The Batman franchise is known for being depressing at times, but some scenes really take this to a whole new level. The list of the worst Batman stories can get pretty sad.
Since we’ve already gone through a list of the saddest deaths of the Batman universe, we’ll save this list to discuss other tragic and twisted events of the Batman universe that don’t involve taking out the main character. In fact, sometimes, the most tragic stories are there to teach us that there are worse things than death.
Let’s check out the 10 most tragic and worst Batman stories…
Venom is an infamous substance in the Batman universe, best known for being the superpowered juice that gives Bane his unnatural human strength. The countereffect of this drug is that it is incredibly addictive. Ceasing the use of venom can cause severe withdrawal. What many people fail to know is that this was illustrated when Batman himself tried out the drug.
The dark and depressing comic arc in the first volume of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight follows Batman as he spirals due to addiction. What’s worse is his motivations behind trying the experimental drug. At the beginning of the arc, he fails to rescue a young girl and feels the need to try out the performance enhancement substance to fight crime better.
Only 9 more of the worst Batman stories left… and it gets much worse.
9. Killer Croc
Waylon Jones is a popular Batman villain who had a prominent role in the suicide squad. The ruthless adversary has been around for quite a while, using his terrifying appearance and brute strength to scare (and sometimes cannibalize) the people of Gotham City.
His reptilian appearance results from a congenital disability that allows him to hold his breath for a while and have an enhanced sense of smell. The classic, tragic hero is often shown desperately for people to recognize his humanity. It’s even mentioned a few times that he wants to be called Waylon.
One of the more depressing storylines comes from the comic for Batman: The Animated Series. Batman and Robin are under scrutiny for “attacking” and “dehumanizing” the villain in the classic comic. Waylon, seeing the reporter defending him on TV, instantly falls for her and is just happy someone saw him as a human.
When it’s revealed she thinks he’s a monster when he breaks out of prison and tries interacting with her, he tells the dynamic duo to take him to Gotham and doesn’t even put on a fight.
8. Death of a Family
Death of a Family is not to be confused with death in a Family, although both are incredibly notorious comic arcs in the Batman universe. The story follows the problems the Batfamily faces when The Joker resurfaces and starts causing problems in Gotham.
The real problems don’t just come from Joker, though; they come from Bruce Wayne being too secretive. He failed to tell the rest of the Batfamily that his identity may have been compromised, which ultimately puts the whole family in danger. He reasoned that it would cause unnecessary panic – but in the end, it just gave them a false sense of security.
All members of the Batfamily are incredibly hostile to Bruce when he comes out with this information a little too late, in a way that really betrayed their trust. In a horrible and twisted series of events, Bruce is led to believe The Joker peeled the faces off all his protégés.
Luckily, this was just a twisted trick, and it’s discovered everyone was fine, and their faces were just bandaged up. The happy ending is rather short-lived as Bruce is given the cold shoulder by the family when he wants to talk about the events that happened, as they lost a lot of trust in their mentor.
7. Mr. Freeze Origin
Like Waylon Jones and most of Batman’s other villains, Dr. Victor Fries also has a tragic backstory. The ice-based villain is an accomplished researcher who knows a lot about cryogenics – which ultimately leads him to an accident that gives him his powers.
His whole obsession came from his desire to find a cure for his wife, Nora Fries, so that she can come out of her frozen state, and the two can be reunited. What makes him so tragic is the fact that his powers are actually pretty scary. Those red goggles prevent his eyes from freezing in the sockets; his suit keeps him alive.
He needs that whole get-up so he doesn’t die from getting overheated by room temperature. Although he’s experienced several tragic storylines, the most surprising was the one he had in the Harley Quinn show. Although his overall vibe was out of character, laying his life out for Nora’s is pretty on-brand.
6. Under the Red Hood
I know we said we wouldn’t touch upon any deaths in this list, but it wouldn’t be fair not to include Under the Red Hood. This is not necessarily because of Jason’s death, but what Batman was forced to confront with the resurrection of his second Robin.
Jason came back to life only to find out that The Joker was still alive. He tells Bruce that while he can forgive his mentor for “failing him,” he cannot forgive him for letting The Joker walk free. It really highlights a critical flaw in Batman’s “no lethal force” motto as we recognized how messed up people keep getting from the villains that GCPD can’t manage to keep behind bars.
5. The Killing Joke
Another of Batman’s protégés that is all too familiar with the horror of the Joker is Barbara Gordon. Barbara Gordon is not only, Batgirl. She is also the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, which sometimes puts a target on her chest.
The Joker takes this to an extreme when he shows up at Gordon’s house and shoots Barbara, paralyzing her and changing her character forever. While recent eras gave her an implant to recover her movement, she used a wheelchair for a while now. While she rocked her role as The Oracle, it was obviously a rough journey for her to recover from the tragedy.
4. Ric Grayson
Barbara wasn’t the only character who had to find themselves again after criminals struck. Anyone readingNightwing’s Rebirth run is more than aware of the tragedy that strikes when the KGBeast shoots him in the head.
When Batman struggles to deal with Catwoman leaving him at the altar, Dick Grayson does what Dick Grayson does and shows up to be that supportive friend/ family that Bruce desperately needs. Right as we get a wonderful issue filled with flashbacks showing Dick’s growth in his relationship with Bruce, he gets shot in the head and ends up with amnesia.
In a long and complicated arc, Dick decides to go back Ric and moves back to Blüdhaven, abandoning his Batfamily. In his absence, everything falls apart as Batman, Robin, and the Titans (among others) struggle. He also missed critical events during his amnesia, such as Alfred’s Death, Damian quitting, and the whole Heroes in Crisis mess.
3. Damian Fails Sasha
Damian Wayne is a complicated character that treads a line between killer and hero. After deciding to abandon his upbringing to join the Batfamily, he quickly finds himself without a father when Bruce is suspected to be dead.
When Dick takes him under his wing, he undergoes a lot of character development. It’s in these early days as Robin where readers see the human side of him, where he’s struggling to be a hero that does right.
A devastating blow to his early career is when he fails to save a Dollotron, Sasha after he promises. The results are horrifying, as any storyline involving Professor Pyg is. He’s also forced to face his failure time and time again as Sasha becomes Scarlet, the Red Hood’s partner.
2. Batman and Robin Eternal
Batman and Robin Eternal faced some harsh criticism but was a pretty enjoyable line (if not depressing). The entire thing was riddled with tragedy – from Bluebird to the Orphan. The story follows the Batfamily tackling the mystery of a woman who sold ideal children.
From the beginning, Dick learns that Batman allegedly reached out to her to buy a sidekick after an early failure of his. Through the struggles between all of the characters, the saddest part is the evidence the Batfamily is given mixed with Bruce’s amnesia that prevents him from being able to clear up any misunderstandings. A perfect example to show the greatness of the New 52 era.
This is not even the worst Batman stories on this list. It gets even darker than the 9 examples given above.
1. Everything About Knightfall (Worst Batman Stories)
Kinightfall is notorious for the devastating introduction of Bane. This classic tale is worth it for any comic book fan to read, although most are already familiar with the story.
When Bane has Batman running around and pushing himself to the limit, his exhaustion and inability to ask for help when he needs it makes him vulnerable. When Bane discovers his secret identity, he doesn’t get out of him or kills him – he shows up and iconically breaks Bruce’s back, “stopping” him from being Batman anymore.
While Bruce finds a replacement (which also causes some interpersonal problems between Tim and Dick), it was a devastating blow that put Batman, as we know it, out of commission for quite a while.
Do you think we made a mistake with our list? Did we over-rate some events while leaving out other great ones? What comes to mind when you think of the worst Batman stories.