Same Mask, Different Hero – Alternate Versions of Your Favorite Superheroes [Batman Edition]

Who’s Under the Mask?

Have you ever wondered what comics would be like if Peter Parker didn’t become Spider-Man? If Bruce Wayne died instead of his parents, who would protect Gotham as Batman? Or if Bruce Banner aka The Hulk had his powers absorbed and someone else became the new Hulk?

In comics, ANYTHING is possible (except a universe where Uncle Ben doesn’t die) and both DC and Marvel has given us glimpses of multiple heroic mantles being donned by other characters both old and new.


[DC Comics / Ultrapopland Collage]

WE ARE BATMAN!

The identity of Batman has been held not only by Bruce Wayne, but by many characters as well. From parallel universe Batmen to characters who were given or have taken the cowl for themselves from Bruce.

(Disclaimer: This list includes a small number of alternate versions of Batman found only in DC print comics, not every alternate Batman in publication history, or Batmen found in other media.)

Dick Grayson (New Earth)

[DC Comics / Ultrapopland Collage]

Starting off this list is Richard ‘Dick’ Grayson, aka Robin I/Nightwing/Batman. Grayson served as Batman’s first sidekick after his parents died for much of his teen years until an incident with the Joker caused Batman to sideline him. Eventually he broke off from Batman and adopted the Nightwing persona while still working with the Teen Titans (Tales of the Teen Titans Vol 1 #44). He first took up the Batman mantle after Bruce’s back was broken by the villain Bane and had called upon Jean-Paul Valley (the hero known as Azrael) to replace him while his back healed (Batman Vol 1 #498).

Valley (aka Az-Bat) proved to be a more violent and aggressive Batman than Bruce ever was. After finally being defeated by Wayne once he had returned, the mantle of Batman was then passed on to Grayson (Robin Vol 4 #0) until Bruce Wayne was ready to return to action. Years after giving back the mantle of Batman to Bruce Wayne, Grayson was forced to take it back after Batman had met his apparent demise at the hands of Darkseid (Final Crisis Vol 1 #6).

In the aftermath of Batman’s ‘death’ the city of Gotham saw an increase in crime and a new Batman in the form of former Robin (II) Jason Todd, wearing his own militaristic version of Batman’s suit which lead to a battle between him and Grayson (Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1). Eventually Todd loses the battle against Grayson, who retakes the mantle of the Batman with Damian Wayne (son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul) as his official Robin (V) (Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3). Grayson continues to act as Gotham City’s Batman and with the return of Bruce Wayne from his forced voyage through time after fighting against Darkseid (Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne Vol 1 #6) has joined Wayne’s global group Batman Incorporated, acting as Gotham’s ‘official’ Batman simultaneously with Bruce Wayne also bearing the mantle (Batman and Robin #16).

(note that with the events of Flashpoint, some/if not all of this has been retconned out of continuity.)

Jason Todd (New Earth)

[DC Comics / Ultrapopland Collage][DC Comics / Ultrapopland Collage]

Jason Todd became the second person to take the mantle of Robin after the first Robin, Dick Grayson, took up the name Nightwing. As an orphaned kid he first came across Batman after trying to remove the wheels off of the Batmobile (Batman Vol 1 #408). After encountering the boy again, Batman decides to take in Jason Todd as his newest Robin as Dick Grayson had previously just vacated the position (Batman Vol 1 #409). Unlike his predecessor, Todd was far more impulsive and reckless as Robin which eventually lead to his death at the hands of the Joker (Batman Vol 1 #427).

After Superboy-Prime attempts to escape his paradise dimension, the after effects caused reality to shift which resurrects Jason Todd (not everyone stays dead in comics, except for Uncle Ben). Escaping his coffin he is eventually found by Talia al Ghul who uses her father’s Lazarus Pits to fully restore his body and mind (Red Hood: The Lost Days). He eventually takes up the identity of the Red Hood (Joker’s former villainous persona before being turned into the Joker) and begins his war on Gotham’s criminal underground, confronting and revealing himself to Batman and Robin III (Tim Drake) multiple times as well.

After Batman’s supposed death at the hands of Darkseid near the end of Final Crisis (Final Crisis Vol 1 #6) Jason Todd takes on a murderous version of Batman’s identity and begins to wage war against the increasing crime in Gotham (Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1). In the end, he loses to his predecessor Dick Grayson, who officially takes on the Batman identity and he himself returns to his Red Hood identity.

(note that with the events of Flashpoint, some/if not all of this has been retconned out of continuity.)

Tim Drake (New Earth)

[DC Comics / Ultrapopland Collage]

Tim Drake became the third Robin after the death of Jason Todd. After deducing the identities of Batman and the previous Robins, Drake saw a change in Batman’s behavior after Todd’s death. After proving himself to Batman and finishing his Robin training, he became the next Robin to partner with Batman and fight against crime in Gotham (Batman Vol 1 #457). When Dick Grayson took the mantle of Batman at the end of Knightfall he and Drake grew close as crime fighting partners and brothers in arms. When Batman/Bruce Wayne met his supposed death, Drake refused to believe that Batman had truly died and tried to convince Dick to take the mantle of Batman until his return.

When Dick refused and Jason Todd had taken his own Batman identity, Drake took to the streets in his own batsuit and confronted Todd which ended with him being defeated by Todd and rescued by Damian Wayne (Robin V) (Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2). After Dick finally takes on the Batman identity and named Damian as his official Robin, Drake takes on the Red Robin persona (Red Robin #1) and continues his search for Bruce.

(note that with the events of Flashpoint, some/if not all of this has been retconned out of continuity.)

JEAN-PAUL VALLEY [new earth]

[DC Comics / Ultrapopland Collage]

Better known as Azrael, Jean-Paul Valley was born as a test-tube baby through the Order of St. Dumas as a long line of soldiers who have carried the name Azrael. Eventually meeting with Batman, he was chosen to take over the Batman mantle when Bruce Wayne’s back was broken by the villain Bane (Batman Vol 1 #498). After accepting and confronting a number of Gotham’s villains, he challenged Bane to battle which ended with the two of them retreating. After making new armor for himself as Batman he confronted and defeated Bane, sparing his life and establishing himself as Gotham’s new Batman (Batman Vol 1 #500).

Eventually,his increasingly brutal tactics (because of the training and conditioning received from the Order) caused many in Gotham, including Commissioner Gordon, to lose trust in him. After Bruce Wayne returned from recovery the two of them fought for the right to the Batman identity which ended with Valley’s defeat (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Vol 1 #63).

(note that with the events of Flashpoint, some/if not all of this has been retconned out of continuity.)

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