ANTI-BATMAN: The History of Bruce Wayne's (Near) Equals
CREDIT: DC Comics
It's Newton's third law of motion. For every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction.
For DC's uber-popular character Batman, that's especially true. The hero has inspired comics writers to apply Newton's law to character development as they expand DC's cast of villains.
The latest? A revamp of The Wrath, the "Anti-Batman," and his sidekick, Scorn, who seems to be an "Anti-Robin." The two are part of this summer's story in Detective Comics by John Layman and Jason Fabok. (They're the latest in a growing list of villains DC has been hyping as their New 52 comics head toward a September event that's expected to focus on villains.)
"The Wrath and Scorn" were first seen together on the animated television show The Batman, but individually, the characters have roots in a slew of characters from throughout comics history. There have been several characters in the past of DC Comics (and, if we're being honest, at other publishers too) that were meant to be an "Anti-Batman." And a couple that were specifically "Anti-Robins."
In honor of this latest redesign of an Anti-Batman and Anti-Robin (and because our clever readers started discussing the character's history in the comments of our last story on the duo), we decided to put together a list of DC's previous "Anti-Batman" and "Anti-Robin" characters.
Far from an exhaustive list, we included the more major characters from DC comic books only (excluding the many anti- characters from other media, including The Wrath and Scorn from The Batman TV show).
The original version of The Wrath was introduced at DC in Batman Special #1, created by Mike W. Barr and Michael Golden. The villainous character's origin was similar to that of Bruce Wayne because his parents were also killed when he was a boy, although instead of being rich-upstanding citizens, they were thieves. However, Wrath's parents were shot when they were not committing a crime, by a young police officer named Jim Gordon. When The Wrath became an adult, he had trained as an assassin and returned to kill then-Commissioner Gordon for his mistake. Thanks to Batman's protection, Gordon lived, and by the end of the Special, The Wrath had been killed.
Thanks to a retcon in 2008, though, the character was seen again in a Batman Confidential story by Tony Bedard and Rags Morales. This time around, Gordon's shooting of the parents was done in self-defense.
The Confidential story also included a sort of "Anti-Robin": a young villain whom the original Wrath trained to become the new Wrath. Named Elliot Caldwell, this second Wrath confronts Batman about the killing, but ends up in Blackgate Penitentiary by the end of the story.
The original Owlman was the evil counterpart of Batman in the Crime Syndicate of America, a group of villains from Earth-3 where history was "reversed." Created in 1964 in a story in Justice League of America, the character has been utilized ever since by DC writers as an "anti-Batman," in various incarnations. One of the more recent appearances of an Earth-3 Owlman took place during multiverse-spanning The Search for Ray Palmer: Crime Society and Countdown, a character who had an "anti-Robin" type sidekick called Talon.
Thomas Wayne Jr.
There is also a character in current New 52 continuity that is a sort of "anti-Batman," as well as being a pseudo-"Owlman," although he doesn't carry that name. A leader in the Court of Owls, the villain specifically targeted Batman because he claims to be Thomas Wayne Jr., the believed-to-be-dead brother of Bruce Wayne. He sought revenge against his brother because he had allegedly been sickly, and thus locked away into the Willowwood Home for Children by his parents, while Bruce had been coddled in a mansion. His identity was never confirmed nor disproved before he disappeared in an explosion at the end of the story.
There are two types of characters named "Talon" that fit under the description "anti-Batman and Robin." First was the aforementioned sidekick to Owlman on Earth-3, who served as a sort of "Anti-Robin." During the multiverse story The Search for Ray Palmer: Crime Society, it was revealed that there have been several Talons.
But the name "Talon" is also being used in current New 52 continuity to refer to several villains that could also be called "anti-Batmen" because they're evil, street-level fighters whose costumes echo the fighting hero. The villains are deadly assassins who fight for the Court of Owls, and they are resurrected, "undead" characters, which makes them virtually impossible to kill by normal means. Dick Grayson was originally marked by the Court to become a Talon. The "Talon" name has come full circle though, with one operating as a hero in his own ongoing series, and another working alongside the Birds of Prey in theirs.
Created in 2003, Hush was more of an opposite of Bruce Wayne than Batman, but the character is worth a mention here because he's a recent, popular villain with a similar background as Bruce Wayne, but has a personal vendetta against Batman. The villain's identity was kept hidden by bandages across his face for much of his introductory story, but he ended up being Tommy Elliot, a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne who was also born into a wealthy family.
Created as a supervillain and arch-rival of Batman back in 1963, Catman has a costume that mimics Batman's except the ears are a bit more, well, cat-ish. A burglar by trade (like Catwoman), the character was originally an evil counterpart of Batman's in Gotham City, but he never really took off as a villainous threat. However, he later became a popular antihero (and was less associated with Batman) thanks to a revival and revamp in the Gail Simone comic book Secret Six.
There have been a few characters named Prometheus in DC Comics history, but the one that could best be called an "anti-Batman" was the one created by Grant Morrison in 1998. Just like Bruce Wayne, the character lost his wealthy parents, then traveled throughout the world to develop his skills as a fighter. He also similarly used his parents' wealth to develop technology for fighting. But unlike Batman, this character's parents were thieves and were killed by police (sound familiar, Wrath fans?), so his vengeance is against justice. While he was a JLA villain in his first incarnation, he was later used by several writers throughout the DCU.
When the killed-in-action Robin named Jason Todd first returned from the dead, he functioned as a sort of anti-Batman because he utilized the training of Batman to target the hero, while also attempting to prove that his more brutal way of cleaning Gotham's streets was better than Batman's methods.
He went farther into his role when Bruce Wayne apparently died, even recruiting a "Robin" of his own, and marketing himself as the hero Gotham needed.
While he was more of an anti-hero in his original return, the Red Hood now serves as an almost straight-up hero in the relaunched DCU, starring in Red Hood & The Outlaws.
Young Justice had a counterpart to Robin called Harm. A boy named Billy Hayes, he was given powers and became a sociopath determined to become the world's greatest murderer. While he operated on his own, and not as a sidekick, he was created with the express intent of giving Tim Drake, then Robin, a foil who could be his near-equal.
After appearing in a few different Young Justice stories, Harm was eventually killed, although he made the jump to television in the recent Young Justice animated series.