Na na na na na na na na BATMAN(s)!1 of 12It’s been some time since the original Batman, Bruce Wayne, has been under the cape and cowl with his ally Commissioner James Gordon having taken the role after Wayne was struck with amnesia in a battle that also seemingly killed the Joker. However, the Bat is back, with Bruce Wayne once again taking on the mantle of the Batman as seen in this week’s preview of Batman #50.
But this isn’t the first time there’s been an alternate Batman – with Batmen springing up throughout DC’s many worlds. With one of the most easily adaptable and resonant origins in all of fiction, it's no wonder that countless "alternate" versions of Batman have cropped up over the years, whether through DC's own "Elseworlds" imprint, in television and other media, or just at the hands of a gifted creator with a unique take on the Dark Knight.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most compelling alternate versions of Batman from various media. Maybe these two will make it on next year's version of the list.
FLASHPOINT2 of 12Due to the machinations of Zoom, the "Reverse Flash," an alternate timeline was created where it was Thomas Wayne – Bruce Wayne's father – who survived an attack that left his son dead.
Thomas Wayne's Batman was much more violent than his son Bruce, and was even willing to kill criminals in the line of duty. After being the only hero to believe Barry Allen's story about a timeline gone wrong, Thomas Wayne also discovers that his version of the Joker is actually his estranged wife, Martha Wayne.
The two come to grips with the consequences of aiding Barry in restoring the proper timeline, but not before Thomas leaves his son a note explaining Barry's actions, and the events that lead to his death a second time. The storyline was adapted into the film The Flashpoint Paradox, and Thomas's letter has been featured in "The New 52," one of the only remnants of a lost timeline (that we know of).
Thomas Wayne has also stepped into the role of Batman in the New 52's Earth 2, though he did it after Bruce had been Batman for decades and died in the line of duty. That Thomas Wayne is old but still fighting thanks to the superpower drug Miraclo.
RED SON3 of 12Jokingly referred to as "Batmankoff" by artist Dave Johnson in his design sketches, the Batman that appears in Red Son plays a small, but memorable role as a Russian anarchist working with American agents to destroy Superman.
Set in the cold war, Red Son tells the story of a Superman raised in communist Russia as a government super-weapon. In the story, Batman teams with CIA agent Jim Olsen, scientist Lex Luthor, and a rogue KGB agent to kidnap Wonder Woman, Superman's lover.
When they risk capture, Batman commits suicide rather than wind up a lobotomized government pawn himself, proving that Batman is no one's pawn in any reality.
BAT-MANGA4 of 12In the late '60s, inspired by the American television show, Japan saw a Batman craze that swept the nation, leading to the publication of licensed Batman manga.
Since the bulk of the work was created by Japanese cartoonist Jiro Kuwata, most people, even at DC Comics, didn't realize these comics existed until Chipp Kidd compiled much of it in his book "Bat-Manga!" in 2008. The adventures of "Battoman," as he's named in the westernized Japanese style, are obviously inspired not just by the Adam West/Burt Ward television show, but by other popular Japanese Manga tropes.
Battoman fights robots, dinosaurs, and strange supervillains, some of whom have even come back across the Pacific to American Batman comics. Lord Death Man, a character inspired by an earlier, obscure American villain simply called "Death Man" may be the best example of this, playing a key role in the multiple arcs of Grant Morrison's Batman, Incorporated.
RED RAIN5 of 12In Doug Moench and Kelly Jones's classic "Elseworlds" tale, Batman joins forces with a young vampire named Tanya to defeat the legendary vampire Dracula himself.
Quickly realizing that the only way to defeat Dracula is to become a vampire himself, Batman convinces Tanya to bite him, giving him all the powers of a vampire, along with all of his inherent skills.
Batman eventually defeats Dracula, sacrificing his own humanity to do so, but the story doesn't end there. "Red Rain" became a fan favorite story, spawning sequels, spin-offs, and even seeing itself incorporated into the new multiverse in the wake of DC's 52, as one of 52 alternate earths. This version of the character was also a centerpiece of marketing for the short-lived Infinite Crisis video game.
KINGDOM COME6 of 12Mark Waid and Alex Ross's epic miniseries Kingdom Come established an aging Batman who gave up all pretense of a secret identity years ago.
His body wracked by time and injury, Bruce Wayne now uses a veritable army of Batman robots to patrol Gotham City. When his old friend Superman comes out of retirement to stop the reign of terror of a younger generation of out of control heroes, Batman dons an exo-skeleton suit, and rejoins his old friend's fight in person.
Batman's Kingdom Come armor has become iconic, and the idea of Bruce Wayne leading a team of automatons and surrogates rather than hitting the streets himself has become a common trope among alternate timeline stories.
GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT7 of 12Considered by many to be the very first "Elseworlds" story, Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola's Gotham By Gaslight tells the tale of a turn of the century Bruce Wayne, who dons the mantle of the be-goggled Batman when his friend Inspector Gordon shows him a series of strange murder cases. When it is discovered that Jack the Ripper has come to Gotham City, Bruce Wayne is framed for the murders, driving Batman to clear his own name and solve the grisly killings.
Gotham By Gaslight was widely acclaimed, inspiring the Elseworlds imprint that spawned numerous alternate stories of Batman, Superman, and various other characters. It even inspired a sequel, and was included in the new multi-verse, which also lead to the Gaslight version of Batman appearing in the miniseries Countdown Arena where many alternate versions of popular heroes competed to be the definitive version.
Multiple "Gaslight" versions of characters appeared in the short-lived Infinite Crisis game, and Gaslight Catwoman featured heavily in the digital-first comic based on the game.
BATMAN BEYOND8 of 12Batman: The Animated Series was hugely popular and inspired spinoffs for Superman and the Justice League. When B:TAS ended, producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were approached by Warner Bros. to fill its gap. When they asked what the pair had in mind, Timm said the first thing that came into his head: "Teenage Batman."
Working backwards from that premise, Timm and Dini developed the story of Terry McGinnis, a high school student whose father is killed by corporate criminals, sparking a sequence of events the lead to McGinnis discovering a now-retired Bruce Wayne's secret history as Batman. Wayne takes McGinnis under his wing, giving him a high-tech suit with an array of gadgets and weaponry, and "coaching" Terry via a special communications link.
Over the course of three seasons, Batman Beyond gathered a devoted following, and established Terry as a strong, unique version of Batman who faced off against not only his own rogues, but some classic Bat-villains as well.
Most recently, Batman Beyond moved into comic books, where Terry McGinnis played a major role in the Futures End weekly series, before being replaced in the cowl by a time-displaced Tim Drake for the new Batman Beyond comic book series.
'BATMAN' LIVE-ACTION TV9 of 12Spurred by the superhero revival of comics' Silver Age, executives at ABC developed the widely polarizing Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, respectively, to cash in on the growing trend.
The '60's Batman TV show's reliance on comedic guest stars, campy plots, and hokey dialogue have made it a "love it" or "hate it" proposition. Those fans that can't get past a Batman whose adventures and attitude are radically different from those of mainstream comics revile the show, while those with an appreciation for the material as a product of its time and place form a devoted cult following.
Whatever your personal feelings about the show, there's no denying that it defined the public's perception of Batman for a generation, and lead to the revival not just of numerous Batman villains, including the Riddler and the Joker, but of a darker, more serious Batman in comics as a reaction to the show's campy premise.
Like Batman Beyond, the TV show now lives on in a digital-first comic called, simply, Batman '66. The video game LEGO Batman 3 also features a special Batman '66 themed level featuring Adam West himself.
FRANK MILLER'S BATMAN10 of 12Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns was born of a quest for a return to form for Batman and his stories. Seeking to tell a grittier, darker Batman tale, Miller's DKR focuses on an older Bruce Wayne, forced out of retirement by a Gotham City that just keeps getting worse and worse, and the return of Two-Face, a villain thought to be cured of his criminal insanity.
DKR's Batman is more brutal, more direct, and much darker than many versions of the hero. While Miller's sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again is widely considered a pale effort next to the original story, DKR defined and reinvented Batman, and many would say comics in general, as a character and medium for older, more mature fans.
Several years ago, Miller revived this version of Batman in All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, providing an even more over-the-top and gonzo version of DKR's Batman in his youth. Now, Miller and writer Brian Azzarello are teaming up with artist Andy Kubert to produce a second sequel to DKR, entitled Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
Dark Knight Returns came to home video animation in a two-part movie, and is providing some inspiration for the next live-action big-screen appearance of Batman played by Ben Affleck, as he comes into Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice for a new clash with Henry Cavill's Superman.
THE ANIMATED SERIES11 of 12With major artistic contributions from Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, Batman: The Animated Series focused on a version of Batman that was not unlike the mainstream version seen in comics, but which sought to streamline many of the various tropes, stories, and concepts that had taken root at different eras of the character's history into a single, accessible vision of the caped crusader.
Reinventing and revitalizing many of Batman's classic nemeses, as well as Batman himself, Batman: The Animated Series presented a vision of Batman that was at once exciting, colorful, mysterious, and dark, successfully folding the numerous conceptions of the character into a total package.
For many fans, the animated series was their first introduction to Batman, and even some creators, like former Batman scribe Devin Grayson, found their way to comics with the show's influence. While it may not be as radical a reinvention or re-imagining of Batman as some on this list, Batman: The Animated Series is considered by many to be the definitive version of the character, and it even spawned an entire animated universe of alternate DC continuity portrayed in several shows.
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