Batman. A hero who’s prepared for any scenario, no matter how dire. A man who will always do whatever it takes to ensure everyone sees another day. A fighter who habitually snatches impossible victories from the jaws of certain defeat. And how does he do it all? We just told you: he’s Batman. Today in the DC House of List-ery, we’re celebrating Batman’s victories in battle that have defined him as the champion of Gotham City, the world and life itself that we know him as today. Cue that Biff Sock Pow.
Batman vs. Ra’s al Ghul
In 1971, Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams introduced Batman to his greatest enemy to date. Part adversarial and part mentorship, the relationship between Ra’s al Ghul and Batman has only become more nuanced, complex and dramatic since the first time they crossed swords. But it was that first battle, in Batman #244, where Batman truly earned the immortal villain’s respect and admiration for his refusal to stay down. Batman’s intelligence and skill may win him the night in most battles, but it’s his refusal to ever let up which forms the foundation of all his victories.
Batman vs. The Mutant Leader
In the 1980s, Frank Miller permanently changed the way we think about Batman with his brutal, dystopian view of a Dark Knight wracked with grief, driven purely into the night by righteous fury. His was a bigger, badder Batman, trading the agility of his youth for raw physicality. And though many remember Batman’s climactic battle with Superman as the pinnacle of The Dark Knight Returns, no fight more aptly illustrates Miller’s vision of Batman at his most terrifying and inevitable as his mud pit wrestling match with the leader of the Mutant Gang, winning over Gotham’s anarchic underworld by rule of might. Although this version of Bruce eventually finds some direction back toward the light with the help of his new Robin, Carrie Kelley, this midpoint battle in The Dark Knight Returns demonstrates just how vicious Batman can become in pursuit of victory.
Batman vs. Hyperclan
No matter where you ask or who the opponent might be, every “who would win in a fight?” scenario involving Batman will inevitably bring out fans who vehemently defend Batman’s ability to win. It doesn’t matter if his enemy can defy physics, manipulate reality or claim godhood. If you’re putting someone against Batman, it’s simply a matter of Batman using his detective skills to figure out his opponent’s weakness and using it against them.
This idea didn’t come from nowhere. Batman’s ability to analyze and exploit any enemy is a natural progression from his role in the Justice League, his intellect and tactics allowing him to stay on the same playing field as colossi like Superman, the Flash and Martian Manhunter. It’s a concept which we begin seeing explored in earnest at the beginning of Grant Morrison’s JLA. In the series’ first five issues, the Justice League find themselves outmatched by a new superteam who call themselves the Hyperclan. At first, it seems as if any one of its diverse members could be a match for the Justice League on their own. But it’s ultimately Batman who deduces their true nature, eliminating half the team at once on his own…all with just a tank of gasoline and a match. It’s from this point on that Batman would earn his reputation of being prepared for any enemy, up to and including the Justice League roster itself. Speaking of…
Batman vs. the Justice League
JLA: Tower of Babel inevitably comes to bear in any conversation about Batman fighting other members of the Justice League, with the plans he devised to defeat them co-opted by Ra’s al Ghul (or Vandal Savage, in the animated Justice League: Doom adaptation). But it’s in Batman: Endgame that we see the Dark Knight himself put his plans to use, when each member of the Justice League is corrupted to attack him by the Joker. No set-up, no need to retreat to the Batcave. When the time comes for action, Batman is simply ready to go—even as it breaks his heart to turn against each of his closest friends.
“Who wins in a fight?” Batman laments, as it comes down to a final battle between him and Superman. “The answer is always the same. Neither of us.”
Batman vs. Bane
Tom King’s epic 85-issue run on Batman from 2016 to 2018 was really about two things, and two things only: Batman’s romance with Catwoman and Batman’s rivalry with Bane. The Rebirth era Batman series positioned Bane as the Dark Knight’s greatest foe, challenging him mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically at every turn. But every time, no matter how catastrophic the blow to his body or his ego, Batman would return, just as he’s done every night for over eighty years. It was here that Bane learned the lesson all too familiar by now to Ra’s al Ghul: you just can’t break the Bat in any way that matters.
Batman vs. Batman
In 2000, Darwyn Cooke gave us a story which brought Batman face to face with his greatest enemy of all: himself. Batman: Ego is the portrait of a psychologically conflicted Dark Knight contending with the demon who keeps driving him into mortal peril each night without ever crossing his own moral boundaries. More than the Joker, more than Bane, Ra’s, or any of his other adversaries, it’s the overwhelming burden of the Bat that has always been Bruce’s most persistent foe, urging him every night to become a darker version of himself. And every night, it’s a battle that our Batman wins by refusing the call to pass judgment on even the worst of us with murder. And of all the victories here, it’s almost certainly the one he’s proudest to keep winning.
That’s quite a list, but there’s one more victory we have to mention. It’s not really among his greatest, at least not in a traditional sense, but no list of Batman’s most memorable feats in battle would be complete without it. Let’s consider this a bonus victory.
Batman vs. Guy Gardner
Batman Day 2022 is on Saturday, September 17th. For more information, along with exclusive videos, features, articles and more celebrating the Dark Knight, visit our official Batman Day page.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.