Think you know everything about the Dark Knight? Think again. Though he’s most often been billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, there have actually been many, many different men under the cowl throughout the history of Bat-comics. Here are the ten best Batman(s) ever:
10. Azrael/Jean-Paul Valley
Tapped to take over the mantle after Batman had his back broken at the hands of the villainous Bane, Azrael used the opportunity to go totally nuts and kill a man, forcing Batman to retake his costume.
9. Jason Todd
Marginally better than Azrael, but still pretty insane, Batman’s former ward ended up taking on the identity of Batman when Bruce was lost in time and presumed dead (don’t ask). He killed, viciously, but turned out to be not too shabby as the Man in the Cowl.
8. Harvey Dent
In the Elseworlds OGN “Citizen Wayne,” Dent gets his whole face destroyed (why he didn’t go with No-Face, we have no idea), and takes on the identity of Batman. Like the previous two guys, he eventually takes it too far and kills a man, forcing newspaper publisher Bruce Wayne to take him down.
7. Tim Drake
Don’t get us wrong: we LOVE Tim Drake, the boy smart enough to figure out who Batman was on his own, and bully the Dark Knight into making him his Robin. What Drake doesn’t make, though, is a good Batman. From various glimpses of Drake in the cowl in the future, we know that he’s unhappy, mean, and sometimes even evil. Drake is the best Robin ever, but not one of the best Batmans.
6. Elliot Ness
The Untouchable himself appeared in another Elseworlds novel, “Scar of the Bat.” Here, there’s no Bruce Wayne, and Ness is called Batman more for the fact that he carries a baseball bat, than his bat-like appearance. That’s why we’re called “Slice of Pizza Man,” right? Because we carry a slice of pizza in our hands? Anyway.
5. Damian Wayne
In the far future of Grant Morrison’s Batman #666, Bruce Wayne’s evil little son Damian is the only thing (barely) holding Gotham City together. We’re going to see him again in an upcoming issue, and the brilliant mix of the extremely flawed Damian stepping up into his father’s legacy is something we’re excited to see explored more.
4. Thomas Wayne
In the alternate reality of Flashpoint, Bruce is the one murdered, and his father becomes Batman for revenge. Sadly, his mother becomes the Joker, driven crazy by the death of her son... And though Thomas is also not as great as his son is, having let Gotham become seedier (if that’s even possible), the story told in a Flashpoint spin-off mini by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso was poignant and horrifying; and got tot he center of what makes the bat-mythos so great.
3. Terry McGinnis
Okay, so Batman Beyond has appeared far more often on TV than in the comics, but we love us some Terry McGinnis. Paired with older Bruce Wayne, McGinnis flies through future society, battling the villains left behind... Or their descendants. Like Thomas Wayne, McGinnis gets to the heart of what’s good about Batman, while finding a riff on the idea. And unlike pretty much every previous Batman on this list, he sticks by the cardinal rule: Batman doesn’t kill.
2. Bruce Wayne
Who else could rank so high on this list, than the original Batman, the character that’s inspired innumerable comics, TV shows, and movies. There’s far too little space here to extrapolate on why Batman - and Bruce Wayne - has become a household name, but suffice to say we all know who Bruce is, and what he’s about. And what he’s about is stopping crime, at all costs.
1. Dick Grayson
Surprise! Why does Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, aka Robin, get the top spot, despite only being Batman for a short while? Because unlike Bruce, who is almost in stasis, Dick had the opportunity to grow into the character. Watching him, over the course of Grant Morrison’s brilliant Batman & Robin, and Scott Snyder’s even more brilliant Detective Comics arc was a way to look at Batman in a completely new - but familiar light. The legacy he lived up to, and the history of the character made for a rich rewarding read in both cases, and it was almost a bummer when Bruce came back. Almost.