Mortal, thy name is Batman. Throughout his storied career, the Dark Knight has been on the receiving end of some truly remarkable beat-downs. They can be hard to watch, and let’s face it: Batman isn’t supposed to lose. Though no one actively wants to watch him suffer, Batman’s unique ability to survive makes his defeats all the more important. They’re the crucibles that allow him to emerge the unmitigated hero.
Batman is vulnerable to everything, but he will succumb to nothing. Severed spines, sucker punches, and straight-shot bullets may set him back, but then again, the night is always darkest before the dawn. However heroic Batman may be, you’ll be surprised to find that Batman has been thrashed by a whole litany of characters, from major Marvel players, to erstwhile lovers, to his closest family friends. Prepare yourself for the truth: Batman is safe from no one.
Here are the 15 Heroes Who’ve Beaten Up Batman:
15. Jason Todd
Batman’s wards have high expectations for their master. Dick Grayson may have accrued his own frustrations with Bruce Wayne, but Jason Todd’s are far more justifiable. After all, in the now legendary Death in the Family story, Todd got bludgeoned half to death by the Joker’s crowbar and charred by his bomb. Given Batman’s paranoia with the Clown Prince of Crime, Jason Todd rightfully expected to be rescued before meeting such an unsavory end. The Dark Knight couldn’t live up to his reputation, however, and he would live in a state of self-imposed guilt for years, encasing Robin’s uninhabited costume in a glass shrine in the Batcave.
When Jason Todd returned, however, his resurrected mind was of vengeful spirit, driven to make the Joker suffer the same fate, then put Batman through a similar beat down. Following in the footsteps of his teacher, Todd’s diligent preparation paid off, driving Batman to the ground with a gun barrel aimed directly between his eyes. While Todd won the showdown, his hubris ultimately compromised the mission and put Batman back in control.
14. Wonder Woman
Though she hails from the mystical land of Themyscira, Diana Prince is very much a Greek heroine. In Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia, Diana becomes the central figure in a drama straight out of Aeschylus’ B-sides. As is wont to happen in such antiquated tragedies, Diana’s allegiance is tested as she becomes the sworn caretaker to a known murderer, Danielle Wellys. Though the young woman killed to avenge the brutal death of her sister, she finds herself on the run from the law and Batman himself. Knowing Diana has promised to protect Danielle (who invokes Zeus’ pity and describes herself as “the supplicant”), Batman confronts his Justice League ally and demands she turn the murderous girl over to Gotham police.
Wonder Woman, bound by the Themyscira ritual of Hiketeia, rejects Batman’s request and finds herself stuck between mortal justice and her eternal vows. Thus begins a series of vicious fights between Batman and Wonder Woman, all of which end with Diana Prince quite literally on top. In their final fight, Wonder Woman beats the Dark Knight face down in a puddle of rain then steps on his head to keep him there. Greg Rucka added much to the mythology of Wonder Woman, and her physical powers over Batman.
Their live-action fight may have ended with the mention of a single name (“Martha!?”), but the vast majority of Batman V Superman showdowns have ended with Kal-El getting the final KO. Indeed, though the World’s Greatest Detective has dedicated his career to meticulous preparation and contingency strategies, Supes has consistently foiled Batman’s best laid plans.
In The Dark Knight Returns, Batman gets utterly decimated; his bat-suit, body and soul are crushed by Superman before being spared by a well-timed myocardial infarction. Superman/Batman #2 saw the Dark Knight’s strategies utterly backfire (nearly getting him killed); Lex Luthor: Man of Steel detailed the defeat of a Batman armed with kryptonite; Superman: Sacrifice was witness to Batman’s complete manhandling by Superman. Sure, Kal-El was getting controlled by Maxwell Lord and mistook Batman for Brainiac, but that doesn’t help the fact that the Dark Knight got taken to the mat. Ultimately, it seems that when Batman and Superman are written with the full integrity of their characters, the Man of Steel will typically win the day.
“I win.” These are the words of an exhausted and vindicated Dick Grayson after landing a vicious punch on Batman. Though the show-stopping fight in Nightwing #30 remains one of the most brutal fights Batman has encountered, it’s clear Dick and Bruce aren’t in the mood to kill. Stripped of their clothes as they are their weapons, Batman and Nightwing duke it out in a war of ideals with nothing but haymakers and one-liners.
Both deliver punches worthy of a fight night marquis event, but it’s Dick Grayson who makes the biggest impression. Bruce tries valiantly to put his ward in place, using his traditional tropes of grandstanding and lecturing, but Nightwing is at DEFCON 5. Batman’s calming and demeaning sentiments make Dick even more resilient: “I’m not your boy,” he insists, before blasting Bruce across the face with all his might. It’s the punch that ends the fight, seals the victory, and gives credibility to Dick’s closing rebuttal: “I win.”
11. Green Lantern
Blame it on Geoff Johns, a distracted Batman, or an overpowered Green Lantern. However you slice it, one of the more recent incarnations of Hal Jordan introduced himself to Batman via a closed fist to the face. Indeed, the Green Lantern of Earth absolutely pummeled the Dark Knight before his hyper-powered Lantern Corps. These guys aren’t impressed by much, but Hal’s one-shot to the head leaves his friends in shock. Indeed, for all of the tools Hal could manifest with his ring, he ultimately chooses the most human weapon of all: the right-handed uppercut.
Jordan’s duke sends Batman onto his derriere and humbled before his comrades in arms. This unforgettable moment occurred in Green Lantern: Rebirth, which saw Batman getting particularly critical of the Corps. Eventually, Jordan grew tired of the Dark Knight’s kingly attitude and socked him into silence. This gives credence to Hal Jordan’s power and keeps Batman in line for the remaining panels.
Who needs a trident when your chokehold brings Batman to his knees? Arthur Curry has taken his fair share of heat from the Caped Crusader, but for every duke dealt by Batman, the Lord of the Seas has fought back even harder. In Legends of the DC Universe #27, Aquaman and Batman square off in a battle that ends ever-so-slightly in the latter’s favor. While Batman takes the win, Arthur slugs the Dark Knight repeatedly and proves his pugilistic worth.
In more recent years, Aquaman has abandoned traditional punching for the Darth Vader death-grip, reaching for the jugular wheneve Batman steps out of line. With Batman’s hands held open, baring fully-gritted teeth, Curry prepares to ram his golden trident clean through the caretaker of Gotham. If it weren’t for Wonder Woman’s resistance (“What are you doing, Aquaman?”), it’s possible the Justice League would’ve dined on freshly-caught bat later that evening. It remains to be seen how contentious Bruce Wayne and Arthur Curry become in Zack Snyder’s upcoming movie, but it certainly won’t be a cakewalk.
9. The Swamp Thing
With Justice League Dark on the horizon, we can only hope the Swamp Thing will emerge from the marsh. He is without question one of the most bizarre and compelling characters in the DCEU, not least for the time he and his species absolutely emasculated Batman.
Here’s how it went down: Swampy had a wife he loved very much, but as happens in our well-regulated society, Abby got in serious trouble for copulating with a mossy tree-man. When the authorities took her to Gotham to stand trial, Swamp Thing brought the jungle to the big city, turning Batman’s home turf into a foliage-filled prison. To avenge the mistreatment of Abby, Swamp Thing and his bog-creature baddies pummeled Batman to the breaking point. Though they kept him alive, they stopped short of murder so Batman could deliver the message: “Let your masters know… that their weapons are useless. [I want] my wife unharmed. Now. Or… it gets… much worse.” Poor Batman never gets a break.
The World’s Greatest Detective always knows your next move. He’s the great planner, the meticulous vigilante whose contingency plans are better than everyone else’s primary play. Unfortunately, Batman has occasionally been caught with his pants down, proving he’s not as invincible as we want him to be. In the 2009 animated movie, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, the Caped Crusader gets tangled in a web he never saw coming. From high in the sky, the ruthless, reckless and vengeful Hawkman fires a net that swallows Batman whole.
While Kal-El is off fighting Captain Marvel, Batman lays helpless in the battlefield with Hawkman circling above. Though Batman uses some Bat-scissors to cut his way out of the net and grapples his way up to fight his opponent, Hawkman smashes the Dark Knight back to earth with his mace. Truthfully speaking, the only reason Batman survives the encounter is because he and Superman switch partners. While props are due to Hawkman for the effortless take down, we must also credit Lex Luthor, the mastermind behind the attack.
7. The Punisher
Frank Castle has no time for Batman’s patience. In the 1994 crossover issue, Deadly Knights, the Punisher evokes a mentality akin to that of Ra’s Al Ghoul in Batman Begins: “criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding.” As a result, Frank Castle brings the pain to Batman’s domain, and his punches land as hard as any the Dark Knight has ever felt.
Indeed, The Punisher evokes such primal fear in others that Batman intervenes just seconds before he puts a bullet in the Joker’s head. Yes, you read that correctly: the Punisher essentially drives Batman to protect the Joker and tell him: “Run. Run for your life.”
Victory #1: The Punisher beats the living daylights out of the Dark Knight.
Victory #2: The Punisher causes Batman to defend his longstanding, immortal archenemy. For a hero with such moral rectitude as Batman, this is arguably the more negative outcome. Jon Bernthal’s Punisher versus Ben Affleck’s Batman, anyone?
It was 1983. In a dark, Gotham City alley, the embers of a failed relationship burn away their final seconds, but not before Catwoman nearly kills her ex-lover, Batman. In Gerry Conway’s Batman #355, Selina Kyle learns that her beloved one-time boyfriend has since moved onto the voluptuous Vicki Vale. Catwoman is having none of it and bears her claws without mercy, attacking Batman in a flurry that ends with a super-powered knee to the jaw.
Batman hits the deck utterly disoriented as Catwoman prepares to mount him and slice open his throat. Fortunately, sanity returns to Selina who recognizes the gravity of her choices: “Bruce…I almost killed you. I was that close.” It’s the stuff breakups are made of, plus a little extra domestic abuse. Batman knows he dodged a bullet, heartily responding, “You’ve got a strong knee – but I’ve got a stronger jaw.” These lovers have fought plenty of times, but this is one of the rare occasions Catwoman truly had the upper hand.
5. Alfred Pennyworth
Alfred Pennyworth putting the beatdown on Batman is about as shocking as Old Saint Nick giving haymakers instead of gifts (unless it’s Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa, of course). In Earth-2, however, this unimaginable reality comes to fruition when the decorated war veteran gave up on Bruce Wayne’s lugubrious attitude. The butler flat out slaps Bruce across the face and inspires a truly feral look from his ward. “Don’t,” Bruce insists, even though he’s really saying, “Come at me, bro.” Alfred remains fearless and throws down the gauntlet, saying, “Or what? Come on. Show me I’m wrong. You entitled brat. You aren’t even close to ready.”
Despite knowing his aging butler has both a prosthetic leg and a cane, Bruce sacks Alfred like a linebacker. Utterly unfazed, Alfred refuses to mince words, knowing his strengths lie in his time-honored training: “You’ve never been in a war,” as he shoves a sharp elbow into Bruce’s bloodied face. “I have,” Alfred confirms, before dealing his ward another unstoppable blow. The only reason Bruce walked away from this fight was because he kicked Alfred’s fake leg out and sent the old man hurtling to the floor. It’s a cheap shot that saved Batman from total disgrace.
4. Cassandra Cain, Batgirl
It’s a suppressed and hard-fought truth: Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl can take down the Batman. While the Dark Knight has won a few sparring matches against her, there is equal evidence to prove that Cassandra not only brought the beat down upon her mentor, but that Batman knows he’s outclassed. He has even admitted it to her once before, and in multiple scenarios, he’s shown signs of his physical inferiority.
During a training session between the pair, Cassandra fought without her innate ability to decipher body-language and still managed to crack open Bruce’s face while eluding his attacks. Better yet, Cain went through the motions with absolute calm, even smiling through the heat of battle. In Batgirl #50 (appropriately titled “Tough Love”), their animosity reached a peak and led to an intense fight that forced Batman to rely on his utility belt and bag of tricks to stay afloat. Even then, Cassandra Cain subdued Bruce and proved her worth. Thanks to her gift for reading body language, Batman simply can’t keep up.
3. Jonah Hex
On the day of the Dark Knight’s shooting, there was a wedding and a near funeral. Indeed, Cowboy Batman got stuck in the wrong reality, forced to fight the fastest draw in the known universe: Jonah Hex. And just like that, this Caped Crusader of the western genre takes a bullet, loses blood, then stumbles into a watery grave. This is the world of Grant Morrison’s Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne, the fourth issue of which saw the unequivocal defeat of the titular character.
It’s clear this antiquated Batman lacks the advantages of his more modern suits. Garbed in a cotton shirt and useless cape, Batman is a world away from Kevlar. Hex’s bullseye unsurprisingly leaves Batman enfeebled and mortal, forced off the comic panels to tend to his wounds. This violent scene comes to the great surprise of the young couple nearby, witnessing, “…what had but a moment earlier assumed the character of a wraith, a vengeful demon of timeless judgment…was flesh…and blood.” The defeat of Batman is as surprising to onlookers is as to comics readers, but not to Jonah Hex. “Job’s a job. ‘N I got a reputation to uphold.”
The story of Gotham City’s newest protector is nothing short of a tragedy. Despite his best intentions, the eponymous character, Gotham, is driven insane before completely abandoning his noble intentions. Psycho Pirate essentially hijacks his mind and sends him rampaging through the city he swore to defend. The repercussions are enormous, including the humbling of Batman that takes place in his own city. Not only does Gotham land some mighty punches on the Dark Knight, but he forces his hand to call for backup in the form of the Justice League. Alfred balks at the idea, knowing that this is simly not done. Despite the butler’s resistance, Batman insists, “Make the call.”
In the photo above, where Superman introduces himself to a weakened Gotham, Batman is actually sitting safely atop a skyscraper. He is drawn about the size of a finger-nail, highlighting his weakness in this unprecedented moment. It’s one of the rare occasions the Dark Knight is rendered outclassed and in need of his allies’ unfliching assistance.
1. The Hulk
The infamous Hulk and Batman crossover left audiences divided. It’s a preposterous matchup that, 99 times out of 100, would see the Dark Knight reduced to bat dung within seconds of the first round. Still, Batman v. The Incredible Hulk saw the Caped Crusader put up one hell of a fight against Jade Jaws, dodging airborne cars and precarious situations with aplomb. Despite Hulk’s powers being significantly reduced in the series, he nearly turns Batman into a quadriplegic with a bear hug few heroes would could survive.
Even the Joker, a loyal cheerleader of the fight, thinks Batman’s a goner, shouting: “That’s it – crush him into paste!” By some unfathomable twist of fate, Batman boxes Hulk’s ears and scrambles his pea brain long enough to break free. Angrier than ever, Hulk recovers his stability and hurls massive machinery at his foe that leaves Batman pinned against the wall. While he ultimately outwits the Green Giant, Batman is physically demolished by his much larger Marvel enemy.
What’s the most memorable beat-down of Batman? Let us know in the comments below!