Into the Bat-verse: Best Alternate Takes on Batman
Comics are fun. At least, the collaborative nature of the comic book industry sure is. Take an established character, cherry-pick an up-and-coming writer, and pair them with an artist, then let the magic take hold.
Superman, Spider-Man, and X-Men have all offered up alternate versions of top-billed characters. Sure, some alternative takes fall flat, but it’s the spirit of the medium that keeps me coming back for more.
Much like his contemporaries, Batman has enjoyed his fair share of re-inventions. The Bat-verse is full of strange alternate takes and even stranger storylines.
Today, we take a look at the best of the best. So gas up you Batmobile and put on your cape, because today we’re set to examine the best alternate takes on Batman. Let’s go!
Batman: The Animated Series
I recently revisited Batman: The Animated Series. It had been the first time watching it since I was a child. I was curious to see if the series held up to the test of time. I’m pleased to tell you that yes, yes it did.
For kids show, Batman: The Animated Series is shockingly dark. Its film noir aesthetic set the tone for the franchise going forward.
Its impact on Batman and the entire superhero genre can’t be understated. Seriously, it’s that good.
Some call it Batman Beyond. Others call it Batman of the Future. Despite the difference in title, everyone calls it amazing.
Batman Beyond is an animated TV series that sets out to hit the refresh button on the Batman: The Animated Series that we all grew to love. The show kicks off in 2019, showing an aging Bruce Wayne struggling to manage his life-saving, crime-fighting duties. The show then jumps forward 20-years, to a hyper-futuristic Gotham City and an all-new, much younger Batman.
The show follows Terry McGinnis, a brash young crime fighter destined to usher the legacy of the Bat into a whole new age. This futuristic take on Batman may not be what you expect, but that’s the point!
You thought the Joker was Batman’s perfect foil. What about an alternate version of Batman that directs his grief in the wrong direction?
In the Antimatter Universe, Thomas Wayne, Jr., the eldest son of Thomas Wayne, witnesses the savage murder of his father, mother, and younger brother Bruce. Just like Bruce in the story we remember, Thomas takes justice into his own hands.
Don’t get it twisted, Owlman is a bad dude. He goes on to join the Crime Syndicate, using his bottomless wealth to train, enhance his suit, and terrorize the citizens of Gotham City.
If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to say that you’re all too familiar with Batman’s origin story. Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered in a moment of thoughtless violence and Bruce makes it his life’s work to defend victims of violent crime. Batman in the Flashpoint timeline is a bit different.
In this origin story, Bruce is murdered. Due to that, Thomas Wayne picks up the Batman mantle.
In this alternate timeline, Batman’s trajectory is much bloodier. Thomas Wayne’s Batman is ruthless, bloodthirsty and fueled by revenge.
Red Son, released in 2003, isn’t a comprehensive re-hash of the Batman story. In fact, it isn’t really even a Batman story. It’s a Superman comic.
In it, Superman’s rocket ship lands in Soviet Russia, instead of the U.S. The creative, cold war take on Superman also features a less-than-familiar Batman re-hash too.
As a child, a young Bruce Wayne watches as his parents gunned down by Stalin’s police force. He vows revenge. So over the next 20 years, Batman systematically terrorizes Superman and the Russian power base.
Batman’s signature style has always screamed gothic. He’s from Gotham City after all. So, it just seems natural to fuse his story with one of the greatest gothic tales of all time.
Yes! In the Red Rain graphic novel trilogy, Batman comes face to face with Dracula.
The trilogy — which includes Batman and Dracula: Red Rain, Batman: Bloodstorm, and Batman: Crimson Mist — sees Batman become a vampire in order to become strong enough to defeat Dracula. Once Dracula is off the books, Batman goes about killing every other enemy he can find.
While the Red Rain trilogy is not for the faint of heart, it’s a real page-turner for those that can stomach it.
Gotham by Gaslight
Alternate takes provide artists a blank canvas to experiment with our favorite characters, thematically and stylistically.
In Gotham by Gaslight, writer Brian Augustyn injects a healthy dose of steampunk in an honest attempt to re-invent the familiar Bruce Wayne story. And the resulting story is nothing short of inspired.
Gotham by Gaslight drops Batman in the Victorian Era, where he goes head to head with the legendary serial murderer Jack the Ripper.
The Dark Knight Returns
You may recognize the name Frank for writing the source material for Sin City and 300. However, Batman fans know him better for penning the acclaimed The Dark Knight Returns.
In TDKR, gone are the days of a young, spry Batman with a pep in his step and an ax to grind. Batman is much older in this one. In fact, he’s retired the cape.
However, following an unpleasant encounter with gangsters from a powerful new Gotham-based crew “The Mutants,” Batman comes out of retirement. Batman isn’t on his own though. He enlists the help of a new female Robin named Carrie Anne.
Batman: Year 100
In one word, Batman: Year 100 is divisive. Some love it, celebrating its gritty artwork and fresh take on the caped crusader. Others hate it, for its awful artwork and poor character decisions.
Love it or hate it, Batman: Year 100 made a mark.
The plot is unconventional, even for Batman. The story picks up in 2039, 100 years after the first appearance of Batman. Somehow, Gotham City is even more dystopian than normal. A technologically driven government runs the show, prying into people’s lives more than ever before.
Then, Batman is gets accused of murder. But the thing is, Batman should be dead. So, is this the same, Bruce Wayne that we’ve come to love or is it someone else? You’ll have to read it to find out.
The Batman Who Laughs
The Batman Who Laughs is a brutal, nightmare-inducing supervillain with the orderly mind of Bruce Wayne and the maniacal bloodlust of the Joker.
The story of The Batman Who Laughs begins on Earth-22. In this universe, the Joker ruthlessly captures Bruce and forces him to helplessly watch unthinkable acts of crime and evil. Overwhelmed by the display, Batman breaks free and snaps Joker’s neck. Upon his death, a strange gas leaks out of Joker’s mouth. The gas eventually turns Batman into a murder-happy killing machine.
The Batman Who Laughs is a terrifying tale of evil, corruption, and murder. So yeah, you should probably pick this one up too.
Son of the Bat
Damian Wayne’s origin story is even darker than Bruce’s. It’s true.
Detailed in the Andy Kubert non-canon miniseries Damian: Son of the Batman, Damian’s tragic tale begins with the death of Batman. Damian, the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, puts on the cape and seeks answers.
As the new Batman, Damian is much more ruthless than Bruce. For starters, Damian kills. Not bound by the moral code of his father, he is determined not to make those same mistakes.