look bad when taken out of context, others are extremely questionable, and many others have us scratching our heads and wondering what the writers were thinking.
From the Golden Age to the modern era, these are the 15 Most Inappropriate Moments in Batman Comics.
15. “Papa Spank!”
As you may notice in the panel above, Batman dialogue can occasionally be so ridiculous that it may seem like a fake edit. Surely someone on the internet created it as a joke, and chose to make this scene into a mockery. Alas no, this is in fact real, and taken directly from the comics.
Batman really did say “quiet or papa spank” in Batman #1. The first issue contains several short stories. In one of them, Selina Kyle — aka Catwoman — is introduced for the first time. Back then, she was only going by the codename The Cat.
In this story, she had stolen a precious jewel and was attempting to make a getaway disguised as an old woman. However, Batman sees right through the disguise and wipes it off. Bruce and Selina are instantly attracted to each other. He finds her so beautiful that he even allows her to escape. After she leaves, he gushes about her beautiful eyes and wonders if he will ever see her again… But why in the world would he ever utter this phrase? The world may never know.
14. A Wife’s Place
Holy misogyny, Batman! This may have not seemed like such a bad thing to say in the 1940s but come on, try telling Wonder Woman that a woman’s place is in the home. To be fair, this scene did not happen in the “real world.” It actually takes place in Robin’s dream. The Boy Wonder dreams that Batman marries Kathy Kane — the original Batwoman.
Instead of being happy for his mentor, Robin is only concerned that Batwoman will replace him as Batman’s partner in crime. Instead, Batman insists that his new wife give up crime fighting and take care of the home, which is apparently a wife’s main job. He tells her that if she is ever unmasked, it would now lead directly back to Bruce Wayne.
A lot of things in comic books simply do not age well. One of these things is the name of the first Robin: Dick Grayson (later known as Nightwing). At the time of the character’s creation, Dick was a pretty common nickname for Richard. Nowadays, anyone with the name would be made fun of mercilessly, and probably wouldn’t make it out of high school without some a lot of emotional trauma.
This panel comes from the story arc Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying, which introduced Tim Drake (Robin III) to the world. Tim has been a fan of Dick since he was a little boy. He was at the circus the day Dick’s parents fell to their deaths.
While watching footage of Batman and Robin, he notices that Robin does a quadruple flip — something very few people in the world can do, one of them being Dick Grayson — and figures out the Dynamic Duo’s identities. In context, this panel is an innocent admiration of Nightwing.
12. Robin’s Birthday Spanking
A lot of vintage comics are taken out of context, but there is no excuse for this one. Batman has done a lot of strange things to Robin, but spanking a child on his birthday is downright cruel. Usually, birthday spankings are supposed to be done in jest and not actually hurt the child.
However, sadist that he is, Bruce is grinning happily the entire time he administers the punishment. The narration leading up to the scene makes it much worse: “across the calm face of a sleeping, unsuspecting lad falls the shadow of a groping hand! Steely fingers clamp tight on the boy. A strong hand rises— falls— slaps sharply against yielding flesh.”
Did the writers have to use the words “groping” and “yielding flesh“? Bruce then makes it up to his young ward by giving him his own plane as a birthday gift, because a plan is a perfect gift for an eight year old. Great parenting skills, Bruce.
11. Batgirl’s Shapely Leg Saves The Day
The early days of Batman comics were rife with casual sexism. One of the worst offenders is issue #371 of Detective Comics. The cover has Batman asking Batgirl to help him fight off criminals, but she is more concerned about a rip in her tights.
It doesn’t get much better from there. The next page is titled “Batgirl’s Costume Cut-ups!” and Barbara is pictured putting on lipstick while Batman and Robin do all of the work. “When is a woman a woman?” the intro asks. “Every moment of the day — and night! Even Batgirl during her most hectic moments — when she is battling criminals — is always conscious of her appearance.”
Barbara then lets criminals get away, as she is too busy adjusting her headpiece “as any girl would.” The issue attempts to show that Batgirl can use being feminine as an advantage by distracting the villains with her leg. The entire thing is a mess.
10. Two-Face Doesn’t Understand What “Lesbian” Means
Two-Face is off his rocker, but he is not usually this dense. The guy used to be a lawyer, so one would think he is smart enough to understand the definition of “lesbian”. The villain had fallen in love with Officer Renee Montoya after she was able to reach out to his Harvey Dent persona and convince him to help with relief efforts during the No Man’s Land arc, stopping him from killing Commissioner James Gordon.
Dent believes that in order to have Montoya, he must completely destroy her life. He frames her for murder, gets her thrown in prison, and outs her as a lesbian to the public. When that does not make her fall for him, he kidnaps her and makes it look like she escaped prison. Batman eventually saves her and she is cleared of all charges. However, the damage is done — her parents disown her for her sexuality.
9. Batman’s Leather Thong
Even Batman seems perplexed by this scene. In Batman #83, the Caped Crusader crashes his plane and is marooned on a mountain. A group of criminals are the only ones who hear his distress signal and come up with a scheme to replace Batman with a fake, so the cops won’t go looking for him.
The group chooses a man named Harry, who has the same build as Batman, and apparently looks exactly like Bruce Wayne. Harry tries to swing down on a cable and ends up hurting his head, getting amnesia. Robin finds him and thinks that he is the real Batman. Robin takes him to their trophy room to try and jog his memory.
Robin explains that Batman used the leather thong to swing on the Mad Clown when his hands were tied. However, Robin later uses the bite marks on the thong to determine who is the real Batman and who is the imposter.
8. “What A Picture!”
The redhead over Batman’s knee is Marcia Monroe — a spoiled woman with a rich family and a playgirl attitude. In this comic story, she climbs up on a very high bridge while officers are begging her to come down before she hurts herself.
Batman swoops in and orders her to get down, but she replies that no one tells her what to do. His solution was this unorthodox form of vigilante justice. The photo is on the front page of the paper the next morning, much to Bruce’s delight. He laughs at her humiliation, saying that it serves her right, and hopes he never sees her again.
However, he ends up dating her for a while and the two even become engaged, until she breaks it off and disappears. She then comes back and reveals that she is a supervillain. Sadly, this is Marcia’s only appearance in Batman comics, but it certainly was memorable.
7. The Infamous Bladder Spasm
Batman: The Widening Gyre is a six-issue limited series by Kevin Smith. His brand of crude humor clashes with the typical seriousness of Batman comics, resulting in moments like the one above. The new hero Baphomet admires Batman for his ability to stay calm, and says that is something he lacks.
Batman states that it comes with practice, and tries to encourage him. “Give him something more. Trust somebody for once,” Bruce thinks to himself. He decides to tell his friend a story from his first year working as Batman.
He went after the most powerful mobster in town, crashing a dinner party. He sets up a pyro-gag to scare them, but accidentally makes it too hot. He panics and has a “bladder spasm,” which is Batman’s way of saying he wet his pants. The moment was torn apart by critics and has become a joke among comic book fans.
6. Batman and Black Canary’s Rooftop Rendezvous
All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder is full of strange, out of character moments. Frank Miller’s series was reviled for its interpretation of the Dark Knight. Memorable moments include him slapping Dick Grayson when he mourns his parents’ deaths, calling him “retarded,” declaring “I’m the goddamn Batman,” withholding food from the boy, and telling him to catch rats to stay alive. It also includes Batman’s rooftop rendezvous with Black Canary.
The pairing itself is strange enough, and it becomes even weirder with Miller’s writing. Black Canary watches Batman use a Molotov cocktail on a few thugs. Instead of being horrified at the violence, she decides she is in love with him.
“Has anybody ever told you, my good man, that you are totally hot?” she asks before planting a kiss on him. “Her tongue’s a little bit sandy. She’s a smoker. Cigars. Cuban. I haven’t kissed a smoker in weeks” Batman thinks to himself as they kiss.
5. Damian Wayne’s Conception
Batman unknowingly fathers a son with Talia al Ghul, and she keeps it to herself until the boy is ten years old. However, this was no accidental pregnancy. It was deliberately planned by the al Ghuls in what Batman describes as a “depraved eugenics experiment.”
Talia and her father, Ra’s, admire Batman and are constantly pressuring him to join their family so they can create the perfect child to carry on their legacy. Though he is tempted by Talia, he refuses to succumb to the family of assassins.
She does not take no for an answer, drugs him to the point that he cannot remember a thing, and takes advantage of him. She insists that he cooperated “magnificently,” but if someone cannot remember an encounter, then it is impossible for them to cooperate. What Talia is describing is straight-up sexual assault, but few seem to acknowledge this fact.
4. Double Digits
This panel comes from yet another wildly inappropriate moment from The Widening Gyre. Throughout the six-issue story, Bruce’s girlfriend Silver St. Cloud calls him Deedee. When Alfred jokingly uses the nickname, she explains that it stands for double digits. When he still does not understand, she says that the first night she and Bruce spent together, they hit double digits. She holds ten fingers up for emphasis.
Alfred is understandably horrified upon learning this information. “I raised him to respect women, truly I did,” he bemoans. “Then you did a great job. Cause wow- he showed me lots of respect that night. Eleven times,” Silver replies. Surprisingly, this does not make Alfred feel any better and he starts to blame himself for Bruce’s behavior. He thinks back to when a fifteen year-old Bruce snuck a college girl into the manor over winter break and he did not stop it.
3. Nightwing and Tarantula
One of the creepiest and most uncomfortable moments in the history of comic books occurs in Nightwing #93. Throughout the series, Nightwing has been tormented by the villain Blockbuster. Pushed to the brink, Robin allows the novice hero Tarantula kill to Blockbuster.
Dick regrets his decision instantly, goes into shock, and has a complete mental breakdown on a rooftop. As he is in the middle of his panic attack, Tarantula lays him down and gets on top of him. Though he clearly says “don’t touch me,” she does not stop.
He is unable to fight back and she takes advantage of this. The moment was extremely controversial, as many readers interpreted it as sexual assault. In an interview, writer Devin Grayson would not confirm this, and only stated that it was “nonconsensual.”
2. Robin Fights A Naked Bruce
This odd moment takes place in Batman #356. Bruce is attacked by Alfred when he arrives home, but then the butler oddly acts like nothing had happened. Confused, Bruce takes a shower to clear his head. While Bruce is showering, Robin bursts in and drags him out.
Robin doesn’t even give Bruce a chance to dry off or put on clothes, as he wraps a string around his mentor’s neck. “You’re choking me!” Bruce exclaims. “Yeah. That’s the idea,” Robin replies. Bruce frees himself and fights back — still naked and dripping wet.
It turns out that this is not the real Robin. Hugo Strange had built a fake Wayne Manor and several Alfred and Robin “mandroids” in an attempt to kill Batman. However, attacking a vulnerable man in the shower is low blow, Strange.
1.”That Better Be Your Utility Belt”
This gem is from the second Nightwing annual. The story takes place one year after DC’s Infinite Crisis storyline, when an extremely violent event that undoes Crisis on Infinite Earths and brings back the multiverse. Dick Grayson is gravely injured at the end. Originally, the writers had planned for him to die, but Dick is graciously allowed to live (Superboy is killed off instead) and spends three weeks in a coma recovering.
Before he went to battle, he had finally proposed to longtime love interest Barbara Gordon. When he awakens, they reminisce about their first date: Robin and Batgirl were locked in a safe by the villain Crazy Quilt, and were pressed up against each other with very little room.
After Robin notices that Batgirl smells nice he gets a bit too… excited. When Batman rescues them, Robin is forced to awkwardly crouch and hide his lower body under his cape.
Can you think of any other inappropriate or uncomfortable moments from the Batman comics? Sound off in the comments!