|“||To win you need to adapt, and to adapt, you need to be able to laugh away all the restraints. Everything holding you back. You see… a Batman who laughs… is a Batman who always wins.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs|
The Batman Who Laughs is a supervillain in the DC Comics universe. He is a "Jokerized" version of Batman who originated from the Dark Multiverse. He is the team leader of the Dark Knights and their goal was to help their master Barbatos plunge the Multiverse into complete and utter darkness. This course of action makes them enemies of the Justice League.
He serves as the secondary antagonist of the event Dark Nights: Metal and the titular main antagonist of The Batman Who Laughs seven issue miniseries.
The Batman of Earth -22 was drugged and captured by the Joker who went on to destroy Gotham City. The Clown Prince Of Crime killed Batman's entire rogue's gallery, murdered Jim Gordon by dissolving him, set the city alight by blowing up various buildings, and had his goons line up families so he could kill the parents and infected their children with Joker toxin, all in front of Batman. The Caped Crusader eventually managed to break free of his bonds in a murderous rage and brutally beat the Joker before snapping his neck, killing him.
Two days later, Batman explained to Superman that the reason Joker went so far was that he was dying from the chemicals that transformed him many years ago. However, although Joker succeeded in making him break his "one rule", Batman refused to let that turn him into a monster like the clown wanted. With the GCPD and Arkham Asylum in ruins, Superman had the "Jokerized" children quarantined at S.T.A.R. Labs while Batman returned to the Batcave to begin running some tests. Superman mentions how one of the children nearly tore a doctor's throat out, and then Batman laughs, surprising both of them.
Three days later, the whole Bat Family besides Robin were in the Batcave going through some very vigorous training. Nightwing knew that something was troubling Batman and the Dark Knight revealed that he was exposed to a new strain of nanotoxin that had been inside the Joker's heart and was released when Joker was killed. The toxin slowly rewrote Bruce's mind to become more like the Joker's and create the perfect fusion of the two: a Batman with Bruce Wayne's orderly mind and the Joker's madness, which led the Bat Family to deduce they were training to fight Batman. However, Batman claimed that the real reason why he brought them to the cave was that they would be the first to notice the symptoms and warn the other heroes, which is something he cannot allow to happen. Bruce then reveals a pair of machine guns before shooting the Bat Family dead.
One week later, Batman had killed the entire Justice League aboard the Watchtower with confiscated weaponry of the League's enemies stolen from the Watchtower's vault except for Superman and his family. Batman told the Man of Steel that he intended to use all the weapons they have confiscated over the years against the world just because he wants to since he no longer feels he has to hold himself back anymore. Superman responded that the world would rise up to stop him, but this claim just added to Batman's amusement. The Bat then revealed his new family of Jokerized Robins, among which was his son Damian Wayne, before exposing Superman to a strain of Black Kryptonite, claiming to have done the same thing to Supergirl previously, causing him and his son Jon to kill Lois Lane in a berserk state before dying themselves as part of the side effects.
Eventually, the world fell to Batman after he brought down all manner of opposing forces, ranging from armies to gods. Bruce believed he could not sink any lower until he met Barbatos, who showed him the nature of the Dark Multiverse and the existence of the central Multiverse above it. Batman was then tasked by Barbatos to locate his counterparts on other Earths to form a group of Dark Knights, which he will lead as The Batman Who Laughs, and aid in the deity's conquest of the central Multiverse.
Dark Nights: Metal
The Batman Who Laughs appears when Barbatos sends him to bring the Red Death of Earth -52 as a member of the Dark Knights, informing him that he could make a home for himself including the other former superheroes of the Dark Multiverse into the multiverse. After they defeat Cyborg in the Watchtower, The Batman Who Laughs elaborated the reason they were summoned into and it was due to a great ringing and that they were needed there to help save the world.
After Barbatos and the Dark Knights arrive on Prime Earth thanks to the Court of Owls, The Batman Who Laughs takes control of Gotham and rules over it from Challengers Mountain. In order to cause chaos, The Batman Who Laughs gave unique cards made of Cosmic Metallurgy to several enemies of Batman. They were The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter, Bane, Mister Freeze, and Firefly. The cards the supervillains received allowed them to manipulate reality itself. Due to this advantage, they take over and ruled over different sections of Gotham.
The Batman Who Laughs later confronts Superman, who alongside Wonder Woman escaped their imprisonment on the giant tower in Metropolis, and explains that although he is Bruce Wayne, he decided it was better to let Arkham's inmates rule the city. Superman tries to get him to see reason but to no avail when The Batman Who Laughs tells him that his version of Superman said the same thing before he murdered him and his family. While The Devastator fought Superman, The Batman Who Laughs explained how each world in the Dark Multiverse is formed through the fears and hopes in the minds of beings from the Multiverse and uses Destroyer's history as an example. He also revealed that each member of the Dark Knights had killed their version of Superman (which could indicate Bruce's fears or his hidden desire). Superman tries to fight them but is unable to due to the Dark Knights consisting of dark matter, making his punches ineffective. However, the Flash is able to save Superman before The Destroyer can kill him and they escape the Dark Knights by going through a portal.
The Batman Who Laughs along with the rest of the Dark Knights attacked the Oblivion Bar and killed Nightmaster. While the Oblivion Bar is burning, The Batman Who Laughs gets The Dawnbreaker to play a song on the jukebox and works despite it's on fire. As they are listening to the song, Superman breaks the barrier between the Phantom Zone and the Dark Multiverse, confident Kendra was wrong about it being a trap. When he takes stock of his surroundings, he sees a dark tower shaped like an S, in which Superman realizes at that point it was a trap.
Then, three decrepit Supermen subdue him, and he hears someone ask him why he came which is then revealed to be Batman, who is almost completely drained of life. Superman explains that he got his message, but Batman reveals that the message he picked up was Barbatos deceiving him all along. The real message from him was actually hidden in the song from his last vision. The notes from the song "the Super Sons" played were ordered in the reverse of his emergency code as a warning not to come for him. As The Batman Who Laughs toasts over Superman's defeat, it is revealed that the final component needed to complete Barbatos' plan was the energy stored in Superman's cells. As Batman becomes engulfed in dark energy, he states that Barbatos was right about everything leading back to him in the first place and that everything will now be submerged in total darkness.
Eventually, the Dark Knights successfully capture all members of the Justice League and took them to Challenger's Mountain in Gotham City, where Barbatos resides. The Batman Who Laughs mocks the league by comparing them to the same superstitious and cowardly criminals he once fought. However, Cyborg gains a multiversal upgrade from the Mother Box built within him and uses it to free the leaguers (and other heroes) before transporting them all to Hypertime. Barbatos expresses his displeasure for this turn of events and berates The Batman Who Laughs, telling him that despite his team's preparations for every scenario, Cyborg's new upgrade brings an unknown element into play. But The Batman Who Laughs is not worried since as long as they have teams like the Suicide Squad and Teen Titans at their mercy, the league would return.
Sure enough, after coming up with a plan of their own, the Justice League re-emerged and split up in an attempt to find Nth Metal, which is deadly to those from the Dark Multiverse. Unfortunately, the Dark Knights had expected this and used the heroes to locate the metal before ambushing each of them. The Batman Who Laughs attacks Wonder Woman at the Rock of Eternity after she found Hawkman's mace (which is made of Nth Metal) and tells her it was pointless to keep fighting, as the universe was now deep enough in the dark for Barbatos’ nightmarish armies to invade their world. Although he is sure that Wonder Woman will continue to fight nevertheless, saying that she'll probably die in doing so. Undeterred by the villain's words, Wonder Woman and Kendra pushed through Barbatos' forces and helped recover a metal from the Forge of Worlds even more powerful than Nth Metal: Element X, a metal made from possibility. Barbatos saw that the tides of battle had suddenly turned against him and contacted The Batman Who Laughs to commence their backup plan.
Within his own Batcave, the Batman Who Laughs has finally removed the bandages on the mystery man's face, revealing him to be the Over-Monitor. The Batman Who Laughs explained his plan: use a machine to combine positive matter (the Over-Monitor) with antimatter (the Anti-Monitor's astral brain) and dark matter (the Batman Who Laughs), resulting in nothing but darkness. However, Batman showed up and defeated his Rabid Robins, leaving the two of them alone.
At first, Batman gets the upper hand, until Laughs pulled out a gun and shot him in the gut. He revealed that it was the very same gun that killed Thomas and Martha Wayne and that he kept it as a memento to remind him that moral codes always hold you back and get yourself and others killed. Batman told him to pull the trigger, and Laughs complies only to get shot in the back by a "BANG!" flag gun. That's when Batman revealed he wasn't talking to him. He was talking to the Joker, who calls Laughs "the Batman Who Talks". At first, the Batman Who Laughs thought the Joker was here to kill two Batmen with one stone, until the Joker reveals he and Batman are here to team up to fight against him (on the grounds that they never speak of this to anyone).
The Batman Who Laughs fought the two off, telling them that he knows them both too well, but the Joker, as he sliced off his fingers with Batarang switch blades, revealed the evil Batman's weakness: he may be able to prepare for everything, but only for everything that Bruce Wayne can come up with, and the one thing Bruce wouldn't think would ever happen is for Batman and the Joker to team up. So now, probably for the first time since his "transformation", the Batman Who Laughs had no idea what's going to come next. Batman managed escaped from the collapsing Challenger's Mountain with the Over-Monitor, while the Batman Who Laughs just laughed even as the Joker continued to assault him while the Batcave started to collapse on the two of them.
After Prime Earth and the rest of the Multiverse was restored to normal by the Justice League, it was revealed that The Batman Who Laughs survived his battle with the Joker and had some how remained on Prime Earth. He continued to oppose the heroes of this universe by usually working alongside other villainous organizations, such as The House of Conquest and the Legion of Doom.
The Batman Who Laughs Miniseries
Upon stopping a smuggling operation in Gotham, Batman (of Prime Earth) discovers that the smugglers were transporting the body of a deceased Bruce Wayne out of the city. Batman examines the body closer and deduces that it belonged to alternate version of himself who lived a happier life after retiring from vigilantism. From this, He knew that The Batman Who Laughs has resurfaced in Gotham City and told Alfred to drive him to an unspecified location. Meanwhile, security guards at Arkham Asylum were fighting against another version of Batman known as The Grim Knight who slaughtered them and almost everyone in the building. He opens the door to the Joker's cell where the Clown Prince of Crime greets him and asks if he has arrived to kill him. The Grim Knight tells him no before stepping aside to reveal someone who was: The Batman Who Laughs. Visible nervous, Joker attempts to make a deal with Laughs, who responds by impaling him in the head with a sickle.
Later after the massacre, it is discovered that the man killed in Joker's cell was an imposter and the real Joker's whereabouts are unknown. Batman explained to Commissioner Gordon what he knows about The Batman Who Laughs and tells him that he believes the madman's accomplice, The Grim Knight, was someone that Laughs snuck into their world during the events of Dark Knights: Metal and has kept hidden until now. However, Batman doesn't understand why he waited to use him and also where the death of the alternate Bruce Wayne fits into their plot, so the Dark Knight decides to find the Joker; the only man twisted enough to help unravel the scheme. He deduces that the Joker must have foreseen what Laughs had in store and may be trying to enter the Batcave, so Bruce returns there to deactivate the cave's underwater defences.
Sure enough, the Joker emerges from the water and Batman tells him that he is now safe from The Batman Who Laughs. But Joker branches a trick handgun saying he doesn't want to be safe before fatality shooting himself in the chest. Batman rushes over to Joker demanding to know why he did that, only for him to realise that the clown was releasing the same toxin from his heart which created The Batman Who Laughs. Joker told his arch-enemy that to only way stop Laughs is to become him and seemingly dies from his injury. Batman then became exposed to the toxin and starts going through a similar transformation as his Earth -22 counterpart. To save himself, Bruce injects every kind of Joker Toxin antidote he as ever developed into his body all at once, but even that would only starve off the transformation for a week. Alfred reluctantly performs emergency surgery on the Joker to save his life under Batman's orders, as they still need him to stop The Batman Who Laughs.
Meanwhile, another alternate version of Bruce Wayne is found dead after falling onto the hood of a car. Batman meets Commissioner Gordon at the scene disguised as Detective Harvey Bullock and reveals that these alternate Waynes are comprised of Dark Matter, something which Laughs appears to be taking from them in the form of blood cells extracted around each victim's heart. Batman believes the reason for taking the blood cells is because Laughs is creating a serum that can bring out the worst in people and turn them into dark versions of themselves. He then tells Gordon of a protocol he devised called "Last Laugh" which should provide Gotham City clean air, food and water if it is faced with any biological or chemical attack. The protocol was based off the original Last Laugh system built within Gotham many years prior to make the city a safe haven for its inhabitants.
Later, The Batman Who Laughs reappears and makes his way into the highly restricted areas of Wayne Tower, killing almost any security that gets in his way before his Prime Earth self arrives to stop him. Knowing that Laughs will counter any technique he uses, Prime Batman resorts to using moves he recently made up to ground the villain. He then told Laughs that this is where his plan ends, only to be shot by The Grim Knight from a nearby building. The Batman Who Laughs tells his Prime self not to move as the bullet he was shot with has a Bat-Taser in it and heads over to a nearby console to deactivate "Last Laugh" using another special protocol designed to eradicate all records linked to Batman by means of destroying Wayne Tower using a controlled implosion. It is only suppose to work after everyone was out of the building but The Grim Knight had already disabled all the other safety protocols that would've ensured this.
The Batman Who Laughs proceeds to taunt Prime Batman by telling him that the alternate Bruce Waynes who were bought to Prime Earth all lived happier lives than he has because they effort change, and out of all the other versions of Bruce out there he was most miserable and least accomplished. Before taking his leave, Laughs noticed that Batman was suffering from same infliction that made him and says that they will be seeing each other again just as the implosion starts. Laughs then leaps through a window as Wayne Tower collapses.
The Batman Who Laughs' next stop is the the Iceberg Lounge where he is repeatedly denied entry by staff because he refuses to give them his real name. He then slaughters through whatever security comes his way until he finds the Penguin rigging dice at a craps table. The Batman Who Laughs fights off the guards protecting Penguin while complimenting his cunning and pointing out the tricks and traps secretly built into the club itself. He talks about Penguin's trick umbrella that sprays alcohol for parties while Laughs turns that same umbrella into a makeshift flamethrower. He also mentions the gambling tables that can be used as bulletproof shields while he ducks behind them to avoid gunfire. Then he reaches for a pair of emergency defibrillators and remarks how clever it was for Penguin to increase the defibrillators' voltage so high that the shock can simulate the appearance of a heart attack when done on people. Penguin tries to plead but Laughs exposures the defibrillators to the melted ice on the floor which electrocutes everyone but him in the room.
Penguin is left barely conscious on the flood as Laughs tells him that many versions of Batman have struggled to end his crooked operations in other realities and have even competed against him in business to release his hold on the criminal underworld. Laughs then reveals another alternate Bruce Wayne who succeeded in ruining Penguin's business on a different world before taking some of that Wayne's blood with a syringe and impaling him in the head with a spike. The Batman Who Laughs walks away from the scene while telling Penguin he should contact one of his men Matches Malone to help him rig the gambling tables.
Meanwhile, Prime Batman's attempts to stop Laughs and The Grim Knight have not been going very well. He knows that The Batman Who Laughs plans to use the Last Laugh protocol through alternate means to poison Gotham's water supply, and to do that he needs Commissioner Gordon. But unfortunately, while getting the help of a more lucid James Gordon Jr., the commissioner is kidnapped by The Grim Knight despite Batman's efforts stop him. The Dark Knight is later contacted by Alfred who tells him that Joker has escaped the Batcave after waking up during open-heart surgery, causing Bruce realise that being Batman just wasn’t enough to bring down his villainous counterparts.
He returns to the Batcave and destroys the remaining remedies for Joker Toxin, allowing his transformation to get even worse, before creating a piece of headgear to further resemble The Batman Who Laughs. However, Bruce doesn’t let himself fully succumb to the super toxins effects and explains to a horrified Alfred that Laughs has the ability to sense people's desires, and his headgear is a visor made of dark metal which allows him to filter his senses into finding what he himself wants. Bruce let his condition worsen so he can gain the same ability by using the visor he made, in hopes of stopping Laughs before he murders another Bruce Wayne.
As Prime Batman homes in on the next potential murder site, The Batman Who Laughs greets a captive Commissioner Gordon to his hideout and lets him know that preparations for the villain's plan is almost complete. He has already created four serums from dark matter and only needs six to poison the entire city. Laughs intends to have Gordon watch the carnage once it unfolds, but until then has The Grim Knight to stand guard and ensure that the commissioner doesn’t try to escape. However, The Grim Knight later decides to let Gordon loose while the madman is away so he can hunt Jim down using Laughs' Dark Robins.
The Batman Who Laughs makes his way to Blackgate Prison seeking to kill another Bruce Wayne from a different world while disguised as commanding officer David Harper. During his search, he finds Prime Earth Batman and uses him to retrieve a version of Bruce who is warden of an alternate Blackgate. Prime Batman locates Warden Wayne but then comes under fire by prison security guards who mistaken him for The Batman Who Laughs. The Dark Knight has "David" get the warden to safety as he slows down his assailants with foam explosives. However, this opportunity gives Laughs a chance to activate a barrier and separate himself from the heroic counterpart. The Batman Who Laughs then proceeds to kill Warden Wayne before revealing his identity to Prime Batman and taunts his faith in the good of people.
The pursuing guards corner Batman from behind as Laughs frames him for the alternate Wayne's death and orders them to open fire. Batman tries to tell the guards he isn’t The Batman Who Laughs but real villain tells them to keep shooting and call in reinforcements before taking his leave. Batman only able escape the continued assault by using reverse psychology. He surprised the guards with his knowledge of their identities to have them cease fire, and using his condition he made them truly believe he was The Batman Who Laughs. He then dared the guards to try and stop him from escaping Blackgate after threatening them and their loved ones.
While this was happening, the real Batman Who Laughs travels deep beneath Gotham to meet with the Court of Owls and asks that he needs something from them. The court however are not interested in hearing him out and contemplate in making him suffer for their amusement. They decide to let the "littlest one" among them choose his fate, prompting a girl in a wheelchair to approach The Batman Who Laughs and ask him why they should listen to his request. Laughs tells the "little one" that they both share the same goal, to make Gotham the city it was meant to be, and all the court has to do is grant him one small favor to make this possible.
The little one refuses and instead decides to unleash the Talons upon the madman, telling him to take up his request with them. But Laughs informs the little one that he already did while the Talons stumble into view with no arms. The Court of Owls begin to flee as The Batman Who Laughs detonates explosives he planted earlier to reshape their labyrinth and make escape much more difficult. Terrified for her life, the little one tells Laughs he can have whatever he wants from the court, only for him to say that he just wanted them to all die screaming before pushing the little one into the water below them. He then admits that despite his actions he does have a lot of respect for the court. So much so that in one reality he became their leader and transports that version of Bruce Wayne from his native world to Prime Earth. The alternate Bruce proceeds to attack The Batman Who Laughs and a fight commences between them, presumably to the death.
Sometime later, Prime Batman is contacted by James Gordon Jr. who informs him that he managed to rescue the commissioner from The Grim Knight but is trapped within the sewers. Batman sends a vehicle to pick up the Gordons and meets with them in the Batcave to discuss their current situation. The Dark Knight lets his allies known that they now have the advantage because The Batman Who Laughs has yet to hack into the Last Laugh protocol for his own plans and they can still activate it themselves to keep the city safe from poisoning via the water supply. Commissioner Gordon gives his verification to activate Last Laugh and Batman was about to do the same, until he realises that this is what The Batman Who Laughs wanted to whole time. Batman explains that Laughs wanted the commissioner to escape so they can activate the protocol, because he must of found some access point to the systems water reservoir and needed them to initiate Last Laugh to gain entry to it.
At that moment, Batman receives an in-coming called from The Batman Who Laughs and answers it despite warnings from the commissioner not to. Laughs appears before them through a hologram and says he really needs to tell Prime Batman about something he discovered from the Court of Owls' city archives. He reveals that the original Last Laugh built into Gotham years ago was not just designed to make the city a safe haven, but to also turn it into an incubator for conquest. A fortress city where the people could launch assaults while being protected from the rest of the world. The knowledge that Gotham was violent even in its earliest days seemingly shatters Prime Batman's faith in the city as he continues to hang on Laughs' every word. Alfred tries to tell Batman through his commutator that the Joker's toxin in his bloodstream is reaching critical levels, but is muted as The Batman Who Laughs goals his Prime Earth self into activating the Last Laugh protocol.
The Batman Who Laughs was once much like Prime Earth's Batman except that he ended up killing his version of the Joker. After doing this, Bruce was exposed to a nano-toxin that slowly transformed him. It rewired his mind not only to think more like Joker but also twisted his moral core into something evil. However, despite these changes, Bruce still managed to retain the orderly and logical aspects of his mind as well as his highly keen and calculating intellect. Thus he became someone with Batman's tactical genius and Joker's lack of morality.
The Batman Who Laughs seems to have a fixation on winning and believes he can always do so against his opponents because he had shed the self-imposed rules that restrained him from using more cruel and lethal methods in the past. Indeed, without his code holding him back, The Batman Who Laughs has been able to adapt to various situations and triumph against all sorts of remarkable odds. Laughs can also be quite arrogant, having already destroyed his own world and gaining knowledge from many others.
Powers and Abilities
The Batman Who Laughs has all the training, discipline and experience of the Prime Batman. Plus he already possesses all information about the strengths and weaknesses of pretty much every superhero and supervillain in the DC Universe, as he had already killed them in his own reality. He also has knowledge from various other worlds he has visited and can adapt to almost any situation. Couple all this with the fact that those born in the Dark Multiverse are extremely resistant to attacks by those from the central Multiverse makes The Batman Who Laughs immensely dangerous. Luckily, Laughs does have a few weaknesses of his own. He is highly vulnerable to both Nth Metal and Element X. Also, despite how different he has become, Laughs is still Batman and can be caught off-guard by situations Batman is not prepared for.
It is revealed in The Batman Who Laughs miniseries that Laughs has the ability to actually see peoples urges, which he can used to find what he himself desires. However, he needs to wear a visor made from Dark Metal in order to focus his senses and pinpoint what he is searching for.
The Dark Robins usually seen accompanying The Batman Who Laughs are a group of children that were presumably among the many Jokerized by the Joker after he killed their parents in an ally. Laughs later took them in and groomed them into animalistic "pets" that have seemingly lost most of their humanity. Because of this, the only word they know how to say is "crow" and will viciously attack and possibly devour anyone they are sent to hunt, unless The Batman Who Laughs or one of his allies tells them to heel by saying the word "bar".
The Damian Wayne of Earth -22 was also transformed into a Dark Robin. But unlike the other Robins, Damian is still capable of speech and retained his ability to think more rationally. He assisted his father in battling against the Gotham Resistance until he was killed by his Prime Earth counterpart using an arrow made from Nth Metal.
- In Dark Knights: Metal issue 6, the Batman Who Laughs' fingers were amputated by the Joker. But during his appearances in comics since then, he still has them.
- The Batman Who Laughs represents Prime Batman's fear of the Joker and his own madness.
- The Batman Who Laughs' name was taken from the silent films that helped inspire the creation of Batman and the Joker; The Bat and The Man Who Laughs.
- The Batman Who Laughs could be seen as the literal interpretation to one of Joker's longtime goals for Batman; to have the Dark Knight kill him and make Batman a murderer no better than himself.
- According to The Batman Who Laughs, it was the death of the Commissioner Gordon on his world that caused him to hunt down and kill the Joker.