We all know that Bruce Wayne is the Batman. No one else can come close to matching him in the role. But, for reasons such as an incapability to continue, or just being a reality where he never became the Dark Knight, others have stepped up to wear the mantle of the Bat. Here are the top five to wear the cowl other than Wayne.
5. Jean Paul Valley
Also known as Azrael, Valley was an interesting addition to the Bat-family in the 90’s. Genetically altered as a baby, and mentally implanted with a subliminal encyclopedia of weapons, designs and combat skills called the System by the Order of St. Dumas, the oblivious Valley was meant to be the Order’s assassin, the avenging angel known as Azrael. During his first major mission, to avenge the father he barely knew, Valley would not only discover the truth of who he was, but also meet Batman. The Dark Knight managed to bring the youth away from the assassin role, and included him in his list of confidants. When, during the Knightfall saga, Wayne was crippled by Bane, Valley was chosen to take up the mantle of the Bat. Initially, Valley was a good choice, able to fight the major threats of Gotham. Even when the System’s influence began to creep in, causing him to redesign the Batsuit to fit a more frightening and weaponized look, he still kept to Bruce’s code and spared Bane in their climatic battle. But the vengeful programming by the Order started to conflict with Valley’s morals, driving him more and more insane. The last straw came when he allowed the serial killer Abattoir to die, resulting in the additional death of the murderer’s recent victim. Bruce Wayne, now recovered, had to train up to face his replacement. In the end, Valley was beaten, and managed to mentally overcome the System. He became Azrael again, now known as an Agent of the Bat, and served alongside the Bat-family until his death. While his time as Batman proved that not just anyone can be a hero, it did help him become a better human being.
4. Thomas Wayne
When the Flash, Barry Allen, went back in time to try and save his mother, he ended up causing a ripple effect that altered many of the DC Universe’s heroes. In this particular case, the child Bruce Wayne was the one shot by a mugger in an alley instead of his parents. This caused Martha Wayne to go insane, become this reality’s version of the Joker. As for Doctor Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, he became the new Batman. Using his fortune to open a casino to allow him to keep an ear in the underworld, Thomas was a more violent and lethal Batman than his son, willing to even use guns in his war on crime. He butted heads with this reality’s greatest hero, Cyborg, and never got involved in the major war between the Amazons and Atlantis. When Barry came to him for help in restoring the timeline, Wayne was skeptical until he learned that in the proper timeline, Bruce lived instead of him. Alongside their allies, Thomas Wayne would help Barry confront the Reverse Flash, an act that cost him his life. His last act was to give Barry a letter to be delivered to Bruce when the timeline was restored. Thomas Wayne may not have been Batman long (in the real world, I mean), but he made an impact so big that Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the actor who played him in Batman v Superman, expressed hope that he could play the Flashpoint version of the character someday.
3. Kirk Langstrom
Here’s a version that I personally think not enough people are talking about. In the main universe, Kirk Langstrom is the monstrous Man-Bat, frequent opponent and occasional ally of Batman. In the universe of the animated film Justice League: Gods and Monsters, he’s Batman. In the G.a.M universe, the Justice League are not the characters we usually know. Superman, while still a powerful hero, is the son of General Zod, and was raised by a migrant worker family, and Wonder Woman is Bekka of the New Gods. Kirk fills the role of Batman in their team, his origin being one of the most interesting. Langstrom was suffering from cancer, and hoped to cure himself by studying bats. With the help of his friend Will Magnus, Kirk managed to create a serum to help him. While it did cure his cancer, it transformed him in a vampire-like creature. With superhuman strength, agility, the ability to fly, and hypersensitive eyes, Kirk served as the detective and scientist of his team, and while he had a substitute for blood that he could take, he was not above using his new fangs to finish off a villain. His team’s violent ways would be a major plot point as the League found itself framed for a series of murders, and the mystery is a good one. Part of the reason I loved this character was his voice, provided by Dexter star Michael C. Hall, giving him a somber and tragic edge. I highly recommend the film if only for this character. After all, he was so good I included him on this list.
2. Dick Grayson
You knew he had to show up on this list somewhere. The first time Dick put on the cowl, it was after Bruce’s showdown with Jean Paul Valley. Bruce needed time to assess whether he should return, and left Dick to play the role in the storyline Prodigal. The next, and most popular, time Dick suited up as Batman again was after Bruce’s supposed death against Darkseid during Final Crisis. Alongside Bruce’s son Damian as Robin, Dick had a learning curve, but grew into the role, taking on new threats like Professor Pyg and the rest of the Club of Villains. He did so well that when Bruce returned, he allowed Dick to stay Batman in Gotham during the Batman Inc. days, only giving it up after the New 52 began. Dick brought his sense of humor to his time as Batman, along with his escrima weapons and a more acrobatic style. It’s rather sad that Dick only gave it up as a result of a massive reboot.
1. Terry McGinnis aka Batman Beyond
I know people will be mad because I put Terry over Dick Grayson, but there’s a good reason for it. All of the other entries here began as other characters, then became Batman for one reason or another. Terry was created from the ground up to be the new Batman in the popular animated series. Set in the future of Gotham, teenager Terry McGinnis was a former delinquent with a temper trying to make a go of being a good person. It would take an encounter with Bruce Wayne (learning his secret in the process) and the murder of his father that would lead Terry to being the Dark Knight of the Future. With a technologically empowered Batsuit and the guidance of Wayne, Terry would become the new hero of Gotham, not only facing new threats like the shapeshifter Inque and the radioactive Blight, but even taking on and defeating a resurrected Joker. Terry was unlike all the other entries here, having his own unique personality instead of trying to be an alternate to Bruce Wayne’s, and his interactions with Wayne helped him not only connect with fans but grow as a character. And that growth into the role is why he’s the best alternate Batman there is.
Have a favorite alternate Batman? Let us know in the comments who it is!