Batman is one of the most beloved characters of all time. Vanilla Batman is plenty interesting and the focal point of many many stories. But just like any character in a comic book universe there are always many different versions spanning dimensions, universes and timelines. This is a look at some of the different versions of Batman that we’ve seen throughout the century.
Gotham By Gaslight
Set in 1800s Gotham, socialite Bruce Wayne has donned a somewhat steampunk attire in order to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies and find Jack the Ripper. He’s got all the essentials for a crime fighting vigilante of the 1800s: A cape-coat, goggles, and living in a world where people are actually afraid of a guy dressed as a bat. The comic that he debuted in has some amazing Mike Mignola stylized art and a few spin-offs (including an animated movie). He’s a fan favorite that makes an appearance in a multiversal crossover from time to time.
This Batman isn’t even Bruce Wayne. In the comic Superman: Red Son we see Kal-El land in the Soviet Union and grow up to be a Communist leader. In order to counter that, a young boy whose parents were murdered by Soviet officials donned a Batsuit and makes it his mission to rid the world of Soviet Superman. With red sun lamps and a whole lot of punches, he laid out this super-powered dictator and would have enslaved him in a prison of red sun radiation if not for Superman having the help of Wonder Woman. This version of Batman has the furry hat, the thick accent and bear wrestling strength of a Soviet vigilante.
Edit: Thanks reader Dennis Rotherham for pointing out that Batman is Soviet, not Russian!
During the Flashpoint Paradox comic arc, The Flash travels to a parallel dimensions where the origins of all the heroes have been changed. It is here where he discovers that instead of Thomas and Martha Wayne being killed that fateful night, it was Bruce. Martha become a crazed version of the Joker and Thomas Wayne become a brutal, gun-toting Batman fit for a grim world. He’s got red eyes, a penchant for brutality and a flask to numb the pain of a family, and a world, lost to insanity.
Originally created in DC’s Animated Universe was Batman: Beyond. The story followed a retired Bruce Wayne who trains a young man named Terry McGinnis to be the new Batman. Before Bruce hung up the mantle he had created an ultra futuristic technological Bat-armor, but never got around to using it. When Terry entered the picture he donned the suit and continues the legacy of Batman in the future. Instead of a cape, he’s got rocket boots. He’s a more fun loving, wise-cracking Batman who can still go toe to toe with Gotham’s worst.
Dick Grayson Batman
During the events of Final Crisis Bruce Wayne was killed (or so they thought). During his absence and a little bit during his eventual return the mantle was taken up by Dick Grayson, the original Robin who had become Nightwing. Begrudgingly he patrolled the streets in the cowl that he had lived the shadow of for so long. With Damian Wayne as Robin by his side, he kept Gotham in order. Many great comics have come from this time period such as The Black Mirror. Even though Dick went back to being Nightwing afterwards, it is still a remembered time for the Caped Crusader.
Batman & Dracula: Red Rain
In this Elseworlds comic Batman is tasked with fighting Dracula. Yes, the Dracula of myth and legend. After doing some research Batman comes to the conclusion that he must expose himself to the vampiric virus and become a vampire himself in order to defeat Dracula. However, afterwords he decides to kill his entire rogues gallery resulting in Alfred and Commissioner Gordon staking Batman to death (in which he later returns for revenge on the two). A very interesting take on Batman and one that, despite how ridiculous, people really love.
During Bruce Wayne’s travels across the globe he was taught how to embed a backup personality within himself. The personality would kick in if he was brainwashed or mind controlled. In Grant Morrison’s Batman: R.I.P. we see just that. Batman loses his mind and his backup personality kicks in named Zurr-En-Arrh. It’s more brutal, insane, manic and cobbles itself a multicolored Batsuit in order to finish the mission so that Bruce can get his mind back again.
Ever wonder what would happen if Superman’s parents were killed in an alley and he grew up to be Batman? That is exactly what happens in Superman: Speeding Bullets. Kal El’s ship lands in Gotham where he is found by the Waynes. They name him Bruce, and after his parents are gunned down he vaporizes the killers with his heat vision. He become a brutal version of the Dark Knight with the power of flight, a full face mask and the power to punch a man into space.
Jean Paul Valley was raised in a secret order of religious fanatics looking to cleanse the world. They programmed within him a expert fighter renamed him Azrael and then wiped his memory. However, they could trigger his skills with a few code-words. Azrael came in contact with Batman shortly after his back was broken. Azrael was trained to replace the Batman in an ultra ’90s, very extreme, version of the character. Bruce later took back the mantle after having to fight a crazed Azrael who’s secret training had been activated. The Knightfall Batman still lives on today in the Rebirth Detective Comics where Jean Paul fights along side the Bat Family.
Gods and Monsters
Here’s another vampire version of Batman. In a parallel universe the Justice League exists as three sole members who are more than happy to kill their enemies. General Zod’s son sent to Earth to become Superman, the New God Bekka as Wonder Woman and Kirk Langstrom as Batman. In the normal continuity Kirk Langstrom is Man-Bat. But here he is an actual vampire who uses science, a high tech suit, and his smarts to kill criminals and drink their blood. It’s actually a compelling tale showcased wonderfully in an animated movie of the same name.
In the Amalgam Universe (the universe where DC and Marvel characters collide and sometimes are morphed together) we have Dark Claw. This is the merging of Batman and Wolverine. Logan Wayne witnessed the death of his parents and was sent to live with his uncle in Canada. His uncle was killed by poachers and Logan was then sent to live in a home run by nuns. Later he joined Weapon X where adamantium was bonded to his skeleton and he learned of his metamutant nature. Weapon X was shut down later and Logan traveled the world learning enough skills to fight crime and avenge his parents. He even has a sidekick named Sparrow (a combination of Robin and Jubilee). Though the comic is pretty weird and bizarre, there was a later comic stylized to look like the Bruce Timm Batman Animated Universe which is apparently amazing.
In the Kingdom Come universe Batman is aged and retired. Bruce Wayne lives how he would actually live if he was retired: sitting in his mansion with drones and robots patrolling Gotham. He has an apparatus on his body so that he can walk and function like a normal man despite how many times he’s broken himself. Even though he is old and frail, he still dons a mech suit in order to aid in the conflict at the end of the graphic novel.
On Earth-Three exists the Crime Syndicate of America. With members like Ultraman, Superwoman, Power Ring and Johnny Quick there exists Thomas Wayne Jr. as Owlman. The Crime Syndicate rules their world with an evil iron fist and Owlman is no exception. Thomas Wayne Jr. was born as the older brother to Bruce Wayne. Thomas murdered his parents, and his brother with the help of Alfred. He became Owlman in order to take over Gotham through means of blackmailing, threats, and murder. Upon realizing that Earth-Three was part of a larger multiverse he became nihilistic and tried to destroy the entire multiverse but was later thwarted by Batman and the Justice League.
In Darkest Knight
Batman: In Darkest Knight is another Elseworlds story where Batman is mashed together with another character, that being Green Lantern. Bruce Wayne’s story goes as usual until after his first night at crime fighting. After getting nearly killed he sat in his study. Instead of a bat flying through the window, a ghostly figure approaches Bruce, bidding him to follow. Bruce is lead to the crashed ship of Abin Sur who is dying. He gives Bruce his green power ring and tell him to wait for contact from other Green Lanterns and dies. Bruce begins to fight crime and with the power ring averts the Joker from being created and is then found and trained by the Guardians of the Universe. With one of the most powerful weapons in the universe and a mind like Bruce’s he becomes one of the greatest crime-fighters in the universe.
Batman Year 100
This one is a weird one, and not a lot is really known about the origins of Batman Year 100. The year is 2039, Gotham has become a police state. Every day the police and the FBI clash as they try and stop Batman who is possibly the original Bruce Wayne. It’s intentionally left unclear. As they try and uncover the mystery behind this allegedly century old Batman, Captain Gordon (grandson of the original commissioner) tries to find Batman in order to clear up the mystery involving the murder of a federal agent. It has a very interesting art style and a strangely compelling story which acts as a bizarre end-cap to the 100 year old legacy of this maybe immortal Bruce Wayne.