The Joker is considered to be one of the most horrifying villains in pop culture. The amount of pain and misery he’s caused Batman over the years is indescribable. Despite Joker being a terrifying villain, I would argue there’s one character who is even scarier: The Batman Who Laughs. A twisted combination of Bruce Wayne and Joker, The Batman Who Laughs is Batman’s greatest nightmare come to life. The Comic Vault is looking into the history of the character to see what makes him an even bigger threat than Joker.
Born from chaos
The Batman Who Laughs is from the Dark Multiverse, a place of nightmares and evil. In an alternate reality, Batman killed the Joker after he recreated the death of his parents over and over. Joker’s death triggered a toxin that infected Bruce, changing his body chemistry. In the span of days, Batman murdered his loved ones and compromised his values. An example of his brutality occurred when he gunned down Nightwing, Red Hood, Batgirl and Red Robin in the Bat Cave. Next, Bruce used Black Kryptonite on Superman, which forced him to kill his wife and son. He also created cannibalistic clones of his son, Damian, using them as attack dogs.
The Batman Who Laughs destroyed his world and went on to gather an army of evil Batmen so they could invade the main DC reality. This event was covered in the pages of Dark Nights: Metal, a story that saw the Justice League pushed to their limits. Using a mixture of cunning and intelligence, The Batman Who Laughs nearly tore apart the fabric of reality. For a supervillain with no superpowers, that’s pretty horrifying.
More terrifying than The Joker
When you compare Joker and The Batman Who Laughs, the two of them have similar philosophies. Both are nihilistic and enjoy spreading chaos. Both are willing to do whatever it takes to see their plans come to fruition. But The Joker has a point to prove, to the world and to Batman. Without him, there wouldn’t be any entertainment. There wouldn’t be any way for Bruce to challenge himself. If the game stopped, then Joker would lose his source of enjoyment.
In contrast, The Batman Who Laughs is chaos in its purest form. All he cares about is erasing everything he touches. The scary thing is that he’s not Joker inside Batman’s body. He’s Bruce Wayne. He has all of the good and bad memories, felt everything from the time he was a child. He’s Bruce’s worst impulses combined with Joker’s depravity. He’s a Batman with no moral code or restraints.
The character recently appeared in a miniseries that saw the original Batman fighting against him. In the story, the Batman Who Laughs’ motivations are explored and he sees his counterpart as a complete failure.
“Out of every version of us across the universe, you’re the most miserable. The least accomplished. You don’t understand why yet, but you will. See, to me, to us, you’re the nightmare Batman. The bad joke. Worse than that, you’re an old man’s hand over a child’s heart. Weak. Soft. Protecting nothing. Me…I’m the gun.”
The Batman Who Laughs wants to show Bruce what happens when he gives into his darkness. I find the idea of the original Batman being the most miserable version of the character to be intriguing. In other realities, Batman has found happiness. He’s been able to have a family and effect change within his world. According to The Batman Who Laughs, Bruce is stuck on a loop that keeps repeating itself. He’s running on a hamster wheel, unable to create a future or let go of the past. The Batman Who Laughs’ version of happiness is seeing the universe for what it is and burning it down because nothing truly matters.
In an interview with Screen Rant, Scott Snyder went into detail about why he thinks the character is so horrific.
“The Batman Who Laughs isn’t lying, he really believes this. Having travelled the Multiverse he comes here saying, “I am the apex predator, I am the version of you that you’re meant to be. But I’m going to show you why you’re the absolute lowest on the food chain of Batmen. And why we all despise you.” He believes very passionately that this Bruce Wayne on our Earth is the worst version across the Multiverse of Batmen. The weakest, most ineffective, least content. And he’s here to say, “I’m going to fix all that.”
The Batman Who Laughs is scarier than Joker because he’s the embodiment of what could happen if a good man let himself fall into despair. All it takes is one bad day.