Batman is arguably the most popular comic-book character of all time, and a lot of his notoriety comes from his impressive rogue’s gallery of villains. The character has been around since Bob Kane and Bill Finger came up with his concept in 1939, and has since evolved and grown even more prevalent, which meant his villains had to adapt alongside him.
Batman's villains are infamous for stretching Bruce Wayne to his physical and emotional limits, and sometimes their antics are far too over the line, or are just downright strange. The most famous Batman comics are the ones in which his villains are able to defy logic or basic human decency, and are able to essentially break Batman’s will. Sometimes they do this by being physically imposing, and other times they do this by outsmarting the world’s greatest detective.
Bruce is notably a character who prefers to put the pressures of Gotham on his shoulders, and is sometimes afraid to allow those close to him to put themselves in harm’s way. And it’s made even harder when Bruce does allow heroes to work alongside him, only for them to be beaten or permanently taken away from him. We’ve narrowed down the most horrifying or downright strange things that Batman’s villains have ever done to him.
Here are the 15 Most WTF Things Batman’s Villains Have Ever Done To Him.
15 Joker Makes Batman Laugh Himself To Death
The Joker was brought back and famously re-characterized by Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, and Denny O’Neil in Batman issue #251. However, he was notably missing his joking attitude, and was mostly focused on killing his previous henchman.
In issue #260, he was finally back to his familiar antics, as he attempted to poison Batman with a special version of his venom, that caused Batman to laugh uncontrollably every time he heard a joke, leading to his eventual death. Eventually Batman was able to outsmart the Joker when he found out the toxin only made him laugh uncontrollably at bad jokes. In order to keep himself sane enough to figure out a plan of action, he watched his favorite Marx Brothers movies to concentrate on a plan.
As per usual, Batman was able to defeat the Joker and save the day, until the next time Joker came up with a new scheme.
14 Scarecrow Injects Batman With Fear Pheromones
Scarecrow is a villain that always seemed to be right outside the sphere of Batman’s most notoriously evil villains, as he’s both a psychological and a physical threat to the Dark Knight. Throughout Scarecrow’s history, he has consistently used fear toxin to make Batman, the bat-family, and Gotham as a whole, see their worst fears realized.
These issues are usually very intriguing because it shows the process of breaking through the fear that these characters had been injected with. It shows a great test of will, and it allows us to further sympathize with these characters when we find out that, like us, they all have fear.
One instance in particular was quite strange, as Scarerow was able to create a different strain of his famous fear toxin, which made those around Bruce afraid of his very presence. This proved to be far more effective, and sent crowds of innocent civilians running frantically for their lives, creating a diversion for the Scarecrow to make his escape.
13 Joker Kills Rachel Dawes
The Dark Knight is heralded as one of the greatest comic book films of all time, and it was even included on the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century. The film was groundbreaking because of Christopher Nolan’s impeccable direction, and of course Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker.
The Joker commits a series of unspeakable acts throughout the film, but the pinnacle of his horrendous deeds was his plot to kill either Rachel Dawes or Harvey Dent. The terrible scene depicts the two of them strapped to chairs, surrounded by barrels of gasoline and explosives. Batman, of course, chooses to save Rachel but when he heads to the address, find Dent waiting for him there instead. The Joker purposely swapped the addresses so that Batman would suffer more.
Rachel dies in the explosion, resulting in Bruce's emotional trauma and Harvey Dent's transformation into Two-Face.
12 Hush Literally Steals Catwoman’s Heart
Hush is without a doubt one of Batman’s most intriguing villains, and he hasn’t even been around that long. Hush was later discovered to be Bruce Wayne’s former friend, Thomas Elliot, who had committed a terrible act when he was younger, after being driven to it by his abusive youth.
Thomas' father was physically abusive and his mother was far too passive, and to put an end to it altogether, Tommy cut the brake lines of his parent’s car, which lead to a horrific accident that lead to his parent’s demise.
In one of Batman’s most tragic storylines, Hush came back to exact his revenge on Bruce after he had learned of his secret identity. He left Catwoman barely alive after he cut her heart out, and it plunged Bruce into a deep despair.
11 Final Crisis – Batman Is Killed
Final Crisis was a story line published by DC Comics in 2008, and was written by Grant Morrison. Towards the end of the run, Batman is believed to be killed by Darkseid’s Omega Beams, but it turns out he was actually sent back through time.
To return to the present, Bruce has to battle his way through the DCU timeline, and even worse, he has to deal with some horrifying villains from the mind of the great Grant Morrison. Throughout his time-traveling adventures, Bruce was a pirate, a witch-hunter, and a gunfighter, and it did a number on Bruce, physically.
The entire Justice League even had to stop Batman’s heart before he could return to the present day timeline. It was a heartbreaking moment for Superman and the rest of the Justice League when they thought they had to say goodbye to a talented member, and a friend. Luckily, nothing can stop Batman, not even death.
10 Death Of The Family
There is perhaps no one person in the world closer to Bruce Wayne than his lifelong butler, Alfred Pennyworth, so when the Joker targeted him in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Death of the Family arc, it really tortured Bruce.
Bruce returned to Wayne Manor and found it empty, and was shortly afterwards drugged by the Joker. Hewoke up later to find Alfred and the rest of the bat family strapped down, with their faced bandaged. The Joker told Batman that the entire room was coated in gasoline, and that a match was placed under his own chair, and if he moved the entire place would go up in flames. The Joker then brought in a brainwashed Alfred to serve the batfamily their own faces on the plates in front of them.
It turned out to be a trick, and the batfamily turned out to be unharmed, but it was a truly crazy event for the Dark Knight, and his faithful readers.
9 Professor Milo And Batman’s Fear Of Bats
This is easily one of the craziest things that a Batman villain has ever done, as Professor Milo is able to make Bruce Wayne afraid to use his own gadgets and gear.
In issue #247 of Detective Comics, Batman has a new villain in Dr. Milo, who wants to take a page from Scarecrow’s playbook, and developed a gas that reminded Bruce of his original phobia of bats. It’s a genius plan, as Bruce is basically wholly invested in everything bat-related; dressing like a bat, having bat shaped weapons, a bat shaped plane, and calling himself Batman.
Robin actually ends up saving the day in the end, as he conducts a series of psychological tests that are meant to break Bruce out of his delusion. It’s a great introduction for a villain, and it’s truly a strange way to get under Batman’s skin.
8 Bane Breaking The Bat’s Back
In the famous Knightfall storyline, the steroid-driven Bane proves to be the only villain to truly challenge Bruce physically.
Bane breaks Batman’s back over his own knee, and Batman is later replaced by Jean-Paul Valley, who ends up tarnishing Batman’s splendid reputation. Valley’s actions reverberated throughout the Bat comics for quite a while, and it took some time for Bruce to earn back his positive image.
The famous image of Batman over Bane’s knee is one of the most important and ground-breaking images throughout Batman’s entire comic run. It is also the most famous Bane moment, and it solidified the character as the most formidable and imposing of Batman’s entire rogues gallery. It was also recreated in live-action in Christopher Nolan’s 2012 film, The Dark Knight Rises.
7 Emperor Joker
The Emperor Joker storyline is one of the more cosmically trippy runs since Batman’s inception, and it basically handed all the power in the universe to the most insane character in the DC universe. The Joker was able to steal the powers of Mister Mxyzptlk giving him reality-warping abilities.
The Joker remade the Universe to be permanently stuck in a loop, and, of course, he focused the blunt of his torture towards Batman. Each and every day, Batman would have his skin torn off of his body while his mouth was sewn shut. And at the end of every day, Batman would die, only to be revived the following day and tortured all over again.
If this list were based wholly on the most physically horrendous acts, this one would be at the top, but with that being said, it is a truly WTF moment in the career of the caped crusader.
6 Court Of Owls Maze
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo were able to truly push the envelope with the modern incarnation of Batman, and a lot of that evolution stemmed from the psychological torment that Bruce’s villains were able to impart on him.
The Court of Owls storyline introduced a new group of villain, named the Court of Owls, which are a powerful group of Gotham's elite that have been around since Gotham’s beginning. Their chief assassin, The Talon, captured Bruce and placed him inside a giant labyrinth, and provided him with no food, only drugged hallucinogenic water. Bruce slowly and steadily goes mad as he makes his way through the maze, like a mouse in an experiment. It’s a crazy storyline that is made all the stranger with Capullo’s wonderful art style. Every panel could be framed and hung on a wall, and that’s really saying something when Bruce is literally going out of his mind.
5 Tower Of Babel
The JLA: Tower of Babel storyline is incredible, and it’s one of DC’s most beloved stories, and it was even made into an animated feature film in 2012, Justice League: Doom.
Tower of Babel saw Batman dealing with the fallout of the entire league finding out that he had been concealing documents that gathered the strengths and weaknesses of every league member, along with plans to neutralize the members. Ra’s al Ghul ended up getting his hands on these documents, and he uses them to coordinate an attack that distracted and prevented him from interfering with his scheme to reduce the population of the planet. This broke the trust that Batman held with his companions and allies, and it showed his own distrust for the superpowered beings around him.
4 Jason Todd’s Murder
The events of Jason Todd’s death in the comics are very interesting, mainly due to the reading population’s input in his death. Readers were able to vote for Jason’s overall outcome, and the event depicted the Joker beating Jason within inches of death with a crowbar, and Jason then attempted to shield his mother with what remaining energy he had left, ultimately killing him.
It’s one of the darkest moments in comic history, and it’s been shown in animation, video games, and it seems to have had a major impact on Ben Affleck’s Batman in the DC Extended Universe. Robin meant the world to Batman, and he felt it was his job to allow him the freedom to fight alongside him, but to also make sure that he kept him safe.
When Jason died, it was an event that Bruce was never able to move forward from, even when Jason finally returned.
3 Jason Todd’s Return
The only event more shocking than Jason’s death was his eventual return, and his drive to get back at Batman for allowing the Joker to murder him in the first place. Jason Todd returned as the villain Red Hood, and committed to exacting vengeance on the Dark Knight.
His resurrection was pretty strange – Superboy Prime’s punch brought him back – but when he did return, Jason trained vigorously to kill Batman. He appeared throughout Batman’s history, from a shocking reveal in Hush to his eventual confrontations with every member of the bat-family and the Joker.
Jason Todd did eventually join the bat-family and worked alongside them, but that was only after years of attempting to bring down Batman. Perhaps he finally prescribed to the old adage: if you can’t beat them, join them.
2 The Killing Joke
Batman: The Killing Joke is easily the most frightening and disgusting run throughout the history of Batman comics, and it’s famous because it went so far over the line with violence and assault that it read more like a horror novel than a regular Batman comic.
The Killing Joke featured not only the Joker paralyzing Barbara Gordon by shooting her in her own home, but he also assaulted her, took pictures of her body, and forced her father to go on a carnival ride, showing him the action in its entirety. The Joker was inching ever further away from his comedic turn in Batman ’66, and this comic marked the complete change from lovable anarchist to full on sadist. It’s hard to revel in the wonder that is Mark Hamill’s animated Joker, especially when you consider they’re two sides of the same character.
The Killing Joke is Batman’s Rogues at their most villainous, and it’s hard to believe that it may one day be outdone.
1 Element Man Changes Batman’s Elemental State
Rather than ending on a rather tragic and depressing note, we decided to go for a truly strange and wonderfully bonkers entry to top off our list. In Detective Comics issue #294, The Element Man actually ends up transforming Batman into numerous elements in order to defeat him.
The comic actually provides some scientific background for which elements can defeat other ones, and it’s great because it helps kids learn, but also it’s downright ridiculous and not backed by actual science in any way. The Element Man even changes himself into a iron, and Batman into a soft calcium, knowing that it would be easier to crush him that way.
The '50s were a simpler time for Batman and his villains, and though there might not have been the same kind of psychological stimulation back then, at least they didn’t take themselves too seriously.
Were there are particularly strange or horrendous moments from Batman's Rogues that we forgot? Let us know in the comments below!