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Heroes and villains that have destroyed Batman

Batman is often treated by writers and fans as a god among mortal superheroes—a man with an intelligence and physicality so great he can defeat godlike beings. It's fun to imagine a regular dude who's able to kick the butt of anything the cosmos has to offer, but occasionally comics writers like to remind readers that Batman is totally capable of having his own kicked. Sometimes it's by villains, other times by heroic allies who've had enough of his BS; either way, it ends badly for the Caped Crusader. Let's take a look at some of the heroes and villains who've given Batman a thorough beatdown.

Wonder Woman

In the 2016 graphic novel Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia, Batman is on the hunt for a woman responsible for the deaths of sex slavers and drug dealers in Gotham. This woman just so happens to be the very same Wonder Woman has been honor-bound to forever protect after participating in an ancient ritual. When two titans of the DC universe collide, things get ugly—mostly for Batman. Diana ends up with her foot on the back of his head, pushing his face down into a puddle of rainwater. If that isn't the ultimate symbol of Batman getting his butt kicked, we don't know what is.

Jason Todd

The former Robin who was killed by the Joker has plenty of reason to want to destroy Batman: when Jason was brought back to life, he was filled with rage after discovering Batman didn't break his no-kill policy to avenge his death. Lashing out, Todd masked himself as the Red Hood and lured Batman into an elaborate trap that culminated in a fight Jason had well in hand...until he got cocky and tried to prove a philosophical point by making Batman choose between killing him or the Joker. If Batman doesn't kill Joker—who has Jason's gun to his head—Jason will. For all intents and purposes Todd won the fight—but then, of course, Batman managed to sneak a batarang out of his utility belt and subdue him. So close, yet so far.

The Predator

Batman has appeared in a lot strange crossovers with characters that have nothing to do with his rogues' gallery, or DC Comics in general—the most bizarre of which saw him fighting the Predator. Yes, that Predator. As Batman investigates some mysterious deaths in Gotham he encounters the spacefaring Hunter, who proceeds to deliver Batman such a severe, merciless beating that Bruce Wayne ends up in a full body cast.

Prometheus

Borne from the mad mind of brilliant comic book writer Grant Morrison, Prometheus is Batman's mirror image, and in a more literal way than some other Batman villains like the Joker or Two-Face. Where Batman's family was gunned down by a street thug, Prometheus' parents were criminals gunned down by a police officer, leading him to swear vengeance upon those who attempt to bring justice to the world. He's a trained fighter, he's filthy rich, he's got a sharp mind. Since he wants to dispense all of those who fight for justice, who better to start a fight with than the Justice League?

Prometheus walked straight into their hideout, the Watchtower, concealing a helmet that granted him the skills of the 30 greatest martial artists in the world, including Batman. He then beat the crap out of everyone, and his trouncing of the Justice League only ended when Catwoman whipped him in the nuts.

Deacon Blackfire

The Cult is one of the darkest, most brutal stories in the Batman canon, all because of what the story's main antagonist does to him. Deacon Blackfire was the leader of a cult made up of a murderous band of Gotham's homeless whom he'd brainwashed into doing his evil bidding. During his investigation into the cult, Batman was captured by Deacon's forces and spent a huge chunk of the tale being tortured while high out of his mind on psychotropic drugs that were force-fed to him, all in an attempt by Deacon to brainwash Batman into fighting for his underground army. Bats eventually broke free of Deacon's spell, but not before being reduced to a sobbing husk of his former self.

Deathstroke

Slade Wilson is one of the deadliest characters in any comic book canon, regardless of the publisher. He was the world's greatest killer even before the government experimented on him, making him even deadlier. One of his first fights after getting his own comic book in the early '90s was with Batman. By this point Batman had a ready ascended to the heights of legend, able to defeat any foe that crossed his path, making it even more of a big deal that when Deathstroke and Batman threw down in an old-school fistfight, Deathstroke beat him into unconsciousness—the only reason Batman is alive today is because Deathstroke spared him.

Lady Shiva

Shiva is one of the greatest martial artists in the world, according to Batman himself. He thinks she's a better martial artist than even he is. This made for an interesting battle in the pages of Nightwing #0, when Shiva did battle with both Batman and Dick Grayson at the same time...and wrecked both of them. She downed Batman with a poison-tipped shuriken, then beat up Dick until she felt sorry for him. Expressing sympathy for the fact that he'd never be able to break free from Batman's shadow, she offered to train him. He declined, but it was this moment, with Lady Shiva's influence, that convinced Dick Grayson to stop being Robin. He needed to be his own man, a hero for a new city. It was then that he decided to become Nightwing.

Superman

Even within a medium in which suspension of disbelief is required, it takes a lot to believe Batman has any realistic shot at defeating Superman in a one-on-one fight. It's fun to imagine that the brilliant ingenuity of a mere mortal can defeat the godlike powers of an alien, but if we're treating this matchup realistically, betting markets would put all the odds in Superman's favor. And yet Batman often seems to come out on top—but not always.

In fact, there are plenty of times when Superman has destroyed Batman. There was the time villain Maxwell Lord made Superman hallucinate that he was battling Darkseid in a gladiatorial arena, when in reality he was beating on Batman so badly that Bruce ended up in a short coma. In the story Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, Batman lies in wait for Superman with a piece of Kryptonite, only to drop it before the Man of Steel even arrives. Supes then pounds on Batman, stopping just short of delivering the deathblow. Or how about the time an alien parasite took over Batman's body, granting him superhuman strength and the power of flight and making him go crazy? Superman punched the parasite right out of his body.

Swamp Thing

To you, Swamp Thing might be a joke; a D-lister who's more silly than interesting. But you should know Swamp Thing is not only one of the most fascinating characters in all of DC comics, but is also one of the most powerful. In fact, he's won pretty much every fight he and Batman have gotten into. The most memorable beatdown was written by comics legend Alan Moore in Swamp Thing volume 2, issue 53, a story in which Swamp Thing's wife is in police custody and he responds by turning Gotham into a jungle. When Batman confronts him and attempts to reason with him, Swampy divides himself into many Swamp Things and just beats the snot out of Batman like it's a gang initiation ritual. Poor Bats never had a chance.

Bane

Not only has Bane totally wrecked Batman before, he might have delivered one of the single most devastating, most dominating beatings anyone has ever given in comic book history. In the summer of 1993, DC kicked off a major Batman story event called Knightfall. In it, Bruce Wayne becomes quickly burned out after Bane releases all of Batman's greatest villains from Arkham in an effort to slowly weaken our hero. While Bats is overworked and overstressed, Bane is conducting research into his true identity. When he discovers it's Bruce Wayne, he invades the Batcave, which leads to a grand showdown. Things don't go well for Batman: Bane dominates the fight against a weakened Caped Crusader, ending with the coup de grace: he lifts Batman over his head and brings him crashing down over his knee, breaking Batman's back.

Joker

When you talk about the Joker destroying Batman, you have to realize that Joker will never ever beat Batman physically—at least not the way some of these other heroes and villains have done it. No, that's just not Joker's style: when he destroys Batman, he destroys his life and the lives of those around him. Crushing him psychologically and pushing him to the edge of his own sanity is the Joker's primary objective.

There was the time Joker shot Barbara Gordon, paralyzing her. There was the time Joker beat Jason Todd to death with a crowbar. Or the most horrific scene in the recent storyline Death of the Family, when Joker leads the entire Bat family of sidekicks to believe Batman has failed them so epically that he allowed Joker to cut off their faces and have Alfred serve them to them on a platter. It just goes to show that Batman can take a physical beating like no other, but those scars will heal. Mess with his superhero family, and you'll deliver the biggest beating of them all.

Darkseid

It's not surprising that someone like Darkseid, who is basically a god, can take out a flesh-and-blood mortal like Batman. What was surprising, however, was how he did it. At first, it looked like he simply fried Batman to a crisp with his weird eye lasers, but he actually replaced Batman's body with a dead clone and sent the real Batman traveling uncontrollably through time. Why would he bother with all of that? It was eventually explained that Batman had been turned into a weapon whose forced time-travel adventures threatened to undo all of reality. And while Batman (with a lot of help from the Justice League) managed to return to the present, he had his ass kicked and his body transformed into a deadly weapon, and all it took was a single glance from Darkseid.

The Court of Owls

Batman often thinks of himself as not only the protector of Gotham City, but the keeper of its secrets. Imagine his surprise when he discovered the Court of Owls, a mythical secret society, had been ruling Gotham from the shadows for centuries. While investigating this group and their history, he was rather ignominiously knocked out by a Talon (one of the Court's assassins) and thrown into a freaky maze where they starved him and drove him crazy. He was later stabbed and tortured, and when he did finally escape, he had to be brought back to life via jumper cables. Not exactly a win for the Bat.

Kobra

As DC villains go, Kobra hasn't really aged well. He's pretty much a cardboard cutout evil leader with a similarly two-dimensional army of henchmen—but he's also one of the few non-powered heroes or villains that can claim to have beaten Batman fair and square. That's right: Kobra didn't have any super powers, high-tech weaponry, or anything else that would allow the most ardent Bat fan to say it was unfair. Instead, when Batman showed up to foil Kobra's plan to ransom America for gold, Kobra completely kicked his ass. To be fair, it's clear Batman gave almost as well as he got, as Kobra needed to be helped to his escape pod...but he was still able to stand, which is more than the unconscious Dark Knight could say.

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex is mostly known as a 19th-century avenging cowboy type character and failed film star. Nonetheless, he and Batman have managed to cross paths more than once. During his Darkseid-induced time jumping, Batman ended up in the Old West, where he tried to obtain a secret treasure from the immortal Vandal Savage. Meanwhile, Savage had hired Jonah Hex for his gunslinging services, which eventually led to Batman and Jonah Hex squaring off. In a battle of gun vs. batarang, Hex was straight-up faster, shooting Batman, who proceeded to dramatically fall off of a bridge. Now, it's pretty easy to dismiss this as being an unfair fight, but keep in mind that Batman literally fights gun-toting henchmen every single night. Jonah Hex won this fight because he was, fittingly enough, a quicker draw.

Grendel

When Batman isn't getting his ass kicked by characters from the past, he's having it handed to him by characters from the future. Witness Grendel Prime, a cyborg who traveled from the future to Batman's present day and crashed an exhibit on history's mass murderers. When the police tried to intervene, he kills 13 of them. As expected, Batman showed up—but what wasn't expected was how badly it went for him. Grendel shot Batman with a shotgun and thwarted all of the Caped Crusader's attempts to subdue him. Later, Grendel escaped another Batman gadget (an electrified net), broke Batman's arm, and knocked the hero out. Batman later triumphed (with a lot of technology as well as help from Robin), but his early rounds against this terrifying time-traveler ended in disaster.

Dracula

It might seem weird to think about Batman fighting Dracula, but it's happened in a number of universes and movies. Arguably, the most famous example is featured in a trilogy of Elseworlds comics which featured Batman getting bitten by Dracula at the moment of his death, with Batman eventually becoming an unholy creature that his friends have to kill...definitely a slow-burn defeat. Elements of that story were adapted in the animated movie The Batman vs. Dracula, which featured Batman getting his ass handed to him, with only the rising sun driving Dracula away. Batman even tangled with Dracula in two completely unauthorized movies: Batman Dracula (made by Andy Warhol) and Batman Fights Dracula (directed by Leody M. Diaz). Much of both releases has been lost, leaving Bat fans curious as to whether Dracula defeated Batman as easily in those films as he did in cartoons and comics.

Hitman

Hitman is another quirky character who's flown under the radar. A veteran who ends up gaining powers such as X-ray vision and low-level telepathy, he decides to synthesize his experience and skills and become a contract killer who specializes in taking down super-powered beings. It's no surprise that such a character would eventually clash with Batman, but what was surprising was who they clashed over: The Joker! Hitman was contracted to kill Joker and Batman tried to intervene, at which point Hitman simply shot Batman at close range. Hitman had spotted Batman's bulletproof vest and knew that the hero would survive, but Batman was still definitively defeated by a no-name antihero—while trying to save his archenemy's life.

Judge Dredd

On paper, it seems like Judge Dredd and Batman might get along better. After all, they each parade around in fancy costumes and use cool equipment to dispense justice against criminals. Of course, Dredd serves as judge, jury, AND executioner, which was bound to rankle Batman. In their first crossover, which involved technology that allowed both villains and our protagonists to jump back and forth into different dimensions, Dredd arrested Batman—and when Batman tried to resist, Dredd slammed Batman's head to the ground and unmasked the hero. Later, Batman got in some good punches before being subdued by Dredd's colleagues, but it doesn't change the fact that Dredd did in seconds what Batman's villains have been unable to do across countless years and boundless volumes of comics.

Azrael

Azrael has achieved comics infamy. Once, he was at the center of Batman's first confrontation with Bane, and took over as Batman with a darker, grittier approach and more weaponized costume. Basically, Azrael was everything wrong with '90s comics, right down to the shiny armor that resembled nothing so much as a "limited edition" lenticular foil comic book cover. Before that, Batman was defeated by Azrael in Azrael: Agent of the Bat #99. The two had a cool hand-to-hand fight that abruptly ended when Azrael picked Batman up and threw him like a rag doll. Batman landed on a frozen river and fell through, and the only reason he didn't die is that Azrael pulled him out and dropped him off for medical attention. The grim truth that '90s kids don't want to remember is that Batman's replacement was, in fact, a better fighter.

Green Lantern

There are few characters whose stories have grown quite as convoluted as Green Lantern's. Since the Silver Age, Hal Jordan has represented strength and willpower, funneling these qualities into the magical ring with which he protects the universe. During the original "Death of Superman" storyline, however, Jordan's hometown was destroyed by the villain Mongul, which kicked off a series of events in which Jordan went insane, called himself Parallax, and became a mass murderer. Many years later, DC guru Geoff Johns rehabilitated the character with a retcon establishing that Parallax was actually an infection that took over Jordan, essentially freeing him from responsibility for what he did.

Batman was understandably hesitant to buy this explanation, thinking Jordan was still an unstable man who shouldn't be trusted with his ring. Understandably annoyed, Green Lantern knocked Batman on his ass, and he didn't do it using a magical ring—instead, he used good old-fashioned fisticuffs. Batman was quick to get up, but his plan to apprehend Jordan fizzled, and Jordan flew off to do his own thing, happy that all it took to beat Batman was, as Guy Gardner noted, "one punch!"

The Riddler

When we talk about the most threatening Batman villains, Riddler is usually far from the first to come to mind. However, in the Batman story "Hush," Riddler defeated Batman in a variety of subtle ways.

Dying of cancer, Riddler turned to a Lazarus Pit for revival. Rather than cause garden-variety madness, the Pit gave Riddler the clarity to deduce that Batman was Bruce Wayne. With this knowledge, he teamed up with a childhood friend of Wayne's, Dr. Thomas Elliott, to mess with Batman's mind. Their plan involved making Batman think Elliott was murdered, turning Elliott into a new supervillain (the titular Hush), and pitting a mind-controlled Superman against the Caped Crusader. Perhaps worst of all, Riddler had Clayface impersonate a grown-up Jason Todd, forcing Batman to relive the horror of his lost sidekick.

Batman eventually figured out Riddler was behind everything and effectively ransomed him into never revealing his secret identity, but the damage was done. Batman was left questioning his decisions (such as revealing his secret identity to Catwoman) and haunted by the fact that his world could be turned upside down by somebody like Edward Nigma.