Five Moments That Prove Batman Is As Insane As The Joker

To understand the true duality in the dynamic between the Joker and Batman, you need to understand, they were birthed from the same thing: tragedy. If you read the brilliant Alan Moore masterpiece,  The Killing Joke, and you follow it as the seminal Joker origin story (which most do), than you know, The Joker got dealt just as crappy a hand by fate as Batman did.

Some would even argue, Joker got it worse. Losing your Father and Mother in front of you, especially when you are a child, is a tragedy. But some say having your pregnant wife die and then falling in a vat of acid that scars you for life in a heist gone wrong is even worst. And though both were born from tragedy, most think they turned out wholly different from one another, a yin to the other’s yang. But I would argue that point. Batman is just as fragile and mentally unstable as the Joker. He has just as many toys and is just as keen on playing dress up. He just happens to fight for the good side. But here are five moments that will make you question which one of the two is really the crazier one.

Batman Goes Yellow

This really is one of my favorite Batman moments ever. It just drips with so much swagger. But it also hints at a darker, more sociopathic side to him as well.

Did you know that Green Lantern’s powers don’t work on anything yellow? If you are deep enough into comic lore you do, and Batman did, too. So when Green Lantern wanted to “talk” to Batman about some of his more questionable methods of fighting crime, namely using Robin, a young boy, to help him, Batman decided to take protective measures incase things got out of hand. He painted the entire room, and himself yellow, and calmy sat in the room, drinking lemonade.

This scene just sort of sums up just how few f*cks Batman gives.

Now don’t get me wrong, this was not so much a moment of genuine insanity,but a moment of ingenuity and foresight. It was also the moment when the Justice League realized Batman was probably not one to mess with, and was perhaps just a bit more calculating then they had thought prior. For a guy with no superpowers, he really had the Justice League by the balls.

I began the list with this because it is just the slightest hint at just how tapped Batman can get.

Batman Laughs At The Killing Joke

Now I understand Moore’s whole point in this story was to show that the most extreme situation can break  the weakest of us. It also shows us, in between the lines, that it is sometimes the most insignificant thing that can push even the strongest of us over the edge. Though the whole book is filled with insane and memorable moments that would go onto become Batman canon, it is the final frame of the book, if you read it “right”, that is easily the most unsettling.

After the Joker has what can best be described as the worst day ever, and his sanity breaks (“all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy” is the best Joker line ever), we see him descend into darkness to do some truly terrible things.

Like this:

When Joker paralyzes Barbara Gordon is truly one of the most chilling moments in comics.

And then he does this:

Anytime people tell me that Ledger’s Joker is the most evil and anarchistic, I tell them to read The Killing Joke.

So he paralyzes Barbara Gordon by shooting her through the spine, and then he kidnaps her Dad, the commissioner, and sends him through a funhouse, driving him insane by drugging him and showing him the images of her, naked and bloody on the floor.

But you get to the end and the commish is ok. He is a steely, silver fox and seems to have made it out alright.

You know who isn’t ok, though? The Batman. And if you read the book quick or do not understand the name of the book or the message behind the story, this might be lost on you (I have seen MANY threads online that are filled with people asking why Batman laughs at the Joker’s joke at the end of the book. Sorry guys, you didn’t “get” it). I am getting ahead of myself, let me explain.

So everything is over. Barbara is crippled but alive, Joker is caught, commissioner Gordon is alright.

Now flash to  Batman and the Joker standing in the rain, and the cops are on the way.

So Joker tells Batman a joke (which I won’t ruin here) to which Batman start laughing, slow at first, and then louder and louder. The laughter quickly becomes contagious, and the Joker and Batman are standing in the rain, laughing their asses off.

What you need to realize here is that, an hour earlier, this guy that Batman is laughing with crippled one of his closest friends and tried to drive another one insane.

And Batman is laughing at his joke. Maniacally, even.

This was the moment that truly broke Batman. I believe Batman laughs here because he is already gone. The Joker is laughing because he knows he won.

He broke the Batman.

Some think the way the shot cops out of frame, that Joker actually gets choked to death by Batman here. Either way, Joker won.

Keep The Masks On

So we are all led to believe that the Batman thing is really a curse. Fighting to a free and save a city that will never be truly free or saved. Trying to stop madmen, knowing the moment they go down, a newer and more diabolical one will appear in their place instantaneously.  It is an exhausting job with no pay and little in the way of thanks.

So you would think Batman would embrace any opportunity he would have to take off his mask and revel in just being a normal person for a few.

Alas, that is not the case.

Cue love scene between Batman and the Black Canary, outside, on a rooftop, during a thunderstorm. Oh, and cue Batman telling her they are going to leave the masks on because it’s “better that way” and then Batman raw dogging her up on the rooftop during a storm.

I hope he is wearing a bat shaped condom he invented for just such occasions.

Now we realize leaving the masks on is an identity thing to Batman, who has a lot to protect and a lot to lose. But that is not how they word it. They word it like he is a kinky freak who does this sort of stuff all the time. So he laughs at a madman’s jokes and leaves his mask on during sex. You guys starting to see the bigger picture yet?

Batman Takes Some Joker Gas On Purpose

The Man Who Laughs is an amazing Batman story, and that point is only driven home by how batshit insane Batman’s idea is here. He allows himself to get poisoned by the Jokers toxin in hopes he can take the antidote he created to counteract it. But he will not know if it works unless he tries it on himself. And he can not try it on himself, unless he gets poisoned by the Joker first.

Again, this man willingly took a psycho-toxin knowing full well that even if he lived from it, he would probably never fully be the same again.

Do you want to see just how insane it gets? Well, this is the moment when the toxin begins to seem just a tad bit stronger than Bruce:

So for one glaring moment, Batman and The Joker were indeed, the same person. Sort of.

And though the story (obviously) has a happy ending, there are still such strong implications to willingly ingesting a psycho toxin. This was the Gotham City equivalent of Batman being willing to eat one hundred hits of bad acid in hopes the trip would “just pass”. Again, this gave us insight into just how far down the rabbit hole Bruce Wayne was willing to go.

This is not a normal man we are dealing with here.

Batman Of Zur-En-Arhh

You may have heard about this particularly insane moment in Batman’s history already, but really, it is all of Batman’s insanity coming to the surface, in glorious pastel fabrics. Before I say anything about Batman Of Zur-En-Arhh, I would like to take a moment to show him to you:

It is said this is his mental protection against the surfacing of mental traumas.

Though Batman of Zur-En-Arhh first appeared as an alternative universe version of Batman in the golden age, it was grant Morrison who brought him back, making him a sort of panic room in Bruce Wayne’s psyche if things get to be a little too much.

The best thing about this Batman is not only his insane clothing style, which screams ” I AM NOT WELL!” but his mindset, which is, well, insane.

He hallucinates Bat-Mite in this state (and Bat-Mite is awesome, so I can’t complain) and he tends to worry far less about whether he hurts people or not. Think of this as fight or flight Batman, from a psychological standpoint.

There should have been a whole gang in the movie The Warriors that dressed like this. The Batman Furies.

And anytime I find myself wondering who is more insane, more of a sociopath, and more of an overall madman, I no longer think of the Joker.

Even the Joker would find this Zur-En-Arhh outfit garish.

Now when I think of the ultimate costumed psycho, I think of Batman.

That poor man stuck in the moment from his childhood when he couldn’t do anything to stop the tragedy that would go on to both haunt and define him. And Batman himself, trying to overcompensate for that loss in any way he can. And while he may fight on the side of good, it is only a matter of time before this man breaks completely, a moment many think has already happened. And what then?

What happens when the good guy with all the money and gadgets decides he can’t take anymore? Well, ironically, he turns into the Joker at that point.

So you see, one cannot exist without the other, and in that sense, they are one and the same. There is much that comes with wearing the cowl, and torment and instability seem just as essential as heroism.

Other Bat-Shit Crazy Moments:

The Dark Knight Returns: From breaking the bones of the mutant leader, to killing Superman (and kind of dying at the same time) this proved old age Batman is the most insane and unstable, but also the most awesome, of them all.

Year One: There are many moments, but the scene where he causes the car wreck so he can escape the police car showed just how dark a road Bruce Wayne would travel down as Batman.

The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul: Batman gets speared through the stomach with Ghul’s staff, and it does little else but piss him off. This is the first time I wondered if Batman was on meth.

Kingdom Come: Batman gives zero shits about protecting his private identity at this point, and walks around as Bruce Wayne, with people just calling him Batman. He has silver hair and a crazy steampunk-neck contraption, and he STILL kicks ass with little regard.

Final Crisis: Batman breaks his number one rule and shoots to kill. Only he shoots  Darkseid, which just pisses off Darkseid and causes Batman himself to get killed. Instant karma, man. And though Batman was not “dead” in the normal sense( he was hurtled through time, ofcourse) it still showed that when it comes right down to it, Batman is f*cking crazy and will do whatever it takes.

See what happens when you break your own rules, Batman?


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  1. I understand the whole thing with the Killing Joke, but I also understand that it is common to laugh when the sh*t hits the fan.

    Case in point? My parent’s burial. They were cremated and instead of urns, they picked out these tiny coffin looking boxes, one pink, one blue. It’s pouring rain and we’re all standing around the grave, getting soaked, getting muddy. There was an airport for small craft nearby, and as we’re having our service, a Cessna flies overhead. And my brain thought, “I wonder if anyone in that plane can look down and see us? And if they can, I bet they’re wondering why we’re having such a huge turnout for the burial of our pet squirrels.”

    And I started laughing and laughing and laughing and I couldn’t stop. I’m sure half the mourners were worried my next stop was the funny farm, but I just kept laughing.

    Then, I cried like a baby. Right from laughter to tears, no time in between. But, when it was done, I felt ready to cope again. I didn’t feel good or happy, but I felt like a huge weight was removed from my guts and I could do what needed to be done.

    I think that’s the same thing that happened to Batman. They just didn’t show the tears, or the rage. (Cause, we all know Batman doesn’t have tear ducts.)

  2. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but aren’t the “worst day ever” parts of The Killing Joke flashbacks that show how he became The Joker? The shooting of Barbara being what is current? And who would think Batman would kill Joker at the end? Wacky.

    Also, you could pretty much use scenes from “All-Star Batman” on this entire list. Two moments is practically cheating. Plus, Batman is ALWAYS prepared. I don’t think he would have had to raw-dog BC.

  3. ^ You respond as if your last name was Wayne and you are defending his family honor. It is a silly piece and meant to be taken as such. Also, I am not saying he had to raw dog her, I am saying he wanted to…which, in itself, tells us a lot. Alas, he is a fictional character, so there is no “right or wrong” here. Just theories.

  4. I don’t think the Joker’s actions in Killing Joke broke Batman. Batman laughs cause he knows he’s already a mad man, just like the Joker. The joke is just to tie them together.

  5. I actually see some of these as proof that DC is out of it’s fucking mind as opposed to Batman himself. Morrison and Miller lost their marbles ages ago, not only as writers, but as human beings. Google “Frank Miller occupy” and “Grant Morrison Batman gay” for some evidence if you need it. I prefer Batman as driven to the point of obsession as opposed to cartoonishly insane, but DC seldom knows where to draw that line convincingly.

  6. It’s not a big deal, but FOUR of these moments are from Frank Miller – Two from ASSBAR (the yellow room thing and Black Canary sex), where Batman doesn’t give a f*ck and kills people all the time, as well as DKR and Year One. Of those, only Year One is treated as the “real” Batman. Besides, the “real” Green Lanterns (at the time) had already “learned to overcome the yellow impurity”. Though I did laugh my ass off when Bruce offers Hal some lemonade.

    As far as “The Killing Joke”? Joker doesn’t win. He gets captured. He doesn’t break Jim Gordon. He actually causes Babs to become even MORE dangerous by making her adapt and become Oracle. I wouldn’t say they”win” either, but Joker sure doesn’t.

    And of course, to be nitpicky, Batman doesn’t kill Darkseid, he just poisons him. Superman finishes him off by singing, of course.

  7. while i am not well versed in batman lore. i think the “masks on” is because bruce wayne no longer sees himself as bruce, but truly as batman. so him keeping the mask on is really just him being himself and for him to dry hump whoever as bruce wayne is really the mask…but it still makes him seem completely fucked in the head.

  8. I don’t know Remy, I think an in-depth investigation should be had to determine whether or not Batman raw-dogs the ladies of the DC universe. Kids look up to him, you know.

    And I was asking legit on the Killing Joke thing, btw.

  9. I actually wish that you didn’t use anything from that wretched piece of crap that was All-star Batman. To me that was just Frank Miller giving a huge middle finger to Batman fans everywhere. I bought one issue and said to hell with it. I still read them by borrowing from friends and felt so happy that I never paid money for any of them.

    For me, the best scene of Batman losing his shit was during the whole Knightfall series. When the Joker and Scarecrow, who teamed up to hold the mayor and in turn the city hostage, Batman gets dosed with Scarecrow’s fear toxin which causes him to see Jason Todd screaming at him for getting him killed. He then proceeds to beat the living crap out of joker, and if I remember correctly, even breaks some of his bones in the process. Only thing that stops him was Scarecrow blowing a hole in the tunnel with a bazooka which causes it to flood and wash Batman away.

  10. @ Jesskitty, I somehow missed your comment on the initial read here, and I regret it. Very powerful stuff and thank you for sharing. That is a very valid point, and makes me understand, at least that scene, a little better.
    @Nick D Pags, That is a simple, yet simply brilliant question, and one I cannot answer. Good call on that.
    @Doc Doom, sorry if the answer on my part undermined the question, that wasn’t my intention. Yes, the flashbacks sort of show why he became how he was, and the Barbara scene is set in the present in the book. The raw dog comment was really a joke, to go along with the zaniness of the whole piece. Sorry if it offended. Batman is probably very much an advocate for safe sex.
    And to everyone else:
    There is such a huge back catalog to pull from, so sorry if me pulling a few of these from the newer run bothered some of you guys but I genuinely felt these moments deserved a list. Some storylines or Batman writers in particular may bother certain fans, but it is still Batman, no matter who writes it, and despite whether it is loved by the masses or not. But I am glad you guys still throw feedback down, even if you are not feeling the piece. In doing, you guys make me strive to be a better writer, so thank you,

  11. should really make the images clickable to the fullsize image. id rather not get out magnifier to read really tiny comics. also the magnifier extension for firefox doesnt work if your frames just cover em

  12. Okay, so Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore. . .hey, those guys are crazy in real life! I think I see the connection!

    I don’t know who wrote that Joker gas one, though. Maybe he or she is actually sane and breaks my combo.

  13. “Insane” is a legal term, not a psycological diagnosis. Basically you’re asking this: if The Batman were to be caught, charged and tried in court, would his defense attorney be able to convince a jury that, whatever charges the Gotham DA is leveling against Bruce Wayne, he shouldn’t be found guilty of it/them by reason of insanity.

    Batman’s attorney would likely need to have a forensic psychologist interview him to determin what, if any, verifiable psychological disorder(s) he presents. 

    Personally, I’m not sure which way he’d choose to go. He’d either play up the diagnosis so as to get out of the charges and have a chance of returning to the task at hand (keeping Gotham safe) as quickly as possible OR in the name of his character and integrity, he would fight the diagnosis.

    Although you’ve picked some stories/instances in which The Batman could be considered to have been TEMPORARILY insane, I think that the Batman, as considered in the mind of popular culture, doesn’t properly presents enough symptoms of any DSM-IV recognized disorders to be considered “insane”.

  14. Your point is kind of invalid when your only examples come from garbage stories and non-canon “alternate universe” tales (which were also garbage for the most part)… Killing Joke and Zur Enh Ar are your only canon tales on your main list, and one of those was part of a horrible mess of a story in which Morrison was trying to out “trippy stoner lunacy” the silver-age…

  15. Meant to say: even Killing Joke is only partially in-continuity, as they kept Barbara’s paralysis. That probably wouldn’t have even held if it weren’t for Moore originally wanting Joker to literally/traditioanlly rape Jim Gordon while showing him the pictures getting shot down as “beyond the pale”…

  16. I love how seriously some people are taking this piece. I have written about true cases of people being eaten and raped and made into sausages and stuff, but because I picked some All Star Batman and Robin, some of you guys are hugely offended. Wait, is this for real? Is someone pranking me or something…?

  17. Wow. I had no dea how much I had missed with Batman & Joker till I read your post. It is quite narrative and very detailed. Thank you. I always had a feeling Batman would crack or something but I didn’t expect it to be the Joker who would do it. I expected him to simply break down due to more losses and tragedies in his life. Like the Joker rightly pointed out, “It take one bad day to send the sanest man alive into Lunacy”. I’ll keep that in mind.
    – Camgal.

  18. I agree that insanity does unite them and they both know it, but I think it’s how they view their madness that separates them. Batman sees his life through the eyes of a child who lost everything, he never had a chance to experience a ‘normal’ life, but still had Alfred around as a moral compass. Joker, an adult who tried to make his way through the world, sees life as a sick joke with torture and death as the punchline that somehow eases the suffering of the masses.

  19. dude, All-Star Batman and robin is so a cheat XD Frank Miller really went off the edge by then and Batman had no qualms with killing and was generally just a monster

  20. Batman is not insane/crazy – Bruce Wayne is. Looking at global behavior – Batman isn’t Bruce Wayne in disguise, its his alter ego – his Tyler if you prefer. They don’t behave in same way at regular level or human interaction.

  21. You forgot that scene in “A Death In The Family” where a grief stricken Batman gets pissed off at Superman & ACTUALLY takes a swing at him outside the UN Building in NYC. Superman goes off & asks him just how crazy he is. And he goes onto to explain to Bats that had he (Superman) not rolled w/ that punch, it would’ve shattered his entire arm.

  22. The thing that proved it to me was in Superman Batman Apocalypses when Darkside himself saw that he was so crazy that he backed down from Batman.

  23. Ever heard of Puella Magi Madoka Magica? The premise of that show lines right up with this: Magical Girls fight to protect innocent lives, lose their sanity as they fight Witches, and upon reaching despair, become Witches themselves. Just like how Batman became just as bad as the Joker.

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