Batman! The Dark Knight! The Caped Crusader! The World’s Greatest Detective! He may be the hero Gotham deserves instead of the one it needs, but does he have to be such a jerk about it?
It would be far too easy to dismiss Batman as a billionaire playboy who spends his hard-earned inheritance by beating up mentally ill people and random street punks. However, this goes way too deep into a very premise of the character, which is outside the scope of this list. But we can’t help but notice that the way Batman goes around fighting crime and treating everyone around him often comes off as a little bit, well, rude.
So we’re taking a look at 15 Times Batman Was A Jerk.
15. Fooling Lois Lane (World’s Finest #71)
Love it or hate it, but Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice offers us a tantalizing glimpse of the ultimate buddy-buddy movie in which two of the world’s most famous superheroes pair up to investigate crime and fight evil. World’s Finest Comics exploited this very concept throughout its run from 1941 until 1986. Many of its stories depicted Batman and Superman going through all kinds of crazy adventures together.
In World’s Finest #71, Superman accidentally reveals his secret identity to Lois Lane, so Batman comes up with a crazy plan to confuse her by switching his costume with Superman’s. Clark Kent/Batman goes investigating some thugs and almost dies because he inadvertently exposes himself to the Kryptonite they stole. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne/Superman goes through increasingly ludicrous tests devised by Lois to check if he really is Superman. She even pays a local zoo keeper to let lions loose in a city park, proving she’s quite a jerk herself.
14. Stabbing of Count Grutt (Detective Comics #37)
Early days of Batman were chaotic, as writers such as Bob Kane and Bill Finger struggled to define the character even as the whole new genre of superhero comic books grew around them. Batman was inspired by the brutal pulp vigilantes from the 1930s, such as The Shadow or The Spider. Batman’s code of never using guns and never killing his opponents only developed over time.
This is probably why Count Grutt – a foreign spy and a saboteur – ends up stabbed by his own sword. In the story The Screaming House, published in Detective Comics #37, Batman confronts the villainous Count who draws his sword and, in a most-ineffective fencing move ever, throws it at him. The sword misses and lodges into a wooden door. Batman then punches the Count so hard that the guy flies back and impales himself on the tip of his own sword. So, although technically Batman neither shot nor killed his opponent, Count Grutt nevertheless ends up dead.
13. Hanging a mentally-ill person (Batman #1)
There was a time around 1940 when Batman would go around chasing escaped patients from an insane asylum using only his trusty propeller-driven monoplane, a lasso and a machine gun. In one story, he captured a mentally-ill person with a lasso and strung him up from the Batplane until the guy asphyxiated.
In the Caped Crusader’s first solo appearance in his own comic, Dr. Hugo Strange frees several patients from a hospital only to inject them with a serum that turns them into Hulk-sized monstrosities. In one scene, Batman attacks Strange’s truck by casually strafing its driver with the Batplane’s machine gun. He then captures and hangs one of the poor guys who has already been drugged out of his mind by the Strange’s serum. The kicker? By that point in the story, Batman has found a cure for the serum. There was no need to kill the man.
12. Sending Robin back to the orphanage (World’s Finest #153)
The image above is probably familiar to most of our readers. Throughout the last decade, the scene of Batman slapping Robin has become a meme. If an image is truly worth a thousand words, this one tells us volumes about Batman acting like a jerk.
This image appears in World’s Finest #153 – an alternate reality story in which Batman grows up convinced it was Superboy who killed his parents. When Robin learns about this insane theory, he confronts Batman about it. Batman responds by throwing an epic hissy fit: first he slaps Robin, then he erases all of his crime-fighting memories and finally he returns him to the orphanage. It turns out later that – surprise, surprise! – Batman was wrong all along and it was actually young Lex Luthor who killed his parents. Batman saves Superman from Luthor, but gets mortally wounded in the process. Good riddance, alternate history jerk Batman!
11. Keeping tabs on his Justice League pals (JLA: Tower of Babel)
Despite all of his henchmen and associates, Batman is a deeply paranoid loner. That’s why, despite being one of the most important members of the Justice League of America, he has no qualms about compiling files on each and every one of his JLA pals as well as coming up with gruesome plans of defeating them in the case they go rogue.
How gruesome? Well, a plan to stop Plastic Man includes freezing him with the liquid nitrogen and then shattering him to pieces. In Mark Waid’s JLA: Tower of Babel, villain Ra’s al Ghul manages to break into Batman’s oh-so-secure super computer. Naturally, he immediately puts all of the Batman’s carefully laid plans into action and nearly destroys both the JLA and the civilization itself before the heroes manage to stop him. Batman: big on surveillance, not so big on data protection.
10. Keeping tabs on EVERYBODY (Identity Crisis)
But keeping tabs on the members of the Justice League isn’t enough for the World’s Greatest Detective. In the Brad Meltzer-penned comic book miniseries Identity Crisis, Batman’s superhero buddies ask sorceress Zatanna to erase parts of his memories. When Batman figures this out several years later, he’s understandably angry about it. What he chooses to do next is what sends him straight into a jerk territory.
Instead of confronting his superhero friends about the memory wipe, Batman uses his money and technological genius to build and launch a spy satellite called Brother Eye. Controlled by an advanced AI and shielded against all existing forms of detection, Brother Eye can monitor and collect data about anyone on Earth, especially people with super powers. Of course, it’s just a matter of time before some super villain – like a turncoat Maxwell Lord – hacks into the satellite and uses it against the superheroes. Thanks a lot, Bats!
9. Knocking Nightwing’s tooth out (Batman #7)
A dark, twisted reflection of Batman himself, the Court of Owls is an ancient secret society using its wealth as well as its highly trained assassins called Talons to control Gotham from the shadows. Created by the writer Scott Snyder and the artist Greg Capullo, this secret society made its first appearance in 2011 in Batman #5.
As Batman begins to investigate the Court of Owls, he learns that the organization kidnaps young circus performers from all over the country, training them to become Talons. They also equip all of their agents with a special metallic seal hidden inside one of their molars. One of the Talons is related to the first Robin – Dick Grayson. Batman explains all of this to him and then promptly punches former Robin just to knock out his molar and check if it contains the Court’s hidden seal. With Nightwing being his ally and all, Batman could’ve simply ask him to submit to a quick examination, but punching the guy probably seemed like a better idea.
8. Choosing Azrael as his successor (Batman: Knightfall)
Published throughout 1993 and 1994, Knightfall was a major Batman story arc in which the Caped Crusader finally succumbs to the constant strain of fighting criminals of Gotham City. This crime spree isn’t an accident but is, in fact, carefully orchestrated by the super villain Bane who eventually deduces Batman’s true identity and, in a iconic moment, breaks his back.
With Batman incapacitated, someone has to pick up his mantle. There are several viable candidates, like his latest ward Tim Drake (aka Red Robin) as well as Batman’s former ward Dick Grayson (aka Nightwing). However, Batman forbids Tim from putting on his costume and doesn’t even offer his job to Dick. Instead, he chooses Jean-Paul Valley as his successor. Who the heck is that? Well, Jean-Paul is Batman’s part-time crime-fighting buddy and a seemingly ordinary guy who’s actually been brainwashed since childhood into becoming an elite assassin within a secret religious order. Prime superhero material, that one! Unsurprisingly, Jean-Paul proves out to be far too unstable and violent to take on Batman’s job.
7. Sleeping with Barbara Gordon (Batman Beyond 2.0 #19)
Taking place in the futuristic metropolis of Neo-Gotham, animated TV show Batman Beyond follows 16-year old Terry McGinnis (voiced by Will Friedle) as he gets trained by the old, lonely Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) into becoming the next Batman ready to face a new generation of Gotham’s criminals.
Characters from Batman Beyond continued their adventures within the pages of the comic book series titled Batman Beyond 2.0. It is there where we learn why we never got to see Dick Grayson in the animated TV show. Dick started dating Commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara, whom he loved since college. Despite knowing that, Batman has a fling with Barbara… who ends up pregnant. So far, so embarrassing. But then Batman does a jerk move: even though Barbara makes him promise she will be the one to explain the whole situation to Dick, Batman goes behind her back and tells him everything. Soon afterwards Barbara suffers a miscarriage and it all makes the entire situation much, much worse.
6. Everything (All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder)
As penned by Frank Miller, All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder offers some prime Jerk Batman material. In this re-telling of the first meeting between Batman and Dick Grayson, the Dark Knight kidnaps the poor kid minutes after his parents got brutally murdered in the circus. He saves the future Robin from the corrupt cops only to insult him and lock him up in the Bat Cave with nothing for food but rats and bats.
While Robin nibbles on rats, Batman resumes chasing various street punks, breaking their bones while laughing maniacally. He then has sex with Black Canary in the romantic glow of the burning goons he just set on fire. Even accounting for Batman’s tortured past, everything in All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder paints him in such an ugly light that it’s staggering to realize all of these things are supposed to make him somehow appear flawed, yet awesome. Instead, they merely turn him into a cartoonish goon.
5. Burying KGBeast alive (Batman #420)
Created by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo, KGBeast is a cybernetically-enhanced Soviet assassin who first made his appearance in Batman #417. KGBeast is sent to USA to kill high-ranking government officials in an effort to cripple the US defense while simultaneously souring the growing USA/USSR relations. Batman confronts KGBeast only to learn he met his match: when he tries to catch the Soviet supervillain by snaring his left arm, KGBeast cuts it off to avoid being captured.
Knowing that KGBeast will most probably be released by the Soviets even if he manages to capture him, Batman comes up with a plan straight out of an Edgar Allan Poe horror story. He lures KGBeast into a specially prepared room deep within the Gotham City’s sewers. Soviet super assassin challenges him to a fight, but Batman instead simply locks the armored door, leaving KGBeast to die from starvation and thirst.
4. Torturing Lord Death Man (Batman Incorporated)
Written by Grant Morrison and published in 2010, Batman Incorporated follows Batman as he travels around the world, recruiting other vigilantes willing to take on the mantle of Batman in their countries. In Japan, he tries to contact the Japanese superhero Mr. Unknown, only to learn he has just been murdered by the psychopathic super villain Lord Death Man.
The thing about Lord Death Man is that, as his name implies, he’s immortal. He gets shot during the story only to wake up later in the morgue. The way Batman finally stops Lord Death Man is as ingenious as it is grisly. After shooting him in the eyes, burning him alive and throwing him from the top of the building, Batman locks Lord Death Man into a safe, puts it into a rocket and shoots it into space. Immortal Lord Death Man will spend eternity imprisoned inside the safe and dying from suffocation again and again.
3. Thugs and tanks and weapons, oh my! (The Dark Knight Returns)
In his 1986 comic book The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller depicts a dystopian near-future Gotham City in which tired, bitter Batman continues to fight street crime, hampered by the stupid no-fun government and mass media that – for some silly reason – disapprove of him using firearms on small-time violent criminals.
It’s heavily implied that Joker awakes from his years-long stupor in Arkham Asylum as a reaction to the news about Batman’s actions. As Joker and other villains start wrecking havoc around the city, violence escalates spectacularly. Soon enough, Batman is driving around in a customized tank and recruits his own vigilante gang of violent street punks. Conveniently for the plot line, it’s at that very moment that a electro-magnetic pulse from a Soviet ballistic missile plunges USA into the darkness. In the ensuing anarchy and mass hysteria, Batman’s army of street thugs seems like a source of stability in a world gone mad. Yeah, good luck with that.
2. Using kids to fight crime (The Dark Knight Strikes Again and others)
We’re aware we’re cutting deep into a very premise of Batman as a character, but there’s just something broken about a man – no matter how badass – who tries to take care of traumatized kids, only to turn them into carbon copies of himself. After his parents were killed, Dick Grayson was raised by Batman to become a vigilante. Jason Todd was next, but instead of growing out of his youthful impudence, he became vengeful and bloodthirsty. Tim Drake was allowed to become Robin only after his parents were brutally attacked by the criminals.
Frank Miller’s comic book The Dark Knight Strikes Again takes this idea about a million miles further by having Batman entice a whole bunch of kids into following him into a war against a military dictatorship that took over USA. It’s one of those ideas that sounds awesome until the reality re-establishes itself and you realize there’s probably plenty of grownups around who would be more than happy to fight for their country so there’s really no reason to jeopardize their children.
1. Shootin’ ‘n’ Killin’ (various Batman movies)
Batman’s origin story does a brilliant job of setting up his character. It’s not only that the brutal shooting of his parents turns young Bruce Wayne into a future vigilante, it also shapes his code: never kill and never use guns.
However, you would never know from the 1990s Batman movies directed by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. As this kill counter can attest, in first four movies Batman kills around 30 people, mostly by shooting them. These numbers drop significantly in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, but then Zack Snyder ups the ante by making Batman murder around 20 people in Batman v Superman alone. For a guy who is supposedly trying to protect Gotham City from killers and criminals, Batman sure has a strange proclivity towards killing and breaking laws. It’s almost like he’s some kind of hypocrite. Or a jerk.
So, what were your most – or least – favorite moments of Batman acting like a jerk? Share them with us and the others in the comments below!