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The Dark Knight Retires: Gotham Knights and 12 Times Batman Called It Quits

As long as Gotham City exists, Batman will keep the forces of darkness at bay. Or does he? Gotham Knights presents a version of the DC Universe where Batman is supposedly killed, leaving his former sidekick to continue fighting crime.

After all, this isn’t the first DC story to show us a world without Batman, as it explores what happens when Bruce Wayne is killed in action, or simply gives up being Batman. There have been many comics, shows, and movies over the years. You can make an impact!

Earth-2 Batman

In the classic DC Multiverse, Earth-2 is populated by the original Golden Age versions of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and their children. In this world, Batman marries Catwoman, ages out of the superhero business, and has an adult Dick Grayson to keep the fight going. Bruce and Serena’s daughter Helena eventually becomes a Huntress, and Bruce finally meets his end in a deadly battle with a criminal with magical powers named Bill Jensen.

DC later introduced a new version of Earth-2 as part of the New 52 reboot. In this world, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman sacrifice their lives to protect Earth from the forces of the Dark Side. Batman’s mantle is passed first to Bruce’s estranged father, Thomas, and then to Dick Grayson.

dark knight returns

Nothing epitomizes “retired Batman” more than Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. In this universe, Justice Heroes of his League are middle-aged and most have been forced into retirement by the United States government. However, even at the age of 60, Bruce can only spend a lot of time in alcohol-fueled misery before resuming his crime-fighting.During the course of the story, Batman has two faces with Two-Face and The Joker. Finally confronting and defeating his gang of mutants, Carrie he adopts a new Robin named Kelly. Bat even manages to put up a decent fight against the Man of Steel before finally faking his own death.

Miller has continued this story through several spin-offs and sequels, most recently in 2019’s The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child, which sees Carrie as the new Batman.


DC made headlines in 1992 by killing off the Man of Steel in the pages of Superman #75. It was inevitable that they would apply the same formula to the Batman franchise, with 1993’s Nightfall his crossover pitting Batman against Bane, a villain who’s as cunning and driven as The Dark himself. . After systematically wearing down his opponent, Bane defeats Batman in one-on-one combat and breaks his back.

But that’s just the beginning of this dark chapter in Batman’s career. The new Batman finishes Bane’s job with ease, but he quickly proves to be an even greater threat to Gotham City thanks to his unstable mind and violent ways.

Over the course of the follow-up stories Knightquest and KnightsEnd, Bruce heals his mangled body, contacts his inner Batman, and finally challenges his successor for the right to wear the cowl.

Batman: Prodigal

As soon as Bruce Wayne returned to his former job at Night’s End, he handed the mantle over to Dick Grayson in Batman: The Prodigal. By playing Knight, you get Crash Course and round up the villains who are still in Rum after Bane’s attack. It is also worth noting that

New Batman Adventures: “Chemistry”

Batman: The Animated Series tackled its own version of the retired Batman story in one of its final episodes. In “Chemistry”, Bruce becomes infatuated with a woman named Susan Maguire, proposes to her, and gives up her night-time antics. Is love really a force powerful enough to drown out Bruce’s obsession with beating up criminals?

No, of course not. “Susan” turns out to be a plant creature created by Poison Ivy, who is busy targeting Gotham’s wealthy elite in hopes of stealing their property. Bruce comes to his senses and leaves Susan to drown himself in a sinking ship. Even Batman, it’s cold.

batman beyond

The animated series Batman Beyond offers one of the most chilling stories about what happens when Bruce Wayne is too old to be Batman. The series premiere will reveal what happens decades after the events of Batman: The Animated His Series. Even with the help of a high-tech new suit, Bruce says he’ll stop when his heart starts failing and he’s about to turn to his gun for protection.

Twenty years later, an elderly Bruce finds a young Terry McGinnis worthy of taking over Batman’s mantle. As fans will find out years later in Justice League Unlimited, Terry becoming Batman was no coincidence.

Batman: Battle of the Cowl

DC did the unthinkable in 2008’s Final Crisis, and Batman lost his life in a standoff with the all-powerful Darkseid. By the end of the series, it’s revealed that Bruce isn’t dead, but only traveled back in time by Darkseid’s Omega sanctions. he was dead

That twist sparked a crossover called Battle for the Cowl, with a slew of heroes and even a few villains all vying for the right to become the new Batman. Grayson teams up with Batman’s son Damien to form a new Dynamic Duo. I returned to

For more on this particular story, IGN recently took a deep dive with Final Crisis writer Grant Morrison about Batman’s lengthy run and decision to “kill” Bruce.

dark night rising

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy presents the beginning, peak and dusk of Batman’s career in costume. 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises takes some cues from Frank Miller’s crossover between his The Dark Knight Returns and Knightfall. Bruce gives up being Batman and becomes a recluse after his hollow victory in 2008’s The Dark Knight. But when a terrorist named Bane threatens Gotham, Bruce wants to put the costume back on and resume the crusade.

Much like Nightfall, Batman underestimates the threat Bane poses and ends up breaking his back because of it. and saved the city from nuclear annihilation. The world believes Batman sacrificed his life in the process. Instead, the film ends by revealing that he faked his own death and is now living a quiet, anonymous life with Selina Kyle.

But Gotham will always need Batman, and the film’s final shot shows crusader cop John Blake becoming the new Dark Knight. probably not.

Batman: Super Heavy

Final Crisis writer Grant Morrison famously said that all Batman writers must give the Caped Crusader both birth and death before the job is done. For The New 52 Batman writer Scott Snyder, that death occurred in his 2014 Batman: Endgame, culminating in Batman and the Joker dying in each other’s arms deep underground.

Rather than letting Dick Grayson have the cape and cowl again, Snyder and artist Greg Capullo instead made all people’s Commissioner Gordon the new Batman. Combined with the Bat-Mech nicknamed “Rookie”, Gordon becomes Gotham City’s first government-sanctioned Dark Knight in Batman: Super Heavy.

Over the course of that story, the reader learns that both Bruce and the Joker survived their apparent death thanks to a pool of a mysterious chemical called dionesium. I have no memory of my life, but I have recovered to good health. But when a new villain called Mr. Bloom threatens the city, Bruce gets a shock to his brain and has no choice but to become Batman again. Hey, at least he got a nifty new costume from the bargain.

Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77

Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 not only delivers the superhero TV crossover we’ve always dreamed of, but it also reveals what happens to West’s Batman after the series is cancelled. It turns out that even the carefree Caped Crusader eventually hit a rough patch.

A middle-aged Bruce who met Diana Prince in 1977 reflects on his final failure as Batman. Evolving from a practical joker to a homicidal maniac, the Joker eventually discovered Batman’s secret identity and attacked Wayne Manor. All in all, a surprisingly dark end to this incarnation of Batman, but at least Bruce can find redemption through teaming up with Wonder Woman.


Kevin Conroy finally got the chance to play live-action Bruce Wayne in Infinite Earths' Crisis.

Kevin Conroy finally got the chance to play live-action Bruce Wayne in Infinite Earths’ Crisis.

For years, it was a major point of contention about whether there was actually a Batman in the Arrowverse. It turns out that there was a Batman in this universe, but he mysteriously disappeared years ago. After snapping and killing the Joker, I learned that he had defected at some point.

Sadly, Batman never actually makes an appearance in the Batwoman show, save for a few brief flashbacks and a lot of name drops. , in the 2019 Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, where Kate meets a highly twisted version of her cousin from another universe.

Dark Crisis of Infinity

It seems the DC Universe can’t go on for more than a few years without being ravaged by another crisis, and 2022’s Infinite Earths Dark Crisis is the second one to result in Batman’s apparent death. He, like nearly every other member of his League of Justice, is annihilated in a battle with the Pariah at the beginning of the crossover. The death of the Justice League has forced young heroes such as John Kent and Dick Grayson to fill the void and protect Earth from its greatest threat.

Of course, it is eventually revealed that these heroes are not dead, but trapped in a false reality designed to keep them from their mission. This isn’t the first time he’s been removed from duty, and certainly won’t be the last.

How do you think Bruce Wayne’s story should end? Let us know what you think of these classic Battales in the comments.

For more on Gotham Knights, check out IGN’s full review of the game and learn why it features a very different take on Harley Quinn.

Jesse is IGN’s Gentle Staff Writer. Allow him to lend you a machete to your intellectual bush. Follow @jschedeen on Twitter.

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