The entire Batman franchise is founded on tragedy. Whether you are a fan of the action or the deep storylines, no one can argue that the occasional deaths don’t pull at the heartstrings. While deaths in the comic book universe are often notoriously short-lived, it doesn’t change that these devastating Batman deaths last in our minds for years to come. Sometimes, alleged deaths have an intense impact on character development for interpersonal relationships for decades.
Check out the top 10 Batman Deaths!
10. Martha and Thomas Wayne
It wouldn’t be a Batman list if we didn’t take the time to mention the Martha and Thomas Wane. The death of Bruce’s parents in Crime Alley was the entire foundation of the entire Batman movement. They were essentially the birth of Batman himself.
Their tragic deaths permanently traumatized their son and are often referred to as an event where Gotham really went downhill. Even within the DC universe, Gotham is referred to as a complete wreck. Sure, Metropolis and Star City have their issues, but Gotham takes the cake and is the butt end of jokes referring to murderous clowns and crazy corruption.
While Martha and Thomas hardly have any screen time that doesn’t involve their deaths, no one can argue that their demise set the ball rolling. Let’s keep going through the top 10 Batman deaths.
9. Stephanie Brown
When people think about Robins, they often forget to group in the first female Robin, Stephanie Brown. Although she is better known as The Spoiler or even Batgirl, she had a record-breaking short-lived run of Robin-hood. Her father, Cluemaster, was a loser villain who never played much of a significant role in the Gotham universe.
She wanted nothing more than to be a superhero – like her boyfriend at the time, Tim Drake. Although Batman did take her under his wing in the original iteration, her impulsiveness and reluctance to follow the non-lethal force orders got her stripped of the title shortly after. In an effort to get back on Batman’s good side, she tried to implement one of his own plans to “clean up” Gotham.
Unfortunately for her, this ended up starting a gang war. When she was caught, she was tortured and eventually “died” under Leslie Thompkins’s care. What makes this tragic death even worse is that Batman later found out that Leslie purposely let her “die” to teach Bruce a valuable lesson about letting kids get involved with all his vigilante scenes.
Although a complicated storyline a year later revealed she never died, the damage was done, and Stephanie’s death left a dark mark on the Batfamily before it was all retconned.
8. Tim Drake
Tim Drake is the third Robin that has a huge fan following. He’s smart, dedicated, calculative, and arguably seen as the “best Robin,” even among the Batfamily. Arguably, he had the healthiest mental state of all the Robins with strong relationship skills and a lack of an overly dark past (in most iterations).
While the superhero track always seemed natural to him, it’s no surprise he wanted to get into a good university and weigh his options. Unfortunately, right when he got that acceptance letter, he got “killed” to save everyone.
Although it’s quickly revealed that he did not die to readers, the Batfamily and company were left to grieve Tim. In fact, it was Stephanie that revealed to Bruce that he applied to college at all. It was referenced several times throughout the comic iteration until he ultimately came back.
7. Bruce Wayne
Bruce is no stranger to death, much like other popular superheroes, like Superman. It’s at a point now that when you read about such a major death, you assume they’ll be written in or resurrected somehow. From electrocutions to gun wounds, arguably, the closest many readers came to his “real death” was after Darkseid obliterated him.
During the Final Crisis storyline, all heroes were taken out except the caped crusader. In a final effort to take Darkseid out, he fires a Radion Bullet, crossing his “no kill” line while putting her directly in the line of fire. Batman “dies” instantly, and after the body is brought back to Wayne’s manor, heroes are left to mourn. Alfred even remarks that he’s not okay because his son died.
His timing was very complicated and led to several rifts between the Batfamily. One of the most notable problems was that he just took in Damian Wayne under his wing. After Dick is forced to take on the mantle following the events of Battle for the Cowl, he decides to take in Damian as his Robin and “kick” Tim out.
While his intentions were good, the decision sent Tim off the deep end. Dick argued that Tim was too much of an equal to be his sidekick (plus he had the titans thing going on). Damian was untrained and had absolutely nothing at this point. Problems with other allies, such as Catwoman and Batgirl, were also a reality. Bruce eventually came back, but the DickBat run had a pretty amazing storyline.
6. Jake Drake
One thing that really separates Tim from the other Robins was his lack of traumatic back story. In most iterations, he’s just some rich kid who discovers Batman and Nightwing’s identity and steps up as Robin after he notices how Batman “needs one” following the character change following Jason’s death.
While he sometimes has parents, it isn’t always like this. In a devastating storyline in Identity Crisis, Tim’s father discovers his identity and is understandably concerned about his son’s activities.
After Tim manages to convince his dad to let him help catch a serial killer, Jake Drake is ambushed by Captain Boomerang and killed (but not before leaving dramatic “this isn’t your fault I love you” messages to Tim).
Tim rushes to the scene of the crime, ripping off his uniform in case the police are there, only to find his father’s corpse. Batman comforts him as he has a breakdown as he reluctantly joined the growing list of “orphans” in the Batfamily.
5. The Joker
While the death of the Joker doesn’t seem sad in itself, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker makes the death excruciating to watch. In another example of an iteration that gave Tim Drake a tragic story, The Joker’s unexpected return prompts future Batman, Terry McGinnis, to learn more about the notorious adversary.
In a trip down memory lane, Barbara Gordon explains what happened to the villain 40 years ago in a story that shook the audience to the core. Donning the outfits of Batman: The Animated Series, the flashback includes Robin (Tim Drake) being kidnapped and tortured by the Joker. When Batman finally finds and confronts him, he’s disturbed to find that Tim Drake was tortured and brainwashed, looking like a miniature Joker.
It even got to the point where Batman broke “character” and referred to him as Tim instead of Robin as he stared down the barrel of a gun. After Joker ordered Tim to kill Batman, he eventually turns the gun on the Joker himself and kills him, resulting in a complete breakdown of Tim.
The movie’s poor timing with the Columbine Highschool Massacre led to some edits and a delay in release, leading to a more friendly version where Tim only made him trip into something that killed him versus shooting him straight in the chest.
4. Damian Wayne
There is something about messing with kids that feels a bit taboo – but writers hardly hold back from these ruthless storylines in the Batman universe. Damian Wayne had a complicated life working for the league of assassins and struggling with his identity as a trained killer and son of Batman.
His death in Batman Inc. didn’t come as too much of a surprise considering the clique amount of heavy character development and heart-to-heart moments he had during the run. His twisted murder at the hands of his clone shook the Batfamily and led to a lot of depressing developments.
Batman went off the deep end, lashing out at everyone and even crossing a line forcing Jason Todd to try to reveal the secrets of his own resurrection. What’s worse is what comes after his resurrection.
While he says he remembered nothing but dying and waking up, it’s later revealed that he actually went to hell and struggled with this, leading to his redemption arc in the Robin: Son of Batman series.
3. Dick Grayson
We won’t even touch upon the mess that was Dick’s death in Injustice. Instead, we’ll look at his “death” in the new 52 run. Following his return to Nightwing after Batman comes back, he ends up in a twisted, Macgyvered machine that is set up so the bomb won’t go off if Dick’s heart stopped.
Of course, this is only done after broadcasting Dick’s secret identity to the world. After Lex Luther “kills” Dick in order to deactivate the bomb on live TV, Batman goes haywire, accidentally outing himself. Luckily, Dick is quickly resuscitated. However, Batman has other plans for the former Robin.
He insists that Dick stays “dead” to be a spy on a secret mission. Although reluctant, Dick agrees, leading to the Grayson run, which is filled with its own sad twists.
2. Jason Todd (Most Unreal of the Batman Deaths)
All the Robins died at one point or another, but Jason Todd was the one who started it all. Jason was the second Robin who was meant to be Dick’s replacement but had mixed reviews from comic readers.
The authors decided to let fans “call in” at the end of a comic issue and decides Jason’s fate after being tortured by the Joker. In the end, fans voted to kill him off – and that’s exactly what happened.
He remained dead until he came back as the Red Hood in a complicated and twisted series of events. His death was a constant reminder of how Batman “failed,” and his death continues to haunt Jason as a character to this day, making him shift between roles of villain and ally of the Batfamily.
This is easily one of the most memorable and painful Batman deaths to watch!
1. Alfred Pennyworth (Craziest of the Batman Deaths)
The most recent major death of the Batfamily was none other than Alfred Pennyworth himself. Killed right in front of Damian Wayne as a “punishment” for coming to Gotham, his death led to a complicated rift between Robin and the ways of Bruce Wayne.
In fact, it’s a leading factor to Damian abandoning the Robin title and going off on his own. Damian wasn’t the only one hurt, as his death played a significant role in Batman spiraling and Gotham really failing. While many fans hold out hope for his return, we are still waiting.
Our list included some of the more high-profile deaths, but were there any of the other ones we missed out on? Which Batman deaths traumatized you?