There are enough alternate reality Batmen to fill up an entire planet of people. Or at least that’s what it seems with all the parallel universes floating around in DC Comics. From far flung future tales to inverted realities to people with very misguided ideas on what makes Batman cool, alternate reality tales have given rise to a wide array of Dark Knights. And that’s not even including the many versions found in movies and television, each of which could be considered as their own separate universes.
Whether it’s due to a desire to break out of the confines of a structured DC Comics universe or just a fun whim, writers and artists have given rise to unique versions of Batman that take the core of Bruce Wayne and twist him or put him in a strange land for a fresh and surprising story. These alternate versions run the gamut from instant classics to “what were they thinking?” But at least they’re original. Well, except for the Frankenstein one.
For the first half of the list, including Flashpoint, Red Rain, The Dark Knight Returns, and many more, read Part 1 of Alternate Reality Batmen. For more in-depth looks at Batman, visit the Dark Knight Discussion section.
All Star Batman and Robin
A daring new look at the psychosis of Batman? Or the last ravings of a madman someone given the reigns of a character he once did wonders on? Maybe writer Frank Miller’s All Star Batman and Robinis a bit of both. This miniseries (which was never finished), tracks the first days of Robin’s partnership with Batman. But this Batman isn’t just a complete psychopath, he’s a total jerk to everyone around him. After the death of his parents, Batman kidnaps the traumatized boy who would be Robin and dumps him in The Batcave to fend for himself until he gets tough. He also introduces himself as “The Goddamn Batman.” But in Batman’s defense, everyone’s kind of a homicidal maniac in this comic. Miller says this version of Batman is just the younger years of the one in The Dark Knight Returns. Let’s just refuse to accept that.
The Biggest Difference: He’s a total lunatic. Kidnapping and abusing Robin, lighting criminals on fire, and cursing his head off in the midst of battle, he’s basically like the real life Frank Miller in a Batman costume.
Damian Wayne is a potent blend of good heart and dark tendencies as Robin, but in a premonition of the future, his ascendancy to the mantle of Batman brings the apocalypse to Gotham. While this dark vision of the future first appeared in Batman #666 by author Grant Morrison, it was not revealed until much later that this was a premonition seen by Bruce Wayne on a trip through time and a future he is desperately trying to avoid. Here, Bruce is long dead and Damian has ascended to the mantle of Batman. But Gotham is slowly falling apart despite his brutal methods and a deal with The Devil to not die until the Apocalypse. But it all ends when the city of overrun by Joker Venom-poisoned crazies and Gotham is destroyed by a nuclear bomb. It’s incredibly dark, but adds many layers to the larger story at play.
The Biggest Difference: This is a far more brutal and sinister version of Batman who has absolutely no friends or allies. He not only maims his enemies, but he’s definitely willing to kill, but he’s still trying to save Gotham every night.
While owls may not be the exact opposite of bats, Owlman is the dark reflection of Batman. Most versions of Owlman come from the parallel universe of Earth-3, where heroes are villains and villains are heroes. There have been many versions of Owlman, with the first even wearing a miniature owl on his head for a cowl (it’s stupendously dumb looking), but they all are essentially the same. Real name Thomas Wayne, Jr., he comes from a despicable family and takes on the mantle of Owlman to control Gotham City and take over the world with the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. He also takes a chemical regimen to enhance his intelligence. While the idea of a parallel universe counterpart of a hero is not a fresh idea, Owlman is a tried a true character. Along with the rest of his villainous compatriots, writers can’t help but explore the concept again and again.
The Biggest Difference: He’s straight up evil. Whatever the take on Owlman may be, he’s just as smart and dangerous as Batman, but is fully committed to crime and taking over the world!
Batman Earth One
After DC Comics latest reboot, the “Earth One” title was reserved for new graphic novels telling unique twists on the early days of their iconic heroes. “Batman: Earth One” tracks the early days of Batman, with a few major changes thrown in to keep it fresh and exciting. Here, Bruce believes that his parents were gunned down for political reasons, as his father was about to successfully run for Mayor of Gotham City. His obsession leads to his return as Batman, whose one sole purpose is to take down the man who had his parents killed – Oswald Cobblepot, Mayor of Gotham. But this is a very human Batman, one who has rushed into action and makes many mistakes. Other tweaks include an Alfred who was a member of the Royal Marines and is far tougher than his normal version. Plus, this version doesn’t have white over his eyes, giving him a more grounded and human feel.
The Biggest Difference: It’s really the motivation that makes the Batman of Earth One so different. However, The Dark Knight ends on a note much closer to the classic by the end of the first graphic novel, once his first mission is accomplished.
Taking place in the 1960s, the tale of Thrillkillerthrows quite a few twists into the Batman mythos, including an inversion on his relationship with Batgirl and Robin. Here, the two young heroes become thrill seeking vigilantes fighting crime and pursuing their own vengeance for the death of their loved ones. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is a detective and one of the few cops in Gotham City who isn’t crooked. But when Robin is killed by The Joker, a female version with a very different background, Bruce takes on the mantle of Batman to take his place and support Batgirl. He’s eventually appointed Police Commissioner while still retaining the identity of Batman when needed.
The Biggest Difference: Bruce isn’t defined by Batman here. Instead, his choice to be The Dark Knight is much more of a choice than an obsession. Plus, the focus on Batgirl and Robin puts them on much more even ground with the character.
The first one shot DC Comic to bear the Elseworlds title, Batman: Holy Terror takes place in a United States of America that is a commonwealth nation run by a theocratic government, which is, of course, corrupt. Here, Bruce Wayne is a clergyman who has moved past the murder of his parents when he was young. But inquisitor James Gordon reveals to him that it was the government that caused the deaths of the Waynes due to them being anti-government radicals. It spurs him on to be clothed in garb resembling a bat and seek justice against the high council that murdered his parents. In this world, distorted versions of The Flash and other heroes, including a dead Superman, all make an appearance in new forms. By the end, Batman is on a crusade to bring down the government, rather than crime.
The Biggest Difference: This is a very religious Batman, with his mission and idealogy very much informed by his faith. While the original Batman isn’t anti-religion, the change creates a different tone for The Caped Crusader.
Castle of the Bat
Simply put, this is Frankenstein. How did writer Jack Harris come up with the idea to combine Batman and Frankenstein? I have no idea. The two have nothing in common. Here, Bruce Wayne is a scientist living in 1819 whose parents were murdered by a robber when he was a child. Instead of becoming a vigilante, he becomes a scientist (because why not?) who vows to avenge his parents. His experiments lead him to fuse a dog with bat-like capabilities and eventually reanimate his father, combining his preserved brain with cadaver parts and a serum giving the creature bat attributes. He also gives it a Batman-like costume for no reason. Of course, things go terribly wrong and the Bat-Man runs amok and becomes more and more bat-like. Altogether, it’s more Frankenstein than Batman, with many ideas lifted from the novel and 1931 film. Even Alfred is recast as the hunchback, Igor-like, Alfredo.
The Biggest Difference: It’s not really Batman at all. But not everything has to be. Except when it’s Batman. Then it should be Batman.
While there are many versions of Bizarro over the years, the inverted version of Superman that comes from an alternate dimension is also accompanied by many strange versions of other heroes. That includes Batzarro, a weirdo version of Batman. As the “World’s Worst Detective,” the villainous Batzarro uses a giant metal chain with a hook and thinks out loud, as opposed to Batman’s inner monologue. He also uses guns and kills people who walk down Crime Alley. He also shot and killed his parents when he was a boy. That’s not very funny. But it’s meant to be! Other clichéd bizarre aspects include an upside down Bat Symbol and pockets on his utility belt that open on the bottom. I’m running out of parallel universe Batmen.
The Biggest Difference: The backwards talk and lack of eyes in the cowl is certainly different, but it’s Batzarro’s use of guns that are the biggest difference between this alternate take and the real deal.
When the Marvel and DC Comics Universes temporarily merged into the Amalgam Universe (it’s complicated, look it up yourself), their heroes and villains combined into new characters. Batman and Wolverine merged together to form Dark Claw. Underneath the cowl, the man is Logan Wayne, who underwent adamantium bonding in the Canadian Super Soldier program and learned he was a metamutant after the murder of his parents at a young age. The Clawed Crusader went on to fight criminals in New Gotham City, including his arch enemy Hyena (a mix of Sabretooth and Joker). His costume is clearly a mix between the two heroes and he even uses Clawrangs in addition to his razor sharp metal claws. Wow. This really sounds like fan fiction.
The Biggest Difference: Adamantium claws and a healing factor. Mix that with the awesomeness of Batman and no criminal would really ever stand a chance against this version of the hero. This is definitely fan fiction.