Today is Batman Day, and comics fans around the world are celebrating Gotham’s Caped Crusader. But it’s important to realize that it is Batman day, not Bruce Wayne day. So we’ve decided to highlight the event by picking out our favorite Batmen who are not Bruce Wayne.
Azrael was not a very good Batman. Jean-Paul Valley was tasked with taking on the mantle of The Bat when Bruce Wayne was laid up in bed with a busted spine. The only problem was that Azrael, who takes his name from the Hebrew Angel of Destruction, didn’t care as much about not killing people as Bruce Wayne had. So eventually Bruce is forced to rehab his back to stop Azrael and return to his role as Gotham’s defender.
When Bruce Wayne died in Batman R.I.P., there followed an epic DC event entitled Battle for the Cowl. In the wake of Bruce’s passing, every hero with even a trace of a claim to the Batman legacy went to war to claim the title of Batman. Among the contenders was Dr. Kirk Langstrom, a.k.a. The Man-Bat. One of Gotham’s lesser-known super villains seemed to think he was as deserving of the Batman title as anyone else because he was a man who was also a bat.
8. Wayne Williams
In 2001, DC Comics asked us to envision a world, unlike anything we’d ever seen before in Just Imagine Stan Lee with Joe Kubert Creating Batman. Stan Lee’s Batman was an African-American man named Wayne Williams who – like Bruce Wayne – depends on technology to give him an edge up on his enemies. William’s origin, however, is more reminiscent of Spider-Man’s. His father is a policeman who dies in an ambush. Williams vows to hunt down the criminal responsible and all those who would pose similar threats to the innocent.
It’s rare to feel bad for a supervillain. Especially one as heinous as Bane, who is famous for utterly destroying his heroic adversary. But when Bane challenged The Batman, only to find The Last Son of Krypton under his cowl, it was hard not to feel sorry for him. Clark Kent doesn’t exactly bring the shadowy menace for which Bruce Wayne is known. But it is impossible not to smile at the idea of replacing a hero known for not having any powers with a hero who has every power.
6. Dark Claw
In April 1996, Marvel and DC decided to combine their powers in a way no comics fan had ever seen before. The Amalgam Comics Universe was made up of superheroes who were one part Marvel and one part DC. Dark Claw was a version of Batman whose alter ego was the X-Men’s Wolverine. Adding Logan’s appetite for destruction with Batman’s need for vengeance was a formula for fantastic disaster. And the resulting story was a must-read for comics fans.
5. Thomas Wayne
The Flashpoint Universe is absolutely soul crushing. And the story of Flashpoint Batman is no exception. In this alternate DC dimension, Thomas Wayne watches his son die during a mugging in Crime Ally. His wife, Martha, loses her mind and becomes a criminal known as The Joker. Meanwhile, Thomas dawns the cape a cowl and takes on crime as a darker version of the Caped Crusader. Thomas Wayne’s Batman is an out and out criminal who revels in his violent acts. Nevertheless, his brand of dark nihilism is something comics fans are still hoping to see brought to the big screen one day.
4. Jim Gordon
During their iconic run on Batman, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo gave Jim Gordon more responsibility than he’s ever had before. While Bruce Wayne was suffering an amnesic episode, Gordon took on the duties of being Batman. Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon have always shared a deeply intertwined history. Frank Miller’s Year One makes it clear how inexorably linked the two characters are. Seeing Gordon take on the Batman title was a significant step in that relationship.
3. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh
Grant Morrison’s run on Batman is insane. Morrison wanted to tie together everything that had ever happened to the character since its creation. Part of this was his reference to The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, a character from Batman #113 was the Superman of Planet IX. In Morrison’s run, however, Zur-En-Arrh was an alternate personality Bruce Wayne programmed in himself who was more violent and more unhinged than your average Batman. The rainbow Batman proved that Bruce Wayne belonged in Arkham. He was Batman without the Bruce.
2. Dick Grayson
There was always one Robin who deserved the cowl more than his comrades. And when Batman died, Grant Morrison gave him that opportunity. When Bruce Wayne died, Dick Grayson took over his adopted father’s role as Gotham’s Guardian. Grayson’s journey to being called Batman was not an easy one. His transition from Robin to Nightwing was an emancipation from the Bat family. Seeing him come back to fill in for Bruce as Batman was an astounding moment for the character.
This one is a bit of a cheat. Zorro is not a hero in the DC Universe. But he does have the incredible distinction of being Bruce Wayne’s personal Batman. Thomas and Martha Wayne died after taking their son to see The Mask of Zorro. Zorro is probably one of Bruce’s last happy memories. And he’s the model Batman is inspired by, both in fiction and in real life.
Those are our Top 10 Batmen who aren’t Bruce Wayne. But who are yours? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @NerdItHereFirst.