The secret is out: Batman is Bruce Wayne. Despite his best efforts at shielding his identity, Batman is a known commodity in Gotham and beyond. There are the obvious initiates, of course: Alfred Pennyworth knows the truth about his ward, most members of the Bat Family are in on the secret, and even Commissioner Gordon may have a clue. Outside the realm of his kin, however, a surprising amount of characters and villains know that Batman and Bruce Wayne are one in the same.
If it weren’t for the magic of a well-timed retcon, the vast majority of Batman’s rogues gallery would now know the truth. In that sad alternate reality, Gotham wouldn’t have its Caped Crusader, just a billionaire playboy gallivanting about town like every day was Halloween. Batman needs his secret identity, and as it turns out, his most fearsome foes must protect it in order to preserve their life purpose.
Here are 15 Characters Who Knows Batman’s Secret Identity.
15. Everyone In The Dark Knight Rises
It all started with Mr. Reese in The Dark Knight. The Wayne Enterprises employee got a snake in his boots and decided to blackmail Lucius Fox with his alleged knowledge of Batman’s true identity. While the threat of exposing Batman added another layer to the already tense film, The Dark Knight Rises turned the heat up to full blast.
When Joseph Gordon Levitt’s beat cop visited Wayne Manor, it took him only a few seconds to out Bruce as the man behind the suit. Had the witch hunt ended there, The Dark Knight Rises would’ve been left off the list. Unfortunately, Catwoman also found out who Batman really was, and Bane knew from the beginning. Talia Al Ghul knew his name as well, along with seemingly everyone else in that bottomless pit in the Middle East. Bruce Wayne might as well have arrived at the final fight in his Lamborghini rocking a $10,000 suit sans cowl.
And to put things bluntly, the Gotham Gazette would have had a hard time explaining their simultaneous deaths away, so we have to imagine most people had things figured out when the dust settled.
14. Sherlock Holmes
“That cowl is simply elementary, dear Watson.” While he might have spared Master Wayne such blunt honesty, the detective of 221B Baker Street quickly deduced the identity of Gotham’s Caped Crusader. In fact, he sleuthed his way to guessing Batman’s true identity long before the pair even met. “Your disguise is not difficult for one of my powers to fathom,” he tells Batman with prying eyes. Ever the consummate English gentleman, however, Sherlock maintains the secret and tells the Dark Knight, “but I ignored it.” To be fair to Batman’s masquerading abilities, it would have been a disgrace had Sherlock missed the boat. For once in a long while, The World’s Greatest Detective met his match.
May we also suggest a potentially epic crossover with Phase 2 of the DCEU: Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock with Ben Affleck’s Batman. Their characters could not be further apart on the social spectrum, and seeing Cumberbatch’s algorithms flood the screen before a bewildered Batman could make for an unholy amount of fun.
13. Joe Chill
He’s the man who started the myth, the small-time criminal who committed the crime that would change Gotham forever. Indeed, without Joe Chill’s callous killings of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Batman would never have come to be. The low-level thug got away with murder until justice was served in the mid-summer publication of Batman #47.
After the Dark Knight tracked down his parents’ killer, he accosted him and demanded he admit to his wrongdoing. A bewildered Chill asks, “How do you know what really happened?” Batman then removes his cowl and stared into Chill’s crooked eyes: “I know because I am the son of the man you murdered! I AM BRUCE WAYNE!” Though he would spare the man’s life, Batman exacted emotional revenge on the felon. So utterly terrified by what he had seen, Joe Chill rushed to the aide of his criminal cronies, who later executed him for his part in bringing the Batman to bear.
12. The Riddler
While he has since lost memory of Batman’s true identity, the Riddler deduced the man behind the cowl on more than a few occasions. After ordering Clayface to pose as a reanimated Robin and purging himself of cancer in a Lazarus Pit (where he also surmised Batman’s identity), the Riddler harassed Batman by saying, “Now the world is my oyster. Right, Bruce?” Utterly unfazed, Batman all but laughs in the face of Riddler’s empty threats. He knows that if the emerald lunatic revealed Batman’s identity to the world, Riddler would have devalued his most prized enigma of all: Who is the Batman?
Unfortunately, the Riddler and the Joker are stuck in the same conundrum: revealing Batman’s identity will mark the end of the Gotham games. After his biting words sink in, Batman turns the tables on Riddler by threatening to tell Ra’s Al Ghul that he secretly used a Lazarus Pit. Once again, the Riddler becomes the punchline to his very own joke.
In Batman: Arkham Knight, the Caped Crusader reveals himself to Thomas Elliot (a pre-bandaged Hush). It’s an uncanny moment of doppelganger recognition between the two, as Elliot underwent extreme plastic surgery to fashion himself after Bruce Wayne. It doesn’t excuse his obsessive behavior, but outside of Alfred Pennyworth, Elliot is perhaps Wayne’s oldest acquaintance. In many ways, he has represented the antithesis of Bruce, the yin to his yang, and when he learns the true identity of Batman, Hush can no longer keep quiet. He is devastated to learn that his former friend has parlayed his childhood tragedy into becoming a watchdog for Gotham City. It’s heroic and outright cool.
In the comic panels, Hush and Riddler worked together to bring Batman down. While Hush channeled his decades of rage against both Batman and Bruce Wayne, Riddler revealed to him that they were one in the same. After they severed his batrope, and sent the Dark Knight plummeting from great heights and landing on his head, Thomas Elliot used his surgical prowess to help Batman return to full health. While the Dark Knight’s cowl seemed to shield his identity, Elliot inserted a GPS device into his skull so he and Riddler could keep tabs on him. Hush remains one of Batman’s most vicious and personal enemies.
In Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Clark Kent seemed to have no knowledge of the most famous man in Gotham. That moment at Lex Luthor’s gala rang false not only because Bruce Wayne is an international celebrity, but because most timelines and adaptations have empowered Superman with knowledge of Batman’s true identity. To be fair, it seemed Kent put the pieces together when he heard Alfred Pennyworth through Wayne’s earpiece. Still, Superman has used his superhuman vision to “peek” under Batman’s cowl, and far before then, Kent and Wayne were roommates on a cruise ship.
In Superman Vol. 1 #76, the journalist and the billionaire share a cabin due to overbooked accommodations on a popular voyage. While trouble brews outside the porthole, Wayne asks Kent is he can hit the lights and “turn in.” The Daily Planet journalist says “I’m tired, too,” but as soon as darkness falls, they both change into their superhero uniforms and are exposed when fire from the galley shines into their room. Awkward! Batman and Superman realize each other’s secret identities and agree to run headlong into battle before answering any questions.
9. Selina Kyle
Love bears few secrets. In the Batman: Hush narrative, the Dark Knight blows the lid on his most precious secret and tells Selina Kyle to call him, “Bruce.” They are besotted with one another and team up against the Riddler and Hush, so it makes sense that amid all of their interactions, the Cat would know the man behind the Bat. Bruce usually keeps his cards close to his chest, so when he removed his cowl and looked Catwoman in the eye, he was making a statement. The couple has long shared a steamy and tumultuous relationship, but by revealing himself to her, Bruce Wayne becomes more vulnerable than ever.
Just moments before the unveiling, Selina ribs his secrecy: “You know, for a loner, you certainly have a lot of strings. Nightwing. Robin. Oracle. Huntress. Batgirl. I just don’t want to be the one string that trips you up.” In classic Bruce Wayne fashion, he rebuts her with an easy, “You won’t,” then slides off the mask and deletes 99% of the mystery in their relationship. While not as epic as their mutual reveal in Brave and the Bold #197, Batman: Hush put Catwoman and her beau back on the map.
8. Lex Luthor
In addition to their ideological disputes, Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor are warring corporate rivals. Wayne Enterprises and LexCorp are the business representations of both men’s enduring social and cultural influence. In the New 52, Lex Luthor observed Batman’s devastation over Dick Grayson’s persecution and cracked the Batcode. Knowing the identity of the Dark Knight, Luthor arrived at Wayne Manor and rightly pointed the finger at Master Bruce. Insidious as always, the bald mogul all but threatens to expose Batman if he isn’t granted membership in the Justice League. Lex knows the dangers of the impending war against the Anti-Monitor, and he knows won’t be able to battle the villain alone.
With a goofy smile and an irrepressible sense of boyish wonder, Lex can’t hide his desire to the Batcave: “Aren’t you going to invite me down there? I’m so curious.” He’s dying to be as cool as Bruce, who remains characteristically stoic in the face of Lex’s accusations: “No, I’m not.” The conniving tycoon kicks himself for not guessing Batman’s identity sooner, but now that he’s solved the riddle, he looks to reap his rewards.
7. Green Lantern
In Justice League Vol. 2 #5, Batman delivers one of the most nonchalantly funny lines in the character’s history. While Hal Jordan practically loses his mind and tries to fight the good fight with a compound-fractured arm, Batman plays the parent. Green Lantern is dipping his toes in that Parallax paranoia, heeding Batman’s warning and screaming, “Then I die!” Use your words, Hal.
Batman has really had enough. At this point, he’ll do just about anything to get Jordan to slow his roll. Knowing all hope is lost for Hal, he opts for the nuclear option and starts waxing poetical about the similarities he and the Green Lantern share. Hal balks at the gesture and feels compelled to get in another hypocritical jab first: “Wearing a batsuit is normal?” While reaching for the cowl, Batman quips, “No, it’s insane.” What a boss.
His mask removed, Batman stands before Green Lantern as Bruce Wayne. The only problem is that Hal has absolutely know idea who that is and continues to lose his grip on reality: “Who the hell’s Bruce Wayne?” At which point Batman, utterly offended, fired Green Lantern from the Justice League.
6. Hugo Strange
Dr. Hugo Strange is almost as old as Batman himself. While he has been overshadowed by more prominent villains in recent adaptations, Strange remains the first baddie in the rogues gallery to reveal Batman’s true identity. Contrary to other foes, however, Strange doesn’t want to just reveal and destroy the Dark Knight — he wants to become him. In Detective Comics #471, the ambitious scientist finally cracks the case against his most prized subject and catches Batman without his cowl. Dr. Strange uses relatively normal means to deduce Batman’s identity, and it’s not the only time he has deprived Batman of his secret.
In Batman: The Animated Series, Dr. Strange has Bruce Wayne strapped to an operating chair and maliciously sifts through his most disturbing memories. While Strange unsurprisingly finds the death of Bruce’s parents, he stumbles upon a deeper and abiding anger materializing in the form of bats. As Bruce sweats and screams from the chair, Strange grins and realizes his patient is Batman himself.
Once again, Dick Grayson proves to be most vulnerable chink in Batman’s armor. By deducing Nightwing’s identity, Slade Wilson quickly places Batman’s true name. At Bruce Wayne’s Christmas party, a natty Deathstroke swaps his katana for a martini and ribs Wayne about Grayson’s teacher: “Your ex-ward’s grown into a good man. Grayson’s extracurricular activities, shall we say, are among the best I’ve ever seen.” It’s undeniable that Deathstroke knows Bruce Wayne is the man behind the mask, and the mentor behind Nightwing’s impressive combat skills: “But then, he did have the greatest teacher.”
Fortunately for Bruce Wayne, Slade Wilson isn’t terribly interested in blackmail. Deathstroke may present one of the most fearsome challenges to Batman, but Slade is a somewhat honorable man with a quiet respect for others in his line of work. Call it the code of conduct or the assassin’s creed, but Deathstroke the Terminator is more interested in Nightwing than revealing the name of the Dark Knight.
4. Amanda Waller
The head of ARGUS knows who Batman is, and she’s known for a while. Amanda Waller’s no fool. Her government security clearance is high, but her detective IQ is even higher. If she didn’t know Batman and Bruce Wayne were two sides to the same coin, she wouldn’t be fit to lead Task Force X. In the animated Justice League series, the bulldog of the Suicide Squad refers to the Dark Knight as “rich boy,” a perfectly subtle slight from a woman of Waller’s stature. More than all of the villains in Batman’s rogues gallery, The Wall demonstrates a cool confidence in the presence of Batman, like she might line him up next to Deadshot and Rick Flag for a mission or two.
As for David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, the tantalizing mid-credits scene certainly alluded to a deeper level of recognition between Waller and Bruce Wayne. For a leader so loaded with top secret files and knowledge, the live-action Amanda Waller either already knows the secret, or has her suspicions firmly in place (read: she knows).
3. Green Arrow
In Chapter 25 of Injustice: Gods Among Us, Batman removes his cowl and reveals the billionaire playboy beneath it. Just seconds prior, Huntress accidentally called him by his real name, forcing Batman’s hand. Seated before his teammates, Batman becomes Bruce Wayne. While Black Canary and Huntress (already initiated in Batman’s secret identity club) remain rather quiet, Captain Atom grits his teeth in disbelief as Oliver Queen goes ballistic. With eyes bursting out of their sockets, Green Arrow’s vocabulary falters for a simple, “Holy crap.”
As the realization sinks further into his psyche, he follows up the initial bafflement with a dig at the orphaned mogul himself: “I can’t believe he’s Bruce Wayne! Bruce Wayne is a flake!” We have bigger problems at hand here, Ollie. Under scrutiny from Huntress, Batman had to make a grand gesture, even if it meant losing an ounce of respect from Queen. Though he certainly didn’t have to spoil the secret, Batman felt it was time for a change of pace and welcomed Bruce Wayne into the world.
Born and molded in the darkness, Bane also happens to be a brilliant study in body language. While peeping in on one of Bruce Wayne’s epic parties, Bane observes some striking similarities between Wayne and the enemy he so badly yearns to break. Call it Bat-swagger or a lucky guess, Bane correctly guesses Wayne’s alter ego in just a few short panels. “It’s not Bruce Wayne,” he observes via binoculars, “it’s him.” After suffering a bit of doubt from his companion, Bane fires back, “I know him intimately now, Bird.”
If Bane’s choice of adjective strikes you as weird, or at the very least a little presumptive, you’re not alone. Bane can seldom hide his obsession with Batman. Even from a distance, it seems Bruce can sense the bizarre voyeurism he’s been subjected to by this mouth-breathing, shirtless hulk. “No police protection anywhere – something’s wrong – seriously wrong.” In short, your cover is blown, Bruce. Get to the Batcave.
1. The Joker
The Joker knows, but he can’t bring himself to listen. Throughout their storied relationship, the Joker has known Batman’s true identity and has chosen to ignore it. He simply can’t bring himself to care about Bruce Wayne the human. He cares for Batman the immortal, the god-like being who has ratified Joker’s sad existence. In Batman #663, the Joker deftly tips his cap to Bruce while applauding his attempts at apotheosis: “Why be a disfigured outcast when I can be a notorious Crime God? Why be an orphaned boy when you can be a superhero?” In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime tortures Tim Drake until he reveals Batman’s true identity. Yet, even when armed with such corrosive knowledge, the Joker simply uses it to provoke his enemy, not to ruin him.
Batman #40 is perhaps the most horrific iteration of the Joker. In this macabre reinvention of the iconic characters, Batman reveals that the Joker once broke into the Batcave but abandoned the hideaway before finding its owner. Why? As Batman sees it, the Joker knew Bruce Wayne owned the Batcave but couldn’t bring himself to admit the Dark Knight was simply a mortal being. In Death of the Family, Batman literally tries to tell the Joker his own name, but as he mouths the words, the Joker rushes towards a waterfall to escape the truth. Batman is the Joker’s lifeblood, but Bruce Wayne could be his undoing.
Who else knows Batman’s secret identity? Tell us in the comments!
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