Dark Days for the Dark Knight1 of 12Although there are plenty of dreadful crimes committed against superheroes in comic books, one hero has experienced some of the worst of them. Batman, the mere-mortal hero of dark and gritty Gotham City, has been physically beaten and mentally manipulated, losing his fortune, his business, his family, and friends multiple times since the character's creation in 1939.
With this week’s Dark Days: The Casting, the DC Universe takes one step closer to its upcoming Batman-centric event, Dark Nights: Metal. With the multiverse potentially at stake in the story, it could once again leave the Caped Crusader forever changed – or worse.
For this countdown however, we're focusing on comic book continuity... so with more misfortune possibly awaiting the Dark Knight, Newsarama is looking back at the worst things to ever happen to Batman.
He's Back!2 of 12The death of Jason Todd was pretty devastating for Batman (more on that later), but the bad turned even worse when Jason came back to life as a villain who called himself the Red Hood. Although the manner of his resurrection in Batman was unusual — being caused by Superboy Prime's punch from a pocket dimension — Jason used his rebirth to train himself and go after Batman, angry that his own death had never been avenged.
What resulted were some pretty messed up mind games, from a reappearance in "Hush" that floored Batman to some confrontations with Joker, Batman, Tim Drake and even Nightwing. Eventually, he became an ally of the Bat-heroes, but it was only after trying his best to get back at Bruce.
Tower of Babel3 of 12Batman doesn't make very many mistakes, but in the "Tower of Babel" storyline in JLA, his actions led to the torture and near death of his fellow Justice League members.
It all started when Batman, being the mistrusting type, put together files with details on how to defeat his own teammates. After Ra's Al Ghul stole the files, the villain was able to defeat the league through a series of coordinated strikes on the heroes. Things got even worse for Batman when Ra's Al Ghul also stole the remains of Thomas and Martha Wayne, threatening (or rather, offering) to revive them in a Lazarus Pit.
Eventually, the League recovered, but Batman had to leave the team for a while as a result.
Memory Lost4 of 12In the "Endgame" storyline in Batman, Batman appeared to finally be defeating the Joker during a brutal, hand-to-hand battle with the Joker. But when the underground chamber where they were fighting collapsed, Batman and Joker were assumed dead.
As most readers expected, it was soon revealed that Bruce Wayne was alive and well. However, he wasn't Batman anymore, having been revived in a way that caused him to completely lose his memories. He was sporting a beard and cluelessly volunteering at a local rec center — because he no longer remembered he was Batman (a fact that Alfred and others didn't have the heart to tell him).
Although he might have technically been "happy" in his ignorance, Gotham City needed him to return to his role as Batman and Alfred reluctantly helped him get his memories back. The experience left readers wondering which was worse for Batman — losing his memories, or getting them back?
Emperor Joker5 of 12In "Emperor Joker," Batman's arch-nemesis stole the reality-warping abilities of Mr. Mxyzptlk. The twisted villain remade the universe in a way that stuck it in a loop, reserving the worst of it for Batman. Every day, Batman would be horrifically tortured — for example, having his flesh torn from his body while his mouth was sewn shut. Each day, Batman was killed, then brought back to life so that Joker could repeat the process.
She did what?6 of 12The Justice League miniseries Identity Crisis is remembered for some nasty murders of well-known characters, but a subplot in the storyline concerned Zatanna's ability to mind-wipe villains.
The mind-wipe happened after some super villains learned the secret identities of the entire Justice League — information that the heroes decided that the rogues needed to forcibly forget.
When Batman tried to stop them from doing it, they erased his memories of the incident as well. Yes, he eventually got back the memory of it, but man was he ticked off.
Now, in Detective Comics, it seems Zatanna's memory meddling may be an issue once again.
Broken Back7 of 12During the "Knightfall" storyline, the super-steroid villain called Bane defeats Batman and cripples him. While the hero is down and out, he's replaced by an apprentice, Jean-Paul Valley, who tarnishes Batman's reputation.
The image of Bane picking up Batman's body and breaking it over his knee is one that many readers remember as horrific for the character, and the ramifications of Valley's actions while Batman was out were felt in the Bat titles for some time.
Zur-En-Arrh8 of 12When Batman writer Grant Morrison started referencing classic aspects of the character's mythos, he included this 1958 alien Batman, but with a twist.
The story shows just how well Batman plans for everything when he is so devastatingly defeated by the Black Glove and Doctor Hurt that he turns into "the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh," which is revealed to be a back-up personality that Batman established within himself in case he was mind-wiped or driven to insanity. Intended to take over for Batman if he was ever taken out of action mentally, the experience was obviously horrible for the character, even as it thrilled long-time fans.
"Death" of Batman9 of 12In Final Crisis, Batman appears to die at the hands — or rather, the Omega Beams — of Darkseid. However, the hero's fate isn't death, but he was instead sent back through time. He has to overcome amnesia and the history of the DCU, traveling through the timestream and battling crazy stuff from history (and from the mind of Grant Morrison).
The storyline allowed Batman to be a witch-hunter, a pirate, and a gunfighter, but the journey took its toll — the resolution even included the Justice League having to stop Batman's heart before he could return permanently to present-day.
Death of Robin(s)10 of 12When the young characters around Batman are maimed or killed, it's never a good time in the Batcave. From Barbara's crippling at the hands of the Joker to the death of female Robin Stephanie Brown to the death of his own son Damian to the recent assumed death of Tim Drake, Batman has had to deal with his share of lost Robins and injured allies — and at times, self-blame for not being there to save his friends.
One of the more heartbreaking experiences for the Caped Crusader came when Jason Todd was beaten almost to death by the Joker with a crowbar, then had to sacrifice what little life was left in himself during a (failed) attempt to shield his mother. The death of Jason Todd became one of those dark events that not only lives on in the comic books, but has been incorporated into other media, including DC's current cinematic universe.
Sad Origin11 of 12The melodramatic murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne is always going to be the darkest part of Bruce Wayne's past, serving as the mental springboard for the obsessively crime-fighting Batman.
After a screening of The Mask of Zorro, the Waynes and their young son left a theater on Park Row and strolled happily through the darkened streets of Gotham. But their joy was ended by Joe Chill, a petty thief (or assassin, depending on the version) who shot Bruce's parents and left them dying in an alley.
What resulted was both a fracturing of a young boy's mind and the creation of one of the best-known comic book heroes in history.
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