They say given enough time and resources, Batman can defeat anybody. But let’s be clear — Batman doesn’t always have the time to plan or the resources he needs, and thus Batman is hardly undefeated in his crime-fighting career. Here are 15 different DC characters, heroes and villains, who have handed the Dark Knight a few checks in his loss column.
OK, honestly: 99% of the times Batman has defeated Superman, Superman has not been at the top of his game. Even in The Dark Knight Returns, the only reason Batman won was by faking a heart attack right after he exhausted all his tricks — another couple of minutes and Superman still would have won. Anyways, when mind-controlled by Maxwell Lord in “Sacrifice,” Superman begins seeing his friends as enemies, and when he discovers Brainiac hitting on Lois, he thrashes him — only to discover he’s accidentally been handing Batman his arse the whole time. Batman goes to the hospital.
People always think of Bane as a villain of brute strength, thanks to the Venom that augments his powers, but he outsmarted Batman as much as he broke his back. Bane’s plan in Knightfall was simple: Break all the inmates out of Arkham Asylum, let Batman run himself ragged trying to recapture them all, and then, once he’s exhausted, show up at Wayne Manor and fuck him up. In this first battle between the two, Bane is in total control, toying with the Dark Knight before picking him and slamming his back against his knee, breaking it, and putting Batman out of commission for months.
Did you know that Deathstroke is essentially the Captain America of the DC universe? OK, he wasn’t frozen in ice for decades, and he wasn’t a 23kg weakling to begin with, but the rest is the same: When the Army discovered they had the smartest, fastest, and strongest fighter on the planet, they experimented on Slade Wilson to effectively make him a super-soldier, giving him enhanced everything and healing powers. So while Batman may be the peak of human physical shape, Deathstroke is, unequivocally, better. This is probably why Deathstroke hands Batman his arse during Deathstroke #8-9.
Batman has straight up admitted that Lady Shiva, an assassin-for-hire and trainer of many a DC hero, is a better martial artist than him. Batman’s stronger, sure, but Shiva is more skilled — evidenced by the more than a few times Shiva has beaten him (as in Nightwing #0, where she also takes out Nightwing at the same time) or when Shiva is about to beat him, and Robin needs to use the comic book equivalent of running into the ring with a steel chair to knock her out before she strikes Batman with a killing blow. Here’s how good Shiva is: When Batman had his back broken by Bane and needed to retrain in the martial arts, he went to Shiva for help.
5) Jason Todd
After the Joker beat him to death with a crowbar, Jason Todd was a little put out. So when he was resurrected by Superboy Prime punching reality (don’t even ask) he wakes up in a bad mood — a mood that gets worse when he realises Batman never bothered to avenge his death. Todd’s solution: Beat the Joker nearly to death with a crowbar, and when Batman shows up to stop him, kicks Batman’s arse (admittedly, thanks to a lot of prep work). Which he does. The fight ends with Batman on the ground with Jason aiming a gun at him. Of course, that’s when Jason screws it all up by demanding Batman kill either him or Joker, and Batman uses a Batarang to incapacitate Jason instead, letting the Joker go free. But it doesn’t change the fact that Jason won the fight.
In Shadow of the Bat #75, during the “Aftershock” portion of No Man’s Land, Batman has just finished capturing Mr. Freeze when Clayface arrives with new electric powers that Batman was totally not prepared for. Clayface soundly defeated Batman… only to get into an argument with Mr. Freeze over who should get to kill their longtime foe. Of course, the injured Batman uses this distraction to get the hell out of Dodge.
Prometheus is a late-’90s villain created by Grant Morrison, and like most late-’90s Grant Morrison creations, he’s a great idea: He’s an anti-Batman, a kid raised by two criminals who were gunned down by the police, inspiring him to swear vengeance upon the forces of justice. He trained just like Batman, is rich just like Batman (via theft), and was brilliant like Batman. In JLA #15, he beams himself up to the JLA’s Watchtower and defeats virtually the whole League simultaneously; specifically kicking Batman’s arse by wearing a special helmet that gives its wearer the skills of the 30 greatest martial artists in the world, including Batman (he also had strobe lights on his shoulders to distract his opponent, too). With Batman down, Prometheus is only beaten when Catwoman hits him in the balls with her whip. Seriously.
8) Mutant Leader
Batman is rarely cocky, but the one time was cocky also happened to occur at a time when he was very old, and it did not turn out well. In Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, an elderly and newly back-on-the-prowl Batman decides to take on the massive gang known as the Mutants. He uses his Batmobile (and a ton of rubber bullets) to defeat the army, but decides to fight the giant, young, preposterously strong Mutant Leader in hand-to-hand combat. He is trounced. In fact, the only reason Batman isn’t beaten to death right then and there is because he’s rescued by a young girl who was inspired to put on a Robin costume that night, who managed to distract the Mutant Leader and get Batman back in his Batmobile.
9) Bronze Tiger
Another of the world’s greatest martial artists and an assassin-for-hire, Ben Turner has no powers, just a gift for kicking arse. He was eventually brainwashed by Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Assassins, and sent out to stop Batman and Batwoman, back in Detective Comics #485 (in 1979). In a single kick, Bronze Tiger hurts Batman so badly that he can’t even move as an assassin stabs Batwoman and kills her right in front of him. A single kick.
Batman has probably never underestimated a foe as badly as the Predator. To be fair, he also probably didn’t expect to find an alien hunter when he started investigating the death of two Gotham City boxers, but still; the Predator’s array of high-tech weapons, its ability to recover after having a bunch of scrap metal dropped on it, and its ability to see heat signatures thus negating Batman’s ability to hide in shadows meant the first encounter between the two led to a solid arse-kicking of Batnman, with the Predator barely breathing heavy at the end.
11) Sgt. Branden
You don’t have to be an insane martial artist of an alien to kick Batman’s but (but it sure helps). The leader of the Gotham City PD’s SWAT team proved this in Dark Victory, when Branden manages to shoot Batman in the chest with a rifle. Sure, Batman has armour on, so he isn’t killed instantly, but he’s pretty much completely incapacitated, and the only reason he doesn’t get arrested or worse is because the evil Hangman shows up and kills Branden instead.
12) Wonder Woman
Everyone always argues about whether Batman could beat Superman in a fight, but no one argues about whether Batman could beat Wonder Woman. I assume that’s because Greg Rucka answered the question in Wonder Woman: Hiketeia, which has WW so thoroughly owning the Dark Knight that the question must have been settled for the rest of time. The reason for the fight is that Diana is sworn to protect a woman named Danielle no matter what, except that Batman wants her because she’s murdered a few sex slavers and drug dealers. You can see in the picture how that turned out.
13) Deacon Blackfire
Batman has been captured plenty of times over his career, but no one would really call those defeats, because he always gets out and saves the day. However, in The Cult, Deacon Blackfire doesn’t just capture Batman, he drugs him, tortures him, and brainwashes him into joining his army of hoboes to the point where Batman actually kills someone. Sure, Batman eventually snaps out of it, but it takes a long time, and also Batman murders a dude. The victory goes to Blackfire.
14) The Reaper
The Reaper isn’t a well-known villain, although as a concentration camp survivor who kills bad guys, he was pretty interesting. In Detective Comics #575 — the beginning of the Batman: Year Two storyline — Batman first encounters the Reaper and tries to stop him, only to get completely outclassed by the Reaper’s skills and his many, many guns. A bloodied Batman basically ran home with his tail between his legs. Here’s how bad the Reaper kicked Batman’s arse — Batman had to team up with the murderer of his parents, Joe Chill, in order to stop him. It works out, though, because during the fight the Reaper shoots Chill in the head so Batman doesn’t worry about whether he would have taken his only deadly revenge afterwards.
Here’s the thing about the Joker: Sure, he’s beaten up Batman more times than he can count, but the Joker doesn’t care. And getting beaten up and sent back to Arkham Asylum is just part of the process for him; he almost never counts it as a loss. The Joker isn’t playing the same game as Batman, and thus even though Batman inevitably ends up capturing the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime can be said to have “won” anyways on several different occasions: Killing Jason Todd, paralyzing Barbara Gordon, dropping poisonous glass on Gotham City, and so on and so forth. Basically, everytime the Joker kills an innocent person, it’s a win for him — a slap in the face testing Batman on his vow never to take a life, even if that means dooming countless other victims to a horrible death. The Joker is a constant question as to whether Batman is truly doing the right thing, and no amount of physical pain could ever cause Batman more woe.