If you want to preserve your image of Batman, turn back now. What you're about to see will not be easily forgotten.
Popular songs get covers and remixes. Hit films get prequels, sequels, and "interquels" to keep things fresh. In the world of comics, however, the corpses of character crossovers and alternate realities litter the artistic battlefield. Attempts at recreating beloved characters are a dime a dozen, and most never breach the collective consciousness. For all of their creativity, it’s a good thing that such outlandish visions stay on the down-low. Unfortunately for Batman, it’s time to bring his alternate history to light.
The Dark Knight is one of the most re-imagined comic characters of all time. In his nearly eighty-year history, Batman has gone from being the crime-fighting denizen of Gotham to a cave man, a Frankenstein, a wizard, and even a pugilistic bat-baby. Some results hit the mark, but most leave us pining for simpler times.
Enter if you dare. Here are the 15 Most WTF Alternate Versions of Batman.
15 Prohibition Batman
In Batman: Scar of the Bat, Bruce Wayne does not exist. America is in the peak of Prohibition, and Al Capone is tearing Chicago apart at the seams. Enter Eliot Ness, the real-life federal agent tasked with bringing down the Windy City’s most famous gangster. Though Ness played by the rules in Scar of the Bat, he quickly tired of the bureaucracy plaguing the Chicago Police Department and decided to take matters into his own hands.
Sound familiar? While maintaining his good-cop persona by day, Ness took inspiration from Zorro and built a second identity as the prototypical Batman. Armed with a retro leather jacket, bat-like ski mask, and a Tommy gun, Ness used his midnight alter-ego to bring down Capone’s empire. As for earning his reputation as the Batman, Ness became famous for using a baseball “bat” to beat the truth out of his enemies (a trick borrowed from Capone himself).
14 Nazi Batman
The Batman of Earth-10 is a eugenicist hired by Hitler to build stronger genetic codes in America. Thanks to Mister Mind literally eating part of Batman’s timeline, alternate realities are merged, and the guardian of Gotham becomes the right-hand man of the Third Reich. This hellacious universe sees the Nazis victorious after World War II, the creation of the Justice League Axis, and the underpinning ideology that superheroes will “spring from the essence of [the German] people.”
In this dystopian world, Nazi Batman serves as the protector of the “Ubermenschen” (literally, the race of supermen). While he’s quite busy doing Hitler’s bidding, he attempts to find love in the hopeless place of totalitarian life. Smitten by the alien lady Forerunner, Nazi Batman goes for the jugular and asks her out on a date with only one caveat, “Normally, I’m averse to interracial relationships.” Has xenophobia ever been so charming? Forerunner ultimately shot Nazi Batman’s request down in more ways than one.
13 Green Lantern Batman
Batman: In Darkest Knight takes place in a world where Bruce Wayne is a lousy crimefighter. While nursing his most recent wounds in the Batcave, Bruce has a Hamlet moment and starts praying to his dead father, asking for inspiration and guidance. Sure enough, he is visited by a specter that takes him to the crash site of Abin Sur, who conveniently landed outside Wayne Manor. With his dying breath, Sur gives Bruce his lantern ring and completely takes Hal Jordan out of the picture.
Desperate for immediate glory, Batman slides on the ring and becomes the most overpowered Green Lantern of all time. He completes missions assigned by the Guardians of the Universe, keeps the Joker from being born, and he defeats Catwoman and Two-Face in one fell swoop. Most impressive of all, he battles an evil Sinestro, who mind-melded with the corpse of Joe Chill. When the Green Lanterns Corps catches up with Batman, they’re so impressed with his skills that they demand he teach them how to dougie (and wield the power of the rings). Green Lantern Batman says no, because he’s just having way too much fun being a boss.
12 Vampire Batman
If you’ve ever wanted to see Batman fight Dracula, this one’s for you. After getting turned by the blood-sucking temptress, Tanya, Bruce Wayne becomes a full-blown vampire replete with rampant bloodlust and his own set of wings. After he blows up an army of the undead in his very own home, Vampire Batman takes on Dracula and beats him in far more satisfying ways than anything Bram Stoker could’ve imagined.
Following the events of Red Rain end, however, Vampire Batman finds himself becoming more and more like the monsters he had killed. In the sequel story, Bloodstorm, Batman’s bloodlust gets supercharged, and despite his best efforts, he finds himself gnawing on countless villains throughout Gotham. Vampire Batman hunts down the Joker, snaps his neck, then sucks his blood until he becomes Joker beef jerky. He then proceeds to kill virtually all of his Rogues Gallery, beheading them to keep them from reanimating. Vampire Batman has one rule: YOLO.
11 Superman Batman
In Superman: Speeding Bullets, baby Kal-El is raised by a Martha, but not the one you’d expect. After the boy crash lands in Gotham, the Wayne family takes him under their wing and names him Bruce. Though the circumstances are different, Kal-El still can’t change fate and keep his parents from getting killed.
After Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murders, Bruce grows apoplectic. He hunts down Joe Chill and incinerates him with his heat vision, leaving his corpse charred beyond the point of recognition. This marks a turning point for this Batman/Superman amalgam, who becomes a vicious killer that wields his insane powers to obliterate Gotham’s villains in increasingly gruesome ways. In this alternate world, Lex Luthor becomes Batman’s Joker, a freak who empowers a battalion of soldiers to stage a hostile takeover of Gotham, what he calls “the independent nation-state of Jokerania.” When the overpowered Batman wins the day, however, Lois Lane convinces him to eschew his anger for a more reasonable and moral path.
10 Reverend Batman
The world of Batman is rich with symbolism. In Holy Terror, those elements are expanded when America is depicted as a theocratic state, where a warped Christianity has become the law of the land. Oppression abounds, and the separation between church and state is nonexistent. In Gotham, Thomas Wayne is a personal doctor for America’s most influential leaders, but as is his fate in practically every Batman story, he and his wife are murdered in a seemingly random attack.
Decades later, Bruce Wayne is on the path to becoming a Priest before his friend, Lord Commissioner Gordon, tells him the truth about his parents. They weren’t just randomly killed, they were assassinated by the government. As it turns out, Thomas and Martha Wayne had been providing health services to the oppressed in Gotham, from tortured homosexuals to women unable to get abortions. Motivated by the charity of his parents, Revered Bruce preaches scripture by day and becomes the demon Bat Priest by night, hunting down the bureaucrats who killed his family and perverted his religion.
9 Abe Lincoln's Hitman
Honest Abe and Batman -- could there be any better Dynamic Duo? One part The Dark Knight and another Gone With the Wind, this Elseworlds tale shows the 16th President of the United States commission Batman to protect the government’s stash of gold. With Honest Abe, of course, there are no secrets. Lincoln knows the identity of his masked man and calls him out on it with an emancipating smile, “Colonel Wayne. You insist on your masquerade?” While tying his 19th century cape and cowl to his noggin, Bruce defends his choice of attire: “A bat flew in my window the night your messenger arrived. I took it as an omen.”
This Civil War-era Batman has a Native American Robin named Red Bird, a horse named Apocalypse, and an army of freed slaves called the “Dark Knights.” You can't make this stuff up. As a Clark Gable-esque Union Officer, Bruce Wayne is ultimately revealed to be the ringleader of the bad guys and a disgrace to his good and honest friend, Abe Lincoln.
8 Caveman, Witch Hunter & Pirate Batman
Though he appeared to die from Darkseid’s Omega Beams, Batman was actually displaced in a gonzo timestream that saw him become a hero across millennia. In The Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman battles prehistoric Neanderthals while wearing an oversized bat pelt on his head. Shot further into time, he becomes “Mortdecai” in 17th Century America, a Puritan witch-hunter who teams up with Nathaniel Wayne, progenitor of his family line. 100 years of that, Bruce wages war on the high seas against Blackbeard, and after his success, gains access to an early version of his cape and cowl.
Catapulted further into the timestream, Bruce becomes a cowboy and gets shot by Jonah Hex, immediately getting transported to the 20th century, where he heals his wounds and arrives in Gotham. After a series of costume changes and endless travel through time, Bruce Wayne finally becomes the Batman we know and love. And not a moment too soon.
7 Batzarro Batman
Meet Batzarro, the self-proclaimed “World’s Worst Detective.” He is the horrific doppelganger of Batman, a jaundice-fanged disgrace to the lineage of the Wayne family. Unlike Bruce, Batzarro shot his parents in cold blood. He wears an upside-down Bat symbol, a “futility belt”, and staggeringly nonsensical and dyslexic speech patterns. As for equipment, Batzarro dual wields pistols (which he recklessly unloads on pedestrians), uses a chain to hit enemies, and a grappling hook to get from A to Z.
However whacked out this alternative Dark Knight may be, Batzarro seems to have a soft spot for Batman. He idolizes him in every way, which shouldn’t be terribly surprising, given Batzarro’s origins. As legend has it, the Joker created this creepy amalgam while he was armed with Mr. Mxyzptlk’s epic powers. Though the Clown Prince of Crime made him to be a nuisance for Batman, Batzarro had other intentions. When the Joker attempted to shoot Batman, Batzarro becomes a hero, jumping in front of the bullet to save his main man.
6 Soviet Union Batman
In Superman: Red Son, the Man of Steel is a veritable killing machine for the Soviet Union. Batman, born under the oppressive regime of Josef Stalin, dedicates his life to bringing down the Russian authorities and avenging the deaths of his heretical parents. Though he frequently staged effective raids against the Soviets, Russian Batman focused his attention on destroying the Superman. Knowing Kremlin Kal-El’s biggest emotional weakness, Batman kidnapped Wonder Woman and used her own lasso to immobilize her. He then attacked Superman with synthetic red sunlight, the energy zapping stuff that turns Superman soft.
Just as Batman grew perilously close to finishing off the Superman, Wonder Woman broke free from her shackles and turned off the red sun lamps, allowing the Man of Steel to return to his powerful state. Knowing he would be tortured and brainwashed by the Soviets, Batman chose the nuclear option and detonated a tiny bomb hidden planted in his gut.
What would happen if Bruce Wayne became a scientist? In Castle of the Bat, this hypothesis gets a full-fledged storyline when Bruce Wayne teams up with his Igor-like assistant, Alfredo. Together, they find the brain of Bruce's father, ravage a few graves for some body parts, and fuse everything together to bring poppa Wayne back from the dead. After a few jolts of lightening, the elder Wayne springs to life. Bruce is thrilled at his success, but his creation is less than satisfied with his existence and becomes fearful of everything around him. Thinking quickly on his feet, Bruce shoots up Franken-Dad with some bat fluid and lets chemistry do its thing.
The DNA infusion works, and Frankenstein becomes FrankenBat, replete with a cape, cowl, and a logo smack dab in the middle of his chest. Wasting no time, the new Batman gets to work and takes revenge on the man who killed him decades prior. He saves a random woman named Julia and investigates a couple crimes before getting killed in the collapse of Castle Wayne. With his final breath, the FrankenBat mutters his first and only word to Bruce: “…son.”
4 Wolverine Batman aka Dark Claw
Logan Wayne. The name alone is intimidating, but it’s only a shadow of the fear his future self would become. After five year-old Logan watched his parents get murdered, he left his home to live with his police officer uncle in Canada. Though he was glad to live with family, Logan’s uncle also got murdered and left the boy a double orphan with nowhere to turn. As soon as he became of age, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and quickly wound up in the super-soldier program, Weapon X.
After getting adamantium welded to his body, Logan shed his mortal nature and became Dark Claw. While maintaining his playboy status as a careless, billionaire artist (imagine: Bruce Wayne, painter!), Dark Claw shreds his enemies without mercy. He has the inner resolve and tactical imagination of Batman along with the outer resilience and healing power of Wolverine. The result is a devastatingly powerful superhero, and perhaps the most popular blend Amalgam Comics ever created.
3 Wizard Batman
Ra’s al Ghul once taught Bruce Wayne about the value of “theatricality and deception,” but in Superman/Batman: Sorcerer Kings, he gets to use real magic. The stakes are high: a team of witches and warlocks sacrificed the sun to achieve their mystical goals, cursing Earth and its surrounding planets to certain doom. Though their grand plot ultimately failed, the new sun essentially vaporized all electronics on our planet, sending culture back to a quasi Stone Age.
In lieu of technology, magical powers and potions populated the earth. Though a far cry from his usual set of weaponry, Wizard Wayne becomes the Dumbledore of Gotham and starts stocking up on magical powers. Though he battles baddies with his newfound wizardy, Batman keeps his wits about him and relies on the element of surprise. While fighting a warlock, he whips out a whistle and blows hard. His enemy mocks him, “you’re really scraping the bottom of your bag of tricks!" If only he knew. Seconds later, the call of the whistle is answered, and Wizard Batman’s blue-fire breathing dragon, Batwing, arrives to incinerate his enemy.
2 God Batman
“I’m a god now.” These are just a few of Batman’s less-than-humble words about his seat on the king-making furniture, the Mobius Chair. In Geoff Johns’ Justice League storyline, The Darkseid War, Batman moves from mortal to immortal and literally becomes the God of Knowledge.
In addition to becoming a bit of a bully (telling Hal Jordan he’s worthless without his power ring), all-knowing Oz Batman uses the Mobius Chair to track down the man who killed his parents. Though the Dark Knight has had many encounters with Joe Chill over the years, he has never been quite as terrifying as he is now. While questioning Chill about the number of innocents he murdered, almighty god Batman loses his cool and unmasks himself: “Because I’m Bruce Wayne!” This moment would only be more satisfying if he added a “goddamn” in front of it, but then he'd just be cursing against himself.
1 Bat Baby
Meet Lil Wayne, scourge of Gotham’s evildoers. This impossibly weird Silver Age comic shrinks Batman down to pint-size while allowing his mind (and physical strength) to stay fully developed. How on Earth did this happen? A demeaning man named Garth built a ray gun specifically designed to turn Batman into Bat Baby. He thought it would humble the Dark Knight beyond repair, but it had the opposite effect. When The Gotham Gazette saw the crimefighting tyke kicking derriere with his cape, overalls, and patent leather shoes, they ran a story about him and made Bat Baby more fearsome than ever.
Garth and his lackeys grew terrified. A bizarrely confident Bat Baby had his own Rocky moment and trained with a speed bag, preparing for his final showdown with the criminals. When the day came, Bat Baby swung onto the scene, turned a rocking horse into the Batmobile, and beat the baddies into submission.
What other alternative Batmans (Batmen?) have come out of the woodwork? Let us know in the comments!