Batman Kills People All The Time

By Zack Zagranis | Published

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If there’s one thing that defines Batman as a character, it’s his strict “No killing” rule—except it’s less of a rule and more of a suggestion. Between the movies, the video games, and yes, even the comics, Bats has shuffled more than his fair share of bad guys off this mortal coil. In other words, Batman never kills, except when he does.

Batman Has Taken Lives Since The Very Beginning

The ugly truth about the caped crusader is that he started his career snuffing out riffraff as if they were cigarette butts littering a dirty Gotham sidewalk. Batman kills as early as Detective Comics #27, his first appearance. The Dark Knight’s inaugural comic book outing ends with him punching a guy into a vat of acid.

Two issues later, in Detective Comics #29, he sets a man on fire and watches as he burns to death. In the next issue, he kicks a dude’s head so hard that his neck snaps. Batman’s murder spree continues in his very first self-titled adventure, Batman #1, when he rams Hugo Strange to death with the batmobile.

The Comic Code

These are all pre-comics code, pre-holy guacamole! era of the family-friendly dynamic duo. Surely, the number of Batman’s kills dwindles as he enters the Silver Age and starts calling people chum, right? Yes, a combination of the establishment of the Comic Code Authority and DC realizing that it’s easier to establish recurring rogues if Batman doesn’t murder them led to a fairly long, homicide-free stretch for Bruce Wayne.

And then the ’80s happened.

1980s Batman Is Still A Murderer

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In Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, Batman kills the Joker by strangling him. The movie Batman (1989) sees Michael Keaton’s version of the character murder countless thugs with the machine guns mounted on the batmobile as well as the bomb he uses to blow up the Joker’s factory. Keaton even kills the Joker himself at the end by causing him to fall hundreds of feet to his death.

Meanwhile, Batman #420 sees the Caped Crusader leaving Russian assassin KGBeast trapped in a sewer to starve to death. Ironically, the one place in the 1980s you would expect to be full of Batman kills, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is devoid of bat-murder. Sure, the book features an older Bruce Wayne who isn’t above shooting a thug to wound them, but the violent old coot never actually takes a life.

Batman Returns

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Batman Returns saw Keaton return more kill-happy than ever. In the 1992 sequel, Batman burns a man to death with the Batmobile’s afterburner and then, as an encore, sticks Dynomite to a circus performer’s stomach and pushes him down some stairs. Some of Batman’s kills are questionable, but when it comes to blowing that dude up, the movie leaves no doubt whatsoever that he is indeed deceased.

Elseworlds Batman

Then there are the Elseworlds versions of Batman that have looser morals than their mainstream counterpart. The Batman of Red Rain and its two sequels, Bloodstorm and Crimson Mist, for example, kills Dracula and then becomes a vampire himself and eats his entire rogues gallery.

Modern Day Batman Is Just As Guilty

Christian Bale, Batfleck—both Batmans (Batmen?) have multiple kills under their utility belts. Ditto for Arkham Batman. It might not be explicit, but you can’t convince us that at least some of the goons being knocked around by Arkham Knight‘s batmobile or shot with its “non-lethal” mounted cannon ended up un-alived, as the TikTok crowd says.

We’re not saying that Batman has ever reached the level of the Punisher or anything, but considering all of the times, he’s broken his own rule over the years… well, let’s just say we understand Jason Todd’s anger when he found out that Batman didn’t waste the Joker after the psycho clown beat him to death with a crowbar.

Golden-age Batman would have dropped that green-haired freak into a nest of rabid weasels and then gone and shot the Penguin in the face for good measure.