The top 10 worst Batman stories
By Colin Hickson
In the seventy-five years he’s existed, Batman has had some of the most memorable superhero stories of all time.
Unfortunately, he’s also had the misfortune of starring in some of the worst story arcs ever created. Whether cartoons, comics, or crossovers, these stories will forever remain a blemish in the history of the Dark Knight, and have either been or will be trashed by Linkara or the Nostalgia Critic. But what are the ten absolute worst stories in Batman history?
10. “Joker: the Vile and the Villainous”: Who on the writing staff of “Batman: the Brave and the Bold” thought this was a good idea? In this forgettable episode, the Joker is the protagonist and Batman is the antagonist. It sounds like an interesting twist, except it is horribly executed! In the episode, Batman, who is depicted as being an antagonistic jerk, builds a super-Bat Signal to keep criminals in Gotham City in line, and the Joker teams up with the obscure Golden Age villain, the Weeper (guest star Tim Conway), to destroy it. Not only does this portray Batman as a bully, but it also insults superheroes in general, specifically the Weeper’s nemesis, Bulletman, and treats villains as victims of these guys! Holy role reversal, indeed, Batman.
9. “Batman: Fortunate Son”: Say, did you know Batman absolutely despises rock music? Well, Batman confronts his hatred out of continuity one-shot, when a rock star named Izaak Crow goes nuts and starts a nation-wide rampage. Naturally, Batman and Robin are called in to stop him. And yes, it has a typical “the manager was behind it all” twist. A poorly conceived story, lackluster art by the normally great Gene Ha, and an outright insult to rock ‘n roll history in general, this comic has only one redeemable quality: the unintentionally hilarious “Punk is nothing but death…and crime…and the RAGE OF A BEAST!” line.
8. “Harley’s Holiday” from “Batman: the Animated Series”: While “Batman: the Animated Series” was one of the best shows of the nineties, like other shows, it has its episodes that are completely forgettable. This is one of them. After being released from Arkham Asylum, Harley Quinn tries to fit into normal society, but one mishap after another prevents that from happening. What is there to say about this episode? The plot is inane, the writing is lazy, and this feels more like an episode of a Disney Channel sitcom than “Batman: the Animated Series”.
7. “Arise, Ye Ghosts of Gotham” (The Brave and the Bold #89, April-May 1970): Batman seems to be a magnet for the supernatural sometimes, and this tale is an example of that. When bizarre happenings begin following the arrival of a group of people called the Hellerites, Batman investigates…but so does the Phantom Stranger, a supernatural being in the DC Universe who protects humans from the forces of darkness.
Things go awry when the Stranger’s self-proclaimed rival, Dr. Thirteen, arrives and claims the Stranger has something to do with the ghosts, or as he says, “a hoax,” then has him arrested. There are a few erroneous elements with this story: first of all, Batman has met supernatural beings, even teaming up with Deadman in a previous issue, so why would he take Thirteen’s side? Also, how did Thirteen get to Gotham so fast? And how can the Phantom Stranger, a being who has spoken fearlessly to DARKSIDE and fought the forces of darkness to save Superman’s soul be taken down so easily? Luckily, a much better and appropriately creepy team-up between the two heroes happened later.
6. “The Dark Knight Strikes Again”: Years ago, artist-writer Frank Miller authored one of the greatest comic miniseries of all time, “The Dark Knight Returns”. Then in 2001, he authored the moronic sequel “The Dark Knight Strikes Again”. In this unnecessary follow-up, Lex Luthor is now the head of the US government, and blackmails Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel into working for him. To counter Luthor, Batman, who now acts more like a terrorist than a superhero, creates a rebellion of other DC superheroes to overthrow Luthor. Rife with a thoughtless plot, sloppy art, confusing twists, and out-of-character behavior, this is one sequel that really shouldn’t have happened, just like “Hoodwinked 2.”
5. “Critters” from “Batman: the Animated Series”: When did Batman start fighting Godzilla monsters? When Farmer Brown (yes, really), a microbiologist, is forced to shut his experiments down after one of his giant animals goes on a rampage, he and his daughter send their monsters to terrorize Gotham. This isn’t a Batman episode, this is more of a “Godzilla: the Series” episode, or a “Big Guy and Rusty, the Boy Robot” episode, or an “X-Files” episode, or even a “Baywatch Nights” episode. And Farmer Brown is not really a Batman villain; he belongs more in the villainous lineups dealt with by heroes such as the Flash, the Atom, or the Doom Patrol. Luckily, he has never shown up anywhere else.
4. “Grundy’s Night” from “The Batman”: Despite being a Golden Age Green Lantern villain, Solomon Grundy is now considered more of a Justice League villain, specifically an opponent for Batman or Superman. What better way to introduce this iconic villain in “The Batman”, which does its own takes on classic villains, than in a Halloween episode? Well, prepare to have your hopes get shattered. Not only does this Grundy lack the gravelly voice, but it is not even him. It is the show’s version of Clayface, who has gone from sympathetic villain to petty criminal, which completely breaks his character. And while it did have a sequel in the tie-in comic, this is still a rather disappointing episode. To quote Solly, “Solomon Grundy no like!”
3. “Batman’s Marriage Trap!” (Batman # 214, August 1969): The title says it all. A crime boss gets his female flunky to cause an ad campaign to force Batman to marry, so while the Dynamic Duo are avoiding clearly insane women (and an undercover Batgirl), the crook’s gang will get away with their crimes. There is no need to explain why this is a terrible story; the synopsis already did the job.
2. Anything that happened during Grant Morrison’s run: One of comicdom’s most prolific (and weirdest) writers, Grant Morrison has had successful runs on “Doom Patrol”, “Animal Man”, “JLA”, and “X-Men”, coming up with wonderfully bizarre tales (after all, who else would have Animal Man become aware of his fictional nature, and have The Doom Patrol meet a sentient transvestite street?). But then he was made writer of “Batman” and “Detective Comics”, and it all went downhill from there. During his term as writer, Morrison plagued readers with unmemorable villains, chief among them the boring and one-dimensional Simon Hurt, outright insulted the Silver Age Batman stories with science fiction elements by saying they were nothing but hallucinations, and introduced the infamous Damien Wayne, the sociopathic son of Batman and Talia al Ghul. Then, following the disaster that was “Final Crisis”, he seemingly killed off Batman, had Nightwing become Batman and made Damien replace the more popular Tim Drake as Robin. Fortunately, the New 52 seems to have made it a priority to undo all the damage Morrison did, and hopefully he will never repeat those mistakes.
1. “All-Star Batman and Robin”: Many “Atop the Fourth Wall” fans are all too familiar with this miniseries, but for those who have never seen the show, “All Star Batman and Robin” is Frank Miller’s warped retelling of how Robin first entered Batman’s life. In this universe, Batman (or Crazy Steve, if you prefer) is a cop killing, child and butler abusing lunatic who seems almost pedophiliac in some instances, Vicki Vale is a slut, Wonder Woman hates men, Superman has more anger issues than Homer Simpson, Green Lantern is a punching bag who almost gets killed by Robin, and Black Canary is an Irish ninja. Aside from numerous plot holes, questionable physics (like the Batmobile slicing a police car in half just by ramming through it), and a bizarre timeline, the series has one other crowning moment of insanity: the infamous “I’m the Goddamn Batman” line.